Earlier this month, Bishop Blase J. Cupich of the Spokane Diocese published a letter entitled Some Reflections on Referendum 74 in which he explains to parishioners why they should not support Referendum 74.
After expressing concerns for such things as birth certificates listing Parent 1 and Progenitor B, he closes with this:
In sum, we are facing a decision about making a major shift in an institution that serves as the foundation stone of society. I would argue that this is not about granting equality to same sex couples, but of changing the identity of marriage. The church raises these concerns and objections to Referendum 74, not to impose its definition on marriage or determine who can or cannot be married. Neither the church nor the state has an exclusive right to do either. Marriage existed either before the church or the state. It is written in our human nature.
Bishop Cupich claims that the institution of marriage is the foundation stone of our society. If so, then our society is as shaky as a tower of jello. Go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site and check the marriage and divorce reports for the states and compare the states that report for both. You'll find that almost half of all marriages end in divorce.
From the National Violence Against Women Survey we learn that intimate partner violence is pervasive in our society. Nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and 6 percent of the men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse. Applied to the country and we have approximately 4.8 million intimate partner rapes and physical assaults perpetrated against U.S. women annually, and approximately 2.9 million intimate partner physical assaults committed against U.S. men. The church would have better standing opposing same-sex marriage if they claimed it was to protect partners from domestic violence.
What the bishop calls a foundation stone of society, if it truly is one, has been cracked and crumbling for a long time. And yet society perseveres.
Bishop Cupich expressed a concern that the referendum is about changing the identity of marriage. He states that neither the church nor state has an exclusive right to determine who can or cannot be married and yet by arguing for "traditional marriages of one man and one woman" that is precisely what the church is doing.
Marriage did exist before the church and state, but not always as the so-called traditional marriage of one man and one woman. The bible is replete with inconsistencies regarding what he refers to as traditional marriage.
He claims marriage is written in our human nature, but far be it from me to understand how a religious leader who must avoid that part of human nature can be in the best position to explain that.
In sum, Bishop Cupich's main concern is for "a major shift in an institution that serves as the foundation stone of society" and yet he is unable to provide evidence of such a shift in states and countries where same sex marriage is legal. It's been in effect for eight years in Massachusetts. It's been in effect for nine years in our northern neighbor of British Columbia. Society is still just as strong and functioning there as before.
Bishop Cupich would argue that Referendum 74 is not about granting equal rights to same sex couples--and he would lose. His reflections are a polite and civil expression of intolerance. If same-sex marriage is allowed in Washington, the Catholic Church will be free to claim it loves the sinner and can continue refusing to recognize or perform same sex marriages. And that is what the church fears--having its intolerance highlighted again and again as members of its parishes question why their son, daughter, brother, sister, etc., must be excluded.
Marriage by itself is not the foundation of society, but relationships are. How we treat our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, and strangers plays a far greater role in the strength of our society than the institution of marriage.