To build a culture of life, Catholics must live their marriage and family lives as a witness to the truth written on the human heart, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told a local gathering.
“If we want to overcome the lies about sexuality, marriage and family, we need to overcome them with the truth,” the archbishop told a Feb. 14 meeting of the Denver chapter of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders.
“If we intend to restore social and legal protection for marriage, your task is to live your marriages as a public witness to the truth about the dignity and gift of human sexuality and the family,” he emphasized.
Archbishop Aquila began the discussion of the culture of life and defense of marriage by noting the civil unions bill which is being considered by the Colorado House of Representatives. However, he said that same-sex “marriage” is but the newest manifestation of an already 80-year-old cultural trend.
The current attack on marriage, he said, began with the 1930 Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican bishops. This Conference allowed for the use of artificial contraceptives by married couples in limited circumstances, marking the first time that a Christian group decided that contraception is morally licit.
Archbishop Aquila described Lambeth as a “Pandora's Box” that “unleashed a new kind of thinking about marriage...Lambeth began the divorce of an ancient understanding of the correlation between marriage and children.”
The endorsement of contraception separated the “natural relationship” between the unitive and procreative ends of marriage, and included the idea that sexuality and marriage aren't “essentially about children,” he said.
“Those ideas have shaped our culture for the past 80 years.”
Lambeth's effects have included no-fault divorce, the abundance of absent fathers, gay marriage, abortion, surrogate motherhood and in-vitro fertilization, the archbishop noted. He said the current fight over same-sex marriage is merely a “footnote” among the effects of the Lambeth Conference.
Restoring a true understanding of the nature of sexuality and marriage is among the most critical issues facing the Church today, said Archbishop Aquila.
Living - and witnessing to - a good family life is essential because it is in families that one learns what it is to be human, he noted.
He also reminded the Legatus members that the problem is primarily one of culture, not politics.
“In the defense of marriage, no matter how much work we do, legal and political battles won't be sufficient to turn back the tide,” he said. “Ideas inform culture, and the ideas implicit at Lambeth inform ours.”
Archbishop Aquila encouraged his listeners to overcome cultural lies about sexuality, marriage and family by witnessing to truth.
“If we intend to restore social and legal protection for marriage, your task is to live your marriages as a public witness to the truth about the dignity and gift of human sexuality and the family,” he said.
“I call you to be the witnesses that the world is waiting for...Witnesses committed to self-giving love. Witnesses committed to the truth and dignity of human sexual intimacy reserved to husband and wife, open to children, which leads to the joy and the richness of family life.”
While answering questions after his talk, Archbishop Aquila said that while witnessing to the truth in our conversations with others, it is necessary to “be respectful, but also to raise the questions” pertinent to our times.
“Every Catholic couple has got to stop contracepting,” he emphasized. “Natural family planning is a tremendous gift, as is theology of the body, and we need to be promoting that ... realizing that healing of sexuality can take place.”
He also urged parents to be “direct” and honest in conversations about sexuality with their children, adding that these conversations are necessary.
It is essential for parents to both protect and inform their children, he observed. Parents cannot shirk their duty, deflecting the responsibility to educate their children about sexuality onto schools or priests, or acting as though it does not need to be addressed at all.
“It's essential for parents to communicate very directly with their children,” Archbishop Aquila explained, “because they're exposed to everything...they're not dumb. Whether it's in the media, or TV, or internet, they see everything.”
The archbishop also reminded the audience that suffering will come to those who follow Christ.
“I'm afraid many Catholics think there should be no suffering in anything, or that everyone should be madly in love with us,” he said.
To those fearful of persecution for their Catholic belief, he offered a pastor's heart.
“I would tell people 'Yes, you may be martyred because of where you stand today. And that's okay. Be not afraid.'”
If everyone had been “madly in love” with Christ and the martyrs, they never would have experienced the persecution and death that they did, he noted.
“We have to stand up and witness, and we will experience rejection,” the archbishop concluded. “But there is always hope, and that hope is in Jesus Christ. And we always have to keep that before our eyes.”