No ruling can change nature of marriage, says Wisconsin bishop

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MADISON, Wis. — Marriage is “and can only ever be” a relationship “solely between one man and one woman, regardless of the decision of a judge or any vote,” said Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison.

“This is not based on any private sectarian viewpoint, but on the natural moral law that is universally binding on all peoples, at all times, and inscribed into our human nature, as man and woman from the beginning of creation,” he said.

Bishop Morlino made the comments in response to a late June 6 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb, who declared as unconstitutional a 2006 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage.

Almost immediately, county clerk offices in Wisconsin began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Crabb was to decide later whether she would stay her decision while an appeal moved through the courts. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has asked an appeals court to stop such marriages while he appeals Crabb’s decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Wisconsin ultimately on behalf of eight same-sex couples. It argued the state ban on same-sex marriage violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

In a June 9 statement, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, public policy arm of the state’s bishops, said that with an appeal to be filed with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Crabb’s ruling “is not the last word on the subject.”

“Whatever the outcome of this case, our public conversation over the definition of marriage will continue,” it said, adding that the bishops encouraged Catholics “to witness their support for this unique relationship.”

“If married, they can do this by living out their own marriage vows. If not married, they can support others who have made a marriage commitment,” the statement said.

At the same time, they urge Catholics “to witness as well to our belief in the dignity of all people by engaging in civil discourse on this sensitive topic. We are true to our values when we recognize the good faith and humanity of all people, whether or not they share our views.”

Crabb and the court have “shaken one of the most precious and essential building blocks of our civilization,” Bishop Morlino said in his statement.

First, he said, “it bears repeating that, we must respect, love, and care for every individual we encounter, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how they define themselves. This will never change. It is at the core of who we are as members of Christ’s church.”

Christ’s love and mercy “can heal all divisions that separate us,” he added. “However, however, we must acknowledge the divisions that exist — notably those we choose through our actions.”

The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful.

Bishop Morlino said he was “deeply saddened” by Crabb’s ruling. “I will continue to speak strongly about the truth and beauty of marriage and encourage my brother priests and deacons, and all the lay faithful, to do the same.”