Bishop Paul Sirba, Diocese of Duluth, Legislative Testimony

Testimony of the Most Reverend Paul D. Sirba, Bishop of Duluth

House of Representatives Civil Law Committee

May 2, 2011

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee; my name is Paul Sirba, and I am the Roman Catholic bishop of Duluth. I am here today representing the Catholic Church. The Catholic Bishops of Minnesota believe it is our responsibility to speak in support of marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman in an enduring bond of love. Therefore, we wish to express our public support for House File 1613, which would give the people of Minnesota the opportunity to enshrine marriage in the Minnesota Constitution.

Based on God’s Word given in divine revelation, we believe that marriage creates a sacred bond between spouses. We hold this to be true not only for ourselves, but for all humanity. In the context of faith, marriage is willed by the Creator from the beginning to mirror God’s love for the human family, and it was raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament of the New Covenant of grace, a visible and effective sign of Jesus’ sacrificial love revealed on the Cross. As such, marriage is a constant reminder of God’s love for the human race, as well as a reflection of the permanent, faithful, and fruitful bond of love between Christ and the Church (cf. Genesis 1:27, 2:22-24; Ephesians 5:31-32). The perspective we hold on this issue is also shared by many other people of faith both Christian and otherwise.

The Catholic Church’s convictions about marriage, strengthened and reinforced by our belief in divine revelation, find ample support in principles which can be discovered by human reason and which have been reflected throughout human history. The obvious and intimate connection between the conjugal act and conception of new life, along with the universally recognized importance of stable marriages for the education and formation of children, removes marriage from the private sphere and places it into the public realm, an institution very much part of the common good and therefore a concern of the state.

The public quality of marriage has been true throughout history and across all cultures.

Both faith and reason agree, then, that marriage is an institution central to the life of human society. The committed relationship between one man and one woman calls forth the best of the spouses, not only for their own sake, but also for the well-being of their children and for the advancement of the common good. It is neither possible for us to change the definition of marriage nor wise to attempt to do so.

In defending the institution of marriage, I want to emphasize that persons with same-sex attractions are our sisters and brothers, and should not be deprived of their authentic human rights, including the most fundamental rights of all – the right to life and the right to love. As
Catholics, we are unabashedly pro-life and pro-love. Consequently, we oppose any discrimination against persons based on their having a same-sex attraction. At the same time, meeting authentic human needs does not require changing society’s definition of marriage.

Thus, we urge our government, our fellow Catholics, and all people of good will in the State of Minnesota to support marriage, both in theory and in practical measures that safeguard, promote, and enhance the institution of marriage and its inseparable counterpart, the family. The presence over the past few years of multiple pieces of legislation and a court case that have all sought to transform marriage from an institution focused on the needs of children into a totally new legal entity centered on the happiness of adults means the time has come for society to decide the future of marriage.

We ask the Legislature to place on the ballot a constitutional amendment clearly defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman so that this important conversation can begin.

Thank you.