Bishop John Quinn, Diocese of Winona, Legislative Testimony

Testimony of the Most Reverend John M. Quinn, Bishop of Winona
Senate Judiciary Committee

April 29, 2011

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee; my name is John Quinn, and I am the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Winona. I am here today representing the Catholic Church. The State’s six Catholic bishops believe the people of Minnesota should have the opportunity to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Therefore, we support Senate File 1307.

Marriage matters to every Minnesotan, whether or not we personally choose to marry. Marriage is the way a man and woman bind their love into a lifelong commitment that is mutual, exclusive, and open to new life, where they promise not only to love each other but to love any children whom, through God’s grace, they create together. Intuitively, we know marriage is the natural way we bring together men and women to conceive and raise the next generation. Thus, nurturing a thriving, natural culture of marriage is critical for society.

Over the past few years, however, a number of bills have been introduced in the legislature that sought to transform the institution of marriage.

A court case has even been launched with the goal of having current marriage law declared unconstitutional. But defining marriage as simply a union of consenting parties will change the core meaning of marriage for every Minnesotan. At best, it is an untested social experiment, and at worst, it poses a dangerous risk with potentially far reaching consequences. This could open the door to an ongoing process that redefines marriage according to the social needs of groups advocating change that in time, could result in no fixed definition of marriage.

Back in the early 1970’s, the experts told us that no-fault divorce would liberate women from bad marriages without affecting anyone else. As expected, the divorce rate skyrocketed. Perhaps unexpectedly, we now know that as a result of divorce, as many as one third of women fall into poverty with their children. High rates of fatherlessness and family fragmentation impoverish children and leave women with the unfair burden of parenting alone. Children suffer, but so does the whole of society, when marriage fails in its irreplaceable task of bringing together mothers and fathers with their children.

Social science was late to catch up with the common sense wisdom that children need both a mom and a dad working together to protect them, but today it forms a strong basis of the case for marriage. And marriage as the committed union of one man and one woman finds support not only in social science data, but also in the long experience and wisdom of history. In fact, it has long been acknowledged that marriage is not only about the happiness of adults, but that it also concerns the wellbeing of all society, which is to say, the common good. Thus, marriage exists in civil law primarily to provide communal support for bringing mothers and fathers together to care for their children.

There is no question about the teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue: marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The law must reflect what we know from reason, experience, and tradition, as well as revelation.

The Church also teaches that all of us, including our brothers and sisters with same sex attraction, are children of God with intrinsic human dignity. The Church’s teaching on marriage is not a condemnation of homosexual persons as human beings. The Church sincerely desires that self-described gays and lesbians are not unjustly discriminated against, as well as have the same ability as everyone else to transfer property, or visit and care for loved ones in the hospital. But that does not require transforming the nature and definition of marriage, which, again, is about the well-being of children, not the needs of adults.

Whether one accepts the teaching of the Church on marriage or not, I hope we can all agree on this: if we are to change the definition of marriage, it should be the people themselves who make this decision.

And the Church believes that the time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to our state constitution to preserve our historic understanding of marriage. Thirty-one states have voted to protect marriage, and it is time for Minnesotans to have their say. Let the people vote.

Thank you.

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