Love, marriage and the ‘tools’ of engagement

Recently, USA Today reported that a group of politicians who want to redefine marriage are calling on their advocates to shift the focus from an argument about equal rights to an argument about “love and commitment.”

It apparently tests better than the “equality” and “benefits” sound bites. Surprising? No. If someone asks you, “Do you really want to deny someone love and commitment?” the knee-jerk reaction, especially for a Christian of good will is, “Of course not!” But, is denying a person “love and commitment” the issue when we talk about preserving marriage as one man, one woman in the state constitution? Of course not.

“Love is love” is a nice sentiment, but we know from human experience that love has never been just love. As Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe stated: “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.”

Father Arrupe is referring to falling in love with God, or experiencing a love that orders oneself toward and, ultimately, with the Divine. Pop culture “love” slogans refer to a relationship between two people.

We intuitively know love and commitment is not sufficient for marriage. It is needed for marriage, yes. But, the government ultimately has no interest in regulating the “love and commitment” between two people. The government does have an interest in promoting institutions that help ensure a child is raised by his or her biological mom and dad.

Tough conversations

When asked the “love and commitment” question during a marriage amendment discussion, we usually don’t have the luxury of writing a three-paragraph response. We get it. It’s tough.

We are all afraid to have the conversation because we don’t want to be called “bigots” or “haters.” More important, we don’t want to be seen as uncompassionate, unloving or unwelcoming to our fellow Catholics with same-sex attraction.

But we must explain our Catholic beliefs and remember what Blessed Pope John Paul II would often tell us: “Be not afraid.” Authentic compassion and conviction are rooted in the truth of God. They live in the same space.

If we avoid engaging in the conversation about what marriage is and why the marriage amendment is important, we are also avoiding conversations about: the beauty and freedom found in Catholic teaching on sexuality, the dignity and natural rights of every person and the need to find real, meaningful ways to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction, some of whom should be seen as models for the chaste, holy lives that we are all called to live.

Tools of engagement

In the coming months, the Minnesota Catholic Conference will provide the tools to help you enter in to these tough discussions. Going into 2012 we encourage you to:

• Educate yourself.
Know what the church says and doesn’t say about marriage and sexuality, and the rights and roles of Catholics in the “public square.” MCC recently launched a blog: “Unique for a Reason, Why Marriage Matters” ( that offers a variety of perspectives from your fellow “Catholics in the pew” on why marriage matters to the church and to them personally. Links to our new YouTube channel and the MCC marriage resource page can also be found on the blog. In the coming months, we will be continuing to add to and improve the usability of our marriage resource page (

• Take heart in your bishops.
Be assured that your Minnesota bishops, in communion with the bishops throughout the U.S., are fully engaged in the issue. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently re-launched the “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” ( website that offers catechetical aids on marriage and sexuality, including Spanish resources (

• Engage in the issue.
As human beings, we are social beings, and therefore are inherently political. We are called to be active citizens. Everyone has their own special gifts. Consider using them to promote the common good and help pass the 2012 Marriage Protection Amendment. Sign up on the Minnesota for Marriage ( website to get involved.

• Pray, pray, pray.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The promotion and protection of marriage begins with prayer. This is about a broader cultural issue. It is not only about passing the amendment, it is about renewing the understanding of and respect for life, marriage, sexuality and chastity within ourselves, our Catholic community and American culture. We invite you to pray with us (

Jessica Zittlow is the communications associate of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

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