January 17, 2014

Indiana bishops endorse proposed state amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman

By Sean Gallagher

The six Catholic bishops serving in Indiana have endorsed a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.

The proposed amendment, which has been designated as House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR3), also states that other legal unions “identical or substantially similar to that of marriage” will not be recognized by the state.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana regarding state and national matters, spoke on behalf of the bishops on Jan. 13 during a three and a half hour Indiana House Judiciary Committee meeting in which testimony was heard regarding HJR3. (Related: Statement of Glenn Tebbe at Indiana House committee meeting)

“We support HJR3 as a means for defending the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Tebbe said.

Tebbe was joined by several other witnesses representing various groups—some supporting HJR3, some opposing it.

The committee meeting ended without a vote being taken on HJR3. As this newspaper went to press on Jan. 14, no date had been set for a future meeting of the committee during which a vote could be taken.

In his testimony, Tebbe affirmed the Church’s teaching on the dignity of every human person, “including persons with same-sex attraction.”

At the same time, he noted that the Church upholds the “dignity and sanctity of marriage,” which, “by its very nature … is a permanent partnership between one man and one woman.”

Tebbe also explained that marriage so understood is the “foundation of the family” and provides a solid context for the raising of children. He also said that “it is not within the power of either the Church or the state to redefine marriage since God is its author.”

Much of his testimony was either based on or taken directly from a pastoral statement about the dignity of all human persons and the dignity of marriage issued in December by the six Catholic bishops serving in Indiana, including Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, vicar general.

Tebbe’s expression of support for HJR3 on behalf of the bishops, however, was not included in that pastoral statement.

In comments made to The Criterion after the committee meeting, Tebbe explained the difference between the bishops’ statement in December and his testimony on Jan. 13.

He noted that state legislators had made no decision in December to take up the proposed amendment for consideration, and that the bishops’ pastoral statement had a broader purpose.

“The pastoral statement was more to help people focus on what the big issues are, how people can form their consciences about the teachings of the Church,” Tebbe said. “That was what the pastoral statement was designed to do.”

Once HJR3 was taken up for consideration in early January, then the ICC could address whether or not to support it.

“Once we had this particular question posed in terms of if we support this amendment or not, we did answer that,” Tebbe said. “We still affirmed in my statement what our position is and that, given the circumstance right now, [HJR3] is a means of defending the union in marriage of a man and a woman.”

(For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to www.indianacc.org. For more on how the Church in the United States is working to strengthen marriage, log on to www.foryourmarriage.org.)

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