- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

A new effort by the nation’s Catholic bishops to protect marriage got plaudits recently from several prelates, including Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl.

The first of five videos geared toward young Catholic adults was shown at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual business meeting in Baltimore as part of the church’s effort to teach Roman Catholics about the basics of marriage.

The video, which shows a young couple explaining basic differences between men and women, is one of seven nine-minute videos with a theme of “Marriage: Unique for a Reason.” Other videos, to be rolled out in 2010 with accompanying pamphlets and a Web site, will be on the unique roles of mothers and fathers, the gift of children and the religious-liberty implications of the church not being forced to do what it considers immoral behavior, such as offering health benefits to same-sex couples.

Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the bishops’ ad hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, said focus groups of young Catholics showed a lack of church teaching on these topics.

“The significance of sexual difference often seemed absent in their reflections,” he told the bishops on Nov. 18. “It was missing. [These videos] mean taking our young adults seriously where they are … having a conversation with them, meeting them where they are.”

Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, agreed there was “a tremendous amount of shallowness” among those in his flock after the successful Nov. 3 vote to repeal Maine’s state law allowing same-sex marriage.

“To be blunt,” he said, “I received a lot of nasty e-mails from Catholics. Catechesis across the board is crucial. … There are a lot of same-sex advocates in Portland [who] said they’d win the next time because of the young people.”

He also apologized to bishops in the audience who had been criticized for contributing toward the Portland archdiocese’s campaign against the state law.

“I am sorry that because of your support, you were targeted,” he said. “I know some of you got some pretty nasty criticism.”

The D.C. Council has held several hearings on legislation that would permit gay marriage in the nation’s capital, and voters and residents continue to demand a voter initiative on the controversial issue. However, some clergy say lawmakers already have made up their minds to support the same-sex marriage bill, which is scheduled for a council vote next week.

Archbishop Wuerl told bishops that the council had already decided to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states and was on track to vote on whether they can be performed in the District.

“What you showed today, this is particularly helpful,” he said about the film. “The emphasis has to be on catechesis. The ability to be able to teach especially the younger generation what is coming along is where we need to be. Over and over again, we hear from some of our young people [that] how is it we are not open to the civil rights of others. We hear it 1,000 times, every day.”

The Archdiocese of Washington has told D.C. officials that it wants to be exempted from the proposed city law, which would obligate it to extend benefits to gay couples.

“We have to address this in terms of religious freedom,” the archbishop said. “That takes a whole change of heart, a whole catechetical effort. …The more we are able to say this [message], over and over and over, because it is a new message so many of our young people have not heard. There is hope if we touch enough young hearts.”

• Julia Duin can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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