In this Year of Faith, the Church draws our attention and energy to the New Evangelization. The main objective of this New Evangelization is to draw people into relationship with Jesus Christ. We wish to strengthen our experience of the life and love Christ came to renew, namely, the life and love of God Himself. The New Evangelization invites each of us to a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. It is Christ who reveals the true meaning of life. Christ came to preach the Gospel of God’s Kingdom, that we might know God and live in proper relationship with God and one another. Christ came as the One who comes from God and returns to God through his death and resurrection. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and he invites us to follow Him.
One of the great challenges for believers in our world today is that many around us wish to deny the reality of God. Many deny that Jesus is the Son of God. They deny that Jesus died and rose from the dead. At the same time, there is doubt about the divinely inspired truth of the bible. These popular modern-day ‘beliefs’ are very problematic for our faith and the affect they are having in the public arena. So the first thing I wish to do is encourage you in your faith.
Hear the words of St. Paul: “in the full stature of Christ, we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14) He goes on to say: “no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God … because of their hardness of heart,” (Ephesians 4:17-19)
The prevailing thought of so many in our world today is an effort of the human person to define his or herself; to decide for one’s self what is right or wrong. This is a false starting point, and as such, can never lead to the true self-realization of the human person, nor to the Origin and End of all life, who is Jesus Christ. Nor can this false starting point lead society to its proper end, namely what is good, beautiful, and true. (Philippians 4: 8) The starting point for a true understanding of the human person and the human family is God.
The Founding Fathers of our nation had it right when they claimed that we are all created equal. They also understood that this equality is rooted in the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God; that we are all members of the one family of God. They also understood that the human rights laid out in the bill of rights are not endowed by government, but by the Creator, God. The distortion of this reality [that human rights flow from somewhere other than the Creator] creates another challenge for believers of our time.
By denying the reality of God, undermining the truth of the inspired Word of God, and believing that Jesus was just another prophet, the groundwork is laid for people to justify any and all behaviors. This is where we find ourselves today. Our belief in and following Christ gives us a strong moral compass to guide us in these troubled times. Christ is the Truth who helps us know what is right and good.
One of the great social issues of our day which needs the Light of Truth and the voice of believers is at work in our Wyoming legislature. There are presently two bills making their way through the legislative process which seek to redefine marriage as between two natural persons (HB # 169) (UPDATE: HB 169 was defeated in committee January 28) and provide for domestic relationships (HB #168.) (UPDATE: HB 168 failed in the House Floor on Committee of the Whole (1st reading) with 34 no votes and 25 ayes and 1 absent.) Clear teaching, clear minds, and loving hearts are necessary to address this growing trend in our society.
From the beginning of time, marriage has been understood as the union of one man and one woman. The Catechism quoting The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World states: “The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws…God himself is the author of marriage.” (GS #47) The same document further states: “The family, in fact, is born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman.” (GS #48)
Even from a natural law perspective, marriage is the building block of society by the very nature and ability of man and woman to be united in a physical expression of their love that is open to the creation of new life. This loving union of man and woman, husband and wife, brings new members into the family, society, and most importantly, into the family of God.
Despite the attempts and even recent successes of legislators to redefine marriage, the fundamental nature of marriage can never be other than what the Creator has established. No matter how some may choose to live and how some may work to change the language around marriage, it will always be in the eyes of God, and therefore in the eyes of believers, a lifelong union of love between one man and one woman. This is the one and only communion of love that can and will continue the human family, the one family of God.
The more delicate reality in all of this regards our love and concern for those who live with a same sex attraction. They, too, are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and our response to them is one of love. The Catechism defines clearly such concern: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC #2358) The Church, as many families today, knows what it is to love these individuals while at the same time not accepting or condoning any form of homosexual activity.
This difficulty of loving the person but condemning the sin has become very challenging in our day. The secular philosophy has been very successful in getting people to accept that there is no such thing as an absolute Truth; no such thing as universal moral laws that apply to all people of all times. With such a secular belief system in place, the prevailing thought of the day is: “just because I believe something is wrong, does not make it so for others.” Or, “who am I to judge someone else?”
As your bishop, I wish to reinforce our tradition and teaching that we do believe in Absolute Truth, and he has a name, Jesus Christ. Chaos follows when we separate ourselves from the truth, as St. Timothy teaches: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
In this year of Faith, we are called to live the fullness of Faith. Things forbidden by the law of God are not forbidden because He wants to take away our freedom, but because He wants to give us true freedom. True freedom means the ability to move one’s self toward the good – the best. God’s laws forbid certain things because they ultimately damage the individual and society.
My responsibility as your bishop is to make sure the teachings of the Catholic Church are clearly taught and understood. A bishop is to “hold fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.” (Titus1:9) Even though our constitution makes a clear and correct separation of church and state, the Church still has a legitimate role to play in society. The primary role of religion is to provide a strong moral foundation and a clear moral compass within society.
As Americans, we live in a great republic, which means we freely elect those who govern us. With another legislative session now underway, follow the teaching of St. Timothy: “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2: 1-2)
Thank you for your faith. Thank you for putting your faith into action. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love the Truth. As always, I remain,
In The Heart of Christ,
The Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, D.D., S.T.L.