Twenty Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time

October 11, 2014 Column Father De Celles

Monday, October 6, was a dark day in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) effectively legalized “gay marriage” in Virginia and five other states. Even worse, the long term effect of its decision may be to make “gay marriage” legal in every state.


What happened was this: The five states each had passed laws prohibiting same-sex (SS) marriage, and each of these laws had been overturned as unconstitutional by the three Circuit Courts of Appeal (the 10th, 7th and 4th) having jurisdiction in those five states. The states then appealed the three Circuit Court decisions to SCOTUS. On Monday the SCOTUS announced its decision to not even hear their appeal, effectively leaving the Circuit Court rulings as the last word in those states and in six other states (with laws against SS marriage) falling under the jurisdiction of those Circuit Courts.


The decision was a shock to most of us who assumed SCOTUS would want to take the cases, hear arguments and make a decision/ruling, once and for all, on the constitutional status of SS marriage. So its decision not to hear–they decided to refuse to decide–leaves us confused and with lots of questions. Why not accept the case? Why not decide? And what does this mean for the future of SS marriage in other states? Does this effectively establish a constitutional “right” to SS marriage? Is the war defending traditional marriage over? Do traditional marriage advocates have any hope?


Since only four of the nine Justices have to vote to accept a case, the math shows that SCOTUS’ nondecision means that at least six Justices voted not to accept the case. (Note: the exact vote tally was not disclosed).This leads many to infer that a similar majority of at least six would vote in favor of SS marriage if they did hear the appeal. That is not necessarily correct, but it is what most people—including many traditional marriage advocates—are inferring, and this will have a chilling effect on the debate, both in social and legal circles, and may sway the thinking of judges in other Circuit Courts currently considering the SS marriage bans in other states.


But we must keep in mind that SCOTUS has made no ruling/decision, so that there is no final word on the issue, and cases can proceed in other Circuits without any consideration given to SCOTUS indecision. Many experts point out that SCOTUS often rejects appeals when there is no conflict in the decisions of different Circuit Courts, as it was in this situation: all three Circuits supported SS marriage. However, such a conflict may soon present itself: cases are currently before 6th and 11th Circuits, as well as the conservative 5th Circuit Court.


Some advocates of traditional marriage are concerned because they hoped that at least the four solidly “conservative” Justices—Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts (all good Catholics)—would vote to accept the appeals. But there are many reasons all of these good men might vote against taking the case. For example, besides the lack of conflict, it’s possible that they believed they needed more time to convince one of the other Justices (e.g., the fickle Justice Anthony Kennedy) to vote to uphold the bans on SS marriage.


So what do we take away from all this? After much prayer, consideration, and discussion, I am not very hopeful, but not without hope. Although the war is not over, traditional marriage has been dealt a great blow. No matter what SCOTUS intended, its nondecision is a huge public relations victory for SS marriage advocates. Worst of all, SS weddings have begun in Virginia and will soon begin ten others, bringing the number of states allowing SS marriage to thirty. Can SCOTUS come back later and overturn this? Yes, clearly. But it’s very hard to get “toothpaste back in the tube.”


Even so, the war in defense of marriage is not over, and even if SCOTUS eventually finds a “constitutional right” to SS marriage, the war won’t be over then either. In 1973 SCOTUS found a “constitutional right” to abortion, and we’ve been fighting that ever since—and we’re finally winning, as most Americans are now pro-life.


So, we must not stop defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman, according to natural design and God’s plan. Because if SS marriage takes root, this will only be the latest step in the destruction of the family, and western civilization itself. Next comes polygamy (cases are in the courts already), and not too far after that acceptance of incest. And if they can redefine what it means to be a spouse, they can, and will, redefine what it means to be a parent: who says you are in charge of your children—shouldn’t we appoint experts to raise children? Et cetera…


There are many ways to join in the battle—all of them peaceful and charitable (remember, this is not a war on homosexuals). First of all, prayer; October is the Month of the Rosary, so renew your dedication to this powerful devotion and pray the Rosary for the defense of marriage and family. Second, we need to educate ourselves, our friends and our families, especially our children on the meaning, dignity and rights of families and marriage.


And third, there is the ballot. As I write this the pro-“gay marriage” candidate for U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner (who is also pro-abortion and supportive of Obamacare’s anti-religious liberty provisions, e.g., that will close down the Little Sisters of the Poor), is 12% points ahead of the pro-traditional marriage candidate, Ed Gillespie (who is also pro-life and defends religious liberty). Think about this: all these issues seemed to be destined to be decided by SCOTUS, and in the next 6 years our senator will help select three or four SCOTUS judges! I don’t endorse candidates, but I do ask: how can a Catholic vote for a pro-“gay marriage,” pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty candidate? Or why would a Catholic think this election is not important enough for you to take a few minutes to vote on November 4?


Holy Hour and Mass for Deceased Children. This Wednesday, October 15, at 6 p.m., we will have a very special Holy Hour to pray for our children who have preceded us in death. Many of our families have lost children, some very young, some even unborn. Please join us at this Holy Hour and the Holy Mass that follows at 7 p.m. to entrust our little ones to the infinite mercy of our Lord.


Finally, Some Very Good News. I’m truly delighted to announce that Monica Montanaro has joined our staff as parish secretary. Monica is a 2011 graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California, and spent the last year in Belize helping to establish a fledgling Catholic Junior College. Although she and her family live in Fredericksburg, they have been active in our choir for several years. I look forward to her getting very involved in the life of our parish.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles