ST. LOUIS (Christian Examiner) – San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops June 10 he believes the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide at the end of its session in June.
But, he said, the decision may present unique opportunities for the Catholic Church to help rebuild American culture.
"We may have to suffer this lie about marriage in the law, but we must not participate in it or keep silent about it," Cordileone said. "Nothing the court says can change what marriage truly is, and we will continue to promote and defend it."
Cordileone told the audience of U.S. Catholic bishops in St. Louis that church leaders and lay people who promote the church's doctrines on marriage, sexuality and the family will be marginalized and they may well be viewed as proponents of discrimination against members of the LGBT community.
The church should shrug off the criticism, however, and respond by continuing to advocate for marriage, he said.
"The importance of responding to this challenge with truth and compassion remains paramount," Cordileone said. "As the institution of marriage in our society faces unprecedented challenges, we humbly acknowledge our own responsibility and service to all and our total reliance on God's grace ... seeking God's face in all we encounter."
That may be difficult, but not because of the way Catholics will respond. Cordileone told the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the diocese there, that marriage has already been redefined by the culture and the culture will defend its new definition. While it is doing so, the church can, as Pope Francis said, "rediscover the beauty of the creative design that includes the image of God in the alliance of the covenant between man and woman."
Cordileone told the St. Louis Review the church believes and teaches God's special creation of two genders – male and female – in order to make life possible.
In recent years, Cordileone also said, states in the country have pushed laws on civil unions, equating them to marriage in the name of "equal rights."
"It's not really a question of the rights and benefits, though. There's something more going on here. The heart of the matter is the question of the definition of marriage," the archbishop said.
The St. Louis Review also noted that while there will likely be little agreement between proponents of traditional and same-sex marriage, Catholics can still be cordial.
"We need to speak about (marriage), but we need to encounter each other as human beings. We need to listen more to each other," the archbishop said. "It's meeting people where they are at, but then accompanying them ... and helping them grow in virtue. We all have the same deepest yearning, and that yearning of course is for love."
Cordileone, chairman of the conference's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, has been under fire from the gay rights lobby for months as he has taken an increasingly aggressive stance in rooting out homosexuality in the church in the San Francisco diocese.
In February, Cordileone asked teachers at four Catholic schools in the San Francisco archdiocese to include in their contracts and handbooks a statement affirming the church's traditional teachings on marriage and human sexuality.
At the time, Cordileone told the teachers sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior are "gravely evil." That comment prompted protests from the union representing the teachers at the four schools, as well as vocal opposition from the sizeable gay community in the city.