In the past months, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken several times about what he calls an “educational emergency” with regard to defending and promoting the Christian values of marriage and family.
The Knights of Columbus and the National Organization for Marriage are responding to the pope’s call to protect marriage – and they are urging Catholics everywhere to join them.
In addition to financial support from the Supreme Council, Knights are encouraged to assist with the mission of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) on a grassroots level. That mission, NOM President Maggie Gallagher says, is to “protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.”
In 2006, the Knights helped to promote a U.S. federal marriage amendment that unfortunately did not pass – but there has been success on the state level. So far, 27 states have passed constitutional amendments protecting marriage as the union of husband and wife.
This year, there are major efforts to put state marriage amendments on the ballot in Florida, California, and several other states.
“The Knights are the foot soldiers for the bishops and the faith,” says Gallagher. “The battle is shifting away from courts and into state legislatures in the heavily Catholic ‘blue states’ in the Northeast, where social conservative institutions are weakest.” Unless the situation changes, several state legislatures are likely to pass laws supporting same-sex marriage.
With this in mind, NOM was founded, in part, to support state groups fighting for marriage. Gallagher says she and Princeton Prof. Robert George founded the nonprofit after getting “tired of complaining to each other that ‘somebody’ should start an effective national marriage organization.”
Although NOM welcomes involvement from non-Catholics, it was also founded to motivate and mobilize Catholic citizens.
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who serves as NOM’s episcopal adviser, says, “As Catholics, we cannot stand by in silence in the face of challenges that threaten the sanctity of marriage.We cannot shirk our responsibility.” Archbishop Myers is a member of Spalding Council 427 in Peoria, Ill.
Unless its definition is fundamentally changed, marriage is about bringing together the “two halves of humanity – men and women” as the foundation of the family and future generations, says Gallagher.
Given the terms of the debate, if Catholics lose the battle to “define” marriage, the consequences could be grave, according to Gallagher. Through government tax dollars, children would be indoctrinated with the idea that everyone who believes marriage is the union of husband and wife is a bigot. Catholic institutions would also face serious penalties in the public square, since the Catholic faith would, legally speaking, constitute bigotry.
In short, Gallagher says, the fight to legalize same-sex marriage is an issue of public, not private, concern: “It is about getting the government to use its power to endorse and enforce a powerful new idea.”
As the Knights and NOM work together, Gallagher hopes “there will be many opportunities for Knights to respond to Pope Benedict’s call to stand up for marriage.