Bishops Statements

2009 NYS Bishops Statement on Same Sex Marriage

Date posted: June 1, 2009

A statement by the Catholic Bishops of New York State on a legislative proposal to fundamentally change the institution of marriage.

‘Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty’: A Statement of the Bishops of NYS

Date posted: October 1, 2008

A statement on voting and political responsibility by the Catholic Bishops of New York State.

Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

Date posted: June 9, 2008

 Recently, proposals have been put forth in our state to recognize so-called “same-sex marriage,” a radical step that would remove from marriage its most basic, fundamental characteristic, thereby altering its very essence.  Our Governor has ordered recognition of such unions from other states as “marriages” in New York. This redefinition defies reason. Additionally, the state Assembly last year approved a measure to permit such “marriages” here, though to date the Senate has not.

Such actions, whether the legal union is called “marriage” or “civil union,” represent a destructive development for our state.

The joining of man and woman in the bond of marriage is a constant and visible reminder of God’s goodness and the beauty of the Divine plan for humankind.  The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ himself raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.  And, indeed, all of the world’s great religions rightfully recognize marriage as a holy union of a man and a woman.

Numerous theological and religious arguments could be advanced as to why same-sex unions should be rejected.  However, this is not simply a matter of theology, and religious values are not the sole source of opposition to this plan.

Marriage always has been, is now and always will be a union of one man and one woman in an enduring bond.  This is consistent with biology and natural law, and should be obvious to all, no matter what their religion, or even if they have no religion at all.  It is a mutual personal gift between the two that serves the individual couple in many ways, allowing them to grow in love and, through that love, to bring forth children.

Just as importantly, this union also serves the larger society.  Marriage provides a stable family structure for the rearing of children and is the ultimate safeguard so that civil society can exist and flourish.  That is why civil society through the ages has recognized its duty to foster and respect marriage between a man and a woman.

To be clear, the state’s historic recognition of marriage is based on the biological fact that the physical union of a man and a woman tends to lead to children.  Common sense and empirical evidence tell us that children’s welfare is best served in most cases by their being reared in a stable home with their mother and father. This fact has been recognized and intuited by societies for millennia. Encouraging marriage between a man and a woman, therefore, serves the state’s interests, as well-reared children who live with their mother and father are much more likely to grow to be good citizens, thereby, creating wealth, stability and security for the members of the society. 

On the other hand, there is no compelling state interest in granting legal recognition to same-sex relationships.  The simple fact that two people have a committed relationship is not a reason for the state to confer upon it the status of marriage.  If affection and commitment were the only prerequisites for a marital relationship, then it is conceivable that any two or more individuals could claim the right to a civil union, no matter what their relationship.

Recognizing same sex unions will only serve to devalue marriage even more than what has already occurred in recent years.  Numerous scholars have written extensively of the negative impact on children and society resulting from our nation’s growing rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births over the last four decades.

Societal acceptance of casual divorce and single parenting was initially viewed by many as the natural progression of an enlightened society, just as “same-sex marriage” is viewed by some today.

Warnings from leaders such as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the consequences of family breakdown were once considered alarmist.  Today they are seen as truly prophetic, as there is largely consensus among sociologists that children often suffer from divorce and single parenting. Research tells us that such children, in general, are not as well educated and earn less money as adults than children who live with a married mother and father and are more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors in their youth that may have long-term implications on their lives.

Marriage and family have worked well throughout history to promote the common good. “Same-sex marriage” furthers a societal disconnect between procreation and marriage while promoting the notion that a nontraditional family structure serves a child as well as a traditional one.  We are confident that history will judge this notion harshly.

But what about the argument of proponents of “same-sex marriage” that traditional marriage is a form of unjust discrimination against homosexual persons?  This is not the case, as marriage by definition is a union of physically and emotionally complementary male and female partners.  However, it is true that homosexual persons sometimes face unjust discrimination in certain areas.  This is wrong and must be opposed by everyone. But the state need not ignore the realities of natural law or discard thousands of years of human tradition to address such issues.

Clearly, the state can review whatever benefits or privileges that it has through the years conferred on married couples and, in cases where true discrimination may be at play, fashion legislative remedies.  In reality, many benefits sometimes considered unique to married persons are open to all already. For example, New York State allows an individual to designate whomever he or she chooses as a health-care proxy. Homes may be owned jointly by unmarried persons and a person can bequeath property to survivors in a will as he or she sees fit.

The question of such benefits should not be allowed to cloud the discussion because, in truth, the movement for “same-sex marriage” is less about such benefits as it is about societal acceptance and approval of homosexual relationships.  But it is not the business of the state to attempt to legislate such approval.

While sensitive to the pastoral needs of homosexual persons in our communities, families and churches, our role is to speak the truth in charity.  As Catholic bishops, we want to make absolutely clear that our firm beliefs about marriage and against the governor’s proposal must not be misconstrued to be in any way a condemnation of homosexual people or an attack on their human dignity.  Our Church teaches, and we affirm, that we must treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love, as we would all God’s children.  Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church warns that any form of prejudice and hatred – “every sign of unjust discrimination” – against homosexual people should be avoided. (CCC 2358)

But we must state that the most elementary study of history, sociology, biology or theology points to the certain truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, which the state should not and must not attempt to alter.

We call on our state government to reject attempts to alter the sacred institution of marriage. We strongly encourage all Catholic New Yorkers and everyone who believes in the sanctity of marriage to make their voices heard on this compelling moral and social issue.

+Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York

+Howard J. Hubbard

Bishop of Albany

+Nicholas DiMarzio

Bishop of Brooklyn

+Edward U. Kmiec

Bishop of Buffalo

+Robert J. Cunningham

Bishop of Ogdensburg

+Matthew H. Clark

Bishop of Rochester

+William F. Murphy

Bishop of Rockville Centre

+James M. Moynihan

Bishop of Syracuse

NYS Bishops Good Friday Statement on Immigration Reform

Date posted: April 16, 2006

NYS Bishops Good Friday Statement on Immigration Reform

Our country is in the midst of a pivotal national debate on immigration reform, the outcome of which will have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people, as well as serious long-term implications for the kind of society we want to be. It is important and necessary to address how better to secure our borders. However, we also must ask how to achieve reform that recognizes the reality of the presence among us of our immigrant sisters and brothers, acknowledges their contributions to our economy and society, and provides a pathway of hope for them and their families. Our challenge is to find a solution that is balanced, seeking the common good while respecting the rights and dignity of everyone.

NYS Bishops Statement on Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Date posted: June 24, 2005

Dear People of God,

Ours is a world in which, for several hundred years, we have all benefited from the extraordinary achievements of scientific research, technological skill and human creative genius. Yet neither in the past nor today have men and women ever been free to disregard the questions of the meaning of human life and the defense and protection of human dignity that are the foundation of all human rights and the basis of civil society. The past has taught with too many examples that human ingenuity can be used for destructive purposes if not harnessed to a proper vision of the human person in accordance with natural law, aided by the insights of religious faith.

Restoring the Covenant: A pastoral letter on society’s responsibility to the poor and vulnerable

Date posted: March 8, 2005

By the Bishops of New York State

Introduction: Why We Are Writing This Pastoral Letter Now
This is a challenging and crucial time for the people and leaders of New York State. Many people are struggling while escalating demands, and claims on both our private and public resources create painful and difficult choices for us as we set our social, economic and fiscal priorities for this year. We know that sacrifices will be required from all. We also believe that a commitment to the common good requires that the benefits and burdens, the gains and sacrifices be shared equitably, with special attention to how these decisions impact our poorest and most vulnerable people. We are writing this pastoral letter because our faith calls us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to express our deep conviction that New York State’s historical covenant with people who are in need and struggling, must be maintained, not weakened, and even strengthened where necessary as we set these priorities.


NYS Bishops Statement on Religious Liberty Litigation

Date posted: December 30, 2002

Confronted with no other means of defending our religious freedom against a governmental assault, plaintiffs representing a broad array of Catholic and Protestant entities today have taken the necessary step of initiating legal action against the State of New York.

Catholics and Cremation: Questions and Answers from the Bishops of New York State

Date posted: December 6, 2002

Printable brochure HERE.

Due to the changing trends in funeral practices, the Bishops of New York State have prepared this brochure to answer common questions regarding the important elements of Church teaching concerning cremation. The responses are consistent with the U.S. Bishops’ “Order of Christian Funerals” and “Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites” documents, which were consulted as source material.

Every Parent, Every Child: A Pastoral Statement on Parental Rights in Education

Date posted: September 3, 2002

A pastoral statement on parental rights in education by the Catholic Bishops of New York State

Children are our most precious gift and represent our greatest hope. Parents have a unique and primary responsibility in the rearing of children. By providing a loving home, instilling faith and values, and directing their children’s education, they are rendering an invaluable service both to their children and to the greater society. More

Statement of the NYS Bishops on Contraception Mandate

Date posted: February 5, 2002

We, the Catholic Bishops of New York State, are united in the view that legislation passed today in the state Senate that would force Catholic employers to provide coverage for contraception in employee health insurance plans is a clear and unprecedented violation of religious liberty. By providing a religious exemption for parishes while forcing Catholic education, health and human service ministries to violate the teaching of our faith, the Senate is legislating what is and is not Catholic. This is a grave and unconstitutional encroachment by government into the realm of religion.