Call to prayer: For life, marriage, and religious liberty Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Besides praying for the cardinals who are electing a new pope, the Catholic bishops of the United States have also called for a nationwide effort to advance a movement for life, marriage, and religious liberty.

In this Year of Faith, the bishops are encouraging Catholics across our nation to pray for rebuilding a culture that is more favorable to life and marriage as well as for increased protections for religious liberty.

Increasing ‘spiritual stamina’

For this call to prayer, the bishops have suggested monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours in parishes; daily Rosary by families and individuals; special prayers of the faithful at all Masses; fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays; and another Fortnight for Freedom this summer (similar to the one held last year).

The goal of this call to prayer is twofold: to increase awareness of these challenges and to build “spiritual stamina” and fortitude among the faithful so that we can be effective and joyful witnesses of the New Evangelization.

Defending marriage as we know it

This effort is more timely because the United States  Supreme Court will be looking at a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act at the end of March.  We must be concerned about whether the Supreme Court could make a landmark decision on marriage as we know it much like it did with the issue of abortion in Roe v. Wade.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted into law on September 21, 1996. It is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States.

The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Under the law, no U.S. state or political subdivision is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns.

Challenging federal law

The Justice Department, in a brief filed February 22 at the U.S. Supreme Court, said DOMA is unconstitutional, according to a Catholic News Service article.

“Moral opposition to homosexuality, though it may reflect deeply held personal views, is not a legitimate policy objective that can justify unequal treatment of gay and lesbian people” found in the 1986 Defense of Marriage Act, said the “amicus,” or friend-of-the-court brief, written by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

It was filed in the case of United States v. Windsor, for which the court will hear oral arguments March 27, a day after it hears oral arguments in another case weighing the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, Hollingsworth v. Perry. The second case is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2008 to ban same-sex marriage.

In the first case, Edith Windsor is suing over the Defense of Marriage Act because her same-sex marriage was recognized by the state of New York, but not by the federal government. Consequently, when her spouse died and she inherited her estate, Windsor had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Had her spouse been male, she would have been exempted from that tax.

Bishops defend law

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed separate briefs in the two challenges facing the high court.

In the California case, the USCCB argues that although the Supreme Court “has held that laws forbidding private, consensual, homosexual conduct between adults lack a rational basis, it does not follow that the government has a constitutional duty to encourage or endorse such conduct. Thus, governments may legitimately decide to further the interests of opposite-sex unions only.”

The USCCB brief in the DOMA case says there is “no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex. . . . Specifically, civil recognition of same-sex relationships is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition —quite the opposite is true.”

I encourage people to join the Catholic bishops’ call to pray. Pray for our nation. Pray for life, marriage, and religious life. (Go to for more information.)