St. Paul, whose 2,000th birthday we are commemorating this year, has some excellent guidance for any person in the public eye who speaks out on significant issues.
"Profess the truth in love," he wrote to the Ephesians.
That was the motivation that Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix and I had when we wrote to the Catholic people of our dioceses to express our support for Proposition 102 that will be on the ballot before Arizona voters this November.
Our support for Proposition 102, which would amend the Arizona Constitution by providing a legal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, certainly has drawn some strong criticism from readers of this newspaper, including an op-ed piece, letters to the editor and dozens of online comments.
The criticism ranges from "You bishops have no right to say anything about anything on the ballot" to "You are hate mongering and discriminating against people of same-sex orientation by denying them the right to marry."
Some readers have defended our right to state our support, including Mickey Jackson, a senior at Catalina Foothills High School.
I appreciated very much his thoughtful letter to the editor. I believe it is both my individual right and my responsibility to address significant issues that affect our community.
Those who challenged our statement in support of Proposition 102 speak of freedom and equal rights. They say one should have the freedom to marry whomever they want. They say that to deny same-sex couples the right to marry violates their equal rights under the law.
For its part, the Catholic Church teaches an understanding of marriage as an exclusive, lifelong and loving relationship between one man and one woman.
This understanding of marriage, the Catholic Church holds, is a natural truth — self-evident through our human reason — that neither the state nor the church can redefine or change.
The Catholic Church teaches this truth in its Catechism: "The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator."
The foundation of this truth is that marriage is the true human expression of the sexual complementarity of man and woman. It is in the context of marriage as a lifetime union of a man and a woman who love each other that this complementarity has meaning and value, especially through the children who are procreated from this union.
When you read our statement on Proposition 102, I hope you will see that Bishop Olmsted and I have tried to profess this truth in love.
You will see that we do not demean people of same-sex orientation. That would be totally contrary to our belief that each person is a child of God worthy of dignity and respect.
Our support of Proposition 102 has the sole purpose of upholding an institution fundamental to human society.
Our support does not undercut a true understanding of freedom and equality, core values in our society. In fact, true freedom is never freedom to do whatever one wants.
Our support does not call for or imply discrimination. In fact, it is not discrimination to uphold the institution of marriage, whose meaning and definition flow from the very nature of the human person.