Pope Saint Gregory the Great (d. 604) gives a dire warning to “pastors who…hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men.” He goes on:
As the voice of truth tells us, such leaders are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears.
The Lord reproaches them through the prophet: “They are dumb dogs that cannot bark” (Pastoral Guide Lib. 2, 4: PL 77, 30-31).
As chief pastor and teacher of the people entrusted to his care, it is above all a bishop’s sacred duty to teach the truth of faith and morals, as we know that truth by human reason and from divine revelation in Scripture and Tradition.
The Second Vatican Council is very clear on this.
For the bishops…are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct…
The Council goes on to say:
Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind” (Lumen Gentium, #25).
My dear people, serious stuff here for me and for you!
As your bishop, I take with utmost seriousness my obligation as chief teacher in the Diocese of Portland. In saying that, I am so very grateful to the many dedicated, faithful men and women – clergy, consecrated religious, and laity – who share in our Church’s teaching mission in parishes, schools, and other ministries.
The statement entitled: “Marriage: Yesterday…Today…Always,” included in this issue of Harvest , is a formal exercise of my teaching ministry. It is a summary of the full text of my pastoral letter with the same title, which can be found on our diocesan website, www.portlanddiocese.org
While the upcoming referendum in November that would attempt to change the definition of marriage in Maine adds urgency and poignancy to my articulation of the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, open to the gift of new life, the pastoral letter is in continuity with the other efforts the diocese has made to promote and strengthen marriage. One example is the pastoral initiative of 2008 to enrich marriage preparation for engaged couples, “Telling Anew the Story of Marriage.”
While we are fully committed to continuing our effort to strengthen and support marriages, we are at a time in our history when marriage as currently defined in Maine law must also be defended. Until recently, it was unimaginable that any Christian church or denomination would argue for a change in the definition of marriage as anything other than the union of one man and one woman. Sadly, this is no longer the case, another consequence of the culture of relativism that denies the existence of objective truth.
As I exercise my teaching authority in a formal way in the pastoral letter, I appeal to you and to all who care about preserving marriage and its unique contribution to the common good, to read and reflect on what I have written. Talk with others about it. So much is at stake.
I call upon the Catholic community in Maine to stand united in the truth as we face the debate on marriage in the weeks ahead.
And, I call upon my own Episcopal motto, may we “live the truth in love” (Eph. 6:15). May truth and civil discourse prevail. And may marriage as God has created it be defended, preserved and strengthened in Maine and throughout our nation.
Bishop Richard J. Malone, Th.D.
11th Bishop of Portland