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From the Bishop - September 2009

Learning and Living Our Faith

My dear young friends,

Rather than write about teens in this annual teen issue of Harvest, I decided this year to write to you, young members of our Church.

I have something very important to say to you: Do everything you possibly can to learn well the teachings of our Catholic faith and to embrace them as the compass that gives direction to your life, forms your conscience and guides your decisions.

As disciples of Jesus Christ and members of His Church, we need to know as much as we can about Christ, Son of God and Savior. Because we love the Lord and want to follow Him faithfully, it is natural that we would want to learn everything about His message as it is handed down to us in Scripture and Church teaching. Christ is our Teacher, and He has given His teaching authority to the Church. This is teaching that we can trust to be true.

We are living at a time when some Catholics lack even a basic understanding of the Church’s doctrines. Without knowing the teachings of our faith, it is next to impossible for us to apply those teachings to our lives, to be capable of a “theological reading of modern problems.” It is necessary to know what the Church teaches in order properly to form our consciences regarding the many serious ethical challenges that we face.

I always pray that it is only this lack of understanding of Church teaching (as unfortunate as that is), rather than outright rebellion against it, that causes some Catholics to defy that teaching in important matters that affect the common good of society. It saddens me to hear of Catholics who reject the traditional definition of marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman. In rejecting this understanding of marriage as God has established it, they are dissenting from the constant and unwavering teaching of Scripture and Catholic doctrinal tradition…and from what may be known simply by the exercise of human reason.

In these days when we are working hard in our country and here in Maine to defend marriage as God has established it -- the covenant of one man and one woman -- it is important for you to realize that our Church’s position is not an attack on people who have a same-sex attraction. The Church teaches, in fact, that men and women with a same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” It emphasizes that, “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).

This respect and compassion, however, does not justify changing the definition of marriage simply because of the alluring but misleading arguments of some people. Changing the definition of marriage in an attempt to be compassionate is misguided.

As Catholics, we have an obligation to act in accordance with Church teachings.

"In those situations where homosexual unions have been largely recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI.

St. Paul’s admonition to the early Christian community at Rome echoes in our time as he strengthens them (and us) with these challenging words: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

Dear teen friends, I pray that I may count on you to do exactly that! Please know that I love you and respect you.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
11th Bishop of Portland