The Archbishop of Newark recently released a pastoral letter in which he provided arguments defending the traditional and historical importance of marriage, insisting that Catholics who support gay marriage should forgo receiving communion.
Archbishop John J. Myers, who leads nearly one million Catholics in Newark, released his letter on Tuesday and explained that he released this letter not because of the upcoming election, although he encourages all voters to reflect and pray on each candidates positions. The letter's purpose is to bring about a level of clarity that he feels has not been provided by numerous other bishops regarding homosexuality.
Contained in the pastoral letter is the declaration that "marriage is a natural and pre-political institution" furthering that while being recognized by the state, the structure of marriage was "written in the design of creation and revealed to us by a loving God."
Myers points to the rampant erosion of social values that has led to the insistence of redefining marriage to fit newly developed social constructs, but as the archbishops maintain, marriage is part of "God's creative plan … of the natural law."
Myers does go to great lengths to address the nature of homosexuality and homosexual acts. While he holds that homosexuality in itself is not a sin, the continued participation of homosexual acts is. He highlights this issue by explaining that while a celibate man rises above the urge to act on sexual impulses, so too can a homosexual avoid impulses to engage in homosexual acts.
The letter is not solely focused on how one should consider homosexuality, as it addresses issues of acceptance and advocacy on the part of those who would observe Catholic doctrine. Myers does issue stern words to those who claim to support the Catholic Church while encouraging acts that are in direct conflict with its teachings.
"If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church's reaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest," Myers wrote.
While Myers has not specifically endorsed any candidate publically, New Jersey lawmakers are aware that Myers is walking a fine line, given that restrictions prevent any pastor form publically endorsing any candidate, while allowing faith leaders to teach and preach about specific topics affecting their congregations.
"It appears that the archbishop is treading awfully close to the line," Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, the Democratic state committee chairman, told NorthJersey.com.
"I'm sure he is not crossing the line. I just think it's an unfortunate coincidence in timing. … You'd have to ask the archbishop why the letter doesn't come out in March or December," he added.