Bishop Cordileone to Senate Comittee: Oppose DOMA Repeal

Bishop to Senate Judiciary Committee
Don't Redefine Marriage
Defend Human Rights of Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 2, 2011—The Senate Judiciary Committee should uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage at the federal level as the union of one man and one woman, because of its importance to human rights and the common good, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Promotion and Defense of Marriage efforts. In a November 2 letter, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland and an episcopal adviser to Catholics for the Common Good, asked the Committee to oppose any bill that would repeal DOMA, particularly the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598).

"Redefining marriage to mean simply an arrangement of consenting adults violates justice because it interferes with basic human rights," Bishop Cordileone wrote. "First, changing the institution of marriage by making it indifferent to the absence of one sex or the other denies that children have the fundamental human right to be cared by both their mother and father. Such revision transforms marriage from a child-centered to an adult-centered status to the detriment of children. DOMA maintains marriage’s proper focus on reinforcing the interests of children."*

Bishop Cordileone focused attention on the most serious consequence of redefining marriage to accommodate adult interests of equality: promoting the unique value of marriage between a man and a woman for children and society becomes an illegal act of discrimination.

“In places where marriage’s core meaning has been altered through legal action, officials are beginning to target for punishment those believers and churches that refuse to adapt,” Bishop Cordileone wrote. “Any non-conforming conduct and even expressions of disagreement, based simply on support for marriage as understood since time immemorial, are wrongly being treated as if they harmed society, and somehow constituted a form of evil equal to racism. DOMA represents an essential protection against such threats to faith and conscience.”

“All persons have a rightful claim to our utmost respect,” wrote Bishop Cordileone. “There is no corresponding duty, however, for society to disregard the meaning of sexual difference and its practical consequences for the common good; to override fundamental rights, such as religious liberty; and to re-define our most basic social institution. DOMA advances the common good in a manner consistent with the human dignity of all persons.”

Bishop Cordileone noted that DOMA’s definition of marriage reflects a longstanding consensus based in reason that is “accessible to people of all faiths or none at all.”

He added, “Millions of citizens have gone to the ballot in 30 states to ratify similar DOMA proposals by substantial majorities. Forty-one states in all have enacted their own DOMAs. Popularity alone does not determine what is right. But in the face of such broad support in the present day, not to mention a legacy of lived experience and reasoned reflection measured in millennia in every society and civilization throughout all of human history, repealing a measure that merely recognizes the truth of marriage is all the more improvident.”

The full text of Bishop Cordileone’s letter.

* See summary of Catholic social teaching on the family

For more information see



Copyright © 2004–2012 Catholics for the Common Good®
Permission granted for use of content with attribution to  
ccgaction.org.