Twenty five years ago, when I was consecrated as a bishop, I accepted the Apostolic Charge written 2000 years ago by St. Paul, to: "preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient--correcting, reproving, appealing--constantly teaching and never losing patience." In that letter, Paul also warned: "For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears. They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables." Well, I come to you today praying for the strength to honor that charge, and wondering if Paul's vision has reached reality in our times. Sometimes it can be very difficult to discern the truth and the right thing to do. Often the truth does not "tickle our ears," but rather calls us to bear witness when perhaps we would rather not become involved. I believe such a time is upon us, right here in our own green mountains and in our own backyards. Today in Vermont, the sacredness of marriage and the family as ordered by God is in jeopardy, and we are called to defend it with courage and conviction. I emphasize the "we", my friends, because all of us are a priestly people, called to preach the Word. On February 1st, at 7:00PM, our Vermont State Legislators conduct[ed] another session of public hearings to ascertain the will of the people on the recent Supreme Court mandate which orders them to grant the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, either by amending the marriage statutes or by legitimizing another way of achieving equality under the law, such as through domestic partnership rights.
There are many sound legal minds who question the Supreme Court's authority to issue such mandates to the legislature. Some even believe we may be facing a constitutional crisis. I just do not know. But I do know we are knee-deep in a moral crisis. And I do know it is sometimes difficult to see the solution. But that's why God, in his mercy and wisdom, gave Christians a map with which we could navigate throughout time. His name was Jesus, and he told us: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. His is not a sometimes way, or an occasional truth, or a Sundays-only type of life. His way, truth and life cannot be not shut off and on at our convenience. Following Jesus sometimes calls us to bear witness, face unpopularity, and even scorn. St. Paul's advice is as relevant today as it was in his times: "Be steady and self-possessed; put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." Well, I am trying to take Paul's advice. I hope you will try also. The Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage is widely known. We are also opposed to domestic partnership legislation. Now, some of you may feel a bit uncomfortable to publicly oppose same sex marriage and domestic partnerships. It is no secret that those who oppose such measures are often seen as discriminatory. Indeed, that is troubling. And it is painful. However, we ask those who disagree with us to understand that one can love and respect others without accepting all their actions and without wanting the government to provide special incentives for their lifestyle. At the same time, let no one join us who harbors hate, anger, violence or discrimination within their hearts against our brothers and sisters of homosexual orientation. That is not the Way of Christ. I hereby issue a clarion call to you, my brother priests, to you, my sister religious, to you my people, and to all our friends of every faith.. We shall come bearing witness to the Way, the Truth and the Life, and we shall do so with malice toward none and with charity toward all. God Bless You.
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