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Bishop Kemme: be calm about Supreme Court’s upcoming decision

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Last week I joined most of the bishops of the United States in our annual spring meeting in St. Louis, Mo. These meetings are important gatherings of the bishops of our episcopal conference. During our meetings we are updated on many of the issues the church is facing here in our country and around the world.
We have been told that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely rule on the issue of the states’ authority to legalize same sex domestic partnerships by the end of June, and while I am a hopeful person, I join the many in our episcopal conference in fearing the worst, namely that the Supreme Court will side in favor of the legal status of same sex domestic partnerships. Such a ruling will have profound consequences in our country that will go far beyond what most of us can even predict. Questions as to how this will affect us as a church are likely to arise.
If such a ruling comes down, the first thing we must do is remain calm. I think having a sense of history and perspective in an institution as old as the church will help us to do so. The church has always faced forces in the various cultures and society where she exists that intentionally or unintentionally undermines her ability to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout these many centuries the church survives and in the most important ways thrives. The church belongs to Christ and he will never abandon her. Remaining calm and centered in faith and prayer helps us remember that Christ is with us. He said, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” So, remain calm.
A ruling in favor of the states’ authority to legalize same sex domestic partnerships will not alter in any way the church’s consistent teaching on the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. This has been and will always be the church’s unambiguous teaching. A Supreme Court composed of nine persons may say what it wants and impose such things as the law of the land, but that will not change what we teach. As has been pointed out to me recently, the Supreme Court has been wrong in the past.
A ruling in favor of the states’ authority to legalize same sex domestic partnerships will not alter the church’s teaching on the pastoral care of persons with same sex attraction, which is often misunderstood. We will continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters in this condition so as to help them embrace the freedom of chastity, neither condemning them nor condoning immoral behavior, but providing a pastoral care for them which by God’s grace will help them in their struggles. Jesus approached everyone with healing and mercy. The church must continue this ministry, offering all sinners a pathway to freedom and new life. Everyone, regardless of their personal condition, including sexual orientation, is to be welcomed and received as a person with dignity and worthy of the church’s pastoral care.
A ruling in favor of states’ authority to legalize same sex domestic partnerships does not mean the church will allow the witnessing of such “marriages” by a member of the clergy. She cannot do this. That would be cooperating formally with an immoral act. If in fact a ruling of such comes down from the Supreme Court, it is likely that protection will be afforded to those religious bodies who object because of their teachings and the freedom of conscience. Some say this will be challenged. If so, that would be a game changing consequence. Let us hope that our society will preserve some respect for our religious liberty in this regard. We must never stop demanding that our civil society allow us the freedom to act or not to act in accord with our deeply held religious convictions.
Many other questions will be asked as to how the church in her ministries and outreach will relate to persons of the same sex, who may have legal status in a domestic partnership. These questions will not be easy to answer. I would say at this point that we will do everything we can to provide ministry and service to as many persons as possible up to and before those services cross the line of formal cooperation and validation of an action or situation that is objectively sinful. Evaluating those particular situations will be done by the use of prayer, sound moral reasoning, and prudential judgment. I have asked our priests to reach out to me and our diocesan Curia for guidance, should such questions arise in their parishes and schools. The best decisions are always made with the greatest amount of reflection and input. We have already started to develop guidelines for these kinds of problematic and troubling situations, but more needs to be done.
I would conclude my brief remarks by asking for your prayers for our country and for our church. We are definitely at a cross roads in our history. What is decided in the next weeks and months and how that is played out in our society will have serious ramifications for our citizenry, for the common good of family life and for the church we love so much.
God bless you, God bless our nation and God bless the church.
+ Bishop Carl A. Kemme

Pastoral Plan and Priorities