For the second year in a row, IRD hosted a table at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. We were a rare Protestant enclave in the Washington Hilton ballroom! Of course there were many friends there, including former IRD President Kent Hill, who came by to say hello. IRD board member Bill Saunders is on the breakfast’s board.
The guest speaker was the always outstanding Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University and formerly pro-life spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. “They believe us to be irrational bigots because of our view on redefining marriage,” she said in her opening, wasting little time and offering no apologies. “Catholics should talk about easier stuff…like the weather,” we are often told, she smilingly remarked, noting the frequent preference for emphasizing noncontroversial humanitarianism to avoid the conflict inherent in defending life and marriage. “You live where you live,” she said, “You can’t choose which moral issues to address,” and right now, marriage and the sanctity of life are under assault.
Alvare recalled that St. Paul’s views on human life and sexuality were liberating in antiquity, which was captive to behaviors that oppressed especially women and the vulnerable. “Christians are again asked to be light to the world,” she said, amid “dehumanizing” trends that ignore the links between social welfare and a sexual ethic based on scripture and natural law. She implored that we push the government awy from “de-linking sex from marriage and kids,” which has primarily hurt women and children. The poor are not really on the top of anybody’s agenda currently, she rued, and they are increasingly bereft of the tools for marriage and parenting. “Linking faithful sex and marriage is central to the common good,” she insisted. Women especially from ethnic and immigrant communities must and will play a leading role in affirming marriage and life against the “fear and despair” of groups like Planned Parenthood, Alvare concluded.
Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, in his keynote address, reiterated Alvare’s focus, saying that traditional marriage is “integral to the new evangelization.” Rooted in natural law in all cultures, and based on sexual complementarity, marriage is called to be “lifelong and fruitful,” he said. Stable marriages and families will challenge and rebuild the culture, he asserted, pointing ultimately toward Jesus. Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, D.C. ended the breakfast with a benediction. The Papal Nuncio delivered the invocation. A U.S. Marine led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, reminding us of our temporal duties.
The robust spiritual and intellectual confidence of Catholic teaching on marriage and life is a welcome antidote not just to chaos in the secular culture but also growing confusion among Protestants and even some evangelicals, who often seek validation in cultural conformity. But as Pastor Rick Warren tweeted yesterday, “In a sick culture, churches that copy culture grow weak. But compelling counter-culture churches grow in strength and size.” Even more importantly, the counter cultural message of historic Christianity is true and good, offering abundance and life amid woeful alternatives.