High court’s ruling prompts bishops’ pastoral plan for family, marriage

Relics of St. Thomas More to tour U.S. during 2016 Fortnight of Freedom

BALTIMORE — As a way to move forward in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage this year, U.S. bishops are planning to develop a pastoral plan for marriage and family life.

The tomb of St. Thomas More is seen in the crypt of the St. Peter ad Vincula chapel in the Tower of London. Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher were imprisoned in the tower in 1535 and executed on nearby Tower Hill. The two saints’ relics will tour the U.S. in 2016. The crypt contains their headless bodies, along with those of two other Catholic martyrs. (CNS photo | Marcin Mazur)

The pastoral plan, according to Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, will seek the input of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

He spoke about the plan Nov. 16 in Baltimore during an afternoon session at the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a report on this year’s observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, told the assembled bishops that the theme for 2016 will be “Witnesses to Freedom.”

“The fortnight gives us an opportunity to remember those witnesses past and present through the church, witnesses who testify to the meaning of freedom of conscience and the obedience of the truth,” he said.

The two-week event will include a nationwide tour of first-class relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, both of whom were martyred for their faith. Archbishop Lori said details of the tour have yet to be arranged, but that a schedule will be distributed when it is finalized.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the Supreme Court’s decision was a “great disappointment,” but it was not unexpected.

In comments from the floor about the court’s decision and how the church should proceed, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said Catholic leaders need to approach the court’s decision much like they did the Roe v. Wade court decision legalizing abortion. He said the church has been active in advocacy work and in getting its pro-life message public.

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, similarly said the court’s decision opened up opportunities for catechesis.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., said the church also needs to look at economic reasons for why people aren’t marrying and reach out to these couples.

The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty committee is producing a video on religious liberty that can be used by small parish groups and family gatherings to learn about the importance of religious liberty, the archbishop added.

The video’s release will coincide with 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae.” An excerpt of the video was shown to the assembly and received a loud round of applause afterward.

Companion study guides and discussion questions are being developed to coincide with the release, the archbishop said.

The effort is being worked on in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus.

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Contributing to this story was Dennis Sadowski.