What’s in a name?

The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry seems to have some fixation with Cardinal O’Malley. Back in June they published an open letter misrepresenting the cardinal’s motivations for defending marriage. Now, a week before the Nov. 9 constitutional convention, they have announced the publication of a newspaper ad signed by a group of Catholics claiming that the cardinal does not speak for them on the issue of traditional marriage.

Rabbi Devon Lerner, the coalition director, told The Pilot that the ad targets the cardinal because he is the spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the area.

Fair enough. But do they forget traditional marriage is a cause championed by many more than the Catholic Church? Are they aware that many African-American ministers and congregations have spoken out against attempts to equate same-sex marriage with the struggle for racial equality?

Indeed, many mainstream Protestant as well as Jewish and Muslim organizations also stand by the traditional definition of marriage. The coalition seems to want to create the impression that religious organizations are evenly divided on this issue. But that is not the case.

The majority of mainstream religious groups support efforts to defend the traditional definition of marriage. Two years ago, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, a group including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders -- representing over 3,000 congregations in Massachusetts -- signed a joint statement calling on legislators to defend traditional marriage.

As for the Catholics signing the ad, we understand that they may be struggling with the Church’s position on marriage in their individual consciences. They can honestly be torn between what the Church teaches and what they experience in their lives.

Yet, we should all recognize that the teachings of the Church offer a sure path to the truth. Those teachings have been articulated in ways that are reasonable and can be understood on their merits, if studied without prejudice.

However, if after serious study, individuals find themselves removed from those teachings, the Church encourages them to “submit” their minds on that particular teaching while continuing the pursuit of truth with an open mind.

The Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution “Lumen Gentium” clarifies the role of the bishops and the way Catholics should receive their teachings:

“Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.”

“Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.”

As we have said before, Catholics have a moral duty to participate in political life and inform their opinions with the moral teachings of the Church, which are derived primarily not from particular tenets of faith but from natural law.

We strongly believe that the fundamental principles of natural law broadly define a framework in which our society can exist and prosper. Defending those fundamental principles -- including the foundational nature of marriage -- is not advocating a particular faith but promoting basic human values.

Nov. 9 is a crucial date in the history of Massachusetts. If a rumored effort to thwart a vote on the proposed amendment succeeds, our society will be hijacked by a small minority that is seeking to impose its lifestyle choice on all of us.

If legislators are going to pay heed to a list of names supporting a position, let them note the signatures of the 170,000 citizens of this state who said they support giving the people the right to vote on this issue.