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Archbishop applauds voices who defend marriage and family

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

On Sunday, June 2, I will celebrate a Mass for about 100 couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. This is always one of my favorite events of the year. Our world desperately needs examples of faithful, joyful and enduring love.

In “Liturgikon” — a book composed by Rev. Walter J. Schmitz — to assist priests in their pastoral and liturgical care of God’s people, there is a brief address that a priest can say before a couple renews their vows.

“On the day of your wedding, you stood before the altar of God and solemnly vowed your love to each other. Today, you stand before the altar, your family and friends, in striking testimony of what God’s grace, conferred in matrimony can accomplish in a husband and wife who carefully guard and use the divine treasure that is in them. The world today has great need of the living sermon which your example of love and fidelity shows forth. You have been dauntless in the face of many problems and difficulties, known only to yourselves and hidden from others that could have made your marriage something entirely other than it actually has been.

“We have every reason to believe that your married love has closely resembled Christ’s love for his spotless bride, the church, and that as Christ is the Savior of the church, so you have been a savior to each other, helping each other grow in holiness and patience, but above all, true love for God and neighbor. And so, you have found in your life together true peace, dignity, happiness and security. The way has not always been easy. You have had to endure suffering together. But because you have been faithful to God, he has been faithful to you, blessed you abundantly and, with his help, you have been able to accomplish what you of yourselves without divine aid could never have accomplished.

“You were married in Christ and Christ has continued these many years to be your portion in happiness and your chalice in sorrow. We beg him to guide you and watch over you, helping you to persevere in fidelity and love for the years ahead which we pray will be many and blessed.”

This week, I celebrated a Mass for 42 couples with 80 of their children participating in Family Camp at Benedictine College in Atchison. Family Camp is an annual event sponsored by Benedictine College’s Center for Family and Marriage. These married couples spent several days devoted to renewing their marriages and strengthening their families.

I have been amazed by the reaction to Harrison Butker’s commencement address at Benedictine College. During his address, Mr. Butker addressed a wide range of issues and challenged the graduates to be not afraid to be countercultural by living their Catholic faith with boldness and fidelity.

Mr. Butker spent a portion of the address criticizing Catholic bishops’ response to the COVID pandemic and challenging us to be more courageous and zealous in our responsibilities as successors of the apostles. I respect the seriousness with which Mr. Butker attempts to live his Catholic faith. I take to heart his exhortation to strive to be a better shepherd for God’s people, after the example of the good shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Mr. Butker challenged the graduates to “stay in their lanes” by not wasting energy criticizing church leaders, but rather to focus on living their Catholic faith with fidelity and joy. Unfortunately, Mr. Butker went a bit out of his lane by expressing opposition to natural family planning, which is a morally acceptable option for married couples.

However, the furor over Mr. Butker’s speech was not about his criticism of bishops or natural family planning. Mr. Butker provoked the ire of many pundits by hypothesizing that possibly a majority of the female graduates were more excited about marriage and the miracle of bringing children into the world than their future business or professional careers. Mr. Butker, with sincere and heartfelt emotion, praised his wife Isabelle for making him a better man and being the primary educator of their children.

The critics did not seem to notice that Mr. Butker also addressed the male graduates. Butker said to the men that the “absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation.”

Mr. Butker noted that other nations do not have nearly the same absentee father rates. He challenged the male graduates not to settle for what is easy and not to be afraid to do hard things.

 Many critics claimed that Mr. Butker implied things that he did not say. Actually, many of his critics inferred things that reflected more their bias than anything in Butker’s address. Their criticism revealed that many in our culture consider men or women prioritizing marriage over career to be foolish and a waste of their lives.

I interpret what Mr. Butker said at Benedictine through the lens of his 2023 commencement address at his alma mater Georgia Tech. On that occasion, Mr. Butker said to both the male and female graduates that he knew many individuals who were professionally successful and wealthy but were personally miserable. Mr. Butker proposed that this was because they prioritized professional success and wealth over relationships with God and other people. Mr. Butker told the graduates that his most important ring was not a Super Bowl ring, but his wedding ring.

Mr. Butker has his priorities right. The family is the foundation of culture, society, the nation and the church. Marriage is the foundation of the family. The high divorce rate and weakening of the family have had both significant societal and personal consequences.

I am grateful for those couples, who invested in their marriages and families by participating in Family Camp at Benedictine. I am inspired by the faithful love of our golden jubilarians. I also applaud voices in the church and society who uphold and defend the importance of marriage and family.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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