The draft of a new pastoral letter that warns against four fundamental challenges to marriage, describing two of them -- cohabitation and contraception -- as intrinsically evil, will be considered by the U.S. bishops at their November national gathering in Baltimore.
The draft of the letter, "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan," a copy of which was obtained by NCR, covers familiar territory. It asserts that the church throughout history has taught that marriage "is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman"; that its dual purpose, the union of individuals and the conception of children, are inseparable; and that each sexual act must be open to the possibility of children. The paper condemns artificial birth control, same-sex marriage, cohabitation and divorce as challenges "directed to the very meaning and purposes of marriage."
The bishops say they are developing the letter, intended as "a theological and doctrinal foundation," as one expression of a 2004 pledge "to be a marriage-building church."