Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., prays the rosary in November 2007 on the sidewalk in front of the E.M.W. Women's Surgical Center, an abortion clinic in Louisville. The archbishop prayed with about 300 pro-life supporters from Kentucky and southern Indiana. (CNS photo/Mary Ann Wyand, The Criterion)
As I mentioned in my
post earlier today, Archbishop Joseph Kurtzthe newly elected president of
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishopsdid a wide-ranging interview with
CWR that appeared in our July 2011 issue of the printed magazine. Below are a
few more excerpts from that interview; read the whole thing here.
On same-sex marriage:
Kurtz: Bishops, the Church, and society in general
need to understand the public nature of marriage. Aspects of marriage are
personal and private, but it is also public, because it affects society as a
Many people assume that marriage
is a right that the state can simply create. That is a dangerous direction in
which to go. The majority of voters cannot create whatever rights they want.
Marriage is a gift given to us by God and defined by him. We, as Catholics,
must not be afraid to say so publicly.
We need to be forthright in
speaking about the importance of defending and protecting the gift of marriage
within our Church and society. We need to be able to speak forthrightly to our
people on the importance of marriage, and make it clear that our respect for
the individual should not be at the expense of marriage itself. …
advice do you offer those who worry about the decline of marriage in our
Kurtz: First, that we can make a difference. One of the
first recipes for success in any venture is the commitment that somehow, by our
faithful witness and work, we can help shape positive things in our lives and
within the lives of others. That is empowered by the grace of Christ.
If we don’t have that conviction,
then we become victims of what I call self-fulfilling prophecies of doom. There
are some who throw up their hands and say that a deterioration of laws that
protect marriage is inevitable. They will be inevitable if we
ourselves do not have faithful witness. And that faithful witness needs to
reach out in love to every human person. God has a plan for everyone. And
ultimately we need to be helping everyone recognize that plan. In the case of a
married couple, that plan is intimately linked with their sacrificial and
generous love for each other and overflowing to their children.
you encourage your priests to speak up on this subject?
Kurtz: Yes, when we preach about it, we must not be
afraid to be ambassadors of that witness. Sometimes we don’t tell the stories
of faithful love that have always shaped and inspired us. I would not be a
priest had it not been for the chance [I had] to read the lives of the saints
and be motivated by the great adventure of following Christ and with Christ’s
grace of living a sacrificial life.
Everyone knows someone who has
been an inspiration. At confirmations, I talk with young people about who they
choose as their sponsors and why. It’s enlightening to the sponsors to see how
much these young people have noticed their faithful witness.
The community needs to be
involved in the preparation of couples who are getting married. This includes
supporting couples who choose not to live together before their marriages, and
to help them prepare, which might include having them make an engaged encounter
Once a couple is married, we must
look for ways to enrich them. Many married couples have said that once they
were married, their parishes treated them like completed projects. But that’s
obviously not true. In many professions, people look for continuing education
opportunities to enrich their careers. We must find ways to enrich marriages,
helping couples to be faithful in their married love.
On vocations to the priesthood and religious life:
How can we encourage more young people to pursue to vocations to
the priesthood and religious life?
Archbishop Kurtz: First, we can
have confidence that Christ is calling, and help others to hear and respond to
this call. When we survey our newly ordained priests, 90 percent say they
entered the seminary because of a conversation they had with a senior priest.
When we survey our priests, however, only 30 percent report that they have ever
invited a young man to consider the priesthood. If I were in sales, I’d say we
have a great opportunity here.
I encourage pastors
to identify those who may have a calling to the priesthood and to make an
invitation. That is a way we can let Christ act through us.
The support of
family is also important. Many priests and seminarians will tell you that the
support of their own families often grew as they went through the seminary.
That happened with me. My mom was happy I entered the seminary, but my dad was
not. But, over time, he became my biggest supporter. I encourage families to
see priesthood and religious life as a great gift, and support their members
who are answering the call.
We’re on an upswing
for vocations in the Archdiocese of Louisville. This year, I’ll ordain two
priests. And, God willing, three next year. For our size [200,000 Catholics],
we’re headed in a good direction.
We’ll also accept
five or six into the seminary this year. When I was young, I was told that when
I prayed, I should be specific. I’m asking Christ to give us 25 to 30
seminarians. This September, we should have more than 20.
Read the full interview here