The case became a teachable moment because Omaha Archbishop George Lucas responded to the letter — and it all happened on a day when Pope Francis was reaffirming what real “marriage” means.
In a letter to the Board of Trustees, reported by KETV, Jesuit Father Lannon said: “I have decided that Creighton University will extend healthcare benefits in 2015 to the same-sex spouses of our colleagues who have been legally wed in other states.”
Archbishop Lucas, who had been informed in advance of the decision, answered in a statement that he was “disappointed” and said “I disagree with the decision.”
Lannon, noting that “21 out of the 28 Jesuit universities” in the United States do the same, said, “The extension of benefits is not a statement of approval of same-sex marriages but rather an acknowledgement of our responsibility to serve the needs of faculty and staff who faithfully serve our students and patients every day.”
Archbishop Lucas responded to this, saying “Despite Father Lannon’s claim that this is not a statement of approval of same-sex marriages, this is precisely the message that the University is giving. I am dismayed that the recommendation of the University Benefits Committee is thought to supersede divine law regarding marriage.
Pope Francis said essentially the same thing in remarks on Oct. 27.
“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!”
The Pope said the “new forms” of unions are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”
Father Lannon told the trustees: “I believe the extension of benefits is the right thing to do at Creighton. The decision involves the tension between the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage and social justice concerns for the care and well-being of our colleagues’ families.”
Answered Archbishop Lucas: “There is no tension between Catholic teaching and social justice. Both are grounded in the same truths about the nature of the human person, the complementarity of man and woman and the meaning of human life and love. When we experience tension in ensuring respect and just treatment for all persons, including those with same-sex attraction, we have a right to expect a Catholic university to help us see a just path forward, rooted in faith and founded on the rich Catholic intellectual tradition. Creighton has failed to fulfill this expectation in this expansion of benefits.”
Pope Francis also saw the need to strengthen marriage. In his remarks, he said: “So many families are divided, so many marriages broken, (there is) such relativism in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said, noting that from a sociological and Christian point of view “there is a crisis in the family because it’s beat up from all sides and left very wounded!”
While he has not spoken about same-sex marriage benefits, in 2010, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio spoke out strongly about preventing gay adoption.
According to an article in L’Osservatore Romano reported in the National Catholic Register, the future pope said gay adoption would “seriously damage the family.”
He wrote: “In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family … At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”