PO BOX 5079 (51102)
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)


Keeping the sanctity of marriage at the forefront

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ bring you every joy and consolation! I am most grateful for the protection and intercession of our diocesan patrons, St. Joseph and Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe, and all our guardian angels, for keeping this summer’s flooding from being much worse. As the rivers now recede, please offer your thanks to them, and to God, for averting the most serious dangers and harm. Please pray also for all those who have been affected. Many homes, which might have been entirely destroyed, have still been damaged by the standing water, mud, and mold, and a great deal of work must be done before these homes can be livable again. By God’s grace, I am confident that all the means and time necessary will be given to us.


Our holy mother, Mary, is truly most generous to us her children, in pouring out for us all the graces her Son has lovingly handed into her care. As we celebrate her birthday on Sept. 8, we remember with what careful preparation God brought forth our Savior. God’s providence is perfect. “And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Rom 8:28). God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of His Son is part of that perfection. All the extraordinary gifts He has given to her, likewise perfect, come to us in the form of promises – the promise of our freedom from sin; of our intimacy with Christ; of belonging to His body, the Church; of our bodily resurrection and glorification; of our enthroning in the place prepared for us in Heaven; of praising God eternally with all the saints and angels – all these things strengthen our faith in this life, and enrich our desire to praise and thank God every day. As she has always done, Mary points the way to her Son. We must never hesitate to follow her to Him.


How different from Holy Mary are the powerful of this world! Jesus warns us, “Put not your trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no help” (Ps 146). As a bishop here in Iowa I feel I must say something about the Associated Press article of August 28, which apparently ran nationwide. Mr. Michael Gronstal, Senate Majority Leader, once again asserted his ideological commitments against marriage, and against the people’s sovereignty over government on such issues.

By both reason and revelation, you and I know marriage to be something created directly by God (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1603); a universal part of human experience (CCC 1604-1605); a state of life prior in every sense to the State we live in (CCC 1603); and a permanent (CCC 1644), exclusive (CCC 1646), fruitful (CCC 1652-1653), spiritual union (CCC 1612, 1617). The Senate Majority Leader has publicly committed himself to the idea that this definition discriminates against those who engage in homosexual acts. But his idea is incoherent, even oxymoronic, for two reasons. First, what he calls “same-sex marriage” is no marriage. It contradicts point by point the traditional definition of marriage: it is a human invention, not universal in human experience, created by the imposition of a bad court judgment, unable to bear fruit, and anti-religious. What he promotes has no rational basis for claiming to be permanent and exclusive, and the court’s twisted logic trying to make it so is already under attack by lawsuits intending to legalize polygamy and much more. It is impossible for two people of the same sex to marry, in the same way that it is impossible for the earth’s gravity to pull things up into the sky. Marriage just is the permanent, exclusive, fruitful union of one man and one woman. Calling something else by the same name doesn’t make it marriage, but it does attack and erode real marriages, and threaten religious liberty, and usurp the rights of parents as first educators of their own children.

Second, even if the Majority Leader were correct about what constitutes a marriage, he would still be wrong in setting himself against the will of the people of Iowa, expressed clearly and repeatedly in favor of traditional marriage, and by a significant majority. The will of the people does not make marriage what it is, of course, but it does represent our shared estimation of the common good. All our legislators’ oaths of office oblige them to work for the common good. The Senate Majority Leader’s position in the Senate gives him no special and unique insight into what is true, good, and beautiful, not shared with the rest of us. Quite the opposite; the genius of representative democracy is precisely that our best estimate of the common good most often wins the largest consensus. His obstinancy in opposing the clear consensus of his constituency, usurping for himself the role of the people, mocks our sovereignty and undermines the principles of good government. If I have misunderstood the Leader’s position, I am open to correction. I continue to encourage all of us to defend marriage and what it truly is, a God-given beautiful gift.


Finally, we commemorate next Sunday the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Church condemns all acts of terrorism, no matter how just one may think the cause. Evil may never be done so that good may result (CCC 1789). The deliberate taking of an innocent human life is always a grave evil (CCC 2258); the deliberate taking of any human life, apart from exceptions like self-defense, is the same grave evil (CCC 2268, 2269). Suicide is also a grave evil (CCC 2280), even if mental illness can mitigate culpability (CCC 2283). Therefore acts of terrorism are always wrong acts, and gravely sinful when done deliberately.

We remember with both grief and hope all the victims of these evil deeds: grief, because their lives were unjustly ended by violence; hope, because of our faith in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for all the dead that God will treat them with most generous mercy, won for us in our Lord’s Precious Blood, and give them the gift of final penitence at the moment of their death. We should even pray for the terrorists; as hard as it is for us to imagine them accepting the gift of final penitence, let us not wish damnation on them, lest we harden our own hearts to God’s infinite mercy.

Above all, let us pray earnestly for peace among all men. We can foster that peace very effectively in our own country by working for justice, especially by defending all human life against the scourges of abortion and euthanasia, and by defending of marriage. Our country will never convince the rest of the world that our global power does more good than ill, if we cannot rightly restrain ourselves from these temptations at home.

May every blessing of God’s generous and perfect providence, and every consolation which the hands of our Holy Mother, Mary our Queen and patroness, may bestow, and the intercession of St. Joseph, the holy Archangels, and all the saints, bring you peace and joy. Please pray for me, that I may worthily lead and teach you the love and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City




Back to top Back to Commentary