U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops get underway in New Orleans - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Conference of Catholic bishops underway in New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Hundreds of Catholic bishops and cardinals began meeting in New Orleans Wednesday for the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Issues confronting the church like gay marriage and divorce are front and center.

"We are at a critical point in this country when it comes to the promotion and defense of marriage in the law," said Archbishop Salvadore Cordileone as he addressed the bishops during a midday gathering at the Hyatt Hotel.

In October, Pope Francis will convene a synod in Rome to discuss challenges to the family, including marriage, divorce and pastoral care.

"This is an opportunity for us to foster family life, the importance of marriage and family life. It's an opportunity for us to look at the pastoral care of families. There are many issues involved as the definition of marriage is changing," said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

The Catholic Church continues to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

"The faithful were saying we understand what the church's teaching is about marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We're not sure we understand more deeply why, so it's going to be a task," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"We are very faithful to that definition as we find it in the scriptures that marriage is by its nature a commitment and a sacred union between one man and one woman," said Aymond.

The Conference of Bishops supports the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act introduced in the U.S. Congress last year.

That legislation would prohibit the federal government from taking adverse actions, like denying tax exemptions to individuals or organizations that act in accordance with their religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

"As we know in our country and some other countries there is a great movement to redefine marriage and in the Bishops Conference we do have some very specific things that we're doing to try to hold on to that sacred definition," stated Aymond.

But there is push back.

"This Pope said 'who am I to judge,' those bishops need to be following that guidance," said Aaron Viles, who is with the online community of Christians called Faith America which speaks out on social issues.

"My hope is they will divine a way forward that is not exclusionary, that is loving and that allows for gay and lesbian Catholics to be open and proud and live their lives in the church," said Viles.

During a press conference, Archbishop Kurtz spoke of the church's mission.

"Of course, we welcome every being, every human person coming to the church. We want to make a home for every person in the church,"  he said.

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