Religion Catholics have right to defend beliefs, bishop says By Pat Gee Aug. 31, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Jesus Christ may have dined at the same table with prostitutes and tax collectors and embraced them in love, but he never condoned their behavior, says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu’s Bishop Larry Silva. Interfaith groups who are rallying behind the passage of a marriage equality bill for Hawaii "espouse the gospel of inclusion" as something to be valued above all else, he said, but Jesus also called for society’s outcasts to change their ways. "I’ve gotten many emails chastising me for not doing what Jesus would do," Silva said in an interview, referring to the church’s stance that homosexuality is a sin and lobbying against same-sex marriage. "But I think people forget that Jesus was not crucified because he pleased everyone and said everything they wanted to hear. He spoke the truth and it got him into trouble." Silva’s comments to the Star-Advertiser were in reference to his "urgent letter to all Catholics" in the state, which was published in the Hawaii Catholic Herald and which he asked to be included in parish bulletins. The letter called on believers to "mobilize to action" by contacting their legislators and reciting the rosary. The letter can be read at www.catholichawaii.org, along with a homily explaining the diocese’s stance on homosexuality to a Maui congregation Aug. 22. In his homily Silva said, "Jesus included prostitutes and tax collectors in his inner circle and loved them, but in no way did he condone or endorse prostitution or the exploitation of the vulnerable. His love for them called them to change their ways. "Even as we remember Jesus’ all-embracing love, we must also remember his separating the sheep from the goats, welcoming the sheep into the kingdom, but sending the goats to eternal damnation." He pointed out in his message, "This is not very inclusive." The Hawaii Catholic Herald also ran a 1,000-word letter Silva wrote to legislators, dated Aug. 22, urging them not to pass the bill. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legally married gay couples have the right to federal benefits. Same-sex couples in Hawaii can enter into civil unions and receive the same rights and benefits as marriage under state law but are not entitled to federal benefits unless they can marry. While Gov. Neil Abercrombie has yet to call for a special legislative session to decide the matter, lawmakers are carefully weighing how to address religious exemption. "We certainly appreciate the exemption" in the bill allowing clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages according to their religious tenets, or to lend their facilities for such marital ceremonies, Silva said. But allowing gays and lesbians to marry would "open up a Pandora’s box" in subverting the structures of society and what "normal" is, he told the Star-Advertiser. "If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, its implications will go far beyond the relationship of this or that couple. There will be long-term and definitive changes in our entire culture. If same-sex marriage becomes the law, it will become ‘normal’ or the norm for our land," said his letter to parishioners. Everything from the way school textbooks are written to youngsters "being forced to decide prematurely" whether to ask a boy or girl to the prom would be impacted, he wrote. "Our youth, whose sexual identity is formed over time, will be forced to decide prematurely if they are heterosexual or homosexual, thus curtailing normal sexual maturation, with all its stumblings and challenges," Silva’s letter said. "If same-sex marriage became ‘norm’-alized, would parents be considered bigoted if they raised their daughter to be attracted to boys, and their sons to be attracted to girls?" he queried. Silva urged Catholics not to allow themselves to be labeled "bigots" by proponents of marriage equality: "Calling us bigots, I think, is going beyond the pale." Silva said he is worried religious leaders who preach that "marriage should be between one man and one woman" would be persecuted if same-sex marriage becomes widely accepted. "This is a real danger we have to look at." Previous Story Mind, body & soul Next Story Same-sex marriage: Isle bishop's comments called 'offensive'