Maine’s former governor, John Baldacci, a Catholic, will be hosting spaghetti dinners in Bangor and Portland to raise awareness about marriage equality and to raise funds to help the homeless. Maine is having a referendum on marriage equality on Election Day.
New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, will be featured guests at the Bangor event, on October 17th, co-sponsored by Catholics for Marriage Equality and the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination.
According to the Bangor Daily News, Baldacci has been a firm supporter of marriage equality both in this campaign and in the previous referendum in 2009, when the proposal was defeated:
“ ‘I’m very committed to this issue because I believe in civil same-sex marriage,’ Baldacci said Monday in a telephone interview. ‘I know how important it is for Mainers to stand up against discrimination. My way to get involved was with these fundraisers. All I asked was that all the proceeds go to charity so that we put others before politics.’ “
Spaghetti suppers were a standard fund-raising event for Baldacci in all his political campaigns. In the Bangor Daily News, he explains his support for marriage equality:
“Baldacci said Monday that his decision to sign the gay marriage bill into law was rooted in the Maine Constitution, not his Catholic upbringing.
“ ‘We grew up with President Kennedy running for office where he had to draw a very strict line between church and state,’ the former governor said. ‘[Protestant] ministers felt the pope would dictate policy. When I assumed office, I represented all people, regardless of their or my religious backgrounds.’
“In his weekly radio address that aired shortly after he signed the bill three years ago, Baldacci cited the Maine Constitution, which says that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person’s civil rights or be discriminated against.”
“The last spaghetti supper Baldacci hosted also was prompted by the battle over gay marriage in Maine. It drew more than 900 people. . . “
It’s no accident that the events are raising funds for the homeless. The money raised will go to homeless shelters whose funds from the Catholic church were cut in 2009 because of their support for marriage equality.
Anne Underwood, the founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality, is one of the organizers of the event, and she explains her activism on the marriage issue as based on the social justice tradition of Catholicism:
“ ‘The liturgy forms for me a spiritual foundation to go forward with my social justice work,’ she said. ‘What I really loved when I converted was that, especially in the 1990s, the Catholic Church was such a wonderfully big tent. I could testify against [other Catholics] in Augusta on Wednesday and take communion with them on Sunday. We transcended all that political stuff.’ ”
“[Bishop] Malone’s activism in the 2009 campaign spurred her and other Catholics to action. She said Monday that her decision to go against the official teaching of the church was made after searching her conscience.
“ ‘The undergirding of Catholic intellectual history is the primacy of the conscience,’ she said. ‘There is an obligation on the part of Catholics to form one’s own conscience based on one’s own reading and one’s understanding of the Gospel and church teaching. If one’s conscience says I can’t do that, then one is obligated to follow one’s own conscience.
“ ‘How we live within the institution enriches us but also challenges us,’ Underwood continued. ‘If we go against the church, we must do so carefully, conscientiously and prayerfully. It is the duty of a Catholic to inform his or her conscience and follow it.’ ”
Both spaghetti suppers begin at 5 p.m. The firs one is Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Bangor High School, 885 Broadway, Bangor. The second one is Friday, Oct. 26, at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St. in Portland. Suggested donation is $5 person, but larger donations are accepted.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry