U.S. Bishops Launch Bulletin Insert Campaign as Marriage Equality Spreads

May 11, 2013

marriage equality 4This week, Delaware became the eleventh state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality, and Minnesota seems poised to become the twelfth state next week.  The Supreme Court justices are deliberating two cases on marriage equality, and their decisions should be announced by the end of June.

In response to all of this news, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced a campaign of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice for Catholics, to encourage Catholics to oppose marriage equality.   They have developed a bulletin insert to be used in May and June across the country, offering ideas and actions for Catholics to enact.

The bulletin insert text describes the campaign:

“For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court is considering two cases about whether or not marriage should be redefined to include two persons of the same sex. These cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.” [emphasis theirs]

The announcement of the campaign has inspired commentary from secular writers.  At ThinkProgress.com, Zack Ford thinks that the comparison to Roe v. Wade is inaccurate:

“This comparison to Roe v. Wade has been made several times in regards to these cases, but it remains unclear what exactly the intention beyond that comparison really is. Though the two have often been juxtaposed in the past as key social issues, they don’t actually compare substantively. Public opinion on marriage has consistently trended toward equality, while public opinion on abortion has remained split. Marriage is something that all people already have access to, but it only serves people who are heterosexual — a very different circumstance from the general question of whether a woman has a right to an abortion at all.”

Ford believes that this comparison is designed to promote future action against marriage equality:

“What this comparison does forebode is future attempts to curb back the rights of same-sex couples after marriage equality is achieved. Just as conservatives have resisted Roe by curbing women’s access to abortion as much as possible — like in North DakotaKansas,  andArkansas — they may try to limit same-sex couples’ access to marriage. Certainly, objections about violations of “religious liberty” already speak to this, suggesting future attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. These efforts seem less likely to succeed, though; so far, California’s Proposition 8 is the only example of a setback for marriage equality after it’s already been in place, and that becomes a moot point should the Court knock it down.”

Paul Constant, on a blog for Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper thinks that Ford is too pessimistic:

“Once the world doesn’t end in states that legalize gay marriage, and once more examples of happily married gay couples are seen in the media, this is going to be a dead issue . . .” [emphasis his]

In a more impatient vein, Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing on Salon.comgives a brief summary of rebuttals against marriage equality opponents:

“It bears repeating that if the idea of two men or two women pledging themselves to each other in a manner that grants them legal protection and societal validation ticks you off, that’s your thing. But for heaven’s sake, stop pretending that marriage isn’t a man-made institution, one that we humans have defined in different ways throughout the course of history. Stop forgetting that if you’re looking for “traditional” marriages, the Bible itself is chock-full of them — defined by incest, rape and bigamy. Stop conveniently ignoring that the church says that matrimony is for the procreation of children but doesn’t restrict the elderly or infertile from enjoying the benefits of religiously sanctioned unions.”

(For a succinct history of how marriage has changed in church and society, see chapter 8 in New Ways Ministry’s Marriage Equality:  A Positive Catholic Approach.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Hope for Dialogue and Understanding with New San Francisco Archbishop

August 2, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

The  appointment of Oakland, California’s Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco has prompted much commentary because of San Francisco’s large gay community and Cordileone’s track record of work against LGBT issues, particularly his plan for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which repealed marriage equality. 

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes that Cordileone’s appointment is indicative of a disturbing trend of episcopal appointments:

“It’s very likely Cordileone’s role as the ‘Father of Proposition 8′ landed him the position in Oakland, the role as chairman of the USCCB’s subcommittee on the defense of marriage and, ultimately, his elevation to Archbishop of San Francisco, a city in which 75 percent of the population voted against Prop 8.

“With this latest appointment, the Vatican solidifies its ‘pack mentality’ approach to promotions. Nowadays, a man earns his stripes and proves his loyalty to the hierarchy by attacking a group the hierarchy perceives as a threat to survival, even if the threat is based on nothing more than fear and paranoia.

“That paranoia, however, might also be giving way to delusion. I’m sure there are some within the Vatican and the laity who believe this appointment will demonstrate the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to robust, uncompromising, ‘we’ll-show-them-who’s-boss’ leadership. But in reality, for the majority of Catholic laity in this country who support marriage equality, Cordileone’s promotion is only further, glaring evidence of the hierarchy’s deepening descent into meanness, spitefulness and pastoral insensitivity.”

An editorial in The San Francisco Examiner expresses hope that Cordileone might be able to soften his approach.  Te editorial begins by tracing Cordileone’s anti-gay involvement:

“It is hard not to view the Vatican’s appointment of Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco as a slap in the face of many city residents.

“True, the 56-year-old’s pro-immigration stance and support of Hispanic communities during his tenure among migrant parishes in Southern California deserve credit. ‘Bishop Sal,’ as he’s been called, speaks Spanish and has served as a parish priest in Calexico, just across the border from Mexico, where his parishioners struggled to make a living.

“But Cordileone has worked to deny the rights of other Californians. As an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, he led a team of lay Catholic businessmen in conceiving and organizing the campaign for Proposition 8 — the state amendment to strip away the California marital rights of same-sex couples.

“Cordileone’s work helped the campaign take off: He found its first major donor, brought in the team that would lead the signature-gathering effort, and worked with evangelical churches to coordinate the campaign’s message. He spent the last few months of 2008 working hard to make sure voters stripped away the rights of thousands of Californians.”

However, the editorial ends on a more hopeful note, similar to the one expressed by New Ways Ministry on this blog a few days ago:

“At a news conference last week, Cordileone was asked about these past efforts, and how he intends to speak to the gay people he had insulted so deeply.

“ ‘We need to learn,’ Cordileone said. ‘Continue to learn, how to be welcoming — let them know that we love them and we want to help them.’

“Local gay men and lesbians, and supporters of marriage equality, may understandably feel they have already had enough such help. We can only now hope that San Francisco’s new archbishop heeds his own words — and continues to learn.”

San Francisco Catholics concerned about LGBT issues stand ready to help Cordileone with his learning tasks.  In The Bay Area Reporter, two local pastoral leaders offered hope and suggestions for Cordileone’s continuing education:

” ‘We long for unity and collegiality within our church,’ said Ernest Camisa, [Dignity/San Francisco]chapter secretary and local spokesman.

” ‘Catholics believe that God works in mysterious ways,’ he added. ‘Perhaps the spirit will work through his appointment to accomplish a change of heart, or at least allow members of our church with differing perspective to enter into a new dialogue.’

“The Reverend Brain Costello, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro, is in agreement with Camisa’s approach.

” ‘Let’s take a wait and see attitude'” he said over the telephone. ‘I am inviting [Cordileone] to celebrate Mass here and get to know the community.’

“Costello, who has known the archbishop-designate for some time, also said that Cordileone ‘will listen.’

” ‘We need to open up a dialogue with Bishop Sal,’ said Costello. ‘Not to change people’s minds.’ Rather, ‘so that people have a better understanding of the other side’s point of view.’ “

For the good of the church and for the LGBT community, let’s hope and pray that such efforts at dialogue succeed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


NEWS NOTES: February 21, 2012

February 21, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) More evidence that lay Catholics and their bishops differ strongly on support for marriage equality comes from a new poll reported by The New York Times in an article “Support Is Found for Birth Control Coverage and Gay Unions.”  Though the poll surveyed the general electorate, they report findings for different sub-groups, such as Catholics:  “More than two-thirds of Catholic voters supported some sort of legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships: 44 percent favored marriage, and 25 percent preferred civil unions. “

2) In “Spectrum continues quest to abolish stereotypes on campus,” Loyola University Maryland’s student newspaper, The Greyhound, reports on upcoming semester plans for activities by their LGBTA organization.

3) If California’s Proposition 8 case makes it to the nation’s highest court, the “Gay marriage fight may hinge on Supreme Court’s Anthony Kennedy,” a Catholic, reports The Charlotte Observer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


The Catholic Factor of Proposition 8

February 8, 2012

The reaction of the Catholic hierarchy to the news yesterday that a federal court has declared California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional has been, predictably, negative.  After all, the hierarchy, aided by over a million dollars from the Knights of Columbus, worked so furiously to get Proposition 8’s constitutional ban against marriage equality passed into law.

Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, president of the California Catholic Conference, and auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles, issued a response yesterday which included the following:

“We are disappointed by the ruling today by a panel of the Ninth Circuit that would invalidate the action taken by the people of California affirming that marriage unites a woman and a man and any children from their union. However, given the issues involved and the nature of the legal process, it’s always been clear that this case would very likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Marriage between one man and one woman has been—and always will be—the most basic building block of the family and of our society.”

But a reaction from an usher at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles may indicate better where Catholics in the pew stand on this issue–even those who initially voted for Proposition 8.  Ruben Garcia is quoted on the public radio website, spcr.org:

” ‘As a parishioner and a Catholic and a married man, I do believe in the sanctity of marriage,’ Garcia said, ‘and I do believe that it should be between a man and a woman, but I’m torn because I also believe in the separation of church and state.’ “

Cathy Lynn Grossman, religion editor at USA Today, posted a story on their website that contains a variety of religious reactions to yesterday’s court decision, including that of Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who called the ruling a “grave injustice.”

The possibility that this ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court would put the fate of marriage equality into the hands of Catholics, who currently make up a  six-person majority on the Court (Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor).  Though many of the news reports on the decision made it seem like a U.S. Supreme Court case on the matter is likely, Adam Nagourney’s article in The New York Times  was more cautionary in outlook:

“Both sides in the case made clear that they intended to take the case before the Supreme Court in hopes of prompting it to settle once and for all an issue that has been fought out in courts, legislatures and ballot boxes since at least a 1971 case in Minnesota. That said, there is no guarantee the court will take it. The narrow parameters of the ruling’s reasoning — and the fact that it was written to apply only to California — may prompt the court to wait for a clearer dispute before weighing in.”

Though this case temporarily provides a victory for the marriage equality movement in California, there is still work of reconciliation work to be done in the Catholic Church there.  In a post two weeks ago, I mentioned that a California friend told me that the hierarchy’s heavily funded campaign to pass Proposition 8 has had a harmful effect on the pastoral life of LGBT Catholics and their allies in California.  Many have become alienated from the church and left it because of the vociferous anti-gay nature of the campaign and its rhetoric.  While the hierarchy has been focused on the political nature of the marriage debate, it’s time that they started to look at the pastoral component of it, too, and begin the much needed work of reconciliation–for the good of the entire church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


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