Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois

January 15, 2013

Illinois, which already has a civil union law, signed by Catholic Governor Pat Quinn, will be taking up the issue of marriage equality in the legislature this year.  Catholics have already entered the debate on this topic on both sides of the question.

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

At the beginning of this month, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter to priests asking them to urge parishioners to oppose the marriage bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times  quoted part of the letter:

“ ‘It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,’ George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. ‘Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.’ ”

In this quote, we see a new trend in statements by Catholic hierarchy: they are starting to acknowledge that the relationship between two people of the same gender can be defined as a love relationship.

Rick Garcia

Rick Garcia

The cardinal’s argument did not convince Rick Garcia, a longtime Chicago advocate for LGBT issues. The Sun-Times quotes his reaction:

“ ‘How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right,’ said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. ‘No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all.’ ”

A Chicago Tribune article on George’s letter notes that two prominent Illinois Catholics support the marriage bill:  Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Chris Pett

Chris Pett

Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett also criticized the cardinal’s statement. Pett noted that

“. . . the cardinal might have had pastoral intentions, but he missed an opportunity to call for dialogue and engage with the gay community. Instead, the cardinal made it clear that the church would fight marriage equality ‘until the bitter end.’ “

David Gibson, a long-time observer of the Catholic Church, notes in a USA Today article that George’s comments may not have the power to stop the bill from becoming law:

“It’s unclear what, if any, influence George may have. Similar attempts by influential cardinals to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland have all failed.”

Cardinal George is not the only Illinois prelate who has entered the debate.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfiled and  Bishop David Malloy of Rockford also issued similar letters to the Catholics in their dioceses.

Robert McClory

Robert McClory

But support for the bill is also strong from Catholic lay leaders.  Chicagoan Robert McClory, an astute commentator on Catholic issues wrote a column in The National Catholic Reporter criticizing George’s stand.  After noting the shift in Catholic teaching at Vatican II, which  elevated love and companionship of the couple to an equal status with procreation as primary functions of marriage,  McClory notes that another important shift has also taken place:

“Meanwhile, we are adjusting to an evolutionary shift in society: the recognition that sexual orientation is not exclusively what one chooses but what one is. For centuries, it was assumed (certainly by the church) that all males are sexually oriented to females and all females oriented to males, no exceptions; therefore, homosexual relationships and homosexual activity were seen as contrary to nature, disordered and sinful. Now society, prompted by the research of psychologists, psychiatrists and other scientists vigorously questions those presumptions about orientation. And the questioning increases as LGBT people emerge from their closets. For the first time, straight people are seeing daughters, sons, uncles, co-workers, neighbors, teammates and others who are not only ‘out,’ but living happy lives, contributing to society, even contributing in creative ways to the multiplication of the race. That’s why so many people react angrily and resentfully in the face of unremitting negativity from church leaders.

“The question now is why these people in committed gay relationships should not be eligible for the same benefits society grants to those in committed straight relationships? And why should this relationship not be called marriage — a different kind of marriage, for sure, but a union that serves society’s needs in practical and useful ways? And why should the church be so uptight about what’s happening? Gay Catholic couples are daily fulfilling that central requirement of Christian marriage, love and fidelity. Would it kill the hierarchy to at least acknowledge these facts? George and other prelates and priests who cling to a failing theology and an outmoded anthropology are only further degrading their authority.”

Charles Martel

Charles Martel

Similarly, Charles G. Martel, writing in The Windy City Times observes that we have already had marriage equality for almost a decade in Massachusetts, and that other states have followed suit, and none of the social disasters predicted have happened:

“There were those who feared that somehow the granting of these rights to same sex couples would diminish our understanding of marriage, or that it would it reduce the specialness of such a pledge, one to another. Some worried that this was a ‘dangerous social experiment,’ that instead of seeing this as a matter of fairness to same-sex couples, it would introduce chaos into the social fabric, creating confusion. This has not happened.

“There were those who were afraid that this legal right would infringe on the rights of religious denominations to decide what constituted for them a sacramental marriage, that somehow they would be forced by the government to officiate at weddings they did not wish to bless.

“None of this has come to pass, but rather the laws in each state protect the rights of each religious denomination to determine whom they choose to marry, as has always been the case. Religious liberty has been preserved. Religious denominations that wish to bless same sex couples are free to do so, and those who choose not to, do not have to.”

Indeed, with each state that passes marriage equality, the fear-based arguments will soon begin to lose any remaining power that they may have.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Maine Catholics Line Up on Both Sides of Marriage Equality Debate

September 7, 2012

 

Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, announced that the diocese would not take an active political role in the campaign to defeat the marriage equality referendum that state voters will decide in November.

Instead, he said, the diocese planned to educate people on the meaning of marriage according to the magisterium of the church.  He issued a pastoral letter about marriage in March, entitled “Marriage: Yesterday, Today, Always.”

With just about nine weeks to go before the election, the diocese has decided to set up a series of lectures to promote the pastoral letter–just when the state’s debate about marriage equality is heating up in anticiapation of the referendum.

The lecture series is described in a news article in the Kennebec Journal:

“Suzanne Lafreniere, associate director of public policy for the diocese, said the speakers will ‘promote the principles of the faith’ in nine lectures that begin Saturday and are open to the public.

” ‘The big take-away is marriage is the union of man and woman and any children born of that union,’ she said. ‘This is part of our communications effort. We’ll be continuing our educational efforts after the election.’ . . . .

“Lafreniere said she has lined up theologians from around New England to speak at the events and that clergy will serve on the question-and-answer panel. Because the sessions are open to the public, they could draw same-sex marriage supporters, and she said they will be prepared for give and take ‘so long as people are respectful.’

” ‘Even Catholics don’t always agree with the church on it,’ she said.”

Some of those Catholics who don’t agree with the the church hierarchy on the issue are the members of Catholics for Marriage Equality, led by Anne Underwood and Charles Martel.  A spokesperson for their organization commented on the diocese’s lecture series:

“Frank O’Hara, a former speechwriter for Democratic governors and spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality, said he’s glad the diocese has moved its message ‘out of the middle of the Mass,’ an approach that drew complaints in 2009. Still, O’Hara said, the forums won’t provide the kind of discussion necessary to address the issue.

” ‘It would be better if it was an invitation to Catholics to dialogue about marriage,’ he said. ‘All Catholics share the values of fidelity, love, faithfulness. These (forums) are designed to tell us what to believe and how to vote.’ “

The Portland Daily Sun reports that faith supporters of marriage equality are planning an weekend-long event to show how and why their religious beliefs lead them to this position:

“. . .[O]n Sept. 15-17, a ‘faith weekend’ is planned throughout the state to promote ‘Yes on 1,’ the initiative to legalize gay marriage. Mainers United for Marriage will conduct the “faith weekend” for those of the Protestant, Jewish and Catholic faiths to support ‘marriage equality,’ according to David Farmer, spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage. Fifty congregations around the state will hold services or activities supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, the coalition announced.”

Catholics for Marriage Equality recently participated in an event where they held banners proclaiming their support for the referendum on the bridge over the Damariscotta River between Newcastle and Damariscotta.

Back in June, the diocese declined to participate in an interfaith fundraising effort to defeat the marriage equality referendum organized the Christian Civic League of Maine, a political action committee in Maine.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


New San Francisco Archbishop is Defender of Traditional Marriage

July 29, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has a strong record of opposition to LGBT issues, to head the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a strong community of LGBT Catholics.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Cordileone this way:

“Salvatore Cordileone, 56, organized religious leaders and helped raise significant sums of money to get Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California, on the ballot and spoke forcefully in support of it. He is also chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In his first statements after the Vatican’s announcement, Cordileone, the current bishop of Oakland, touched on a range of topics, from cultural diversity to immigration reform. But reporters barraged him with questions about same-sex marriage. His response was resolute.

” ‘Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, because children can only come about with the embrace of a man and a woman together,’ he said. ‘I don’t see how that’s discriminatory against anyone.’ “

Cordileone recently required board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath, but the members have refused to do so.

The Chronicle also reported reactions to the appointment:

“San Francisco is ‘one of the hearts of the gay liberation story,’ said Michael Harank, 59, a lifelong Catholic who founded an independent Catholic agency in Oakland for homeless people with HIV. “He may be pastoral, but his work as one of the financial fathers and creators of Prop. 8 is clearly a slap in the face to the gay community.” . . .

“The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the appointments of increasingly conservative bishops in the United States started with Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.

“Though it would be impossible to find a Catholic bishop in favor of same-sex marriage, Reese said conservatism today includes a particular focus on marriage.

“Clearly, the pope and the Vatican are very concerned about the issue of same-sex marriage and are very opposed to it, and that’s reflected by the kinds of bishops that are being appointed in the United States,’ he said.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported another comment which highlights that this appointment was made because of LGBT issues:

“Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, said Friday that he believes Cordileone was appointed to combat the acceptance of gay marriage here and abroad. ‘They see this as ground zero,’ he said.”

New Ways Ministry‘s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo released the following statement about Cordileone’s appointment:

 

“Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has not been welcoming.  He will have to learn to be more sensitive and pastoral as he takes over in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a large LGBT community, and very active and organized groups and parishes of LGBT Catholics.  The experience of working with such a vibrant and diverse community can help him to grow personally and pastorally.

 

“The Catholic Church in any community is so much more than who the local bishop is.  Lay Catholics in San Francisco will need to work with Bishop Cordileone to let them know what kind of leadership that they want from him. If he does not heed the prayerful requests of faithful Catholics there, the church in San Francisco will be greatly diminished.”

Noting Cordileone’s recent pressure on the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries, a blogger on San Francisco’s KQED radio station website cited Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley:

“As Archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone could put similar pressure on individual parishes that have welcomed gays and lesbians, Schlager said. . . .

“As archbishop, Cordileone could force priests to sermonize against gay marriage, too.

“Schlager doesn’t think he’ll do that, because it would be too controversial.

“But Thomas Sheehan, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University, isn’t so sure the archbishop will refrain from meddling in priestly business on LGBT or other issues. ‘He could well demand that priests reinforce the church’s teaching on contraception,’ Sheehan said.

“But ultimately Sheehan thinks the effects on individual Catholics will be modest. ‘I doubt it will affect how people practice,’ he said. ‘People look less and less to the hierarchy.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


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