Bishops and Vatican React to This Week’s Marriage Equality Electoral Victories

November 10, 2012

It is understandable that certain Catholic bishops would be disappointed in Tuesday’s ballot victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.  All the bishops in those particular states were vocal in trying to defeat marriage equality initiatives.

Bishop Richard Malone

In Maine, Bishop Richard Malone attempted to be reconciliatory in his statement following the vote.  While noting that he was “disappointed” in the outcome, he also showed some awareness that Catholics who supported marriage equality did so out of a sense of justice, though he disagreed with their motivation:

“I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy. It is a teaching of the Church, but so is the authentic meaning and definition of marriage. That is why the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, while remaining devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.”

Although Bishop Malone needs to learn that not all gay and lesbian people “struggle” with their sexuality–indeed, many see it as a gift from God and celebrate it as such–it is commendable that in this statement he reaffirms his dedication to human rights.

Archbishop William Lori

In Maryland, Archbishop William Lori responded to the vote for marriage equality in his state by continuing to speak as if the campaign were still ongoing, instead of a settled affair.  In The Catholic Review, the archdiocesan newspaper, quotes from Archbishop Lori’s response:

“ ‘I think that vote will prove not to have been for the common good of our state,’ Archbishop Lori said. . . .

“The election results on same-sex marriage should serve as a ‘wake up call’ for Catholics, Archbishop Lori said, demonstrating ‘our need to redouble our efforts to defend marriage, to preach about what marriage is, and to help people understand it as a unique relationship that does not discriminate against anyone, but is for the good of children and for the good of our society.’ ”

Lori’s comments differed greatly from those of Ryan Sattler, a Catholic layman who was profiled by The National Catholic Reporter for his work on marriage equality in the state, and who was sought for his reaction to the election’s outcome.  Sattler stated simply:

“On Election Day, Maryland voters chose justice. They chose equality. They chose love.”

Similarly, Karin Quimby, deputy faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, praised the work of Maryland Catholics like Sattler:

“I think the work of Catholics on Question 6 here in Maryland shows that the social justice teaching in the Catholic church is alive and well. Lay leaders did a great job at the grassroots level, making their voices heard, and their fellow Catholics responded. Catholics clearly believe, very strongly, that every person has dignity, every person should be treated fairly, and every person deserves the same rights.”

Archbishop John Nienstedt

In Minnesota, the Archdiocese of St. Paul, led by Archbishop John Nienstedt, also emphasized the idea that it is time to move forward from the rancor of debate:

“Although the defeat of the amendment is a very serious concern to us, it will not deter us from continuing to serve this community and the whole state in pursuit of the common good.”

Father Michael Tegeder, who publicly opposed Archbishop Nienstedt during the marriage debate, called for the Ordinary’s resignation in a letter to the Star Tribune:

“As a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, I would ask our archbishop, John Nienstedt, to prayerfully consider stepping down from his office. It would be healing for our state and our church and would show some magnanimity on his part. His misguided crusade to change our Constitution, spending more than a million dollars and, more importantly, much goodwill, has been rejected. Elections have consequences.”

Archbishop Peter Sartain

In Washington State, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle also seemed prepared to continue the debate about marriage.  In a statement, he said:

“I am disappointed that so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.”

More joyous in response was Washington State’s Catholic Govern Christine Gregoire, who had signed the marriage equality legislation into law.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted her reaction to the vote:

“ ‘Washington has made history and I couldn’t be prouder,’ said Gregoire.  ‘Voters stood up for what is right and what is just and said that all Washington families are equal under the law . . .

“ ‘This is a day history will look back on as a turning point for equality.  It is a day I will look back on as Washington state leading the nation.  And it is a day that I will carry with me forever.’ ”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Commenting on all four successful votes, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, also seemed intent on putting a negative spin on the outcomes in his statement:

“Yesterday, November 6, was a disappointing day for marriage, as the effort to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in the law lost by only a narrow margin in four states, even though vastly outspent by those who promote the redefinition of marriage.

“The meaning of marriage, though, cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature. No matter what policy, law or judicial decision is put into place, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union. It is either this, or it is nothing at all. In view of the fact that every child has a mother and a father, our society either respects the basic right of every child to be raised by his or her mother and father together and so supports the true and unique meaning of marriage for the good of children, or it does not. In a society marked by increasing poverty and family fragmentation, marriage needs to be strengthened, promoted, and defended, not redefined. I hope and pray that political leaders, judges, and all people will seek to honor this foundational and common sense truth of marriage.”

In L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, tried to place the Catholic hierarchy’s position in a positive cast, even in the face of such resounding defeats.  A Religion News Service story offers the following summary:

” ‘You could say that the church, on this level, is bound to lose,’ writes [Lucetta] Scaraffia. ‘But this is not the case.’

“According to the historian, the church’s fight on moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion has drawn support and admiration’ from many non-Catholics.

“By opposing legislation allowing gay couples to adopt in the United Kingdom or fighting the birth control mandate in the U.S., the church ‘made it clear for everyone that this is not about progress’ but about ‘the loss of one of the founding freedoms of the modern State, religious liberty.’ “

In all these cases, where Catholics have been working on both sides of the marriage question, it will be incumbent on the local bishops to work toward reconciling these factions in the church so that there are no lingering senses of animosity or alienation.  This will be particularly important where the bishops have been particularly politically involved on the marriage question, and thus have risked alienating marriage equality supporters.  Now that the electorates have spoken for justice and equality, the work of reconciliation must begin in earnest.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Washington State Bishops Issue Pastoral Letter Against Marriage Equality

September 6, 2012

The bishops of Washington State have issued a pastoral letter urging the defeat of Referendum 74, the ballot initiative  on whether the  state’s marriage equality law should take effect.  Entitled Marriage and the Good of Society, the two-page letter reviews the bishops’ arguments that marriage is the basic unit of society, that procreation of children is integral to marriage, and that religious liberty will be threatened if marriage equality becomes law.

A blog post on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s website offers the following opinion on the letter:

“In the most controversial passage of their pastoral statement, the Catholic bishops argue that passage of Referendum 74 would make THEM [the bishops] the objects of discrimination.  [The letter states]:

” ‘The legal separation of marriage from procreation would have a chilling effect on religious liberty and the right of conscience,’ the bishops claim.  ‘Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers.

‘No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination.  Recent attacks on churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations that express their conscientious objection to the redefinition of marriage underscore the danger.’ ”

Clearly, this type of argument is fear-mongering. Marriage equality laws will have no effect on religious liberty, other than to strengthen religious liberty by protecting religious institutions’ freedom to decide who they will and will not marry.

The bishops’ hypothetical instances have no relation at all to the marriage law.  The marriage law has nothing to do with what will be taught in school or the legalities of how businesses conduct themselves.   The recent case of a New York lesbian couple suing a Vermont resort that refused to host their wedding is a case in point.  Marriage equality is the law of the land in both New York and Vermont, yet the marriage equality law had no role in the legal proceedings of the suit.  The couple’s case was based on a non-discrimination law, not a marriage equality law.  It is illegal in Vermont for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog post goes on to comment on the fact, which we have noted many times in the past:  Catholics in the pews are not in line with the bishops’ thinking on this matter:

“The bishops are self-described ‘shepherds’ of a ‘flock’ of more than 800,000 Catholics in the state.

“But Washington Catholics have refused to act like sheep.  Gov. Chris Gregoire, a practicing Catholic, pushed the Legislature to adopt marriage equality.  Its chief sponsor, State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, is a devout Catholic.

“Murray, reacting to the bishops’ statement, said:  ‘Ultimately this language only leads to marginalizing a group of people, often with tragic consequences . . . hardly reflecting the core Christian message of love.’

“When Archbishop Sartain asked parishes to serve as collection signatures for Referendum 74 — to put the state’s new marriage equality law on the ballot — several large Seattle and Tacoma parishes, including St. James Cathedral, refused to participate in the signature gathering drive.

“Major Jewish and Protestant denominations have endorsed marriage equality, with a notable statement coming from Episcopal Bishop Greg Rickel.  A group called Catholics for Marriage Equality marched in last June’s Seattle Pride Parade.”

New Ways Ministry experienced the strength of Washington State Catholic support for marriage equality at two recent presentations we made in that state.  And their passion for justice and equality is infectious.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Finding Hope in Challenging Times

August 29, 2012

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on Sunday and Monday,  Sister Jeannine Gramick and I were in Washington State last week making presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality there.  The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November.

During the Q and A at one of those gatherings, a questioner asked what is probably the most common question that I get asked:  “How do you maintain hope for justice for LGBT people in the face of so many challenges?”  I wish I had a simple and easy answer for that one.  I have no magic pill or easy fix to these challenges.  They must be faced and responded to, time and again.

Some things, however, have worked effectively over the years, and I shared some with the questioner and folks that night.  I thought I’d share them here, too, with the hope that in the “Comments” section of this post, readers will contribute their own processes for maintaining hope.

Most important for me is looking toward the positive that has occurred and is occurring.  In the gospels, Jesus declared the reign of God is already here, despite all appearances to the contrary.  I think one of our challenges as followers of Christ is to look for the signs of God’s reign of justice in the world in which we live.  It may be difficult to do so, especially at first, but, with practice, it becomes easier to do.  Just like any form of prayer.

The purpose of this exercise is not to look at the world with rose-colored glasses, but to provide a reality check on the world around us.  When bad news happens, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ONLY bad news happens, when, of course, that is not the case.  Stopping to look for God’s reign of justice in our world serves as a good reminder against our penchant to catastrophize.

More importantly, this exercise also serves as a reminder to me that God is actually the one in charge, not me.  I’m reminded that God operates on a separate clock and calendar than I do, and that there is a time and a season for God’s actions in the world.  I’m reminded that any good that happens comes from God, not from my actions, and that anything that is seemingly bad is an opportunity to look for a way to “birth” Christ into our world.

I feel that often times I have a privileged position in regard for this kind of thinking.  People tend to think that since I work at New Ways Ministry, I am barraged daily by negative messages from the church hierarchy and from homophobes in the secular world.

The exact opposite is true.  My work at New Ways Ministry brings me into contact with thousands of  Catholics who are working to make God’s reign of justice and equality a reality in their parishes and communities.    Instead of seeing negative things happening in the church, I am privileged to see Catholics who work tirelessly and courageously to make that LGBT people are welcomed, accepted, loved, and included.

This experience of seeing so many Catholics do so much good helps me to remember that the church truly is ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy and the clergy.

Again, I stress that all of these exercises take time, practice, and patience, but I think they are all things that people can easily do to maintain hope in our precarious and challenging times.

How do you maintain hope?  What inspires you to keep on working for justice despite so many challenges?  Maybe you get hope from a Scripture passage, a book you read, a person you know, a community you belong to.  Please add your thoughts to the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Supports Marriage Equality Efforts in Washington State

August 26, 2012

 

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick in Seattle.

During the past week, Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, and I were in Washington State to present presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality.  The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November. (Over the next week, I hope to post several times about situation here in Washington State.)

In Seattle, the presentation was sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington, and it was covered by the Seattle Gay News

” ‘Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than any other denomination in the country,’ said [Francis] DeBernardo.

” Citing polls from the Public Religion Research Institute, DeBernardo said only 22% of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage and 71% are in favor of same-sex civil marriage. According to DeBernardo, the reason these numbers are surprising to many people is because the leadership of the Catholic Church is so outspokenly against marriage equality.  .  . .

” ‘That’s what’s causing that perception problem,’ said DeBernardo. ‘The people with the microphones are giving those negative messages, not the people in the pews.’ “

Additionally, the speaker listed why Catholics are so supportive of equal marriage rights:

“1) What matters is love, not gender. Love is what makes a family. The quality of a relationship is what Catholics should call moral or immoral.

“2) Not supporting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and the Catholic faith tells its adherents not to discriminate.

“3) Catholics want to protect children. All children, regardless of what kind of family they live in, should have the same support and benefits.

“4) Likewise, same-sex couples deserve equal protection, with the same societal and social rights of straight couples.

“5) Marriage equality helps develop strong families and thus makes society stronger. The Catholic faith tells adherents that they should work for the common good of all people and the progressive development of society.

“6) The church should not dictate public policy for all people.

“7) Even if a Catholic disagrees with homosexuality, Catholics believe in equality and fairness for all. “

Sister Jeannine offered a brief history of the evolution of marriage in regard to whether it is controlled by the church or state:

“Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry and member of the Sisters of Loretto, an order of nuns deeply concerned with social justice, gave an overview of the history of Christian-era marriage in relation to the church and society, in an effort to dispel myths and empower the audience to do the same in conversations with other Catholics.

“She detailed how marriage evolved from a private affair between families, with no civil or religious significance.

” ‘They [marriages] gradually became civil ceremonies, as civil arrangements were made to define the right and responsibilities that people had in marriage, like to manage property and inheritance,’ said Gramick. ‘But it grew from a private family affair.’

“‘In fact,’ Gramick continued, ‘Some early Christian writers said that the church should not be involved in the institution of marriage at all. ‘Leave it to the state [they said], because it inevitably involves sexual intercourse, and that’s a little dirty.’ “

Francis DeBernardo, Senator Ed Murray, Sister Jeannine Gramick

Attending the program was Washington State Senator Ed Murray, the Catholic gay representative who introduced the marriage equality bill and who fought tirelessly for its passage:

“DeBernardo, who is New Ways Ministry’s executive director, said he wanted to acknowledge a very special local Catholic in the audience that night – State Sen. Ed Murray, who, along with the state’s Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, have made same-sex marriage a potential reality here in Washington.

“DeBernardo said Murray was ‘instrumental’ in the fight to achieve marriage equality in the state, and that ‘he is really the hero of this campaign.’

“Murray received a standing ovation from everyone in the room.

“‘Were going to have to show them that enthusiasm in November and all the way through to November,’ added DeBernardo after the applause died down. “

Special thanks to Barbara Monda and Betty and Tom Hill of Call To Action–Western Washington for organizing this event.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Pelosi, Theologians, Lay Catholics Agree: Support Marriage Equality

May 16, 2012

The message that American Catholics support marriage equality is one that cannot be emphasized or repeated enough.  Since the Catholic bishops oppose marriage equality so vocally and vociferously, it is important to keep reminding people that the hierarchy’s position is not reflective of the Catholic population.  Some recent news stories highlight this fact.

Representative Nancy Pelosi

The Washington Post’s blog “Under God” recently ran a quote from Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives minority leader who is Catholic, that she made at a press conference in response to a question about religion and marriage equality.  Pelosi responded:

“My religion compels me–and I love it for it–to be against discrimination of any kind in our country, and I consider [the ban on gay marriage] a form of discrimination. I think it’s unconstitutional on top of that. So I think that yesterday was a great day for America because the president in a very personal, as well as presidential way, made history, and hopefully this will bring people together on the issue.”

She joins other prominent Catholic politicians–Washington State’s Governor Christine Gregoire, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, Vice President Joe Biden–who this past year have publicly voiced support for marriage equality.

Politicians are not the only prominent Catholics who are speaking out for marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.  A DailyBeast.com headline recently asked, “Do Most Catholic Theologians Support Same-Sex Marriage?,” and the article answers a resounding “Yes!”

One of the scholars cited is Paul Lakeland, professor of religion and director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, who, in reference to the bishops’ position on marriage equality, states:

“That’s not really an argument that has a theological justification. . . .It’s an argument that’s based more on fear or repugnance.”

Also quoted is Daniel Maguire, professor of theology at Marquette University:

“Archbishop Dolan and the United States Catholic Conference are misrepresenting ‘Catholic teaching,’ and are trying to present their idiosyncratic minority view as the ‘Catholic position,’ and it is not. . . .The bishops will stand with Dolan and the U.S. Catholic Conference, but on this issue, they are in moral schism since most in the Church have moved on [to] a more humane view on the rights of those whom God has made gay.

“Most Catholic theologians approve of same-sex marriage and Catholics generally do not differ much from the overall population on this issue.”

Frederick Parrella, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, notes that there is “nothing in the Gospels” to support opposition to marriage equality.

A new Gallup poll which shows that about 50% of Americans support marriage equality,  51% of Catholics express the same support, compared to 47% of Catholics who oppose such measures.

In his latest post,  Michael O’Loughlin at America magazine’s “In All Things” blog offers some analysis of why Catholics are so supportive of marriage equality:

“As with the public as a whole, the more visible gay and lesbian people are in families, schools, and the workplace, the more likely Catholics are to support laws that they see as extending civil rights to a group of historically marginalized people. But is there something about Catholicism in particular that would lead to acceptance of same-sex marriage, even as some church leaders rail against it? I think the sacramental nature of our faith, the belief that the world is good and infused with God’s grace, and the understanding of family and community as pivotal to living out the Gospel might compel Catholics to reject the call to take up a fight against same-sex marriage. Perhaps some of the laity have taken to heart the church’s emphasis on social justice, its call to protect the marginalized, and its preached message of inclusivity for all, and are now applying these themes to a specific, modern situation. Some bishops may lament this break between shepherd and flock, but in some ways perhaps it is not so troubling? If Catholics are following what they believe to be well-formed consciences and standing up for those they see as victimized and marginalized, the Gospel message lives.”

From all quarters of the church, except the hierarchy, Catholics support marriage equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Biden May Not Speak for Obama, But He Speaks for Most Catholics

May 7, 2012

Equally Blessed is a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spent a combined 115 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families:  Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

The coalition released the following statement in response to Vice President Joe Biden’s comment on marriage equality made yesterday on Meet the Press (Bondings 2.0 reported earlier about Vice President Biden’s remarks.  For background click here.:

“While Washington insiders puzzle over whether Vice President Joe Biden was speaking for the Obama administration when he endorsed marriage equality Sunday on Meet the Press, one thing is crystal clear: Biden, a faithful Catholic, was speaking for the majority of lay people in his church.

Vice President Joseph Biden on “Meet the Press.”

“According to recent polling by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 52 percent of Catholics support marriage equality, while only 37 percent oppose it. And Catholic support for marriage equality in the Pew poll has climbed six percentage points since 2010, despite the hierarchy’s costly and divisive campaign against it.

“That poll may actually underestimate Catholic support for marriage equality. When the Public Religion Research Institute, asked Catholics if same-sex couples should be able to enter into the kind of marriages “you get at City Hall,” 71 percent said yes.

“In expressing his support for equal justice under the law, Biden joined the growing number of Catholic leaders—including governors John Baldacci of Maine, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Christine Gregoire of Washington, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Pat Quinn of Illinois—who have been willing to break with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and speak out on behalf of LGBT people and their families.

“The members of Equally Blessed salute the vice president for his willingness to risk the censure to which the Catholic hierarchy will now subject him. And we thank him and his wife Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime advocate for LGBT rights, for their courage and their support.”

#    #    #    #

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Good News in Maryland, Bad News in New Jersey

February 18, 2012

Governor Martin O'Malley is congratulated by Maryland Delegates after the historic marriage equality vote. (NY Times photo)

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.

MARYLAND

The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign

NEW JERSEY

Governor Chris Christie (NY Times Photo)

In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Times story to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Chris, Chris, and Mario: Catholic Governors, Faith, and Politics

February 16, 2012

Chris Gregoire

Chris Christie

On opposite coasts of our nation, two Catholic governors both named “Chris” are taking opposite approaches to marriage equality legislation in their respective states.

Governor Chris(tine) Gregoire in Washington State has just signed her state’s legislation into law, while Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey has vowed to veto the legislation in his state.

Governor Gregoire has generously offered to discuss her decision, including her faith journey on this issue, with Governor Christie, but so far, he has not responded to her offer.  You can read the text of her letter in a blog post by Michael O’Loughlin on America magazine’s In All Things blog.  O’Loughlin observes that Catholic governors have been tremendously supportive of marriage equality legislation. He observes that four of the five legislative initiatives

“were signed by Catholic governors: John Baldacci in Maine; John Lynch in New Hampshire; Andrew Cuomo in New York; and now Gregoire in Washington.”

These numbers increase when you add Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois who signed a civil unions bill into law in his state against the strong public appeals by Illinois’ Catholic hierarchy.

Mario Cuomo

The Catholic governors who support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples are following sound ethical principles of another great Catholic governor:  Mario Cuomo from New York.  In a landmark 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame entitled “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” the elder Cuomo laid out some important principles to guide Catholic government leaders.

One principle was pragmatic:  “The Catholic public official lives the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow others the same freedom.”

Another principle was a realistic observation:  “. . . on divorce and birth control, without changing its moral teaching, the Church abides the civil law as it now stands, thereby accepting-without making much of a point of it-that in our pluralistic society we are not required to insist that all our religious values be the law of the land.”

A third principle was that of prudence and conscience:  “While we always owe our bishops’ words respectful attention and careful consideration, the question whether to engage the political system in a struggle to have it adopt certain articles of our belief as part of public morality is not a matter of doctrine: it is a matter of prudential political judgment. . . .My church does not order me-under pain of sin or expulsion-to pursue my salvific mission according to a precisely defined political plan.”

Whether consciously or not, this new generation of Catholic governors have imbibed Cuomo’s wisdom and are exercising sound religious and political judgment.

An analysis of Cuomo’s comments can be found in chapter 10 of New Ways Ministry’s publication Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach.  The chapter’s title is “What is the moral responsibility of a Catholic legislator?”  You can order free hard copies of the book or download a free PDF of it by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012

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

1) Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day, marriage equality has become the law of the land in Washington State, the seventh state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact such a law.  Catholic Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill on February 13th. The Chicago Tribune ran a Reuters story, “Washington governor signs gay marriage law,” which notes Gregoire’s faith. Equally Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations which work for LGBT justice and equality (of which New Ways Ministry is a member) issued a statement affirming Governor Gregoire’s action.

2) Two Catholic “coming out” stories appeared on the web recently.  The Quinnipiac Chronicle carries “The Pride Inside,” an article about college student Michael Castro’s experience.  Posterous Spaces carries “Coming to terms with my homosexuality at the University of Notre Dame,” by Tanya Barrios, an alumna.

3) Maggie Gallagher, of the National Organization for Marriage, a Catholic who works against marriage equality is profiled in Salon.com article, “The making of gay marriage’s top foe.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Representative Maureen Walsh on Marriage Equality: Catholic, Republican, and Proud Mom of a Lesbian Daughter

February 10, 2012

Washington State Representative Maureen Walsh–Catholic, Republican, and mother of a lesbian daughter–speaks plainly, personally, and powerfully during the debate of that state’s now passed marriage equality bill on why she supports the measure.  One of  her best lines, describing her daughter:

“She’s still a fabulous human being. And some day, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid.”

Watch the entire 4:26 minute video clip for her entire speech.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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