Two Stories Beg the Question: What Would Jesus Do?

October 11, 2012

Two stories out of Minnesota this week, where the struggle over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is in full heat,  beg the proverbial question:  What Would Jesus Do?

Archbishop John Nienstedt

In the first case, it was revealed this week that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul had earlier this year sent a letter to the mother of a gay son in which he stated his position that marriage be defined as only between a man and a woman.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the story as saying that Nienstedt’s warning was in response to the mother’s support of her gay son:

“To a mother who pleaded for acceptance for her gay child, he wrote: ‘I urge you to reconsider the position that you expressed. … Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation of heart on this topic.’ “

In all fairness, without a text of her original letter, it is difficult to say what it was Nienstedt was responding to.  Regardless of what she said, however, it makes one wonder if this is how Jesus would have responded to the woman.

Nienstedt makes it clear that he believes he is following Jesus’ example:

“Indeed some might find this a hard saying but many of Jesus’ teachings were likewise received as such.”

Fr. Michael Tegeder

The second story is about a St. Paul priest, Fr. Michael Tegeder, who has been an outspoken defender of marriage equality, even in the face of reprimands from Nienstedt.  In a Star Tribune column by Jon Tevlin, Tegeder described being ostracized at a seminar on marriage because of his known view on marriage equality:

“Like other priests, Tegeder had been invited to the [marriage seminar] event. Unlike other priests, he was given a warning: Sit where we tell you to. Don’t ask questions. Don’t disturb.

“The Catholic Conference ended the warning letter with the words ‘Best wishes,’ to which Tegeder responded: ‘You obviously do not mean to send me your best wishes. In fact, you want me to go quietly away with your demeaning E-mail.’

“Tegeder was not allowed to sit in the main part of the hall, but was relegated to a ‘detention pen’ where he could be seen but not heard.”

Tegeder describes how his experiences shaped his current position:

“Tegeder began to talk about how his views on homosexuality had evolved, but when he got to a story about seeing two ‘sweet, sweet’ men being taunted, and how he’d heard about ‘fag bashing’ when he was a teen, he began to cry.

“Then Tegeder’s voice sharpened. ‘If you can’t stand up for what you believe, you are not a minister, you are not a priest,’ he said. ‘I don’t do it in the pulpit, but I continue to speak out, continue to have a conscience.’ “

Reading both stories side-by-side, one can’t help but think “What Would Jesus Do?”   The Jesus that Nienstedt’s letter describes is a man of law and authority who is quick to pass judgement.  Tegeder’s example, however, reminds me more of the Jesus that I’ve heard of in the gospels: a man whose experiences have shaped his compassion, who stood up for his beliefs in spite of persecution, and who was marginalized because he was thought to radical by the religious institution.

Which Jesus do you believe in and follow?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Minnesota Catholics Make Beautiful Music Together–for Marriage Equality

May 21, 2012

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota turned their pro-LGBT message into song recently, when they gathered 300 singers together to do a rendition of “For the Children,” a pro-diversity anthem penned by David Lohman, who works for the Institute of Welcoming Resources, a project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

You can listen to the fruits of their labors, along with an interview with Lohman, by watching this video:

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota is working to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment for their state which will be on the ballot in November.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Silencing Discussion Is Not the Archbishop’s Only Error

January 6, 2012

The Progressive Catholic Voice has published a letter from Archbishop John Nienstedt which orders priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of St. Paul to be silent if they disagree with the hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality.  In November of this year, Minnesotans will be voting in a referendum on whether they should adopt a constitutional amendment banning marriage between lesbian and gay couples.

Silencing discussion is a terrible option, and church officials should remove such a recourse from their possible responses to situations.  U.S. bishops should have learned a lesson from the sex abuse crisis that silence protects nobody and ultimately fails as a method to protect the church.  New Ways Ministry has  long called for more discussion and dialogue in the church on LGBT issues, including marriage equality.  We believe that through discussion and debate truth will be found and relationships strengthened.

Silencing his priests and deacons is what will be making headlines, but it is not the archbishop’s only error in this letter.  He also wrongfully speculates on the motivations of those who support marriage equality, and he does so in an illogical manner:

“The end game of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we support is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether.”

First of all, he offers no evidence for such a claim, and it is difficult to imagine what such evidence might even be.  Such a claim is unfounded.  Why would the archbishop make such a claim if he is not willing to offer any evidence to support it?

More importantly, the claim is illogical.  Does he want us to believe that the people who are working and organizing to extend marriage rights to more people are actually really trying to end the institution that they are trying to extend?

Later in the letter, he states:

“. . . we must never vilify or caricaturize those who argue [in support of marriage equality]. . . “

Yet, isn’t that what he just did by speculating, with neither evidence nor logic, on the motives of those who oppose the constitutional ban?

One of the reasons that we need discussion, and not silence, on these issues is because without the free interchange of ideas, people become so solidified in their positions that they do not realize what they are saying sometimes, and they can often work against their own best ideals.

The folks at The Progressive Catholic Voice should be applauded for making this letter available to all.  You can read their full press release here and a shorter explanation introduces the archbishop’s speech here.  In noting why they decided to publish it, they offer an image and an ideal towards which we should tirelessly work:

“. . .we at The Progressive Catholic Voice believe it is important to model a way of being church that is open, honest, transparent and participatory.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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