Prayerful Vigils and Reflections Highlight Lead Up to Election Day in Washington State

October 31, 2012

Prayerful vigil participants outside St. James Cathedral, Seattle.

In Washington State, Catholics who support marriage equality have marked the final push towards their Election Day referendum with prayerful vigils and spirited reflections.

120 Catholics gathered outside Seattle’s St. James Cathedral last Sunday to pray, sing, and reflect on their commitment to supporting marriage equality.  Organized by Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington, the vigilers prayed for the passage of their state’s referendum which would legalize marriage equality there.

In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, two of the participants offered their reflections:

Robert Gavino, 19, a Seattle University student: “I would just say the God I have come to know is not one to tell people they are not equal.”

Robert Gavino prays at vigil.

John House, a parishoner at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Snoqualmie:  “Catholics believe Christ’s primary message is one of love, and Catholic social teaching teaches us that God loves everybody.  We are standing up for centuries of Catholic social teaching.”

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a Catholic, gay lawmaker who was chief sponsor of marriage equality in the legislature: “I think any time we show solidarity with those on the margins of our society, it is an expression of our faith,” said Murray.  “We (gays) are certainly on the margins . . . at least in the hierarchy’s structure.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and an alumnus of Georgetown University, spoke of his Catholic education:  “Nowhere, ever, did it tell me to oppose a right that I might have.  Or to support discrimination against my brothers and sisters.”

On the same day, in Yakima, Washington, the central part of the state,  Catholics  for Marriage Equality Washington also gathered Catholicsfor a candlelight vigil to “to express disagreement with the role the Catholic Diocese of Yakima has taken in opposing Referendum 74 affirming same-sex marriage, ” according to a news story in the Yakima Herald-Republic. 

One of the organizers of the event explained its origin:

“Leo Kucek, who attends Sacred Heart Parish in Prosser, is one of the organizers of the candlelight vigil. He said many Catholics were upset last month when Bishop Joseph Tyson requested that all 41 parishes in the Yakima Diocese conduct a special financial appeal during Mass. Money collected went to Preserve Marriage Washington, a statewide group seeking to defeat Referendum 74. . .

“Kucek said, ‘When a church starts acting as an arm of a political campaign, collecting money during a sacred Mass, that’s a slippery slope.’ “

A Catholic for Marriage Equality vigil participant.

In addition to these two events, two opinion pieces have recently been published by Catholics working for marriage equality in that state.

In the first piece, which appeared in The Seattle Lesbian, John Moreland,  a lifelong Catholic, married 46 years with four children and three grandchildren, refutes the notion that same-sex marriage will be promoted in schools:

“Through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops argue that all schools will have to promote same-sex marriage as equal to heterosexual marriage.   This is false.   The bishops apparently are following the kind of memos put out by national right-wing extremist groups whose research shows that their strongest campaign weapon is fear.  These groups target mothers of school-age children, whose legitimate concern is for their kids. They try to manipulate them by claiming that their children will be exposed to some kind of unhealthy sexual curriculum if marriage equality passes.

“The fact is there is NO curriculum in Washington State public schools promoting one kind of family over any other. In all schools, there are children of biological parents and adopted children. There are children of same-sex couples and children of single mothers and fathers.  There are children raised by grandparents and children raised by foster parents.  There are all manner of blended families.  It is discriminatory in public schools NOW to promote one kind of family over another.  All children deserve to be treated equally and with dignity.

“Private schools, including Catholic schools, can teach whatever they want about marriage and families.  With the passage of Referendum 74, nothing will change. The bishops will continue to allow and encourage Catholic schools to teach Church doctrine about families and marriage. I believe that treating and loving our neighbor as ourselves is a good place to start.”

The second essay was penned by Chase Nordengren, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle who has been working on the referendum campaign.  His essay, which appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, is a philosophical/theological reflection on courage vs. fear:

“Central to the life of Christians, writes Paul Tillich, is ‘the courage to be,’ one’s willingness to affirm one’s essential nature regardless of, at times despite, social forces that reject that nature. The radical idea of faith, Tillich argues, rests in the practice of this essential skill, the skill to affirm all the parts of our identities God brought into being.

“Much of Tillich’s work centers on courage’s opposite — anxiety. Anxiety has no object, no focus: “therefore participation, struggle and love with respect to it are impossible.” Anxiety is that which cripples our action.

“Fortunately, Tillich writes, anxiety aspires to a different emotion: fear. Fear seems debilitating but, paradoxically, it exists only in a place where one is self-affirming, when one has something to lose and something to be afraid of. “The self is self only because it has a world, a structured universe, to which it belongs and from which it is separated at the same time.” Courage is acting with knowledge of fear, overcoming fear.

“Veterans of the gay rights movement that I have met have much to be fearful of: hateful speech, violence and denial of some of the qualities of a decent and free life. Their perseverance is a sign, to me at least, that fear has led to courage. The desire to affirm who one is, to be proud, to truly enter into community with an open heart pushes them onward.”

Nordengren then applies the concept of courage to the situation of marriage, particularly same-sex marriage:

Marriage, too, is an act of courage, the faith in something that transcends ordinary experience. Growing in faith, growing in the courage to be, requires being part of a structured universe. It requires a world in which one is both part — as in, part of the community of the committed — and not a part — as in, committed to someone else on a level all that much deeper. Making that courageous choice requires, demands our respect. It also demands our recognition.

“Same-sex marriage is, and will continue to be, an issue that deeply divides the Christian community. I pray earnestly for the days when that divide closes. In the interim, however, the God of our faith asks us to stand with our brothers and sisters as they make the big leaps in their lives or, at the very least, step aside. As our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters continue on the journey of their lives, removing the legal barriers to their next step is not only an act of love, but also an act of affirming faith.”

Along with Nordengren, Moreland, and all of Washington’s Catholics for Marriage Equality, we at New Ways Ministry, also pray for this same kind of courage for ourselves and all Catholics.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Debate Brings Out Deep Faith and Thought in Catholics

October 17, 2012

An amazing by-product of the marriage equality movement across the country has been the wealth of Catholics willing to speak publicly about how their faith empowers them to speak out for equal marriage standards for lesbian and gay couples.  Both ordinary people in the pew and church and political leaders have come forward to speak about the issue from the depths of their Catholic belief.

The National Catholic Reporter has recently profiled two such Catholics in Washington State. The marriage equality debate can seem harsh at times, and some times it seems like it brings out the worst in people.  In reading the stories of these two people, I think it is evident that God has found it possible to use this situation to bring out deep faith and integral spirituality in people.

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

The first article features Fr. John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Seattle, who recently sent a bulk email to his parishioners, asking them to ponder carefully a recent statement from Archbishop Peter Sartain asking them to vote against marriage equality:

“Whitney asked parishioners to review the narrative dispassionately and ask themselves ‘if this referendum refers to the same object as does the Church’s understanding — that is, is the civil marriage to which the referendum is addressed, the same as the sacramental marriage described by the column?’ “

In his email, Whitney reminded parishioners that Catholics are

” ‘morally obliged to form our consciences well, through study and through practice’ and that ‘a person acts morally only when following his or her conscience, despite the sometimes opposite calls of public pressure, self-interest, fashion or authority.’” ‘That being said,’ he continued, ‘it may appear from the outside that Catholics are governed more by authority than by conscience. … The role of authority in Catholic conscience formation is, indeed, complex; but, authority never supplants conscience.’

“The ‘call of conscience’ is ‘the Catholic categorical imperative,’ Whitney wrote.”

Whitney cautions that his stance should not be seen as an opposition to the archbishop, but about ways of understanding the church:

“I very much do not want to make this about a clash of the archbishop and me. To me, this is not about persons but about visions of the Church. I truly believe that the movement of the Holy Spirit among the People of God can only work if people receive the tools to responsibly decide issues of public policy and personal morality.”

Senator Ed Murray

State Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, Washington, was the focus of the second article which focuses on this gay, Catholic legislator’s faith experiences.  His early formation came from his mother’s faith:

“Murray’s resilient faith and his willingness to speak out on complex issues can be traced to his mother’s love of dialogue, especially when related to Blessed Pope John XXIII (whom she adored), and her affinity for Catholic writers such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. At church and at school, Murray’s childhood was also infused with Catholic teachings focused on ministry to the poor. Beloved nuns and priests, representative of ‘a larger family in the best sense of that word,’ offered support and care, encouraging Murray and his six siblings ‘to grow in our prayer lives and our commitment to other people,’ he said.”

Murray’s adult spirituality has been nourished by a relationship with a Trappist monastery in nearby Oregon:

“There, Murray explored the contemplative and mystical traditions of prayer, structured his days according to the horarium, and read of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi, as well as Buddhist writers. He learned to listen in a new way, from within. ‘Through silence, solitude, prayer and meditation, you learn things about yourself — not always easy things about yourself — that help you become a more authentic person,’ Murray said.”

His mystical side is rooted in very earthly practicalities:

“Murray said three aspects of his faith keep him rooted: fellow Catholics who ‘continue to affirm me as a human being and continue to affirm my 21-year relationship with my partner, Michael’; the belief that followers of Christ are called to live with,

and love all people, regardless of other factors; and the fact that his prayer life and spirituality continue to be fed and challenged. Murray acknowledged, ‘My faith has helped me see people who strongly disagree with me as important and wonderful people, even when I can’t stand them and they can’t stand me.’ ”

Both the article about Whitney and the article about Murray are worth reading in their entirety by clicking the links above.  They are rich in insight, spirituality, and wisdom.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Article:

National Catholic Reporter:  Same-sex marriage put to voters in Washington


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


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

 

 


Catholics for Marriage Equality Events in Three Separate States

August 15, 2012

 

In the fall of this year, four states across the nation–Minnesota, Washington State, Maryland, Maine–voters will participate in ballot initiatives concerning marriage equality this fall.  Catholic voters will play a key role in each of these contests.

Catholics supportive of marriage equality initiatives–which we know is the majority of Catholics–can participate in several upcoming events in three of those individual states:  Minnesota, Washington State, Maryland.

MINNESOTA

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota is sponsoring a gathering on Wednesday evening, August 15, 2012, 7:00-8:30 pm to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption and to inspire Catholics to speak the primacy of their conscience.   The gathering will take place in Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403. The event will premiere a music video in which over 300 Catholics and friends sing a “For All the Children,” a hymn of love and inclusivity written by David Lohman.   More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page. (DignityUSA is a partner for this event.)
WASHINGTON STATE

Sister Jeannine Gramick

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, will be speaking at two separate events to promote Catholic support for marriage equality.

The first event will be held on Tuesday, August 21, 2012,  7:00-9:00 pm, The United Churches of Olympia, 110 – 11th Avenue SE, Olympia, Washington, 98501.  This event is co-sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington and The United Churches of Olympia.
The second event , sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington, will be held on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 7:00-8:30 pm,  St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral (Bloedel Hall), 1245 10th Avenue East,  Seattle, Washington 98102.  Washington State Senator Ed Murray, a Catholic will join them at this  event.
Complimentary copies of New Ways Ministry’s book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, will be available at each event.
MARYLAND

Heather Mizeur

Catholics for Marriage Equality–Maryland is sponsoring a voter education program and two community forums.

The voter education program will take place on Sunday, August 26, 2012, St. Matthew Parish, 6:00-8:00 pm, 5401 Loch Raven Boulevard  Baltimore, Maryland 21239. Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic, is a speaker at this event.
The first community forum will be held Saturday, September 29, 2012, 10:00 am-1:00 pm, Greenbelt Community Church, corner of Crescent and Hillside Roads, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770.
The second community forum will be held Saturday, October 6, 2012, 10:00 am-1:00 pm, Montgomery County Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street, Greenbelt, Maryland 2085o.  Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic, is the featured speaker at this event.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
 

 


N.Y. Times Reports Incorrectly on Catholic Opposition to Marriage Equality

February 2, 2012

The wonderful news is that Washington State seems poised to become the seventh state with marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.  The state’s Senate voted 28-21 in favor of marriage equality.  Since Governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the bill into law, that leaves only a House vote, which can come as early as next week, as the last hurdle–and according to all reports, this vote should be an easy win.

The New York Times carried a story about the Washington Senate vote, which carries an amusing bit from State Senator Ed Murray, a gay Catholic who introduced the legislation. Speaking to his colleagues in the Senate, he said:

“ ‘Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail,’  Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, the prime sponsor in the Senate, said in his final remarks before the vote. Mr. Murray, who is gay, has noted many times publicly that he and his longtime partner hope to marry in their home state.”

What was disappointing about the Times story, though, is that in discussing opposition to the bill, it states:

“The Roman Catholic Church is among the opponents.”

Technically, this is incorrect. While it is true that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church opposes the bill, the entire Roman Catholic Church–defined by Vatican II as ALL the people of God”–does not.  As many readers of this blog probably already know, according to a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute report, 74% of U.S. Catholics support some kind of legal protection and recognition of committed lesbian/gay couples:  43% favor marriage and 31% favor civil unions.  Only 22% oppose any recognition or protection.

The Times article itself contains clues to Catholic support, but it doesn’t make the references explicit: while it mentions both Governor Gregoire and Senator Murray, the reporter doesn’t mention (and probably didn’t realize) that they themselves are Catholics who support marriage equality.

Part of the reason that Catholic support for marriage equality is not well-known is because the hierarchy has such a well-publicized voice.  Part of the reason, though, is also because news reporters need to be more precise in their writing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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