Meet Marc Mutty

January 26, 2012

Marc Mutty

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the name “Marc Mutty” before.  I hadn’t heard of  him until yesterday when several news items about him flashed across my computer desktop.  He’s sort of a cross between Daniel Avila, the advisor to the U.S. bishops who last year created an uproar when he claimed that the devil caused homosexuality, and Cardinal George,  who earlier this month apologized for comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.

I first saw his name in the lead paragraphs of an article about Maine’s anti-bullying bill being approved by a legislative committee:

“After the Legislature’s Education Committee voted unanimously to pass a new anti-bullying bill, Marc Mutty of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland reached out and shook the hand of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland.

“It was a brief exchange, an easily overlooked moment.

“But to Morrison, who is openly gay, the handshake with Mutty, who has worked on campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage, was a big deal.

I was touched by this gesture, and the fact that it signified that a Catholic official was supportive of a law that would help LGBT young people.  It made me think kindly towards Marc Mutty. Since I was curious about who he was, I did what any self-respecting 21st century hipster would do:  I googled him.

What I learned was that Mutty was, in fact, the Director of Public Affairs for the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine.  A little further digging revealed that he had also been the Chair of “Yes on 1,” the organization which led the fight to block the extension of civil marriage rights to lesbian/gay couples in Maine’s 2009 referendum. Now I was not thinking so kindly towards him.

Further digging revealed that a new documentary film shows that Mutty actually regretted a lot of the anti-gay rhetoric that he promoted during the 2009 campaign, even acknowledging that some of it was blatantly untrue.  According to a Portland Press Herald April 17, 2011, article, the documentary contains interviews of Mutty acknowledging that  his words were sometimes false:

” ‘We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,’ says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

” ‘You know, we say things like “Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!” ‘ he continues. ‘Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t,you know?'”

At this point, my feelings turn to anger that someone in a responsible position, someone who holds a leadership role in the Catholic Church, would spread knowingly misinformation about LGBT people.

The article goes on to describe Mutty’s shame and regret:

“At another point, he laments, ‘I fear I’ll be remembered for the work I did on this campaign.’

“He even goes so far as to plead ‘for forgiveness for the ways in which I might have betrayed my own self in this endeavor.’ “

Now, my feelings for him turned to sadness.   It must be very hard to promote ideas that one doesn’t believe and that one knows to be untrue.  It must be even harder to do so, if one reflects on the harm that such words and ideas can cause to people.  Like Daniel Avila and Cardinal George, with whom I have compared him, Mutty seems to have got caught up in his own rhetoric and extrapolated it to its own false conclusions. It seems that when he heard himself speak those conclusions he realized how wrong he was, but by this point, he had painted himself into a corner of his own words and could not find a way out.

I decided to write about Marc Mutty because he is like many people that I have met during my work in the church: people who become so blinded by their ideology that they find it difficult to speak the truth.   He is like the many people I have met who actually do not believe the anti-gay messages that they promote, but who continue to promote them because of fear of losing their positions and prestige or who get blinded by their own rhetoric.   Their actions cause damage to others, for sure.  Equally as sure, however, is that their duplicity causes harm to themselves.

At the risk of sounding pious, we need to pray for people like Marc Mutty.  I think people who work for LGBT equality need to make safe spaces for people like him to admit their errors, free of judgment.

In his case, let’s hope and pray that his handshake on the anti-bullying bill is a step towards integrity for him and justice for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Was Cardinal George’s Apology Enough? Catholic Students Don’t Think So

January 18, 2012

When Cardinal George apologized for his insensitive comments comparing the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, the reaction was mostly favorable.

Students at the Catholic University of America, however, believe that the apology was not enough.  When Cardinal George visited their campus on January 12th to speak at a conference on the Second Vatican Council, a group of students who want him to do more stood and prayed outside the building where he was speaking and handed out flyers calling on the cardinal to do more than apologize.  The Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper reprinted the students’ statement which reads in part:

“While we understand Cardinal George released an apologetic statement, we find this action passive and inadequate. Comparisons of a peaceful social movement rooted in a desire for equality under the law to the notoriously hateful KKK rooted in mob violence, bigotry, and the worst of American history are utterly inappropriate.

“The vision set forth by the Second Vatican Council, under consideration at the conference this weekend, thrust the Catholic Church into positive engagement with the world. If Catholics truly take to heart the opening words of Gaudium et Spes, then the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of us, as the People of God, as followers of Christ, too.

“Our presence this evening is our witness as people of good will to call on Cardinal George and the Catholic Church at large to dialogue with pure intention and total charity with the gay and lesbian community. “

Students at Catholic University were not the only ones to respond to Cardinal George’s comments.  At St Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin, a petition was circulated calling on the school’s administration to rescind an invitation to Cardinal George to be the commencement speaker in May.  Thomas Kunkel, the college’s president, has announced that he will not rescind the invitation, and that Cardinal George will indeed be the speaker.

New Ways Ministry has already suggested that the cardinal not only to open dialogue with LGBT Catholics but to make a public gesture of welcome and reconciliation by passing out water to parade marchers on Gay Pride Day in Chicago.  Actions speak louder than words.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Can We Talk?

January 10, 2012

Two articles came across my desk yesterday which make me think that all conversation in the Catholic Church has ended.  I hope I am wrong.

The first is a column by Fr. Richard McBrien from the National Catholic Reporter  (NCR).   The title tells the story:  “The disconnect between bishops and other Catholics.”

McBrien summarizes some data from a recent survey commissioned by the NCR.  The results of the survey were published in the newspaper’s October 28 and November 10, 2011, issues and can be reviewed here.  What McBrien sees is that Catholics are no longer listening to their bishops for guidance on moral issues, particularly those related to sexuality:

“On the matter of Catholic attitudes toward the credibility of the bishops’ teachings, the survey found that relatively few Catholics look to church leaders as the sole moral arbiters.

“This is particularly true with regard to official teachings on such issues as divorce and remarriage, abortion, nonmarital sex, homosexuality and contraception.

“More than of half of those surveyed say that individuals, not the hierarchy, are best equipped to make moral decisions on these matters. When it comes to contraception, however, the percentage rises to two-thirds.

“On issues other than divorce and remarriage and contraception (where the percentage of dissidents is roughly the same today as it was 25 years ago), the share of Catholics who look solely to church leaders for guidance on matters of right and wrong has declined.

“Those who attend Mass every week are more inclined to look to the hierarchy for guidance, but not by much.

Indeed, half of the oldest generation of Catholics believes individuals themselves are the proper locus of moral authority, even on such issues as abortion.

“In summary, on most of the issues the survey asked about, majorities of Catholics said the locus of moral authority rests with individuals, not the bishops, but after taking church teachings into account.”

The second article was by Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, and appeared on The Huffington Post website. Referring to the recent incident where Cardinal George compared the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, Duddy-Burke examines the question which is the tile of her essay: “Why Cardinal George Can Say Such Outrageous Things.”  Her main answer to this is:

“. . . Catholic bishops and cardinals are accountable only to the Vatican. They have absolutely no accountability to anyone in their Diocese. They are appointed by Papal decree, and terminated from their positions only by the Pope. The people whom Church hierarchs supposedly shepherd have no say in whether they are suitable for their jobs, or the length of their tenure.

“In addition, the lives and work of these officials provide little if any opportunity for ongoing interaction with “regular people” on a day-to-day basis, so they often have a much distorted sense of our hopes, dreams, struggles, concerns, relationships and spirituality. In my own conversations with an admittedly small number of bishops and cardinals, I’ve found that they begin from an assumption of authority, rather than from an acknowledgment of our shared Baptism. They believe they have the unquestioned right to set the terms of our discussion. They make pronouncements that belie fact and expect to go unchallenged. When they do this in the public square, as did Cardinal George, the degree to which they are out of touch with their flock becomes glaringly apparent.”

So, lay Catholics are not listening to bishops, and bishops are not listening to lay Catholics.  This is a very serious pastoral problem.  Continuing in such a fashion means that all conversation will soon end, if it hasn’t happened already.

At a conference on LGBT ministry, Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, NY, observed that it is the job of the bishops to discern the call of the Spirit in the church.  He added an important qualification to this description:  if the laity do not communicate with their leaders, then the bishops will not be able to do accurate and truthful discernment.

Although it means that we have to continue to do work, it is up to lay Catholics to keep speaking out on LGBT equality.  It’s a difficult thing to do when our conversation partners, the bishops, are so unresponsive.  Let’s take heart from Cardinal George’s recent apology, which clearly was the result of so many groups and individuals speaking out against the ignorance of his original comments.

To keep up speaking when it seems no one is listening requires that we rely on God to make our words effective.  Similarly, we have to truly believe that God can–and does–speak through the laity.  If we have faith in these two things, the burden of speaking out becomes much lighter.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Another Nugget of Gold From Cardinal George’s Apology

January 7, 2012

The good news that Cardinal George’s apology for his insensitive comments comparing the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan has produced another “nugget of gold” in terms of hope for the future.

At the end of a Chicago Tribune news story, the reporter adds this interchange with the cardinal:

” George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to ‘respect everyone.’ “

” ‘The question is, “Does respect mean that we have to change our teaching?” That’s an ongoing discussion, of course. … I still go back to the fact that these are people we know and love and are part of our families. That’s the most important point right now.’ “

The “nugget of gold” here is the statement, “That’s an ongoing discussion, of course.”  Usually when prelates say anything about the possibility of changing church teaching, the message is “Absolutely not.  There’s no way the teaching can be changed. ”  (Of course, the “teaching” referred to is the disapproval of same-sex relationships.)

As we stated yesterday, we hope that Cardinal George’s apology is the first step toward greater reconciliation between the LGBT community and the Catholic hierarchy.  Today we add the hope that this moment will also be the first step toward greater acknowledgement and possibility that ongoing discussion can move church teaching forward.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal George’s Apology

January 6, 2012

Cardinal Francis George apologized today for the remarks he made comparing the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan.    A statement on the front page of the Archdiocese of Chicago website reads:

Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan.  I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.  Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I.  We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are.  I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty.  This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

The significance of this action is immense.  For the first time that I can remember, a prelate has acknowledged that words and ideas he has used in regard to the LGBT community were harmful, and he has apologized for the hurt they caused.

Significant, too, is the fact that he acknowledges that he has family members who are gay/lesbian, and that he loves them.  It is rare that a prelate speaks personally, let alone personally and positively about LGBT people.

I hope that one lesson he has learned is that the level of the hierarchy’s rhetoric is way too high, and that there is a need for reconciliation, understanding, and healing.   The apology is a good first step, but more steps need to be taken to heal the great chasm that exists between the hierarchy and LGBT people, especially LGBT Catholics.

The cardinal also needs to learn that LGBT people are not out to endanger religious liberty.  If he would enter into dialogue with LGBT Catholics, he would learn that more clearly.  Dialogue leads to better understanding and better relationships.

One thing that he can do, which we have already suggested, is to greet parade-goers in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on the day of the parade, and pass out water to them.

Let’s hope and pray that this ugly incident has truly opened his heart and that it will be the beginning of a new way of thinking  and acting for him.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012

Here are some links to stories that might be of interest to you:

1)  Governor Christine Gregoire, a practicing Catholic, pledges support for Washington State’s marriage equality bill.  The Seattle Times’  account, “Gregoire proposes legislation to legalize gay marriage,”  alludes to her struggle with faith.

2) Theologian and columnist Fr. Richard McBrien reflects on how Albany’s “Bishop Considers Reasons American Leave Catholic Church.”  Gay and lesbian people are mentioned among those who struggle.

3) National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson (who will be a focus session speaker at New Ways Ministry’s upcoming Seventh National Symposium) considers a possible motivation for Cardinal George’s comparison of the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan in “Pushing Away the Marginalized to Reach Out to the Fringe.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


NEWS NOTES: January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012

Here are some links to articles that may be of interest:

1) Vanessa De La Torre reports in the Hartford Courant that the local “Archdiocese Planning to Offer Pro-Abstinence Group for Gays, Lesbians”.

2) In The American Prospect magazine, E.J. Graff writes  in “Catholic Bishops versus Tolerance” that children are the victims of bishops closing adoption agencies.

3) Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, a gay Catholic man, has been asked to join in a demonstration at the city’s Holy Name Cathedral to protest Cardinal Francis George’s KKK comments.  See the Chicago.GoPride.com article, “Tunney Asked to Join LGBT Catholics in Demonstration Against Cardinal George.”

4) The Vatican has established a special Ordinariate for Episcopalians who want to join the Catholic church–many of whom are leaving because of their opposition to marriage equality and the ordination of  lesbian/gay people.  See the LA Times Blog post for details.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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