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