‘Marriage Equality is the Work of Satan,’ Says Minnesota Bishop

September 6, 2013

Archbishop John Neinstedt of St. Paul/Minneapolis

Referring to marriage equality as the work of Satan, Archbishop John Neinstedt’s latest diatribe against LGBT equality reveals an incomprehensible blindness to the shifting tone among Catholic leadership in light of Pope Francis’ more welcoming acts. Signs of hope are more abundant internationally with positive comments now emerging from Ireland’s leading prelate, and an archbishop in Poland.

In a lengthy article in Legatus Magazine, Archbishop Neinstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis explains his opposition to marriage equality in a flurry of tangential arguments. His view is one which Minnesota voters rejected last November; and the state’s legislature approved equal marriage rights this spring. Additionally, Nienstedt used the Church’s financial resources heavily in 2012 campaigning against marriage equality. The new legal reality of marriage equality has not stopped him from harsh rhetoric against LGBT equality, as he writes in the magazine:

“Today, many evil forces have set their sights on the dissolution of marriage and the debasing of family life. Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth are just some of the forces threatening the stability of our civilization.  The source of these machinations is none other than the Father of Lies.  Satan knows all too well the value that the family contributes to the fabric of a good solid society, as well as the future of God’s work on earth.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

A different sort of message on marriage equality came from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland.  In a refreshing change of tone, the Irish leader said that church leaders need to be more respectful when they present their opposition to marriage equality. The Irish Examiner quoted Martin:

“The church has taken a very strong line, and I don’t think people would expect the church to not to do that. “But it would be done – and this is important – the church has to learn how to fight its battles in a respectful and in a noble way.”

Perhaps no one more than the U.S. Catholic bishops, and Archbishop Neinstedt among them, need to learn that lesson. Their shrill rhetoric on marriage has not only been largely ineffective in preventing marriage equality laws, but it is also seen to be pastorally harmful.  What bishops don’t seem to realize is that many of their church members sincerely and conscientiously support marriage equality.  They also know, love, and respect gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships, so the bishops’ message of how marriage equality will ruin society rings hollow at best, and is heard as hateful at worst.

Earlier this week, we reported on the letter opposing marriage equality written by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, Hawaii, and how his comparisons of lesbian and gay committed relationships to polygamy  and incest were not only offensive, but illogical. Attributing marriage equality, and those who support it, to the work of Satan is equally illogical, disrespectful, and far from noble. It is far past time for America’s bishops to follow Pope Francis and other leaders internationally in adopting a more pastoral tone amid changing societies that expand the right to marry for every family.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Pastor Explains Why He Marched in Pride Parade

July 14, 2013

Last month,  we reported on Catholic faith communities marching in LGBT Pride marches in Portland, Oregon and the Baltimore-Washington, DC region.  We’ve recently learned of several more demonstrations of Catholic support of Pride events in three more U.S. events.

SEATTLE

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Thanks to blogger Michael Bayly of The Wild Reedwe learned about a Seattle, Washington pastor who announced in his parish newsletter “Why Am I In the Parade?”   Father John D. Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph’s parish, Seattle,  introduced the explanation of  his participation by referring to Acts 10: 28:

“You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”

This passage occurs in the story of St. Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion.  Fr. Whitney explicates the meaning:

“The head of the apostles is called to testify that God’s grace is greater than the members of the Church can hope or imagine, and that their understanding of the Church must continue to develop as the mystery of God’s redemptive love continues to be revealed in all of nature and in every culture. What surprises Peter, what will become a starting point for Paul, and what continues to challenge the Church even today is how vast the mercy of God is, a mercy that denies the notion that anything which is human can be profane; a mercy that encompasses every human heart, every aspect of human nature.”

Fr. Whitney reminded parishioners of the parish’s participation in last year’s Pride parade and what that meant to them:

“Last year, for the first time, members of the St. Joseph community marched in the Pride Parade to indicate our solidarity with and respect for our homosexual sisters and brothers. Like Peter entering the house of Cornelius, it was a moment that would be considered unlawful and scandalous to those who see members of this community as profane or unclean; yet, for me, and I believe for others who chose to be present in this march, it was a moment of grace, when we could witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving in this community, so often alienated from the Church of Christ.”

Fr. Whitney closes the essay with an eloquent expression of why he chose to march this year:

This year, I am going to the Pride Parade again, and I have supported St. Joseph’s presence in it, as well. I have done so not out of opposition to anyone; but, rather, in support of the sisters and brothers of our community who seek to live faithfully in the way that God has made them and the Spirit has called them. I am going to support the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the friends and companions of our gay and lesbian parishioners, who have pride in their daughters and sons and
who long to have them feel loved and welcomed at the  table of Christ and in the body of the Church. I am going to evangelize, to bear witness, by my presence and, if needed, by my words, that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is not a place of hatred and rejection; but a communion of loved sinners called in humility to grow and learn through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am going to the parade because I want to enter the house of Cornelius, where I have already seen the signs of the Spirit;
because I want those in whose very nature is God’s blessing, to know that Christ longs for them with mercy and with love, asking them not to hide or reject their natural identity, but to see in that identity a way home to God.

Fr. Whitney was one of about a dozen Seattle Archdiocese parishes who last year chose not to collect signatures to put the state’s marriage equality law up for a referendum.

MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Catholics CELEBRATING Marriage Equality in the Twin Cities.

Also on The Wild Reed, Michael Bayly also wrote up an account of the Pride Festival in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, describing Catholic participation at the event.  Though last year Bayly organized “Catholics for Marriage Equality” in the state,  this year, the group edited its name to “Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality,” reflecting that the state recently adopted a marriage law for gay and lesbian couples and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions.

Similarly, Dick Bernard, who blogs for the Twin Cities Daily Planetreflected on the role of Catholics in the state’s marriage equality debates.  He noted that on the day of the Pride Festival, his parish,  the Basilica of St. Paul, prayed  “for respect for all people [including their] sexuality.”

NEW YORK CITY

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Nicholas and David march in NYC Pride parade.

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will be familiar with the case of Nicholas Coppola, the New York parish volunteer dismissed from his ministries because he married his partner, David.

The couple marched this year in New York City’s Pride Parade and their photo was featured on The Huffington Post.   The article accompanying their photo is entitled “10 Signs Displayed in the 2013 NYC Pride March That You Should Read and Remember.”  Number five on that list is “Married Gay Catholics USA.”  Noting the strong support for marriage equality among Catholic lay people, author Murray Lipp remarks:

“It is important for gay Catholics to speak openly about their marriages and for straight Catholics who support equality to continue to speak up both within and outside of the church.”

All three examples–Seattle, the Twin Cities, New York–show the power and importance of witnessing for Catholic support of LGBT equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


How to Further Alienate Young People from Catholicism

April 16, 2012

In Minneapolis, where an upcoming state-wide referendum on marriage equality is being hotly debated, students at DeLaSalle Catholic high school turned an assembly designed to promote traditional marriage into a debate about marriage equality.  Seniors at the school were required to attend the program given by two archdiocesan officials,  according to a column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, from which the students’ quotations below are taken.   Officials ended up turning the assembly into a protest for marriage equality.  The story is a textbook case for how to further alienate young people from Catholicism.  Here’s what the officials did wrong:

1) Assume that young people are pliable and can be easily duped.  Young people instinctively know when they are being hoodwinked by adults. One student noted that many of her peers knew at once they were being used as pawns:

“. . . students were anxious when they heard about the program and were suspicious because only seniors were required to go. ‘We put two and two together,’ said [Lydia] Hannah [a student]. ‘All of us will be able to vote next fall [on the constitutional amendment that limits marriage to same-sex couples].’

“Hannah said the presenters briefly brought up the amendment but backed off when students got angry.”

2) Assume that young people don’t have a sense of fairness and can’t see through false arguments. Young people know immediately when a situation is not balanced and fair, and they react strongly against such situations:

“. . . one of the presenters said that adopted kids were ‘sociologically unstable.’ She called the comments ‘hurtful’ and comparisons between gay love and bestiality upsetting.

” ‘My friend said, ‘You didn’t just compare people to animals, did you?'” said Hannah. ‘I think everyone has a right to their opinion, and I don’t judge them on it. But we don’t force people to sit down so we can tell them their opinion is wrong.’ “

3) Assume that young people will be docile.  Young people are naturally passionate about ideas and principles and will speak out and act if they feel that they or others are being wronged:

” ‘We weren’t being rude,’ countered Lydia Hannah, another student who spoke out. ‘But people were upset, and we weren’t just going to sit there.’ “

4) Assume that young people don’t know anything about LGBT issues.  Both statistics and everyday experience tell people that young folks today are not only much more aware of LGBT topics than older generations have had, but they are way more supportive of such subjects.  Indeed, many of them have involvement with these issues:

” ‘When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset,’ said Bliss [a student]. ‘You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom.’

“Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, ‘I love my moms.’ “

5) Assume that young people don’t have information. Because of their awareness of LGBT issues, students today have a lot more information about these topics and can discuss them comfortably:

“At one point, Bliss raised his hand and, ‘as politely as I could,’ began to argue with the presenters. He used his knowledge of history to refute many of their points, and explained that various cultures have accepted and embraced homosexuality going back hundreds of years.

” ‘I think they were surprised by the history I gave them and surprised that I was so calm,’ said Bliss. ‘I don’t think they expected the response they got from the students.’ “

The story of this assembly reveals that these church officials not only lost these students on the issue of marriage equality, but that they didn’t realize that their heavy-handed strategy may have further alienated these youths from Catholicism altogether.

Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota’s blog, Sensus Fidelium, recently posted about a homily given at a Catholic Easter vigil mass, which supported the DeLaSalle student protest.  Blogger Jim Smith reports:

“In that homily, he mentioned ‘the candor and ease with which young people discuss the matter of sexual orientation these days, as well as their conviction that something’s wrong when religion gets in the way of love and respect for any person.’  He continued, ‘I am impressed with the grit of the DeLaSalle students to voice so confidently their truth, especially about such a tender matter.’

“And then the pastor said this: ‘I think it’s critical for those of us who intend to hang around [in the Church], to agree that not standing up, over time, for what we know to be the truth, is not right. I too often wonder, “Will this get me into trouble?” or “Can I pay a kid from DeLaSalle to do this for me?” rather than, “What does Jesus Christ ask of me?” In the face of insult, or injustice, or bigotry, or hatred, or greed, or lies, or the abuse of power, the Christian must stand up for and speak the truth, knowing that the cost and consequence – ‘The Cross’ – are part of what being Christian means.’

“When the homily ended, resurrection reigned yet again when the Vigil packed church practiced what was just preached. The church stood, and she, too, spoke truth with an ovation that rocked the rafters.”

Congratulations to the DeLaSalle students for speaking their minds!  They are an inspiration to the rest of the church!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


When Arguments Coincide

January 30, 2012

I’m not sure what it means, but in the last week both sides in the marriage equality debate used the same Catholic argument to bolster their positions.

The Washington Post,  on January 24, 2012, in an article entitled “Catholic conference chides same-sex marriage supporters,” the following excerpt appeared:

“The Maryland Catholic Conference on Tuesday called a new same-sex marriage bill introduced by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) a distraction from more important issues and dismissed language in the legislation that seeks to clarify religious exemptions as “ambiguous.”

“ ‘At a time when Marylanders are struggling to find jobs, keep their homes and feed their families, our elected officials should focus their attention on the pressing needs of the state, not on dismantling Maryland’s long-standing law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,’ Mary Ellen Russell, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement.”

MinnPost.com (from Minneapolis), on January 27, 2012, in an article entitled “When inequality and injustice abound, why does Archbishop Nienstedt focus so much on the threat of gay marriage?”, we read:

“In the past two years, the Catholic Church has spent considerable resources opposing contraception and gay marriage, but has expended little to extend unemployment insurance or raise the minimum wage or stop foreclosures or raise the income tax on the wealthy or curb the excesses of Wall Street.

“At a time when the richest 400 American families have more wealth than 120 million Americans combined, when the average salary of a CEO of the nation’s largest companies is 343 times greater than that of the average worker in that corporation, when millions of Americans are losing their homes because of often fraudulent foreclosures, when domestic violence is soaring, does the Catholic Church really think Jesus would be spending his time trying to stop two people from making a lifelong commitment to each other?”

As a student of argument and rhetoric, I find this coincidence fascinating and very curious.  The fact that these arguments were made in separate states only makes it even more puzzling, as it is obvious that one didn’t simply copy the other one.

What does this coincidence mean?  I wish I could give a good answer, but I find it simply baffling.  What is clear is that both sides are trying to claim the moral high ground by being seen as defenders of the poor and casting their opponents as callous and obsessed.

When the same argument shows up in opposing camps, perhaps it means that both sides should put it to rest.  The repetition of the argument highlights how both are using the poor as a rhetorical strategy to further their ends.  Maybe the best that each can do is instead of using the poor as rhetorical fodder, they themselves should go out and work for the poor in earnest either by direct service or advocacy.

That’s one theory.  Does anyone have any others?  This coincidence is an intriguing mystery–one that I have never seen mentioned in any textbook or analysis of rhetoric and argument.  I’m sure there are many other lessons to be learned from it, and I’m eager to hear what readers think.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


A Priest of Integrity

January 19, 2012

Fr. Mike Tegeder

We already reported on the news that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, is requiring the archdiocesan priests not to speak out in support of marriage equality.   A news story in this past weekend’s Minneapolis Star Tribune uses Nienstedt’s directive as its lead, but it goes a little further than that by telling the story of one courageous priest who is speaking out, despite the archbishop’s gag order:

“One vocal critic of Nienstedt is the Rev. Mike Tegeder, who spoke against the amendment at a priests’ meeting with Nienstedt in October.

“In November, Tegeder received a letter stating that if he did not end his public opposition, Nienstedt would suspend his “faculties to exercise ministry” and remove him from his “ministerial assignments.”

“Marking the first clear standoff over the church’s role in the amendment, Tegeder is not backing down.

“He said he believes the church is being too political and contends that it’s inappropriate for its leaders to campaign in support of the amendment.

” ‘That’s not the way to support marriage,’ said Tegeder, pastor at both St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri churches in Minneapolis. ‘If we want to support marriage, there are wonderful things we can do as Catholic churches and ministers. We should not be focused on beating up a small number of people who have this desire to have committed relationships.’ “

You can read more about Fr. Tegeder in a National Catholic Reporter article from October 2010, when he first spoke out against the anti-marriage equality DVD campaign which Nienstedt led.

During a very critical time in the church in Minnesota, Fr. Tegeder exemplifies the best of prophetic witness.  He deserves our prayers and support.  I hope that his example will encourage other priests and church leaders to speak of their support for marriage equality.  Silencing has no place in a church whose founder and model is described as the Word of God.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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