Is it Possible for Bishops to Move Away from Marriage Equality Opposition?

June 26, 2014

Last week’s appearance of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) March in Washington, DC, inspired several journalists to look more closely at the relationship between the Catholic hierarchy and anti-marriage equality groups.

While we’ve noted before that there is a growing trend in the church of some church leaders speaking favorably of lesbian and gay couples, the road to full acceptance still is a long one.  Some of the new insights that these journalists have expressed show that a new relationship between Catholic leaders and the issue of marriage equality, while a challenge, is possible.

The challenge comes from some of the “strange bedfellows” that some bishops are connecting with, politically speaking.  Jeremy Hooper, at the Human Rights Campaign’s NOM Exposed blog, points out that in addition to Cordileone’s appearance at the rally, he also continues working behind the scenes with NOM leaders.   He was listed as a host of a recent strategy meeting in Princeton, New Jersey, with several of NOM’s top leaders and associates.

Will this continued association with NOM continue? The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters says that it shouldn’t.  In a recent column, he questioned Cordileone’s involvement at the rally because he sees NOM as  “dedicated to a strategy that is not only counter-productive, which is bad enough, but a strategy that is profoundly un-Christian.”

Winters offers evidence of NOM’s role in stirring up anti-gay legislation aborad as a major reason Cordileone should not have participated in the event:

“Their president, Brian Brown, spent time strategizing in Russia, encouraging that country’s parliament to enact harsh anti-gay laws that do not reflect the kind of love Archbishop Cordileone called for in his speech yesterday. The Uganda parliamentarian, David Bahati, who authored that country’s truly draconian anti-gay laws acknowledges the influence of U.S.-based groups in encouraging him and helping him, including the shadowy ‘Fellowship.’

“NOM’s stateside efforts are not much better. They are smart enough to know that promoting a law that would call for killing gays is a non-starter. But, they apparently are not smart enough to recognize that the great threats to marriage in our day have nothing to do with what gays do. Among the great threats to marriage is a hook-up culture that is to human love what laissez-faire economics is to the world of commerce and finance, a libertarianism in action which, like all that flows from that ‘poisoned spring,’ as Pope Pius XI termed it, devastates the Gospel.”

Winters concludes with a warning to bishops about how they need to shape their future rhetoric and action on the question of marriage:

“Finally, if the leaders of the Church are to become credible again on the issue of marriage, they cannot simultaneously insist that they are not motivated by anti-gay bigotry and then give speeches at rallies organized by bigots. This is not guilt by association. It is recognizing that such participation is a counter-witness to the Gospel. Archbishop Cordileone’s comments about loving those who do not share the Church’s teachings on marriage are, I am sure, sincere, but he betrays his own words when he demonstrates common cause with the architects of draconian laws that seek to deny the human dignity of gays and lesbians. This is obvious to the rest of us. One wonders why it was not obvious to +Cordileone.”

Pope Francis

The role that Pope Francis is playing in the bishops’ rhetoric on marriage equality and other issues is also an important factor that needs to be considered.  U.S. Catholic’s Scott Alessi notes the ambiguity and ambivalence that seems to characterize the U.S. bishops’ desire to follow Francis’ lead in taking a softer tone in regard to marriage equality and LGBT issues.  Noting that some headlines about the recent United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting proclaimed concord with Pope Francis, while others asserted a striking difference between the bishops and the pontiff,  Alessi writes:

“As is often the case with such things, the reality is somewhere in the middle. The bishops are a large and diverse group, and I don’t think anyone realistically could have anticipated a radical shift in the conference’s overall agenda. Some bishops have surely been taking the pope’s words to heart and thinking about how that impacts their work, while others are much less concerned with what’s being said in Rome than they are with what is happening in their own backyard.”

U.S. News and World Report published an insightful essay with a title that explains the confusion surrounding the “Francis factor”:  “When It Comes to Same-Sex Marriage, Both Sides Claim Pope Francis.”     On the pro-marraige equality side, the article quotes Michael Sherrad, executive director of Faithful America:

“Pope Francis has powerfully inspired countless Catholics and other Christians to a new vision for how the church can be compassionate. Unfortunately too many – not all, but too many – of the bishops in the United States and their conservative activist allies have really flouted what Pope Francis has had to say about gay and lesbian people.”

On the anti-marriage equality side, the writer quotes Chris Plant,  regional director of NOM:

“[Plant says that] Pope Francis’s tone is in line with the approach he sees his organization taking on the issue. ‘He is focusing on the fact that our dialogue ought to be civil,’ Plant says. ‘We absolutely ask for it to be a civil.’ ”

The U.S. News and World Report article also quoted a seasoned Catholic Church observer, noting the pope’s influence on the debate:

“ ‘I think he wants to move a little bit beyond the culture wars, at least certainly key issues in the culture wars,’ says Rev. Thomas P. Rausch, a Jesuit priest and a professor of Catholic theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. ‘He can’t simply change the church’s teachings – the whole church has to be involved in that. But he can change the way that the church is perceived in terms of the range of issues it addresses. And I suspect that is what he wants to do.’ “

In a recent interview with Faith in Public Life’s John Gehring, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, former president of the USCCB and archbishop emeritus of Galveston-Houston, Texas, offered words of wisdom for how Pope Francis’ more compassionate approach can succeed:

“We have to take what he is saying seriously. We need bishops who reflect his style, and laypeople have to be involved so that this Francis era is not just a passing moment but salt and light for our church for many years to come.”

What I like about Fiorenza’s remarks is that he reminds us that if the more compassionate approach is to come about, it depends on lay people, as much as on bishops.  We need to remind ourselves of this reality when the going gets tough.  A new relationship between marriage equality and Catholic leadership is possible–but we’re the ones who have to help it along.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Religious and Political Leaders Ask Archbishop to Stay Away from NOM

June 15, 2014

Today, Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco will be visiting several parishes to ask them to sign a petition asking that city’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone not to speak at an anti-marriage equality rally in Washington, DC, later this month.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The petition (organized by Faithful America) is a part of a campaign to ask Cordileone to stay away from the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) rally on Thursday, June 19th.  The event is being supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Cordileone is the chair of the conference’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  The rally is co-sponsored by the anti-gay Family Research Council.

A separate part of the campaign was a letter sent to the Cordileone signed by over 80 California politicians and national religious and community leaders, asking him to refrain from participating in the event.  The Los Angeles Times reported on some of the substance of the letter:

“If he attends as scheduled, they [the letter signers] noted, he will be ‘marching and sharing the podium’ with individuals who ‘have repeatedly denigrated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.’ . . .

“By standing alongside those participants and organizers, ‘you appear to be endorsing their troubling words and deeds, which directly contradict the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral teaching that “God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual. God’s love is always and everywhere offered to those who are open to receiving it,” ‘  they wrote.”

Among the Catholic signers of the letter are Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry; Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director, DignityUSA, Jim FitzGerald, executive director, Call To Action; Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry and coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns; Jody Huckaby, Executive Director, PFLAG National; Mary E. Hunt, Co-Founder/Director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).

The entire text of the letter can be read here.

At the USCCB’s national meeting this week, Cordileone re-affirmed his commitment to anti-marriage equality work and to participation in the conference.  According to The National Catholic Reporter:

“Pointing to the recent string of state same-sex marriage bans struck down by federal judges, Cordileone said the country was at a ‘critical point.’

” ‘An amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only remedy in law against judicial activism,’ he said.

“The San Francisco archbishop also announced he would be attend the second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., June 19. The march is organized by the National Organization for Marriage, a group advocating for legal recognition for marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

The letter to Cordileone also appeals to the example of Pope Francis:

“While not all of us agree with official Catholic teaching on marriage and family, we appreciate the many statements from Catholic leaders defending the human dignity of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially the recent words of Pope Francis: ‘If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’

“Pope Francis words echo the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that lesbian and gay people ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ “

If Archbishop Cordileone does decide to speak at this event, he would do well to distance himself from the negative rhetoric of NOM by speaking up for the Catholic principles of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for lesbian and gay people.  While it might be best if he avoided the event, if he speaks forthrightly for the human dignity and equality of lesbian and gay people, he can turn this potentially negative event into a positive one.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

LGBTQ Nation: “Calif. officials, community leaders urge Archbishop not to attend anti-gay rally.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter blog: “San Francisco archbishop under fire for plan to speak at March for Marriage”

Huffington Post: “San Francisco Archbishop Outrages Community With Plans To Join Anti-Gay Rally”

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: “Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone petitioned to not march with anti-gay hate groups”


New Jersey Initiates Marriage Equality, But Battle for Permanence Begins

October 7, 2013

New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage leaders at a press conference

Anti-marriage equality organizations have formed the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage as LGBT advocates seek to legalize equal marriage rights. Once again, Catholics are on center stage as the debate over marriage equality intensifies in that state from both judicial and legislative angles.

The Coalition includes a handful of conservative organizations, as well as the Knights of Columbus State Council, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, and the National Organization for Marriage which has close Catholic ties. On Top Magazine reports Coalition members are already unleashing anti-gay remarks, with a Knights leader comparing marriage equality to polygamy and incest, as others have done in the past. As for alternatives, the Coalition echoes Governor Chris Christie in calling for a state referendum on the issue.

The anti-marriage equality effort is in response to a  judge’s September 27th court order that New Jersey issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples beginning October 21. Judge Mary Jacobson claimed same-gender couples would be denied equal protection under the law if the state continued with merely civil unions, as they would be unable to receive federal benefits in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decisions in June.

Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, has appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court. With 2016 presidential aspirations, Christie has attempted to welcome LGBT rights in a broader sense and continue opposing marriage that would appeal to both moderates and Republicans respectively.

Judge Jacobson’s court order comes as the legislative side heats up as well. NJ.com reports on reactions from pro-equality leaders who continue working on passing a marriage law, even as legal battles remain:

“Advocacy groups and Democratic state officials reacted quickly, cheering Jacobson’s decision and urging Christie to let it stand unchallenged. And vowing to fight it if Christie did appeal…

“We have been saying it for months and it stands true today: through litigation or legislation, we will win the dignity of marriage this year,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality. “We just won the first round through litigation and we will continue to fight until we guarantee marriage for all New Jersey couples.”

“Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said a coalition of groups pushing for gay marriage would also keep pressing state lawmakers for an override of Christie’s gay-marriage veto last year. The Democratic-controlled Legislature is nearly a dozen votes shy of being able to overturn the veto.”

Nearly 40% of New Jersey’s population identifies as Catholic, meaning the voice of Catholics will matter in speaking out to legislators and voting in a referendum, if one emerges. New Jersey also offers a prime moment for the Catholic hierarchy, Knights of Columbus, and those anti-equality lay people to heed Pope Francis’ new words and stop obsessing over marriage when true injustices abound.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Update on Catholic Financing of Marriage Equality Opposition

November 19, 2012

Church financing to oppose marriage equality is in the news once again as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) updated its report on Catholic funding to reveal that Catholic institutions provided $2 million this year to try to forestall marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

An earlier version of this report was released before the election. The full, updated report is available on the HRC website.

In a statement announcing the report update, HRC noted:

“The historic results of last week’s elections only highlight the growing disconnect between the fair-minded Romany Catholic laity and the anti-LGBT Church hierarchy. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello, found that 83 percent of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.”

The report breaks down the funding by state.  It complements a report by Equally Blessed released before the election which details funding to oppose marriage equality by the Knights of Columbus.

Chad Griffin, HRC President commented on the report:

“The American people went to the polls and affirmed one of the core values of the Roman Catholic Church: the belief that all humans are worthy of dignity, respect, and love. The Church and NOM [National Organization for Marriage] can continue pouring money into discriminating against LGBT people, but the writing is on the wall for their anti-equality agenda. The Roman Catholic hierarchy should be focusing on taking actions that actually improve people’s lives, not spending precious resources on spreading malicious lies aimed at tearing down an entire community of people.”

(As an aside, in a HuffingtonPost blog entry, Griffin cited one of ten reasons that marriage equality was so successful this election cycle was because “Faith coalitions were on our side:”

“In 2008, our opponents talked like they had a monopoly on faith. This year, the prominent voices of pro-equality faith leaders like Reverend Delman Coates and organizations like Catholics for Marriage Equality made a huge difference.”)

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, where the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spent $650,000 in a campaign to support a state constitutional ban against marriage equality, a group of concerned Catholics is calling for greater transparency and accountability.

Minnesota Public Radio reported on a meeting of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, where one leader, Martha Turner, asked participants to share their concerns about archdiocesan spending so that the group can start a conversation with the archdiocese:

” ‘We would like to hear your stories,’ Turner said. ‘We want to hear from you, we want to hear your experiences and your concerns about how the money is used that you donate to your parishes and that some of which ends up in the archdiocese.’ “

As Catholics begin to ask for more transparency and accountability, church leaders are going to find that they will have to be honest or that Catholics will vote with their pocketbooks by refusing donations.  What would be interesting to know is how much Catholic money was raised FOR marriage equality efforts.  As the number of Catholics who support marriage equality continues to grow, the total of their individual donations to marriage equality campaigns will is sure to grow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Human Rights Campaign Report Details Catholic Funding to Oppose Marriage Equality

October 19, 2012

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBT equality political group, has released a report detailing the significant contributions that Catholics groups have been making to anti-marriage equality efforts in four states where marriage rights are on the ballot this fall:  Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

According to LBGTQNation.com,

“The HRC report finds that the Church has spent at least $1.1 million as part of its broader effort to deny gay and lesbian couples committed couples the right to marry.

“In addition, a close ally of the Church and past co-conspirator, the National Organization for Marriage, has spent nearly $1.4 million on the four ballot measures. In the aggregate, the Church and NOM are the single largest funders of discrimination, responsible for funding nearly 60 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington.”

According to the HuffingtonPost.com, the HRC’s leader identifies the Catholic Churchas the top donor opposing marriage equality among religious institutions:

“ ‘The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organization funding discrimination against LGBT people,’ said HRC President Chad Griffin, in a press release that highlighted recent polling from the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage.

“ ‘Perhaps most disturbing is the number of local parishes redirecting the hard-earned dollars of its members in the name of discrimination,’ Griffin said. ‘The Church hierarchy owes the laity an explanation as to why they are spending this much money on discrimination, and at what cost to other crucial Church programs.’ ”

The HRC report was released on the same day that another report detailing major contributions against marriage equality efforts from the Knights of Columbus.  This second report was commissioned by Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations which work for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a news article which focuses on the amounts spent in Minnesota where a proposed constitutional ban against marriage equality is on the ballot this fall:

“From the $3,000 sent by Catholics in Baton Rouge, La., to the $500 from the Diocese of Austin, Texas, more than two dozen dioceses and archdioceses have dug deep for the local effort. The largest contributions came from closer to home, with the dioceses of Crookston, St. Cloud and Winona putting up $50,000 apiece.

“The Knights of Columbus, the nation’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, has contributed more than $130,000 to Minnesota’s effort.

“The money is all flowing to the Minnesota Catholic Conference Marriage Defense Fund, a political organization that has contributed more than half of the $1.2 million raised by the pro-amendment Minnesota for Marriage. Reports filed recently with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board detail the contributions to Minnesota from across the country.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Knights of Columbus Donating $$$ and Time to Minnesota Marriage Ban

October 15, 2012

The Knights of Columbus have donated substantial amounts of money and volunteer time towards the passage of Minnesota’s constitutional ban against marriage equality, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

According to the news story by Baird Helgeson:

“The state branch of the Knights has spent months raising money, staffing phone banks and leading seminars urging people to vote for the measure. The Minnesota Knights of Columbus are following a battle-tested formula used in several other states that passed marriage amendments. The local chapters quietly provide fundraising and crucial organizational infrastructure while the national organization pumps millions of dollars into major groups masterminding the effort to block laws around the country allowing same-sex marriage. . . .

“In the last four years, the group has given at least $3.6 million to groups leading marriage fights across the country. Now the group is trying to make its mark in Minnesota, and has directly given more than $130,000 to the fight.

“The Minnesota chapters so far have given at least $31,000 to pro-amendment groups. The national headquarters has given another $100,000.”

The Minnesota State Catholic Conference says it is no secret that the Knights have long been part of their strategy to pass the marriage ban amendment:

” ‘They are part of the grass-roots team, there’s no doubt about that,’ said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which is working to pass the measure. ‘We are grateful for the support of the Knights of Columbus.’

“The Knights were involved in the Minnesota marriage issue long before Republicans in the Legislature succeeded in getting the measure on the ballot.

“In 2010, the group created DVDs that carried an anti-gay marriage message from the Twin Cities archdiocese to 400,000 Catholic households — a move that angered many Catholics more supportive of same-sex marriage.”

A number of Minnesota Catholics are upset with the Knights’ involvement in politics:

” ‘I don’t think it is at all clear to the congregations,’ said Greg Seivert, a lifelong Catholic from Mendota Heights. When he was growing up, Seivert said, the Knights ‘were a charitable group that did the work of charity and mercy. This strikes me as a very different role. I would be very leery of contributing in any sort of way with their involvement in this political brouhaha.’ “

Figures about the  donations that the Knights have made to various causes show that working against marriage equality is one of their priorities:

“[The Knights] spent $850,000 for wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs for survivors of the Haiti earthquake; it gave money for playgrounds in Europe and for programs that promote peace in the Middle East and Africa. In Stamford, Conn., the Knights bought more than 1,000 turkeys for people in need. In Washington, D.C., the group gave $100,000 to promote programs to better include disabled people in the Catholic Church’s ministry.

“That same year, the group gave at least $700,000 to marriage-related efforts.

“The year before, the Knights gave more than $1 million to the National Organization for Marriage, a driving force behind marriage-related measures across the country.

“In 2008, it gave more than $1.4 million to the group backing California’s Proposition 8, which successfully added a same-sex marriage ban to that state’s constitution.

” ‘They are definitely a force and have been very helpful,’ said Frank Schubert, who ran the Proposition 8 campaign and now is running Minnesota for Marriage, the lead group pushing the marriage amendment.”

The article also points out that national organizations which support marriage equality have also been keeping their eyes on the Knights’ involvement:

“Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s religious and faith program, said the group’s secrecy is most troubling. The myriad entities shuffling money around to marriage-related groups makes tracking the group’s contributions nearly impossible, she said.

” ‘The Knights are really an organization pulling the wool over the eyes of many Catholics,’ Groves said. ‘They do a lot of important work, but people are being sold a bill of goods, thinking that all this work is helping the needy when really it is going toward some pretty sinister stuff.’ “

Such revelations about the Knights’ involvement against marriage equality is not new, but what is new is how widespread and deep their involvement is.  Bondings 2.0 has carried previous stories about the Knights’ work.  They can be accessed by clicking on the titles below my signature.

The real question is how rank and file Knights will respond when they learn that the money they have been raising has been going to this type of work, and not to charitable organizations.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Posts

December 10, 2011: The Minnesota DVDs

February 6, 2012: Following the Knights of Columbus Money Trail

April 5, 2012: Just Say “No” to NOM

August 2, 2012: Knights’ Work Against Marriage Equality Tarnishes Their Catholic Tradition

 

 

 


Just Say “No” to NOM

April 5, 2012

Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic justice organizations, has called on the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, to publicly disassociate themselves and their organizations from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

The group wrote to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson after documents unsealed in a court case in Maine revealed that in opposing marriage equality NOM sought to “drive a wedge” between the black and LGBT communities and the Latino and LGBT communities.

“Fostering hostility and hatred is something that violates the very fundamentals of our faith,” the group wrote to Dolan. “Our Church stands for unity among all, regardless of race or ethnicity. We should be promoting understanding, love and the inherent dignity of all people.”

The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has worked closely with NOM in opposing marriage equality in a number of states, including the current campaign to reverse same-gender marriage legislation in the state of Washington. The Knights of Columbus donated more than $1.9 million to NOM between 2008 and 2009 alone, according to the group’s annual reports. You can read the entire text of the letter to Dolan here.

In their letter to Anderson, the group said: “We believe that if all of the faithful Knights around the country knew that their leaders have spent millions of dollars fighting marriage equality, rather than spending it on the social programs that the faithful Knights expect, they would be outraged.”  You can read the entire text of the letter to Anderson here.

The strategy memo was among a number of documents unsealed last week by a federal judge. It revealed that in addition to turning ethnic communities against he LGBT community, NOM also sought to find children willing to speak out against their LGBT parents.

Equally Blessed is also asking supporters to use the “CatholicNoToNOM” graphic (above) as their profile picture on Facebook pages and to use the “#CatholicNoToNOM” hashtag on Twitter.

“A strategy that deliberately tries to divide families is shameful,” said Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogués, president of Dignity USA. “Being a lesbian makes me no less Cuban that I was before I came out, no less Catholic, no less a part of my family. Latino families want what is best for each of their members and know that anything that oppresses one of us oppresses all of us.”

In addition to calling upon Dolan and Anderson to publicly disassociate themselves and their organizations from NOM, Equally Blessed is also launching a social media campaign: #CatholicNoToNOM to raise awareness of the NOM’s tactics.

“We hear frequently that marriage equality would be detrimental to the family,” said Casey Lopata, co-founder of Fortunate Families. “But it is the National Organization for Marriage that is seeking to tear families apart.”

Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spent a combined 115 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families: Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.


Trying to Repeal Marriage Equality Laws in Maryland and Washington State

April 2, 2012

Maryland and Washington State both recently legalized marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples. In both states, the laws were signed by governors who are Catholics. However, both states now are experiencing campaigns to repeal these two laws through voter referendums.  In both states, the Catholic hierarchy is heavily involved in collecting signatures to put the repeal of these laws on the ballot.

According to a local television station (WJLA) report in Maryland:

“The [Maryland]Catholic Conference and the Maryland Family Alliance are leading the effort to get the 56,000 signatures needed to take same sex marriage to a ballot referendum.”

What makes this news even more disturbing is that meetings to train people to lead the campaign were not open to the public:

“At a Hyattsville [Maryland] Catholic Church, the Maryland Family Alliance and Maryland Catholic Conference are hosting what will be one of at least 25 training sessions for volunteers—most of which will be done behind closed doors.”

Why the secrecy?  If the Maryland Catholic Conference believes that what it is doing is right, why aren’t they allowing the public to be part of the process?  Why aren’t they allowing the press to witness their deliberations?

In Washington State, bishops allowing parishes to collect signatures after Sunday Masse for that state’s anti-marriage equality referendum.  In a letter to Catholics, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle stated:

“Because we believe that this issue is critically important, we support Referendum 74 and have approved the gathering of signatures in our parishes over the next few months. Your pastors have received from us information regarding the signature drive, and we requested that they not collect signatures on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday. After Easter, signatures may be gathered on Referendum 74.”

If the archbishop believes that this signature-collecting effort is the right thing to do, then why not allow it to happen on Palm Sunday and Easter?  If the effort is a good one, it should be proper to do on any Sunday.

According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog post, Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, Washington, is also allowing signatures to be collected at parishes.  The blog post quotes a letter from the bishop on the diocesan website:

“We will . . . provide every opportunity for parishes throughout our state to participate in gathering signatures for Referendum 74 in order to place it before voters in November.

“Should the referendum qualify for the ballot, parishes also may support the referendum to overturn the law.”

The Washington State Catholic Conference has made petitions to repeal the law available on their website.  The petitions are produced by an organization named “Preserve Marriage Washington” which is identified on the Catholic Conference website as “an entity created by the National Organization for Marriage.”

Referendum campaigns are won or lost depending on which side is more capable of turning out the vote.  These incidents illustrate how the Catholic hierarchy has a strong advantage because of the huge communications infrastructure they have with parishes.   Marriage equality supporters will have to find creative ways of getting their message of equality and justice to what we know is the overwhelming majority of Catholics who want to protect marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equally Blessed to Bishops and K of C: Sever Ties With NOM

March 31, 2012

The news this week that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) had been intentionally trying to drive a political wedge between the LGBT and African-American communities has prompted a national Catholic coalition to call on the U.S. bishops and the Knights of Columbus to sever all ties with the anti-marriage equality organization.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic groups that work for justice and equality for LGBT people, has launched a social media campaign to alert people of the connections between these two powerful Catholic organizations and NOM, and to petition these groups to stop their alliance with NOM, including ending all financial support.

The Equally Blessed coalition (made up of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) has set up a Twitter hashtag for the campaign: #CatholicNoToNOM. ReligionDispatches.org has already begun reporting on the campaign.

For more on the NOM strategies that were revealed this week, HuffingtonPost.com has an analysis of the information.  You can also read the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) original revelation of the NOM documents here.

HRC’s “NOM Exposed” website has a page devoted to “Religious Ties,” in which Catholic support features prominently:

“NOM is comparatively unguarded about its ties to the Catholic Church, acknowledging that its early funds in California came from ‘well-off Catholic individuals,’ and NOM openly aligned with the Catholic Archdiocese in Maine. The largest known donation to NOM is $1.4 million from the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus in 2009; that comes on top of the Knights’ $500,000 donation in 2008.”

Bondings 2.0 will report more information on Equally Blessed’s campaign as it becomes available.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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