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.”
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