On Father’s Day, June 17th, the Christian Civic League of Maine, a political action committee in Maine whose goal is to defeat marriage equality in that state’s upcoming referendum, will be collecting money in approximately 200 churches, according to a report from USNEWS.MSNBC.MSN.com. Notably and thankfully absent from the fundraising effort will be Catholic churches. The report states:
“The Catholic Church won’t be joining the alliance, but participants include Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Church of God, Wesleyan, Evangelical Free, Advent Christian and other denominations, the league stated.
“While churches and other nonprofits may not raise money for candidates to office, they may raise money for issues important to their members.
“Father’s Day, June 17, seemed appropriate for a special church collection because of the day’s focus on family, league Director Carroll Conley Jr told the AP. Additional collections are expected in the months ahead.”
Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Malone of the Catholic diocese of Portland, Maine (which includes the entire state), said that the diocese would not be taking an active part in the referendum campaign this year, as they had in 2009 when the issue was last on the ballot. By not participating in the fundraising effort, Bishop Malone is keeping true to his word.
The faith organizing to support marriage equality in Maine’s referendum is being led by the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination. Catholic involvement in the coalition is represented by Catholics for Marriage Equality, which is housed in Maine.
The Catholics for Marriage Equality website contains the text of a declaration for which they are collecting signatures. You can sign the declaration by clicking here. Since the declaration sums up Catholic pro-equality sentiments so well, it is reprinted in its entirety:
The Catholics for Marriage Equality Declaration
As faithful Roman Catholics we believe that the constitutional right to practice freedom of religion is based on respect for the dignity of each individual. We must guard against, not promote, the domination of one religious tradition over others in our civic life. Making respect for the dignity of all people not only an ideal but a living truth, we affirm civil marriage for same-sex couples throughout the United States. Our declaration of conscience is based on the following:
- The American principle of the separation of Church and State was enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that no particular religious perspective would be imposed on our pluralistic society.
- Catholic teaching on social justice has been central to the building of a just society, creating awareness of diversity in the human family, calling us to lives of respect, not simply tolerance, for one another.
- We remember that Roman Catholics were once denied civil rights, treated with suspicion, ridiculed because of our sacred rituals, and questioned as to our allegiance to “foreign authorities.” Memory challenges us to remain vigilant whenever bigotry and injustice enters into public discourse.
- Same-sex civil marriage does not in any way coerce any religious faith or tradition to change its beliefs or doctrine or alter its traditional marriage practices.
We know that God is a most gracious and wonderful Creator. Many of us have gay and lesbian relatives and friends. We value the love and commitment we witness in their relationships; their devotion to each other and their children. Civil marriage bestows the dignity and equality called for in our nation’s highest ideals, “the inherent natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage.Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church. While we respect the authority and integrity of the Church in matters of faith, our prayers and discernment have brought us to a new openness on this issue. We do not ask the Church to perform same-sex marriages. We do implore the Church to honor the States’ prerogative to authorize civil marriages for our gay and lesbian family and friends. Grateful for the gift of our faith and the ways that we have been nourished by faith throughout our lives, and also grateful for our citizenship in America and in our particular state, we sign this statement as Roman Catholic citizens of the United States of America.
—Catholics for Marriage Equality
For those interested in learning more about Catholic perspectives supportive of marriage equality, New Ways Ministry offers a short book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach. The book is available at no cost. It can be downloaded in PDF format from New Ways Ministry’s website. You can also order hard copies of the book on the website (no cost for the book; postage and handling fees apply).
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry