Two days ago, we praised the fact that Catholic parishes in Maine would NOT be participating in an effort among some of the state’s churches to raise funds to defeat marriage equality in an upcoming referendum.
Portland, Maine’s Press Herald newspaper carried an op-ed piece by David Flynn of Lyman, Maine, the Catholic father of a gay son, who also had praise for Catholic refusal to participate in this campaign. The essay is moving in the way that only a parent’s love can effect, and it was appropriate that it was printed on Father’s Day, the day that other churches began their fundraising effort. I suggest you read the entire essay to get the personal background of Flynn’s story. I found this excerpt to be most salient:
“On Father’s Day, many Maine churches will be participating in a special “second collection.” This second collection won’t be used to fund a mission trip to Africa or to help feed Portland’s homeless. Rather, these churches will use this money to fight civil same-sex marriage rights for my son.
“While this is an unfortunate, anti-family move on the part of certain religious denominations, I am proud to say Maine’s Catholic leadership has opted to avoid the divisiveness of this issue.
“The fact that these other churches would participate in such activity is disappointing. More than wanting my son to be able to marry the person he loves, I want my son, and every father’s son in Maine, to be proud of their faith traditions.
“My father raised me in the Catholic faith that taught lessons about justice and the common good. He taught me that as a Catholic, I can be part of a powerful, positive force in the world. He taught me that God’s greatest gift is love. And I passed these values on to my children.
“By avoiding the divisive politics of this election year, Maine’s Catholic Church has seemingly learned from past mistakes. In 2009, more than 140 churches across Maine took a second collection to oppose marriage equality for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“When this happened, many people stood up and walked out of church. Sadly, many have never come back. In fact, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, one in three Catholics born into the faith have stopped calling themselves Catholic.
“They leave because Catholics want their faith known for its ability to inspire a culture, not for the political activities of its leaders.
“I believe that engaging in the politics of fighting secular laws regarding civil same-sex marriage is wrong for any church. And a review of public opinion polls illustrates that the strong majority of Catholics agree with me.
“According to a public opinion survey conducted in March by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly 60 percent of adult American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. This is a higher rate of support than among the general public or members of other Christian denominations.
“It would seem the Catholic Church in Maine is listening to the voices of the faithful in choosing not to promote discrimination. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine has signaled that it will not actively campaign against this November’s ballot question allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples. The diocese’s decision to “take a pass” on the second collection is a good indication that it will keep that promise.
“Because Father’s Day is about love, respect and commitment, I’m one Maine father who’s proud of my son and my church.”
I can’t imagine anyone saying it better.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.