Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, announced that the diocese would not take an active political role in the campaign to defeat the marriage equality referendum that state voters will decide in November.
Instead, he said, the diocese planned to educate people on the meaning of marriage according to the magisterium of the church. He issued a pastoral letter about marriage in March, entitled “Marriage: Yesterday, Today, Always.”
With just about nine weeks to go before the election, the diocese has decided to set up a series of lectures to promote the pastoral letter–just when the state’s debate about marriage equality is heating up in anticiapation of the referendum.
“Suzanne Lafreniere, associate director of public policy for the diocese, said the speakers will ‘promote the principles of the faith’ in nine lectures that begin Saturday and are open to the public.
” ‘The big take-away is marriage is the union of man and woman and any children born of that union,’ she said. ‘This is part of our communications effort. We’ll be continuing our educational efforts after the election.’ . . . .
“Lafreniere said she has lined up theologians from around New England to speak at the events and that clergy will serve on the question-and-answer panel. Because the sessions are open to the public, they could draw same-sex marriage supporters, and she said they will be prepared for give and take ‘so long as people are respectful.’
” ‘Even Catholics don’t always agree with the church on it,’ she said.”
Some of those Catholics who don’t agree with the the church hierarchy on the issue are the members of Catholics for Marriage Equality, led by Anne Underwood and Charles Martel. A spokesperson for their organization commented on the diocese’s lecture series:
“Frank O’Hara, a former speechwriter for Democratic governors and spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality, said he’s glad the diocese has moved its message ‘out of the middle of the Mass,’ an approach that drew complaints in 2009. Still, O’Hara said, the forums won’t provide the kind of discussion necessary to address the issue.
” ‘It would be better if it was an invitation to Catholics to dialogue about marriage,’ he said. ‘All Catholics share the values of fidelity, love, faithfulness. These (forums) are designed to tell us what to believe and how to vote.’ “
The Portland Daily Sun reports that faith supporters of marriage equality are planning an weekend-long event to show how and why their religious beliefs lead them to this position:
“. . .[O]n Sept. 15-17, a ‘faith weekend’ is planned throughout the state to promote ‘Yes on 1,’ the initiative to legalize gay marriage. Mainers United for Marriage will conduct the “faith weekend” for those of the Protestant, Jewish and Catholic faiths to support ‘marriage equality,’ according to David Farmer, spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage. Fifty congregations around the state will hold services or activities supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, the coalition announced.”
Catholics for Marriage Equality recently participated in an event where they held banners proclaiming their support for the referendum on the bridge over the Damariscotta River between Newcastle and Damariscotta.
Back in June, the diocese declined to participate in an interfaith fundraising effort to defeat the marriage equality referendum organized the Christian Civic League of Maine, a political action committee in Maine.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry