Bishops on the Offensive in Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Minnesota

Fighting marriage equality has been on the agenda for several bishops across the U.S. this week.  Three different bishops had strong words against marriage equality, and a fourth launched a fund-raising campaign to broadcast advertisements designed to ban marriage equality in his state.


Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George used the occasion of a Mass celebrating the golden anniversaries of 400 married couples to issue a not-so-veiled statement against marriage equality. reports:

“Without mentioning gay marriage specifically, George also spoke briefly about the Catholic Church’s opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the institution of marriage is something that ‘comes to us from God,’ not from the church or from the government.”

Addressing the married couples whose anniversaries were being celebrated, George mad an even stronger condemnatory statement:

“There must surely be ways in our civil society, where we can honor friendships, where we can respect other people, without destroying the nature of marriage. It is very important, for your whole lives, give witness to what marriage truly means. And while civil laws might change – if they do – then society will be the worse for it.”

When he made a similar statement earlier this summer during the Chik-Fil-A controversy, Bondings 2.0 offered a long list of ways that Cardinal George could begin to honor LGBT people and their relationships.


Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco’s Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s Los Angeles Times interview went viral this week, particularly because of his comment that gay and lesbian people in relationships should not receive communion:

“During a July news conference, Cordileone was circumspect when discussing the ‘cultural challenges’ his new diocese would present — which he said revolved around ‘issues of family life and, essentially, come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love.’

“But in a recent interview at the headquarters of the Oakland diocese, where he has served as bishop for three years, Cordileone was more direct: Gays and lesbians who are in sexual relationships of any kind, he said, should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, the central ritual of Catholic life.

” ‘If we misuse the gift of sexuality, we’re going to suffer the consequences,’ he said, ‘and I firmly believe we are suffering the consequences.’ “


Archbishop John Myers

As if taking a cue from the same playbook as Cordileone, Newark’s Archbishop John Myers also used non-participation in communion as a way to promote his anti-marriage equality position.

This week, Myers issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to vote against marriage equality.  A article provides details of the letter, which included a directive not to receive communion addressed to any Catholic who does not support the hierarchy’s view on marriage.   You can read the full text of Myers’ letter here.  The relevant excerpt on communion:

“It is my duty as your Archbishop to remind you that Catholics who do not accept the teaching of the Church on marriage and family (especially those who teach or act in private or public life contrary to the Church’s received tradition on marriage and family) by their own choice seriously harm their communion with Christ and His Church. I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which ‘guide [us] to all truth’ (John 16:13). If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.”

In a separate article on reactions from Catholics to Myers’ statement, a number of Catholics disagreed with him, especially young people:

“. . .[T]he reactions on Tuesday of students at Seton Hall University, the state’s largest Catholic college, reflected a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that a majority of lay Catholics — 53 percent — support gay marriage and that the number rises to 72 percent among Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34.

“In an informal survey, 15 of 21 students said they are not opposed to gay marriage. Several said they go to church and would continue to accept Holy Communion despite their disagreement with the church hierarchy on the matter. ‘I think that’s outrageous,’ said Kristina Ripp, 18, a freshman from Wood-Ridge, when told about parts of the statement. ‘Our generation is more accepting. I think it’s going to make people quit the faith. They might not want to go back to church because they won’t feel accepted.’

“Ripp and more than a half-dozen other young Catholics said they would continue to go to church but questioned whether other young people might be alienated by the apparent gulf between young Catholics and church leaders.”


The bishops of Minnesota have involved themselves even further into the political debate about marriage equality in their state by initiating a fund-raising campaign for advertisements.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

“Minnesota Roman Catholics will receive a letter this week from the state’s bishops, urging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to say yes to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“For many of the more than 400,000 Catholic households expected to get the letter, it marks the first time they’ve been asked by church leadership to make a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage, the chief group campaigning for passage of the marriage amendment Nov. 6.”

A political scientist noted that such an effort by the bishops is extraordinary:

“In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is ‘unusual’ compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.

” ‘I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,’ Green said. ‘I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


8 thoughts on “Bishops on the Offensive in Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Minnesota

  1. Kay Miller September 27, 2012 / 11:47 am

    Once again, leaders of the church are trying to impose their beliefs on the entire state and/or country. It is dangerous for any church to impose rules on all people. There are many religions that do not share this intolerance; but I know that many do. That does not make it right. All churches need to stay out of politics. This is no different than Sharia law. Think!

  2. Will September 28, 2012 / 3:56 am

    There is more: Archbishop George Lucas in Omaha, Nebraska leading an attempt to repeal the City of Omaha’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination ordinance (unbelievable!); Springfield, Illinois Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki posting a video implying that voting Democrat will endanger your soul.

    As someone formed in the Catholic church (from an English recusant family, with martyrs in the family tree!) I was eventually squeezed out as a gay man by intolerance in the hierarchy, at the age of 35. Now 50 I have recently begun to feel a gentle tug back to the church, whether from the Holy Spirit of just mid-life nostalgia.

    This concerted effort fills me with anger and despair in equal measure. The disconnect between the hierarchy and the laity is thrown into great relief by this campaign and will eventually cause real damage to the Church as the people at the top are revealed as out of touch and mean spirited.

    I still feel a great fondness for the Faith but the likelihood of me stepping inside a Church in the near future, other than as an art scholar, is receding fast. These bishops are slamming the door in my face.

  3. Annette Magjuka March 28, 2014 / 7:29 am

    ” I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which ‘guide [us] to all truth’ (John 16:13). If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.”–Archbishop Myers

    How does a 58 year old lifelong Catholic, a straight woman, married to the same man for 36 years, with three children (none gay that I know of) come to the conclusion that our LGBT brothers and sisters must receive full rights and full inclusion in the church, including the sacraments (ie, marriage)? It is through the examined conscience in accordance with the Holy Spirit. Many are 100% sure that the Holy Spirit has spoken loud and clear on this matter. Our hearts know. We are certain. We must fight for the dignity, equality, and loving acceptance of our LGBT brothers and sisters. We are already equal God’s eyes. We are already equal in the Body of Christ. It is sad that some of the biggest obstacles to love are those in the hierarchy of the church. Jesus demonstrated time after time that we are to include, love, and share all we have with one another. Did he tell all gay people that they could not eat when he did the miracle of the loaves and the fishes? Of course not. Everyone eats. Everyone. Everyone is invited to the alter of the Lord. If an individual is struggling with his/her individual conscience, if someone feels in the state of mortal sin, the old Catechism required us to seek reonciliation before receiving communion. It is clear to me that even priests and archbishops must follow the Pope, “Who am I to judge?” The cases where priests and faith communities shunned one of their own, like divorced Catholics–this shunning seems a bigger sin than any other. The judgment, the lack of support and love–these seem to be the things that Jesus came to change. Jesus did repeat, “Go and sin no more,” and other similar phrases. But this was after immediately ministering to an individual, no questions asked. We all must engage in lifelong conscience formation. Most Catholics know with certainty, informed by the Holy Spirit, that our LGBT brothers and sisters must be treated with equality, love and respect. It is our obligation to speak out. That is what it means to be Catholic.

    • Barbara March 28, 2014 / 5:47 pm

      well said, Annette. thank you.

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