Catholic Mom Takes on U.S. Bishops

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has launched an on-line advocacy campaign directed to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking church leaders to back away from their expensive campaign against marriage equality.

James Servino (center) poses with siblings and his mother, Barbara Servino (second from right).
James Servino (center) poses with siblings and his mother, Barbara Servino (second from right).

James Servino of HRC launched the campaign, which features a letter to Cardinal Dolan written by his mother, Barbara Servino.  He explains the campaign’s origin:

“My mother is amazing. She’s had my back from the second I came out to her – and long before that.

“When she heard that the leaders of our Roman Catholic Church had spent $2 million on anti-gay marriage ballot campaigns in this election, she wrote a letter to the top Catholic bishop in the U.S., sticking up for people like me. I think it’s a message he desperately needs to hear.”

You can join the campaign by adding your signature to Mrs. Servino’s letter, which reads:

To: His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York

Your Eminence,

I’ve been going to Catholic mass almost every week since I was a little girl. My aunts and uncles are nuns and priests. My husband was a member of the Knights of Columbus. We raised our kids in our parish community and sent them to Catholic schools. Catholicism is more than just a belief for me — it’s a deep seed of my identity.

And it has always taught me that God made us all, and loves us all the same. The same way I try to love all my kids. That’s why, when my incredible son told me he was gay, it didn’t change my love for him one bit.

He’s always my child.

That’s why I was outraged to learn that the leadership of our Church just spent $2 million on anti-gay marriage ballot campaigns. Think of all the positive things that $2 million could have accomplished. Think of the hungry fed, the sick comforted, the homeless sheltered. Instead you chose to use parishioners’ donations like mine to divide and discriminate.

Catholicism teaches us to love one another — not to attack our sons and daughters for simply wanting to make lifelong commitments and start families. You won’t have to ever marry a same-sex couple, but it makes no sense to deny them the right to be married under the law. And your parishioners aren’t going to stand for it much longer.

I think it’s time we all got on the right side of history. I hope you do, too.

Barbara Servino

The deadline for the letter is this week, so sign it soon!

Another recent HRC blog post, from Anne Underwood, founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality, makes the case for why Catholics are supporting this cause.  Entitled “Pro-Equality and Roman Catholic Is Not an Oxymoron,” the essay explains why marriage equality is a Catholic issue:

I am pro-equality because I am a Catholic committed to freedom and fairness for all God’s people. The majority of U.S. Catholics — anywhere from 53% – 73%, according to 2012 polls — are like me.

Most people recognize that marriage equality could not have prevailed in ME, MD, MN and WA this fall if a majority of Catholics hadn’t voted for justice over their hierarchy’s preference for dogma. Over $2 million for dogma notwithstanding, Catholic faithful were not persuaded that their consciences were “improperly formed.” . . .

Vatican II confirmed Jesus’ teaching — it is the people of God, not their rulers, who represent the Kindom of God. We Catholics in the pews, the voting booths, at our lesbian and gay family and friends’ weddings – we are the Church. We are speaking proudly and increasingly loudly as Church.”

Though we’ve had our recent four-state success, there are still many more states to go before equality is the law of the land, and Catholics will play a decisive role in many of those struggles.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry







Maine’s Former Governor Serves Up Spaghetti to Raise Awareness of Marriage Equality

Maine’s former Governor John Baldacci serves spaghetti at one of his famous fundraisers.

Maine’s former governor, John Baldacci, a Catholic, will be hosting  spaghetti dinners in Bangor  and Portland to raise awareness about marriage equality and to raise funds to help the homeless.   Maine is having a referendum on marriage equality on Election Day.

New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder, and Francis DeBernardo, executive director, will be featured guests at the Bangor event, on October 17th, co-sponsored by Catholics for Marriage Equality and the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination.

According to the Bangor Daily NewsBaldacci has been a firm supporter of marriage equality both in this campaign and in the previous referendum in 2009, when the proposal was defeated:

“ ‘I’m very committed to this issue because I believe in civil same-sex marriage,’ Baldacci said Monday in a telephone interview. ‘I know how important it is for Mainers to stand up against discrimination. My way to get involved was with these fundraisers. All I asked was that all the proceeds go to charity so that we put others before politics.’ “

Spaghetti suppers were a standard fund-raising event for Baldacci in all his political campaigns.  In the Bangor Daily News, he explains his support for marriage equality:

“Baldacci said Monday that his decision to sign the gay marriage bill into law was rooted in the Maine Constitution, not his Catholic upbringing.

“ ‘We grew up with President Kennedy running for office where he had to draw a very strict line between church and state,’ the former governor said. ‘[Protestant] ministers felt the pope would dictate policy. When I assumed office, I represented all people, regardless of their or my religious backgrounds.’

“In his weekly radio address that aired shortly after he signed the bill three years ago, Baldacci cited the Maine Constitution, which says that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person’s civil rights or be discriminated against.”

“The last spaghetti supper Baldacci hosted also was prompted by the battle over gay marriage in Maine. It drew more than 900 people. . . “

It’s no accident that the events are raising funds for the homeless.  The money raised will go to homeless shelters whose funds from the Catholic church were cut in 2009 because of their support for marriage equality.

Anne Underwood

Anne Underwood, the founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality, is one of the organizers of the event, and she explains her activism on the marriage issue as based on the social justice tradition of Catholicism:

“ ‘The liturgy forms for me a spiritual foundation to go forward with my social justice work,’ she said. ‘What I really loved when I converted was that, especially in the 1990s, the Catholic Church was such a wonderfully big tent. I could testify against [other Catholics] in Augusta on Wednesday and take communion with them on Sunday. We transcended all that political stuff.’ ”

“[Bishop] Malone’s activism in the 2009 campaign spurred her and other Catholics to action. She said Monday that her decision to go against the official teaching of the church was made after searching her conscience.

“ ‘The undergirding of Catholic intellectual history is the primacy of the conscience,’ she said. ‘There is an obligation on the part of Catholics to form one’s own conscience based on one’s own reading and one’s understanding of the Gospel and church teaching. If one’s conscience says I can’t do that, then one is obligated to follow one’s own conscience.

“ ‘How we live within the institution enriches us but also challenges us,’ Underwood continued. ‘If we go against the church, we must do so carefully, conscientiously and prayerfully. It is the duty of a Catholic to inform his or her conscience and follow it.’ ”

Both spaghetti suppers begin at 5 p.m.   The firs one is Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Bangor High School, 885 Broadway, Bangor.  The second one is Friday, Oct. 26, at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St. in Portland. Suggested donation is $5 person, but larger donations are accepted.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maine Catholics Line Up on Both Sides of Marriage Equality Debate


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.

The lecture series is described in a news article in the Kennebec Journal:

“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