Faculty and Staff at Minnesota Catholic College Support Marriage Equality

The debate about Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment against marriage equality has erupted on the campus of a small Catholic college in the state.

At St. Scholastica College in Duluth, 192 faculty and staff signed their names to an ad in the student paper declaring that they were not in support of the constitutional amendment.    Though the school had originally decided to stay neutral in this debate, the faculty and staff were moved to place the advertisement because last week the Diocese of Duluth held an event on campus which promoted support for the amendment.

The Duluth News Tribune reports:

“Students at the Duluth school took exception to the event and considered it a breach of the college’s preference that no formal campus groups sponsor events on either side of the marriage amendment question — which is asking Minnesotans to define marriage in the constitution as a union of one man and one woman.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students were especially feeling marginalized after the diocese event, said Gary Boelhower, a professor of theology and religious studies at Scholastica. . . .

“ ‘We want those students to know they are supported,’ Boelhower said.

“ ‘We speak only for our own consciences and do not represent the college or any departments/units within the college,’ the letter read. ‘We recognize that the Catholic Church in Minnesota is taking a clear position in favor of the amendment, while the college itself remains neutral. As educators, we believe we have a responsibility to add our voices to a debate that is often misleading and based on fear.’ ”

“The letter ended with: ‘We are voting “no” to stand in solidarity with all our LGBT brothers and sisters whose fundamental freedoms are presently compromised in our state and country.’ ”

Similar letters were printed by faculty and staff in the student newspapers of two other Minnesota Catholic colleges:  St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.

Chris Dolan, a St. Scholastica alumnus commented about how the school supported him while he was a student there in the 1990s:

“The 2001 graduate is an attorney in Minneapolis who credits the culture at St. Scholastica for helping him in a struggle with his sexuality. He is gay and married his partner in Toronto. They have a 4-year-old child.

“ ‘The St. Scholastica experience was instrumental to me in coming out,’ he said. The sisters at the college helped him in coming to an understanding that ‘God made me who I am.’ ”

“Dolan is on the board of trustees at the college and said the efforts of the ‘Vote No’ campaign and especially the faculty letter ‘sends my family a powerful message.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Minnesota Priest Donates $1,000 to Support Marriage Equality

Yesterday, we reported on a priest in Connecticut who was reprimanded by his archbishop for assisting at his cousin’s same-gender marriage ceremony.

Rev. Peter Lambert

Today we have a story of a Minnesota priest’s action for marriage equality, which has created a bit of a stir in that state.  Rev. Peter Lambert, pastor of St. Louis parish, Floodwood (45 miles west of Duluth), recently made a $1,000 donation to the campaign to defeat Minnesota’s upcoming ballot initiative to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage.

According to the Duluth News Tribune:

“Minnesota’s Catholic dioceses have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the Marriage Amendment, which, if passed, would place a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Duluth Diocese alone has donated $50,000 to the cause. . . .

“The Minnesota Catholic Conference, which describes itself as ‘the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota’ has given $400,000 to Minnesota for Marriage, one of the primary groups that supports the Marriage Amendment. The Catholic Conference’s contribution appears to be the single largest of any group in the state.”

It appears that, unlike the Connecticut priest we reported about yesterday, Fr. Lambert has received no public reprimand for his action by the diocese.

“ ‘It was my understanding that Father Lambert wasn’t aware that the contribution would be made public, and it wasn’t intended to be a public statement,’ said Duluth Diocese spokesman Kyle Eller.

“Beyond that, the diocese declined comment on Lambert’s contribution.”

Like the Connecticut priest, his parishioners appear to support his action:

“Several of Lambert’s parishioners in the city of 528 people told the News Tribune they weren’t aware of the priest’s contribution. When told, they said they weren’t concerned about it.

“ ‘I support him doing whatever his conscience says,’ said Char Kerelko, who has been a member of the St. Louis Catholic Church for about 30 years. ‘He’s a priest, but he’s also a private citizen.’ ”

“Kerelko said she was also opposed to the amendment.

“ ‘I think we shouldn’t amend the state constitution,’ she said. ‘The whole idea is divisive and insulting to gay people, and it’s mean-spirited.’ ”

Last fall, Archbishop Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, Minnesota, warned his priests not to speak out in favor of marriage equality.  Yet, already, one priest in the Twin Cities has voiced his opposition.  Additionally, retired and resigned priests of his diocese  have done so, and a Benedictine priest at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, has urged Catholics to vote their consciences.

Clearly, Catholic priests and lay people are following their consciences on this public policy matter in Minnesota–further evidence of the already known fact that Catholics indeed support marriage equality.  As noted in the Duluth News Tribune article:

“Kate Brickman, the press secretary for Minnesotans United, said her group has worked quietly with about two dozen priests who oppose the marriage amendment.

“ ‘I think the other side tries to put out a narrative that all Catholics are voting yes, and we know that’s not true,’ Brickman said.”

Like the Connecticut priest reported on yesterday, I doubt that Rev. Lambert’s example is going to be an isolated incident, especially as more and more states work to pass marriage equality laws.  Despite the bishops’ attempts to squelch support,  Catholic lay people and priests are going to continue to express their passion for equality and justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry