Two Stories Beg the Question: What Would Jesus Do?

Two stories out of Minnesota this week, where the struggle over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is in full heat,  beg the proverbial question:  What Would Jesus Do?

Archbishop John Nienstedt

In the first case, it was revealed this week that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul had earlier this year sent a letter to the mother of a gay son in which he stated his position that marriage be defined as only between a man and a woman.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the story as saying that Nienstedt’s warning was in response to the mother’s support of her gay son:

“To a mother who pleaded for acceptance for her gay child, he wrote: ‘I urge you to reconsider the position that you expressed. … Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation of heart on this topic.’ “

In all fairness, without a text of her original letter, it is difficult to say what it was Nienstedt was responding to.  Regardless of what she said, however, it makes one wonder if this is how Jesus would have responded to the woman.

Nienstedt makes it clear that he believes he is following Jesus’ example:

“Indeed some might find this a hard saying but many of Jesus’ teachings were likewise received as such.”

Fr. Michael Tegeder

The second story is about a St. Paul priest, Fr. Michael Tegeder, who has been an outspoken defender of marriage equality, even in the face of reprimands from Nienstedt.  In a Star Tribune column by Jon Tevlin, Tegeder described being ostracized at a seminar on marriage because of his known view on marriage equality:

“Like other priests, Tegeder had been invited to the [marriage seminar] event. Unlike other priests, he was given a warning: Sit where we tell you to. Don’t ask questions. Don’t disturb.

“The Catholic Conference ended the warning letter with the words ‘Best wishes,’ to which Tegeder responded: ‘You obviously do not mean to send me your best wishes. In fact, you want me to go quietly away with your demeaning E-mail.’

“Tegeder was not allowed to sit in the main part of the hall, but was relegated to a ‘detention pen’ where he could be seen but not heard.”

Tegeder describes how his experiences shaped his current position:

“Tegeder began to talk about how his views on homosexuality had evolved, but when he got to a story about seeing two ‘sweet, sweet’ men being taunted, and how he’d heard about ‘fag bashing’ when he was a teen, he began to cry.

“Then Tegeder’s voice sharpened. ‘If you can’t stand up for what you believe, you are not a minister, you are not a priest,’ he said. ‘I don’t do it in the pulpit, but I continue to speak out, continue to have a conscience.’ “

Reading both stories side-by-side, one can’t help but think “What Would Jesus Do?”   The Jesus that Nienstedt’s letter describes is a man of law and authority who is quick to pass judgement.  Tegeder’s example, however, reminds me more of the Jesus that I’ve heard of in the gospels: a man whose experiences have shaped his compassion, who stood up for his beliefs in spite of persecution, and who was marginalized because he was thought to radical by the religious institution.

Which Jesus do you believe in and follow?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






Marriage Equality Debate Heats Up with 45 Days until Elections

With under 50 days left in the 2012 election season, campaigns on both sides of the marriage equality debate are bolstering their media outreach in four states, and Catholic voters are taking center stage.

In Minnesota, marriage equality advocates made their case for voting no on the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman by releasing an advertisement earlier this week:

The spot features John and Kim Canny, a Minnesotan Catholic couple married for 13 years with three children and identified as Republican voters. The couple admits the issue of same-sex marriage did not arise for them until a lesbian couple and their son moved into the neighborhood. The ad, the work of Minnesotans United for All Families, continues:

“‘They were the most wonderful neighbors,’ Kim says in the ad. ‘It taught all of us in our little suburban world.’
“‘We did have some good discussions,’ John says. ‘In our daughter’s world, her normal is so much different than ours. It didn’t faze her at all.’“Kim says, ‘It’s okay to take a second look,’ and John adds, ‘And when you do, vote no.’”

Minnesotans United for All Families bought ads on a number of local television stations for $255,000 to be aired leading up to the election.

Catholic voters exist on both sides of the marriage equality debate, as evidenced by the Twin Cities’ Archbishop John Nienstedt joined other religious leaders in a rally supporting the amendment. Nienstedt is an outspoken advocate for what he refers to as ‘traditional marriage’ and the Catholic Church in Minnesota has donated a half million dollars towards this effort.

Catholics who oppose the bishops’ position have been organizing around the state against the amendment. Minneapolis Catholic Ed Walsh told KARE 11 News:

“’I understand where the bishop is coming from but I just feel he’s making a mistake…Committed loving relationships are the life blood of our community.’”
Fr. Mike Tegeder

The laity are not alone, as several clergy have joined the campaign for equality. Rev. Mike Tegeder is vocal about his opposition to the amendment in Minnesota:

“’I support the catholic teaching of marriage, but we’re not talking about catholic teaching on marriage. We’re talking about civil marriage,’ he said.
“And he believes civil marriage should be a right for everyone. While many priests disagree with him, he claims others are on his side.
” ‘I know there are a lot of priests who feel it’s a difficult issue for them to speak out on,’ he said.”

A media campaigns in Washington State has been cranked up, as well.

Support for Referendum 74, which would legalizae marriage equality, tops 50% and leads the opposition by double digits in recent polling. Outfunded opposition groups will now be aided by ad buys from an out of state group that was involved in the successful victory to pass California’s Proposition 8 in 2008.

As the November 6 election date approaches, Bondings 2.0 will continue to update on marriage equality developments in each of the four states.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: January 20, 2011

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:


a) We posted earlier this week about Catholic University students protesting   a campus visit by Cardinal George., a Washington, DC, gay newspaper, has provided further detail about the action in a story entitled “Protesting Through Prayer:  Catholic University’s LGBT students, allies protest Cardinal George’s comments on homosexuality.”

b) Yesterday we posted about Fr. Mike Tegeder, “A Priest of Integrity,” who is speaking out for marriage equality in Minnesota, despite a gag order on priests from the archbishop.  Tom Roberts, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, supports Fr. Tegeder in his column, “Despite threat, pastor holds his ground over marriage amendment.”

2)  The website offers a column: “Most Catholics Support Same-Sex Marriage, While Church Stifles Dissent.”

3) As background for Maryland’s debate about marriage equality, The Washington Blade, D.C.’s gay newspaper,  interviews Delegate Peter Murphy, an openly gay man who identifies as Catholic:  “Md. gay delegate speaks out on marriage, family.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry