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