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

Catholic John Doe Fears for His Church Job Because of Marriage Equality Contribution

The Minnesota Catholic hierarchy’s strong support of the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage has prompted the government’s campaign finance board to take an extraordinary measure to protect a Catholic contributor to the organization working for the amendment’s defeat.

 A blogger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

“A man, now known only as John Doe, told the Minnesota campaign finance board that he believes he would be fired from his Catholic employer if it became known that he gave money to the group opposing the marriage amendment.

“The campaign finance agency believed him and therefore, in an unusual move, granted him anonymity, despite his $600 contribution to Minnesota United for All Families.

“The agency’s decision exposes the strong feelings rampant about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and a rift about it even inside the Catholic Church.

“The Church has strongly supported the move to pass the amendment, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign backing it and told clergy not to dissent from its pro-amendment stance.”

The campaign finance agency used the case of Trish Cameron from earlier this summer to support its decision:

“In making its decision, release Friday, the state campaign finance agency examined the case of Trish Cameron, a former teacher at a Catholic School in Moorhead. Cameron told agency officials that she had revealed to her supervisors during a private annual self-evaluation that she personally objected to the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, although she would said she would not bring that belief into the classroom.

” ‘A week later,’ the campaign finance agency wrote, ‘Ms. Cameron was asked to resign.’

“Doe, the contributor to Minnesota United for All Families, had similar reasons to fear, he said.

” ‘Mr. Doe argues that because his job requires him to represent the Catholic organization’s positions to others from time to time, if his opposition to the marriage amendment was known, it would cause immense strain in his working relationships. Mr. Doe believes that this strain may be enough that his employment would be terminated,’ the agency wrote.

“Minnesota law allows exemptions from the requirement to disclose the names and employers of contributors if such disclosure would cause specific harm.”

The full text of the campaign finance board decision is available here.

While it is praiseworthy that the campaign finance board has taken this measure to protect this man’s employment, it is a sad commentary on the state of our church when a person is forced into anonymity to express a moral decision.  Only free and open discussion will allow church leaders to be able to discern the voice of the Spirit moving in the community.  The bishops should hold a moratorium on firing church employees who freely express their political decisions so that a true dialogue can happen in the church.

Trish Cameron’s comments about her own case are worth citing here.  The following is an excerpt from an interview with Minnesota Public Radio:

“Cameron believes she represents a segment of the Catholic Church no longer willing to simply accept what the church leaders say without discussion. Cameron said she has heard from many Catholics who tell her they are also struggling with the same-sex marriage issue.

” ‘We want to talk. This matters in our life. To some of us it’s extraordinarily painful. To some of us it’s really confusing,’ she said. ‘I have teenagers with close friends that are openly gay and those friends matter to them.’

“Cameron also said that she and other parents are afraid that the battle over same-sex marriage will alienate their children from the church.

” ‘After generations of being planted and rooted in the Catholic faith, we’re afraid we can’t hand this faith comfortably to them,’ she said.

“Cameron said she is not asking the church to sanctify same sex-marriage. But she does want church officials to talk about the issue. She worries they have slammed the door on dialogue.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry