‘Marriage Equality is the Work of Satan,’ Says Minnesota Bishop

Archbishop John Neinstedt of St. Paul/Minneapolis

Referring to marriage equality as the work of Satan, Archbishop John Neinstedt’s latest diatribe against LGBT equality reveals an incomprehensible blindness to the shifting tone among Catholic leadership in light of Pope Francis’ more welcoming acts. Signs of hope are more abundant internationally with positive comments now emerging from Ireland’s leading prelate, and an archbishop in Poland.

In a lengthy article in Legatus Magazine, Archbishop Neinstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis explains his opposition to marriage equality in a flurry of tangential arguments. His view is one which Minnesota voters rejected last November; and the state’s legislature approved equal marriage rights this spring. Additionally, Nienstedt used the Church’s financial resources heavily in 2012 campaigning against marriage equality. The new legal reality of marriage equality has not stopped him from harsh rhetoric against LGBT equality, as he writes in the magazine:

“Today, many evil forces have set their sights on the dissolution of marriage and the debasing of family life. Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth are just some of the forces threatening the stability of our civilization.  The source of these machinations is none other than the Father of Lies.  Satan knows all too well the value that the family contributes to the fabric of a good solid society, as well as the future of God’s work on earth.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

A different sort of message on marriage equality came from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland.  In a refreshing change of tone, the Irish leader said that church leaders need to be more respectful when they present their opposition to marriage equality. The Irish Examiner quoted Martin:

“The church has taken a very strong line, and I don’t think people would expect the church to not to do that. “But it would be done – and this is important – the church has to learn how to fight its battles in a respectful and in a noble way.”

Perhaps no one more than the U.S. Catholic bishops, and Archbishop Neinstedt among them, need to learn that lesson. Their shrill rhetoric on marriage has not only been largely ineffective in preventing marriage equality laws, but it is also seen to be pastorally harmful.  What bishops don’t seem to realize is that many of their church members sincerely and conscientiously support marriage equality.  They also know, love, and respect gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships, so the bishops’ message of how marriage equality will ruin society rings hollow at best, and is heard as hateful at worst.

Earlier this week, we reported on the letter opposing marriage equality written by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, Hawaii, and how his comparisons of lesbian and gay committed relationships to polygamy  and incest were not only offensive, but illogical. Attributing marriage equality, and those who support it, to the work of Satan is equally illogical, disrespectful, and far from noble. It is far past time for America’s bishops to follow Pope Francis and other leaders internationally in adopting a more pastoral tone amid changing societies that expand the right to marry for every family.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Welcoming Wild Beasts and Angels As Part of Lent

Jesus in the Wilderness by Stanley Spencer

I usually get Lent wrong.  I usually think of it as a time when I’m supposed to be holier, when I’m supposed to fast, pray, give alms, do good–all as a way to prepare myself for the celebration of Easter.  All of that usually lasts for about a week or so, but that’s not the only way in which I get Lent wrong.

The reading from Mark’s gospel on the first Sunday of Lent tells how Jesus spent his own personal “Lenten” time.  Only four verses long (Mark 1:12-15), it’s probably one of the shortest gospel readings of the liturgical calendar.  The first two verses state:

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.”

Jesus’ forty days of preparation were filled with two things that I rarely allow into my observation of Lent: wild beasts and angels.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days and faced wild beasts.  When I observe Lent, I usually try to escape from the wild beasts of my life: the petty jealousies, the boastful pride, the unforgiving anger, and so much more. I try to pretend they are not there.  I try to eradicate them by ignoring them.  Jesus’ way was different: He faced up to them and He went among them.  Lent, He shows us, is not about working towards being a better person, but about facing the negative aspects of our lives, acknowledging their existence, and resisting the temptation to be ruled by them.

In facing temptations, Jesus didn’t earn their purification. Instead, he allowed angels to minister to Him.  In other words, what I do is not what is important in Lent.  What’s important is being open to allow God to enter my life.  It’s not about anything that I do, but about allowing God to do things in my life.  My American sense of independence and self-reliance rebels against that kind of thinking.  Shouldn’t I be doing something to work for salvation? Well, yes, but I think this gospel is reminding us that Jesus’ way was not the path of earning salvation, but of being open to God’s presence in the world.

The second half of the gospel reading shows us why Jesus spent 40 days in the desert with wild beasts and angels:

“After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

When he returns from the desert, Jesus goes about beginning his true ministry.  It’s a resurrection of sorts, in which His new life is characterized by His ability to see and know that God’s Reign is already active in the world. He has a new perception about ordinary life:  that it is already filled with God’s justice and love. The only thing left to do is to preach this news to others with the sure hope that they will turn their lives around and begin living the reality of God’s Reign on earth.

For those of who work for LGBT justice and equality in the church and society, this gospel reading has some very good news.  We have a tendency to spend a lot of time observing what is wrong and unjust in the world. In our desire for justice, it can seem like a lot is depending on what we do as individuals to help right those wrongs.  Lent can be a good time to refocus our attention inward on facing up to our own demons and beasts, as well as allowing our eyes to be open to angels and all the ways that God wants to work in our lives.

Moreover, Lent can be a time to prepare ourselves for a new life of seeing that God is already active in the world and that our role is not to create justice, but to witness and testify to God’s action for justice.  Our job is to refine our vision to be able to see God’s justice, to let others know it exists, and to invite them to see it, too.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry