Prejudice, Discrimination Are NOT Catholic Values

In November next year, voters in Minnesota will be asked to entrench the existing ban on same-sex marriage as a constitutional ban.  As in Maine’s ballot box struggle in 2009, and in California in 2008, it is likely that some powerful forces in the Catholic church will be pouring money into the fight against equality and inclusion, and abusing the power of their offices to do so.

The oligarchs however, are not the Catholic Church: the whole church includes all of us. Most Catholics recognize that respect for families and family values includes all families, not just those approved of by Vatican doctrine. The evidence from empirical research has shown repeatedly and conclusively that Catholics do not agree with the CDF that homoerotic relationships are sinful, or even have anything to do with morality. Across the US, they also support marriage equality, and consistently do so to a greater degree than the rest of the country.  In Maine and California, the losses a few years ago were narrow and deeply upsetting, but the mood has changed. There is an excellent chance that moves to overturn those bans will be reversed next November, but Minnesota will be a tougher challenge. This week, the noted numbercruncher Nate Silver updated his statistical model on hypothetical ballot approval for same-sex marriage bans, and for Minnesota it’s a tight call: on his “accelerated” model, which recognises that the change in support is getting more rapid, Minnesota is coloured light blue.  (The map also looks promising for the prospects of success in overturning marriage bans in Maine, Oregon, California – and even Colorado, where there could be a ballot attempt to provide for civil unions).

This looks better than it is: the detailed figures show that the ban should fail to cross the 50% threshold, but only just, at 49.3%. This is about as close as a close call can get. The battle will be intense, and the stakes high. NOM and the other forces ranged against marriage will be pouring money into the state, as they have done elsewhere, and much of that will be diverted from the institutional Catholic Church and its agencies. Archbishop Nienstedt and the Knights of Columbus have already played a major role getting this onto the ballot in the first place, and they will very likely ramp up their efforts. In response,  it is crucial that Catholics of Minnesota, and other people of faith, stand up against the oligarchs for equality and inclusion. “Catholics for Equality MN”, shown here with their stall at Minnesota’s Gay Pride Weekend, are leading the way.



The picture is taken from Michael Bayly’s Wild Reed, where his post A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride has many useful snippets and links. He quotes a gay state senator, Scott Dibble, as pointing out the possibility that Minnesota voters could earn the distinction of being the  first state to defeat a marriage amendment, and carries these links to Daniel Maguire‘s October 2010 Minneapolis talk, “Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage.”

I was particularly struck by a quotation he placed from this letter to a local paper, by an openly gay candidate for ordination in the ELCA, who married his husband, a United Church pastor. They were able to marry, in a chapel in the eyes of God, their family and friends – but not in the eyes of the state.

I am a gay man who grew up in Pine River. My husband Oby is a United Church of Christ pastor, and I am preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We met as students at Yale Divinity School in Connecticut and discovered we have much in common. Both of us grew up in rural Minnesota, attended church-affiliated colleges in our home state, and sensed a call to ministry.

On May 22, 2009, we were married in the Divinity School chapel. Surrounded by friends and family, in the presence of God, we made sacred vows to love and honor one another in sickness and in health, when times are good and when things get tough. We made a public promise of responsibility for each other and asked our loved ones to support us and hold us accountable.

Pine and Lakes Echo

The standard arguments against marriage equality claim to based on religious belief, but the religious view is divided. Secular law to restrict marriage is contravening the principle of religious freedom. In terms of ECLA regulations, the writer of the letter will be free to serve as an ordained pastor, even in a same-sex relationship, provided that this relationship is committed, faithful and publicly accountable, in the same way as marriage. What better way to make it comparable to marriage, than to call it marriage in state law?

In 2009, the Minnesota hosted the ELCA General Assembly that approved the resolution authorizing LGBT partnered clergy, and last year did the same for the Presbyterian Church’s comparable resolution. That resolution needed ratification by a majority of the regional presbyteries. The deciding vote came in –  Minneapolis St Paul.

In the Methodist Church, pressure is building for a change in the Book of Discipline to permit gay weddings and the blessing of same -sex unions. A declaration of intent and willingness to conduct such blessings or gay weddings has been signed by groups of Methodist clergy in New York, Illinois, New England – and Minnesota.

In New York, support by Catholics played an important role in their victory for marriage and family values. Earlier this year, Pope Benedict addressed a group of Italian mayors and regional governors, praising the value of family in strengthening society, and easing financial burdens on government. There is nothing in that address that does not apply equally to the value of queer families. Over many centuries, marriage has frequently been redefined, often by the Church, as it took over involvement in what had once been a purely secular arrangement to protect property and inheritance rights. In the long history of the church, major changes in church teaching have often been led from below, with the Vatican and the bishops following the leadership of ordinary Catholics living real lives.

We are at just such a point now. CDF thinking on sexual matters has been widely rejected by the church as a whole, including professional Catholic theologians. Respect for the value of family and family values are an important part of Catholic identity – but so is respect for the principles of equality, inclusion, and outreach to the marginalised and rejected in society.

Catholics in Minnesota have an opportunity to do more than participate in rejecting a discriminatory ballot proposal: they have the opportunity to stand up for real Catholic values, supporting all families and rejecting discrimination – against the misguided and discriminatory efforts of those who hold the power in the Church.


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