Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Priest outings, further reflections

I have received many comments regarding the article “Does the End Justify the Means?” which I posted on Tuesday 24 November 2009. Some people were grateful that I published this article and some people expressed mixed feelings and/or disapproval of what I wrote. The proposed outing of closeted gay priests raises serious questions both in terms of its efficacy as a strategy and of its ethics.

The questions of ethics aside, will the proposed strategy of outing gay priests be an effective means of forcing change and undermining the power of the hierarchy to attack LGBT people? Unless such outings were numerically significant enough to affect the Church on an operational level, no.

If every gay priest in the USA were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act this would create a crisis for the Catholic hierarchy. If every LGBT member of the US Armed Forces were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act, this would create a crisis for the Armed Forces. Is either of these scenarios probable, no.

What would be the probable effects of public outings of gay priests? In the short term, the hierarchy would most probably deploy permanent deacons to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services. There is already in place a ritual for “Eucharist in the absence of a priest.” In my diocese parishes were instructed to have lay people trained and prepared to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services if need demanded these. This in combination with the redistribution of clergy would insure continuing operation of all parish services.

In the long term, the hierarchy would probably step up the importation of priests from the Third World to fill the void left by ousted American priests. These imported priests tend to be theologically very conservative and would unquestioningly serve the interests of the hierarchy. They also come with an added bonus to the bishop, if he does not like them he can simply have their worker’s visa revoked. This would give the hierarchy even greater power to censor sermons and public comments made by priests.

Let us recall that the clergy pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church have left the hierarchy still firmly in control. You would have thought that such an inexcusable violation and sacrifice of innocent children by the hierarchy would have led to criminal prosecutions of bishops and strip the hierarchy of any moral authority. It did not. In comparison, a scandal revolving around gay priests who engage in adult consensual sexual affairs is a piece of cake.

The hierarchy could simply say, thank you very much for helping us to “clean house.” They would probably spin this, and they have already begun to do this, as an attempt by militant homosexuals to attack and undermine religious liberty. The hierarchy would spin this further to portray themselves as “martyrs” for speaking up for “morality.” They could accuse LGBT groups of resorting to extortion.

The fact that individuals would be forced into making public statements, against their will, in favor of marriage equality, would invalidate such statements both ethically and in the public’s perception. It could very quickly become a public relations nightmare for LGBT people and our struggle for marriage equality and other civil rights.

Do you recall the attempted extortion of David Letterman? Letterman reported the whole matter to the District Attorney’s Office and the extortionist in that case now faces criminal prosecution. Letterman’s ratings and popularity soared as a result of the attempted extortion, even though many of his sexual encounters involved subordinates at work and could be construed as unethical and possible incidents of sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the public reacted very strongly in his support and against the extortionist. No one likes to be blackmailed, period.

In my case, I freely made the decision to make a public statement against what was, and remains, an immoral abuse of power and a grotesque attack on a minority group by the hierarchy of the Church. If someone had attempted to blackmail me into making that statement, I would have done what David Letterman did. To make that statement under a cloud of extortion would invalidate the statement.

What then can be done to help effect real change on the part of the Catholic hierarchy?

1) Introduce and pass legislation that extends existing labor laws and employee protections to clergy. Catholic priests are currently considered “self-employed” this means they are not protected by labor laws and the bishop can terminate them at will. Granting clergy the right to appeal to the Labor Board will act as a curb on the unrestrained power of a bishop over his priests. This will put sympathetic priests in a much better position to be able to speak their consciences to their congregations.

2) Revoke tax exemption status to any religious organization that uses funds collected from its members to conduct political campaigns. This will force the hierarchy to think twice before they write large checks.

3) Expose members of the hierarchy, and signatories of the “Manhattan Declaration,” who do not live by the sexual standards that they are attempting to impose upon American Civil society. This is not extortion, since one is not issuing an ultimatum to these people but simply exposing their hypocrisy publicly. These are the people who are making executive level decisions that victimize the LGBT minority in our society.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Does the End justify the Means?

A website has been established called Church Outing. Their intention, along with their rationale for acquiring compromising information on Catholic priests is stated very clearly on the site’s web page, as follows:

“This site was created to provide you with the opportunity to save LGBT youth from the hypocrisy of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who are socially, romantically or sexually active gay men, yet stand silent while Archbishop Wuerl and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops increase their dogmatic war against gay families.  If you have information that a priest in the Archdiocese is gay (or having a heterosexual affair)  please share your story.”

I believe that there are issues which need to be carefully considered regarding this particular strategy. Church Outing states its goal as the following:

“We encourage every Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington DC, gay and straight, to stand up for what is right and to give your support for marriage equality in the District.  We ask you to stand with many other local leaders of faith who have already done so through the Clergy United for Marriage Equality pledge.

Read the Declaration
Sign the Declaration”

What would happen to any Catholic priest who signed a public declaration which is directly opposed to the teachings of the hierarchy of the Church? Once it came to the attention of his (Arch) bishop, the priest would be required to publicly retract his statement and publicly apologize for having made such a statement. If he failed to do so, he would be suspended as a priest and stripped of salary, heath care, housing, etc. In effect, he would be left destitute.

On the other hand if the priest complies with the demands of his (Arch) bishop, he then runs the risk of being publicly exposed. What this would mean in practical terms is that the priest would be removed from active ministry. He would most probably be sent to Saint Luke’s, an in-house psychological facility run by the Catholic Church for priests. There he would be treated for his “sexual addiction” and after a course of “treatment” be returned to active ministry as an assistant, under the watchful supervision of a superior. In effect, his career would be destroyed; however, he would still have a salary, housing, a car, health care, and retirement benefits.

When I made my public statement in opposition to Prop 8, I had many priests E-mail me and express both thanks and support. One of them said “I’d love to say what you said publicly, but I have a heart condition. If I made such a statement, I’d be on the street with no way to pay for my prescriptions or my doctors; I’d be dead in a year. Priests receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a four year Post Graduate degree in theology. Put that on a resume and apply for a job, especially in this economy.

Priest’s salaries and incomes are very carefully manipulated by the hierarchy to keep them in a state of indentured servitude. Retirement for priests is 75 years of age in my diocese. Priests are kept in a state of economic servitude by their bishops. You can begin to see why extremely few priests will make public statements of support for marriage equality. Gay priests fear that if they speak, they will find themselves abandoned by many of the people they serve and in some cases by their families.

The gay priests I have known, like many gay men, have only come to begin to accept their sexuality much later in life than their straight counterparts. In my experience most gay priests have been sensitive and supportive of their LGBT parishioners. Targeting priests who are struggling with their own sexuality will simply not work as a strategy. It will drive out of the active ministry many priests who are quietly working on behalf of LGBT people. It will drive many gay priests more deeply into the closet. It will drive some gay priests into greater self-loathing. It will strengthen the power of the hierarchy by providing them with “thought/conduct police” which will further intimidate priests. Finally, this strategy runs a serious risk of casting the LGBT movement as resorting to extortion. While it is understandable, that a society which grew up with Watergate may have grown cynical, we need to remember that the end does not justify the means. The means which we employ define who we become.

Deception, lies, promotion of myths, and encouragement of bigotry are all hallmarks of the California Yes on Prop 8 and Maine Yes on Question 1 campaigns. National Public Radio reports the FBI announced that hate crimes against LGBT people has increased by 10% in 2009 from 2008. I cannot sufficiently express my horror and revulsion that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is an accomplice to these despicable acts.

I fully empathize with the frustration and just anger of the people at Church Outing. However, if we permit ourselves to be seduced into following the morally corrupting and corrosive example of the Catholic hierarchy, to win at any cost, we may find that we become like them. Such a victory would be very hollow indeed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moral Authority?

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops meets this week in Baltimore, Maryland. Their number one priority is the creating and issuance of a “pastoral letter” to U.S. Catholics. The very tightly written pastoral lists four “dangers” to marriage, specifically: artificial birth control, cohabitation [outside of marriage], divorce and same sex marriage. The most amazing thing about this document is not its content, which is remarkable for various reasons, but rather, the fact that in substance the document was ready drafted before the bishops met and that they will dutifully sign off on that document.

The same group of men has been unable to agree upon the age for confirmation, not for months, not for years but for decades. Some bishops require confirmation of infants; some confirm grammar school children and some administer the sacrament of confirmation in late high school. They each have impassioned theological rationales for their divergent practices, but as a body, they have not been able to agree upon a common age for the administration of the sacrament nor, upon a common rationale/theology for administration of the sacrament at that particular age. Yet, on these four cardinal questions regarding marriage they are all of one mind and in only a matter of days. Amazing!

Canon Law, a code of thousands of specific laws that governs the life of the Church, mandates that in each (Arch) diocese the (Arch) bishop shall meet with his clergy once per year for convocation. Ostensibly, the purpose of these gatherings is for the bishop to dialogue with his pastors. They are to present the pastoral concerns of their individual parishes and together with the bishop, through prayer; discussion and reflection develop pastoral plans, procedures and thereby address the needs and concerns of the faithful. By logical extension, a meeting of the national conference of bishops is to act in a like manner.

Having attended twenty-three annual convocations in my own Diocese, under two different diocesan bishops, I can honestly say that the intent of convocation and its reality are two different things. What happens at real convocations is that the bishop sends out a schedule in which he pre-determines the subjects for discussion. Usually, there is a speaker, which the bishop has selected and approved, and the pastors/clergy are presented with a dog and pony show. Periodically, a “panacea d’ jour” which the bishop has selected and pre-approved is mandated for the entire diocese. Some of these have been “Renew” RCIA, a diocesan capital campaign to raise 27 million dollars (we raised 57 million in pledges) for four stated goals. The central goal was the construction of a youth center at the diocesan retreat house, which has yet to be built.

The point of all of this is that input into these pastoral decisions/theological questions is suppose to come from the faithful, through their pastors, to the bishop. The bishop and pastors/clergy are then to formulate a response and through servant leadership help to advance the spiritual growth and development of the diocese. One level up this is to happen at the regional level and then, on the national and international level. They say that it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks and apparently, this applies to the hierarchy of the church. Pope John XXIII tried; however, he was not yet even dead for one month when the bishops gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council moved, by acclamation, to declare him a Saint. The newly elected Pope Paul VI intervened, stopped the process and referred the question to the Roman Curia.

After the death of Pope Paul VI and the election of John Paul II and now, Benedict XVI Rome has been turning back the clock and imposing a monarchial form of church governance. A top down decision-making process in which the diocesan bishops are seen as little more than branch managers and enforcers of Rome‘s views. It is the current Pope and his Curia [Vatican bureaucracy] that dictate theologies and policies remotely. The laity are seen as mere subjects of the church. They are expected to conform their personal lives to the dictates of the current central administration. This is to be done without discussion or, question.

I feel sorry for the bishops who gathered this week to discuss the “pastoral” which they have been handed from on high. They will have more latitude in their selection of entrees at the catered meals than they did in the formulation and expression of the “pastoral” letter. If the demands of the “pastoral” were to have any credibility whatsoever, the question of the moral authority of the bishops has to be clarified. First, their own freedom in constructing the “pastoral” letter and secondly, their own moral competence on sexual ethics is called into question.

Before the bishops can make demands of Roman Catholic laity in the area of sexual ethics, they themselves have much work to do in this regard. The immediate resignation of any Archbishop, Bishop or Superior of a Religious Order who knowingly transferred pedophile priests from one assignment to another and thereby facilitated new incidences of pedophilia should be required. Beyond that first step, those bishops/superiors should be required to meet with victims/families and personally ask for forgiveness. It was the (Arch) bishop’s/Superior’s administrative decision that directly facilitated the victim to suffer. The bishops knew these priests were pedophiles. Justice demands that just compensation be made to those victims and their family members. A chain of accountability and clear procedures are required to prevent this sort of abuse in the future.

There remains the question of the knowledge and the complicity of the Vatican and the Pope himself in the sexual abuse scandal. At some point, this must be honestly addressed. Yes, the pedophile priests were the primary agents of abuse; however, their superiors became accomplices when they failed to use their authority to protect the children and their families. Arguably, this is the greater sin/crime since; they facilitated countless instances of pedophilia. Only when this is addressed, will the bishops and papacy begin to regain moral authority.

A troubling illustration of this monarchial form of moral ethics is to be found in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Wuerl has threatened to eliminate programs that help the homeless. He justifies his decision because, same sex couples are to be granted the right to civil marriage and their spouses would then receive spousal benefits. The Church would be legally required to pay benefits to spouses who are in marriages the Church considers illegitimate.

That churchmen who are commanded by Christ to serve the poor, hungry and needy would instead hold them hostage is a scandal. “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 44-45) Does Archbishop Wuerl refuse to hire remarried heterosexual divorcees, whom the Church considers to be living in adultery? Does he refuse to pay for spousal benefits in those cases? Would other Catholic (Arch) dioceses shut down charitable programs because, they cannot discriminate against employees who are divorced and remarried; and therefore considered adulterers by the Church? Why is this “mortal sin” acceptable to Archbishop Wuerl and the other not?

At this point, some will object that the Catholic Church is unable to stop divorcees from remarrying and thereby enter into adulterous relationships. They can however, use their influence and wealth to reverse laws that grant full marriage equality to same sex couples. This objection presumes that it is morally sound to do so. It presumes that the God commands them to do so. Here Bishop Geoffrey Robinson offers a radically different moral view, which is held by many theologians. He states on page 190 of his book “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church” the following:

“We have already seen that Paul and the other writers of the Second Testament outside the gospels failed to maintain the radicalism of Jesus on both purity laws and property laws. If their sayings on those subjects are not divinely inspired truth, we must have serious reservations as to whether their other sayings on sexual matters can be taken, in and of themselves alone, as final proofs, and hence whether assertions without convincing arguments are sufficient. Are we once again dealing with the story of a journey that ended only in the person of Jesus and not in anyone else who came before or after him? For example, did Paul share the almost universal opinion of his time that all people are in fact heterosexual, so to engage in homosexual relations is a free (and perverted) choice by a heterosexual person?”

John J. McNeill S.J. makes a similar point, in his book:
“The Church and the Homosexual,” he states: “The persons referred to in Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are psychologically inclined toward their own sex—since they are portrayed as ‘abandoning their natural customs.’ The Pauline epistles do not explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by two individuals with same sex orientation is not ‘abandoning their natural custom.”
This is exactly what the American Psychological Association proclaimed when it declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 and stated that it is rather, a person’s natural sexual orientation.

It seems that Benedict XVI and most of the hierarchy do not want to consider or address these theological or psychological insights. That would require them to speak prophetically in the third world. Most Catholics live in the Third World and a pope or bishop would risk a huge loss of market share if, he were to voice the insights of the aforementioned theologians and psychologists. Catholicism would also risk reversals in the Ecumenical outreach to the Orthodox Church [the second largest Christian Church] and to Islam [the world‘s largest monotheistic religion.]

One can hear an echo from Scripture in their justification of this injustice. “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (John 11: 49-50). Yes, same sex couples, like Jesus, can be dismissed along with the requirement of justice in their case. Like Caiaphas, Benedict XVI, Archbishop Wuerl and most of the hierarchy have concluded that it is expedient to sacrifice same sex couples for “the greater good.” Contrary evidence from theology and psychology is simply ignored.

Jesus spoke the truth and the apostles’ reaction is recorded in the Gospel “With that, all deserted him and fled” (Mark 14: 50). None of them was too eager to follow Jesus to Calvary. In this sad and narrow sense, Benedict XVI, Wuerl and most bishops are truly “successors to the Apostles."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spirituality and Marriage

There are 613 laws, which an observant Jewish person is expected to keep. In the rabbinical tradition, there was a discussion as to what was central and essential in all of these laws. What did God truly expect of a faithful person? Jesus is asked this question in Luke 10:27; Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31. He responded by citing two passages of scripture. Both are taken from Torah. The first is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This passage was committed to memory by pious Jewish people and prayed as the "Shema Israel" [Hear O‘Israel], as Christians have committed to memory the passage from Matthew as the “Our Father.”

"Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

The second passage is taken from the Book of Leviticus 19:18. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Most Christians think of this as teaching us to love God and neighbor; however, when read closely, these two passages direct us to love three: God, neighbor and self.

Unbelievably, the hardest of those three for most people to love is self. Christians think of such a concept as “indulgent” or “worldly.” Yet, Christ specifically commands us to love our neighbor as our self. If you do not love yourself, then you cannot love your neighbor and for that matter, you cannot love God. You have not learned to love, period.

Most people in our society have a negative self-image. If you think of yourself negatively and you treat your neighbor as yourself, you will probably think of your neighbor negatively. Phrases such as “People are no good” and “that’s human nature.” Creep into our vocabulary from our minds and hearts. These people are really saying: “I’m no good” and “others are like me.”

The Prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” and “before you were born, I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1: 5.) Do you believe that about yourself? Do you believe that you are not “an accident” that your life has value and purpose? You are unique, gifted with a combination of talents, intellect; life experiences and attributes which no one else on earth possesses.

The two commandments, which Jesus teaches his disciples, serve to integrate us. First with our self. First, we must appreciate that we are created by a God who is love, a God who does not make mistakes, and a God who does not make trash. You are not defective, you are not disordered, and you are not deformed. Your gender, your eye color, the pigmentation of your skin, your intellect, and your sexual orientation is all willed by the Creator. You are willed by the Creator and the fact that you live and draw breath at this very moment is willed by the Creator.

The Creator has also created each other person on this earth as well as all other creatures and the planet and cosmos which sustain life. We are part of a larger organic whole. To hurt another person, creature, the planet, etc; is in fact, to hurt you. The consequence of hurtful decisions and choices creates a ripple effect in other lives and in the whole of the created order.

Once we learn to love and accept our self, we begin to move to greater personal wholeness and integrity within our self. We begin to see and actualize our yet unrealized potential. We begin to learn from errors of judgment. We become more sensitive to the hurts we have caused others and learn to ask for forgiveness and to avoid hurting others in the future.

We learn to become a living reflection of the Creator who is love itself. Who has moved beyond self to create others and me. We begin to see all of the created order and being ordered towards love, towards reintegration, towards potentials, which can only be realized in and through the other.

Sex is designed by God to require us to move beyond the self. If you look at the physical act of sex, it teaches you something of what is suppose to happen between two people in an intimate encounter. You undress, for intimacy to occur between two people it requires you to undress. Not just physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You reveal yourself to the other. Your true self, with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Your hopes/dreams and your fears and what haunts you. You become vulnerable to the other in this moment and they to you and the wonderful occurs when the other accepts you “as is.”

In physical sex, you give yourself unreservedly to each other. True intimacy requires no less than this. It is a self-donation to someone else. It is the greatest gift you can give. This is the great difference between lust and love. In lust, the relation with the other person is a strip-mine operation; you are there to take what you want and then leave. In love, you are there because you appreciate the other and are there to give yourself unreservedly to the other. In marriage, two people stand before each other, others and God and promise that they will be there the one for the other, unconditionally. This is the beauty and strength of marriage. It doesn’t matter what the race, religion, or sexual orientation is of the two people who enter into marriage.

I have included this video clip from a psychologist Dr. James Walton speaking on the human dynamics in marriage. I hope that you find it helpful.

I plan on posting articles on "Spirituality and Divorce" and "Spirituality and being single" in the near future.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A response to a second E-mail from someone of the religious right,

Geoff - I am the original anonymous. I prefer to stay that way, if you don't mind.

If I had know you were going to post what I wrote, I would have taken greater care writing it!

I don't care if you identify as gay or straight. As long as you are celibate, what does it matter?

When you changed your primary identity from being a Catholic Priest to a gay activist, that was the point I was referring to as abandoning your vocation. You really can't be both, because there are two contradictory belief systems at work. I got the impression at the time that the gay part of you had won the internal struggle over the ordained part. I didn't understand that, and still don't, given the celibate nature of your vocation.

I'm sure I know a great many gay priests. I actually think it's a very honorable vocation for a gay man. But, when you feel the need to identify more strongly with that part instead of the Catholic, ordained part, that is where the conflict comes in.

St Damien was my favorite "holy person" growing up. I thought what he did with the lepers in Hawaii was totally selfless. Yes, he did rejoice when he became "one of them" and contracted leprosy. There's an analogous situation here somewhere. I'm not quite sure what it is, though. Perhaps you could get past the details (leprosy is not same sex attraction) and share some insight.

Dear Anonymous,

You speak of an “internal struggle” in my life. The truth of it is that struggle began for me, as it does for almost all LGBT persons, when I went through puberty and discovered that I was “different.” The 1999 Center for Disease Control study “Youth at Risk” found that 33% of gay adolescents attempt suicide. Such a startling figure shocks a person into asking, “Why?!?” The reason is that society has said that to be attracted to someone of the same sex is deviant, wrong, disordered and immoral. Where does society draw these conclusions? For centuries the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has condemned homosexuality as sinful and drove homosexuals to live silent and lonely lives. Many homosexual Catholics became priests and religious (monks, nuns, etc.) As you correctly point out “I know a great many gay priests.” It logically follows that there are then a great many gay bishops since; bishops are drawn from the ranks of priests.

On a human level this is totally understandable, because homosexuals are conditioned to deny their orientation in order to “pass” and survive in society. The personal cost of this denial of who you are is self-loathing and this is then projected out towards others who are gay. The most homophobic people are repressed closeted homosexuals. Note the radically different stance taken by Episcopalian bishops on this same question. Ironically, part of the reason that they are more empathetic to LGBT people is because most Episcopal bishops, unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts, are straight.

When you speak of the “gay part of you” and of the “ordained part [of you].” You yourself belie a disjointed psychological, emotional and spiritual mentality which is the product of such twisted self-loathing. The whole point of authentic spirituality is to become whole. Integrity. To learn to love God and your neighbor as yourself requires that you learn to love yourself as the Creator has made you and move towards unity within yourself, with others and with God. A theology which reduces sexuality to physical acts as being determinative of their morality ignores the intent of the moral agents and dehumanizes both sexuality and society. In the Catholic Church today, we have such a theology of sexuality. This theology does not serve people, but demands that people serve this theology.

With regards to homosexual people, consider frankly what it is that this theology demands of them in their personal lives. It means that an adolescent is required to never date, never fall in love; never marry someone to whom they are attracted. It means a life lived alone; a life lived in shame and fear. This same theology which reduces human sexual acts to only their physical component also afflicts heterosexual Catholics.

A brother priest related a story to me of a straight married couple in his parish. They were very traditional Catholics and attempting to follow the Church’s ban on artificial contraception. He told me of the woman in her early 30’s who would lock herself in her a bedroom with her eight children while her young husband stood outside of the locked door demanding that she come out. She wouldn’t until he would go off and pray away desire, or “take care of himself.” Her Sister-in-law found herself in an identical predicament and had so many births in such rapid succession that she required a hysterectomy, since her uterus had been so extensively damaged. Imagine the idea of marriage that those children locked in that bedroom with their frightened mother now have of marriage. Imagine how that young woman views herself, sexuality, her marriage and her husband as a direct result of this “theology” of sexuality which they are required to serve blindly.

Most Catholics in the USA, Canada and Europe simply ignore the prohibition against the use of artificial contraception. Most priests do not preach about the subject and in my twenty three years of active ministry, I have very, very rarely encountered a priest who insisted upon Humanae Vitae in the Confessional. I never once heard a Cardinal or a bishop deliver a sermon urging Catholics to follow Humanae Vitae. The content of the statement on Prop 8 that I delivered at the end of Mass on October 5th, 2008 is pretty much what most American priests would say to someone in the confessional, or in an office appointment. What was radical about the statement which I made that day was that I made it in a public forum and the institution cannot permit a public challenge to its authority. They can permit their “theology” to be ignored, but they can never admit that it is wrong. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson explains why in his book entitled “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church” [ISBN 978-0-8146-1865-3]on page 236 he states:

"Far too often the Catholic Church has believed that it had such a level of divine guidance that it did not need the right to be wrong. As a result, both theologically and psychologically it can be bound to decisions of the past. It can be unable to move forwards, even when clear evidence emerges that earlier decisions were conditioned by their own time and that the arguments for them are not as strong as they were once thought to be. It has not been able to face the idea that on important issues and for centuries of time it might have been wrong."

One need only to consider the apology which the late Pope John Paul II issued to the scientific community for the mistreatment of Galileo to begin to understand the truth of what Bishop Robinson is saying. One has to wonder if it will also take four centuries for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to apologize to heterosexual couples for Humanae Vitae and to homosexuals for the abuse they have suffered as a direct result of the hierarchy’s inability and unwillingness to simply admit that they have been wrong.

It was precisely because I am a priest that I was driven to speak out on behalf of the people whom I was called to serve. I said this in my original statement the full text may be found on this site, it is the very first post “How it all began.” For me to have done as my bishop asked and promote a “yes on Prop 8” position from the pulpit would have been for me to have become an accomplice to a moral evil which strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights, but of their human dignity as well. To speak out on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized is not to “abandon” your vocation; it is to live it out authentically.

You raise the issue of celibacy in your E-mail. On a personal level, I did come to a practical accommodation with celibacy as many priests, bishops, cardinals and popes have done. This was never the central issue for me personally. As far as celibacy as a general issue for the Catholic Church is concerned, this requires a long response and so, I will refer you to a book by Father Donald Cozzens, PhD.
He is a psychologist; the former President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland Ohio and currently teaches on the faculty of John Carroll University. His book “Freeing Celibacy” ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-3160-7 offers a very honest and through treatment of the subject of celibacy and the real difficulties it represents in the life of the Roman Catholic priesthood and Church.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

The following is a reprint of an article from LGBT Pov I rarely do this; however, I feel that this is an EXCELLENT article and I encourage you to read it.

‘Gay Marriage’ challenges Christianity’s credibility
Karen Ocamb Essays, Marriage Movement, Politics 2009-11-04 Print This Post Print This Post

TheCall Lou screamingThere’s an old saying:

“The Devil screams the loudest just before leaving the room.”

After last night’s devastating loss of marriage equality in Maine 52.84% – 47.16% – an almost exact mirror of the loss of constitutionally protected same sex marriage rights with Prop 8 in California – it’s time to call out the “Devil” cleverly disguised as the antigay forces of the Religious Right.

This loss isn’t just about politics – it’s about the very soul of the Christian religion. For who but the silver-tongued Devil could convince quietly religious people to believe in – and act on – lies and cheap-trick illusions that twist love into a political perversion?

And that’s what happened in Maine – just as it happened in California – where Religious Right professionals manipulated voters into taking away the secular civil rights of a group of people based on the fear of something that MIGHT happen – something made up, a lie based on bigotry and myth.

When did it become OK to lie, to pervert the truth to serve God? Surely, if there is a Devil, a Satan, he is chuckling to himself at this greatest handiwork – using political strategy to make hate a virtue and love something to be scorned and punished.

Indeed, the normalization of lying, political manipulation and antigay hatred is the latest blow to the legitimacy of religious institutions and Christianity itself.

How can one believe in religious truth-telling if antigay ministers are caught in sex scandals, or evangelical Christians like The Family protect their antigay politicians from scandals over adultery or the Catholic Church that famously covered up its own child sex abuse scandals – has the Portland Diocese choose to close its own local parishes while pouring thousands of dollars into the antigay marriage ballot initiative in Maine based on the lie that gay sex would be taught to school children?

That was theme pushed by antigay Marc Mutty, the antigay Stand for Marriage Maine executive chairman on loan from the Catholic diocese who was told National Public Radio Sept.3:

“It isn’t about anything other than the definition of marriage, what it’s going to mean to us and how it’s going to be defined in society….Many certainly feel uncomfortable about [the belief that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to a new curriculum in the schools] and about the fact that children as young as 7 or 8 years old are being taught about gay sex in some detail.”

But that was a lie.

I reported extensively on the Religious Right’s antigay crusade in “Swiftboating same sex marriage in Maine.” I noted that the antigay effort in Maine was being lead by the same political strategists who won Prop 8 in California and provided links to Yes on 8 political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint expressly saying that they would never win passage of Prop 8 by “affirming” traditional marriage. Instead they created out of their own political calculations the lie of the “consequences” of same sex marriage effecting young school children.

Here’s a segment of that report:

The Yes on 8 team flew the Wirthlins from Massachusetts to California for a bus tour of the state, positing them as “real people” who exemplified the “consequence” of same sex marriage being taught in schools. “We bet the farm on this argument over whether gay marriage would be taught in public schools,” Flint said.

But the reality of this “real” couple is that they, too, were Religious Right professionals. When The Bay Area Reporter picked up the story about the LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] internal memo from 1997, reporter Dan Aiello noted the role played in California’s antigay initiative Prop 22 by Mormon strategist and Republican pollster Richard “Dick” Wirthlin, a relative of the Massachusetts couple Joseph Robb and Robin Wirthlin used by Yes on 8. Schubert told BAR that it was “preposterous” to connect Dick Wirthlin to Yes on 8.

But BAR uncovered significant information indicating that the Wirthlins actively sought conflict with the school:

“Parents in the Lexington School District in Massachusetts disputed many of the Wirthlins claims to the B.A.R., pointing out that when the Wirthlins moved into the district they were already involved with two groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage. One of those groups, MassResistance, run by Brian Camenker, has been called an “anti-gay hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The Lexington parents told the B.A.R. that the couple moved into the district and enrolled their son into the school already aware of a complaint filed by David Parker against the school’s anti-bias curriculum. Additionally, Lexington School District superintendent Paul Ash told the B.A.R. that he made “several attempts to appease the Wirthlins and accommodate their religious convictions” but he concluded that the couple was intent on a public fight. Just weeks after they moved into the district, the Wirthlins joined Parker in filing a lawsuit.”

Schubert and Flynt Flint used professional religious zealots with an agenda to create conflict where none existed to push a lie they created for a political win. And since their lie was wrapped in religion, they duped unsuspecting voters who would never believe Christians would lie – because that would be the work of the Devil.

The antigay Religious Right professionals in Maine were constantly exposed for their lies and manipulative practices -including by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills who said the gay marriage law would have no effect on the curricula in the public schools.

The aforementioned Brian Camenker was given a post-Maine shout out by Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action. (Hat tip Pam’s House Blend). MassResistence is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2008 Hate list.

Barber wants to push beyond appeasers like Schubert and Flynt Flint:

“This isn’t about ‘marriage.’ It’s about hurting and broken people desperately seeking affirmation of an objectively deviant lifestyle. One that, even in their heart of hearts, they know to be a dead end.

As for the militant ‘No on 1′ homosexual activists? I’m reminded of spoiled children dressing up and playing house, refusing to come in when mom calls for dinner.

Here’s the bad news. The margin of victory could have been greater. Many behind the ‘Yes on 1′ campaign, rather than simply telling the truth, chose the Neville Chamberlain approach. They merely circled the wagons around the word ‘marriage,’ even suggesting that ‘domestic partnerships’ (’gay marriages’ by another name) are acceptable.

This makes no sense. If that’s a viable compromise, then why not simply allow ‘gay’ duos the word ‘marriage’? It’s an incongruity that demands an explanation. This is an historic battle for the minds and souls of our children – for our very culture. The mealy-mouthed approach must end.

This is not just about ‘marriage.’ It has everything to do with forced affirmation of homosexuality – under penalty of law.

Indeed everyone who fought hard to defend marriage in Maine is to be congratulated, but if it weren’t for a brave group of truth tellers – Paul Madore, Peter LaBarbera and Brian Camenker – who came to Maine in the final hour to hold a press conference and address the pink elephant in the room – homosexual deviancy and the radical ‘gay’ agenda – counterfeit marriage might have prevailed.”

Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend has reported extensively on Peter LaBarbera – who thinks nothing of twisting the death of a gay 26 year old to illustrate his perverted views.

Joe Sudbay of Americablog has Paul Madore of the Maine Grassroots Coalition saying “he’s working “in union” with Yes on 1 campaign and the Diocese and that the Diocese was aware of the news conference with LaBabera and Camenker.

The Yes on 1 vote targeted older, conservative religious voters who apparently shrugged at being courted by known bigots. Nate Silver – defending his polling that said No on 1 would win – suggests that this is the “Bradley Effect” at work. The “Bradley Effect” - is named after LA Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American who polls showed was ahead in his 1982 gubernatorial race – only to lose, many thought because of racial prejudice. If the Bradley Effect is indeed happening here, it would suggest that Maine voters were consciously aware that their vote against gays was based on prejudice. And since “bigotry is incompatitble with Maine values“ - the only way voters could live with their conscience is if their vote was a “moral choice” OKed by their religion.

One example to bolster that premise is that the “people’s vote” revoked a marriage equality law passed through the state Legislature (ostensibly the “people’s” representatives) and signed by the governor – that survived all attempts to stop it along the way. Additionally, those same voters passed a medical marijuana referendum by 58.60% to 41.40%. Somehow what was once considered the most evil of hippie indulgences was mainstreamed into a non-religious medical necessity for people with serious illnesses.

Think of this on-going political tirade by the Religious Right as a modern day Crusades – and advocates for gay and womans’ rights are the infidels.

Bruce Wilson at the website Talk to Action has been writing about this extensively and suggests there is even more conniving going on than we image. For instance, there’s a new “Rainbow” Right with the seduction of people of color into the ranks of the heretofore primarily white Southern conservative base of religious hate. This is the Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean/Mile McPhereson crowd, pushed by their political arm – the National Organization of Marriage.

Bruce told me:

“Along with Samuel Rodriguez, Miles McPherson is one of the rising stars of the new evangelicalism, 2.0 if you will, which wraps traditional conservative evangelical positions – including antiabortion and anti-gay politics – in a swaddling cloth of impressively well crafted PR. McPherson doesn’t seem to figure into the schematics that liberal journalists have constructed, mental maps of the religious right in which race baiting crowds to be found at “Tea Parties” are believed to be somehow representative of, or even supplanting, the Christian right. I very much doubt Miles McPherson or Sammy Rodriguez would be willing to get within a mile of a Tea Party event – for obvious and quite understandable reasons. The two evangelists represent constituencies that swung hard for Barack Obama in ‘08 but also, in California, helped vote in Proposition Eight.”

Bruce noted that McPherson played a key role in the manufacture of the Christian right’s new Anita Bryant, Carrie Prejean, who he’s described as an “Esther”. Watching McPherson conduct an interview with Prejean, he said:

“I foumd myself thinking that it was a spectacle to send old-guard white racists running for their nooses and shotguns – a black man anointing a white beauty queen. Imagine. Well, that’s the new Christian right, the Rainbow Right, that we’ve discussed – which claims to love gays while attacking the “gay lifestyle” via cooked statistics and suggests same sex attraction stems from demon possession – but which is racially and ethnically inclusive unless one happens to be Jewish. And, it’s a tendency that is also aggressively promoting female leaders such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Carrie Prejean – “Esthers” all.”

But Bruce notes, this is not a funny, quirky little Christian experience with a sexy new spokesperson, the new “Rainbow” Right is deadly serious. In another post he said:

General wisdom from the left now holds that the right will work to whip up populist discontent. But, neither Democratic Party nor progressive political activists on the left seem fully aware of the nature of an emerging threat, that Republicans will increasingly gain support among ethnic groups which have traditionally voted for the Democratic Party…..

[The media] missed the specific nature of the anti-gay marriage effort.

Signed onto The Call’s advisory board was much of the top leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation and Third Wave Christianity in America, as well as the top leadership of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference which claims to represent roughly ten million Hispanic American evangelicals and five million charismatic Catholics. Samuel Rodriguez has suggested that abortion will be, in future elections, a much more salient issue for his voting block.”

But, Wilson points out, there are cracks in the antigay coalition. He writes:

The New Apostolic Reformation leadership is virulently anti-Catholic to the point of claiming that a global demon spirit blocks Catholic prayers, it is structurally anti-Jewish and spreads anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and it considers the Mormon faith to be “cultic.”

The antigay marriage coalition which successfully helped to pass gay marriage bans in Florida, Arizona, and California was launched, in July 2008, during a several hour conference call in which organizers outlined a multilevel campaign that utilized existing church infrastructure, viral marketing, Internet marketing, New Apostolic prayer networks, traditional Christian conservative media, and a range of methods, and communications channels, both traditional and unorthodox.

The November 1st, 2008 anti-gay marriage Qualcomm Stadium rally in San Diego was the public capstone of the antigay effort in California for the national coalition pulled together by New Apostolic prophet Lou Engle, California charismatic Methodist pastor Jim Garlow and leaders of the currently obscure but enormous, global and rapidly growing New Apostolic Reformation movement which so far has almost completely escaped media scrutiny despite having fielded a vice presidential candidate reported to be in a prayer network under the religious authority of the man who in 2001 founded the NAR: C. Peter Wagner.

Towards the end of The Call’s stadium event, a speaker called for acts of Christian martyrdom to reverse what Engle, Garlow and other event speakers had depicted as an immanent moral apocalypse in America that would call down the wrath of God.

The effort in California represented the emerging face of a new type of fundamentalism in America that is multiethnic, multiracial and, because of that, can appear pseudo-progressive but which is in many ways farther right than traditional fundamentalism. The new axis of bigotry is no longer defined by racial and ethnic distinctions. It is religious supremacy.”

This, too, might be a head-scratcher if it wasn’t for the growing prominence of Sarah Palin, who Wilson has been following and providing research to such media outlets as the New York Times.

On Oct. 25, 2008, the New York Times published a story looking at then-Alaska Gov. Palin’s religious beliefs.

The Times noted the two YouTube videos showing Palin praying with Bishop Thomas Muthee from Kenya who prayed for God to favor her political campaign and protect her from “every form of witchcraft.” She is also shown nodding as her former Wasilla pastor from Wasilla declares that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days,” part of the “End Times” prophecy preaching.

The Times reports:

Ms. Palin declined an interview, and the McCain campaign did not respond to specific questions about her faith. Thus, it is difficult to say with certainty what she believes.

What is known, however, is that Ms. Palin has had long associations with religious leaders who practice a particularly assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare.”

Its adherents believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and individuals, and that “spiritual warriors” must “battle” them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism. The movement’s fixation on demons, its aggressiveness and its leaders’ claims to exalted spiritual authority have troubled even some Pentecostal Christians.”

Russell P. Spittler, provost emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and an eminent scholar of Pentecostalism, told The Times:

“Most Christians would accept the view that there are forces and powers in the world that oppose Christian virtues.” But, Mr. Spittler added, “Spiritual warfare makes a religion of identifying demons by names and ZIP codes.”

Bruce Wilson told The Times:

“One of the imperatives of the movement is to achieve worldly power, including political control. Then you can more effectively drive out the demons. The ultimate goal is to purify the earth.”

In a Sept. 5, 2009 post on the Daily Beast, entitled “Inside Sarah’s Church,” Max Blumenthal wrote, describing a conversation with “Rev. Howard Bess, a local Baptist pastor who had opened the doors of his church to openly gay Christians:”

“Sarah Palin is a true believer,” Bess told me over coffee at Vagabond Blues, a café 20 miles from Wasilla in the town of Palmer. “She has a dualistic worldview that divides the world into black and white. She sees it as her mission to destroy evil, whether it is gay people, a foreign government she perceives as an enemy, or a political opponent like Obama.”

So here we are – gay people as “evil.” And Sarah Palin on the march with her Tea Party followers – out to obliterate the separation of church and state.

I’m no religious scholar – but this sure sounds like the arrogant affectations of Old Testament wanna-be favorites of that awful God – the God of wrath and vengeance and hate.

And then there’s this from a Christian website:

Some “evangelical Christians” who are caught in scandals are unredeemed charlatans and false prophets. Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves … Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). False prophets pretend to be godly men and women and appear to be solid evangelical leaders. However, their “fruit” (scandals) eventually reveals them to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. In this, they follow the example of Satan, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

And what would the Jesus of the New Testament say to all this new religious culture of political arrogance and lies and hate – the very characteristics associated with evil after his crucifixion?

If Jesus stood for love – then the caretakers of his Christianity must also stand for love – the kind of love these battles for marriage equality are all about. Not just in their hearts and prayers but in the pulpits and on their feet in the street with us, protesting the stealing of their religion. This is their challenge – and this must become their mission. For if they participate in the conspiracy of silence – like many did as gay men laying dying of AIDS – if they ignore the love, the soul of their calling – they will lose their very meaning.

But maybe – just maybe – all this hoopla about Sarah Palin’s political power and all this bragging after the antigay wins in California and Maine – is the Devil screaming loudly, knowing that love will win in the end and usher him out the door

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A response to someone from the religious right

Anonymous said...
Geoff, get a grip. It's not marriage equality. It's marriage redefinition.

Marriage has never been available to all. You, yourself, before you abandoned your vocation, refused marriage to at least one couple, didn't you? So, this equality semantics is just a vain attempt to paint people with deviant sexual desires as victims of bigots.

No, when the people are asked, they always answer that marriage requires a slot a and a tab b to become one flesh.

November 4, 2009 5:15 AM

Dear Anonymous,

Your statement “Marriage has never been available to all” is technically accurate. When I was born, President Obama’s parents would have been denied a civil marriage license in seventeen states. Asian Americans were not permitted to marry Caucasians in the State of California in the first half of the twentieth century. Today, a prisoner has a right to civil marriage, even though most of his/her civil rights have been taken away for the commission of a crime. A same sex couple who have been together for twenty years and raised a family together is denied that same civil right due to the passage of Proposition 8.

“before you abandoned your vocation” My attorney has on file copies of correspondence with my bishop John Steinbock. My letters to him were sent via certified mail and the US Post Office states that these were delivered to him and receipt of the letters is recorded by the Postal Service. Those letters provide legal evidence that I did not “abandon” my assignment. I was removed as pastor of St. Paul at California State University Fresno by bishop Steinbock. I was also suspended by bishop Steinbock as a priest and I was stripped of salary and health care benefits, even thought canon law requires a bishop to provide support for his priests. When my canon lawyer invoked those canons, the bishop simply chose to ignore church law.

“You, yourself,… refused marriage to at least one couple, didn’t you?” Yes, I did. In accord with canon law of the Catholic Church, I denied sacramental marriage to couples who did not, or would not; meet the criteria set forth by the Catholic Church for sacramental marriage. However, those couples were free to enter into Civil Marriage by simply obtaining a Civil Marriage license from the County and most of them exercised their right to a Civil Marriage. The point here is clear, there exists a sharp distinction between a Civil marriage, to which all citizens have a legal right and a religious marriage, the right to the latter may be (and is) determined by the various religious organizations. No religion is required to marry anyone they chose not to marry.

Your first statement “It's not marriage equality. It's marriage redefinition” is in fact correct; however, it is you and the religious right who are attempting to redefine Civil marriage by layering onto it religious understandings. These religious understandings are limited to some religions and not embraced by all religions in our nation. The Episcopal Church, Reformed Judaism, Buddhists and many other denominations have in fact had their right to officiate at what they consider valid marriages infringed upon by laws such as Proposition 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine. It has been through an inappropriate attempt to dictate Civil Law by the Catholic hierarchy and the current leadership of the Mormon Church that Civil Marriage has been redefined. This redefinition of Civil Marriage by religious hierarchies constitutes an infringement on the religious liberties of those who do not subscribe to your very narrow theological understandings and views. They further compromise the Non-Establishment Clause of our Constitution, which makes possible a live and let live pluralistic society. By doing this, you undermine both religious freedom and religious tolerance in our society.

“So this equality semantics is just a vain attempt to paint people with a deviant sexual desire as victims of bigots.” This is the heart of the religious right’s position and it transcends the question of marriage. They fully understand the position that the California State Supreme Court took when it struck down the ban on same sex marriage. The California Supreme Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court’s opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the American Psychological Association’s (APA) brief in concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

The Court invoked the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution as its rationale for extending the right of Civil Marriage to Same Sex couples. They cited the American Psychological Association’s assertion that homosexuality is a sexual orientation. Your assertions that these are “people with deviant sexual desires” contradict the science of psychology. Your assertion that these same people are “victims of bigots” is accurate and in fact is a blunt rephrasing of the Court’s opinion in striking down the ban on Same Sex marriage in California.

You conclude your E-mail by stating, “No, when the people are asked, they always answer that marriage requires a slot a and a tab b to become one flesh.” When people were asked in 1933 Germany who they wanted to lead the country as Chancellor, they elected Adolph Hitler. When people were asked by Pontius Pilate who they wanted to free, they voted to free Barabbas. When he then asked them what he should do with Jesus, they voted “Crucify him.” The problem with an appeal to popular vote to determine what is ethically correct is that it requires an informed and selfless electorate.

In mid-nineteenth century America, it was a Proclaimation of Emmancipation issued by President Lincoln that freed the slaves. Had it been subjected to a popular vote, it probably would never have become law. It was an Executive Order by President Harry Truman which forced the racial integration of the US Civil Service and the US Armed Forces, had it been put to a popular vote at the time, it most assuredly would have failed. It was an Order by the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down “separate but equal,” if it, had been put to a popular vote it would have failed. It was back room arm twisting of US Senators by President Lyndon Johnson, that forced the passage of Civil Rights laws in the mid 1960’s. If those Senators had not been coerced by Johnson, who was the former Senate whip for the Democratic party, that legislation would probably never have passed. It certainly would never have been approved in a national referendum in 1965.

I do not know who you are “Anonymous,” but apparently, what I have written has struck a nerve with you. I encourage you to consider the possibility that perhaps, the American Psychological Association and various Supreme Court Justices are correct about both sexual orientation and civil law. That perhaps you and a narrow majority of the electorate are in error on these points. Consider further the human suffering, which your stance has and is causing countless innocent and law-abiding citizens in our country.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bishops redefine Church and State

The Rachel Maddow Interview

The foregoing interview of the Governor of Maine by Rachel Maddow is an excellent synopsis of the election tomorrow in Maine. In brief, a group has placed an initiative on Maine’s ballot for November 3 and organized/funded a political campaign to overturn the State Legislature passage of a law, which extends Civil Marriage rights to same sex couples.

As Paul Harvey used to say in his commentaries, page two the rest of the story. Here page two would be devoted to bishop Malone and the role of the Catholic hierarchy in manipulating both the election regarding Civil Marriage laws and the free and open discussion of this issue by Catholics. The National Catholic Reporter states the following:

However, Bishop Malone is a primary leader in a highly visible and vocal campaign to stop any reformulation of civil marriage to include of same-sex couples.

Besides spearheading a parish-based petition signature drive, assisted by local and national socially conservative groups, Malone also padded church bulletins with anti-gay marriage messages — on six consecutive Sundays. He required that pastors throughout the diocese preach on traditional marriage.

Bishop Richard J. Malone has produced a DVD, in which he stars, explaining why marriage matters, and directed that it be shown in all parishes. (See Marriage: What the church teaches.)
Last month, Malone called for a second collection to be taken up during Sunday Masses, with proceeds going to Stand for Marriage, the organization leading the repeal effort.
The second collection netted $86,000. In total, the Portland diocese has given $550,000 to the effort to repeal the same-sex marriage legislation. The Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, has given another $50,000 to the cause.

Please note, bishop Malone ordered a second collection to fund a political campaign in his State. He felt that the amount was insufficient and so he gave an additional $550,000.00 of Church funds to pay for the political campaign. This raises several issues. Is there a Diocesan Finance Committee? Did they approve this expenditure of over half a million dollars for a political campaign? Is it lawful for a tax exempt non-profit organization to spend funds collected for charitable purposes to fund a political campaign? Was the “intent of the donors” respected in the expenditure of these funds? Should the Federal government investigate such funding by non-profit organizations of political campaigns?

I have said this before and I will restate it once again, it is time for Catholics to withhold contributions when they believe that the local bishop is misspending funds. Many Catholics do strongly disagree with the bishops on marriage equality as is evidenced by the following article in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR). I encourage you to read the comments made by readers of this article in the NCR.

The scandal in that article is that a Catholic wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper. Because, her political opinion was contrary to that of her bishop she was summarily removed from parish assignments regardless of how you feel about the particular issue, consider the implications of this for Catholics. It means that the clergy will now monitor and become the final arbiters of political opinions of the faithful.

The late Pope John Paul II forbade clergy from holding public office. His rationale was that politics is the proper role of the laity. At this point, a vociferous objection will be raised by the bishops that they are merely teaching morality and principles. No, they are not. Teaching a principle or a moral position does not involve funding political campaigns. It may mean publishing articles, such as this one. It may mean preaching and teaching. It may include editorials, demonstrations, protests and marches, but it does not include taking funds donated for charitable purposes and expending them for political media campaigns and political consultant’s fees and salaries.

Bishop Malone and many other bishops have chosen to deal with the faithful as errant children and not as adults capable of independent thought and right judgment. The bishops have chosen to set aside reason and resorted to censorship, coercive use of power, intimidation and expenditure of charitable funds to finance a political agenda.

At the end of the day, the truth does not require a fortress to protect it. The truth is irrepressible and will manifest itself with time. The truth does not require an inquisition or censors, these are the enemies of the truth and its natural ally is liberty. This is true because in an honest and open discussion, reason and truth are served and ultimately prevail.