Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism

The recent anti-gay and anti-marriage equality activism of St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt (left) has generated much discussion. Following is a sampling of progressive perspectives on the Archbishop's directive to priests that they are to establish committees in their parishes to rally support for a constitutional amendment banning civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. (Thanks to my friend Rick for bringing many of these perspectives to my attention.)


It is somewhat unusual to see a bishop tell all of his pastors to start a specific parish-level ministry, no less one with a political agenda. But Nienstedt has made clear that for priests in his archdiocese, fighting to ensure that the state defines marriage in the same way as the church is today's top priority.

. . . I've seen "pro-marriage" rallies organized by Catholic parishes and dioceses draw small crowds who support the church's position on this issue. But if we were to poll average Catholics in the pews, how many would really consider a law that prevents same-sex marriage to be the most important issue in the church today? How many would even place it in the top 10?

. . . If an archbishop can call upon all his pastors to form grassroots committees, appoint parish leaders, and organize a large-scale effort, is this the issue on which to do it? What if every parish developed an unemployment committee dedicated to helping out of work people in the parish community find jobs? What if a bishop mandated that every parish have a committee to provide outreach to women in crisis pregnancies so they would be less likely to choose abortion? Or if every pastor was mandated to create a food pantry, or a soup kitchen?

Given the chance, Catholics could probably come up with a long list of initiatives that parishes could implement to address the growing number of problems in society today. It is doubtful, though, that preventing certain people from being able to get married would be at the top of everyone's lists.

– Scott Alessi
"Is Same-Sex Marriage Really Priority Number One?"
U.S. Catholic
October 18, 2011

What the Minnesota bishops are doing now is disturbing at many levels. In the first place, this overt politicization of Catholic parishes comes dangerously close to a breach of the line separating church and state, and may well raise questions about the tax-exempt status of churches. In the second place, the overt politicization of Catholic parishes utterly ignores the fact that a large proportion of Catholics in Minnesota do not agree with the bishops' moral and political position regarding marriage equality, and do not want to have their church identified with prejudice and discrimination.

In addition, many Catholics throughout the U.S. remain perplexed at – and seriously troubled by – the amount of economic and other resources the U.S. bishops continue to pour into their attack on the rights (and the humanity) of a stigmatized minority group, at a time in which the bishops are closing parishes and schools, and at a time in which there's serious economic need and even hunger in some communities in the U.S. On the face of it, the allocation of so many dollars towards hateful attacks on a minority group when people are in need seems downright sinful.

I am about as Catholic as a Catholic Christian can be. Certainly as Catholic as the bishops who have recently urged pastors of Catholic faith communities and their congregations to vote for an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

I believe I am one of many of the Catholic faithful who are deeply saddened – in fact, scandalized – by the position the bishops are taking on this issue.

I just want fellow Catholics and believers of all traditions and nonbelievers to know that, while I am speaking here for myself, there are many of us who see the bishops' position on this issue as at best wrongheaded and at worst, unbelievably pastorally and politically misguided.

– LaDonna Hoy
Letter to the Editor of the Star Tribune
October 18, 2011

The Catholic church does not own marriage. They have no right to keep marriage from others that aren’t Catholic. They also do not have the right to define what a family is. Families come in all shapes and sizes. There are millions of children being raised in single-parent households. Yet I don’t hear the Catholic church condemning those parents, or trying to remove those children and putting them in two-parent homes. I’d also like the archbishop to prove that every straight person would make a better parent than every gay person. This is simply wishful thinking on the archbishops part, and has no basis in reality.

If you allow gay couples to marry, that will create MORE long-term monogamous relationships which will obviously be a benefit to society, not a detriment. By the way, nothing is stopping straight couples from getting married and starting families, if gay couples can ALSO marry. One has nothing to do with the other. So this hyperbole about the “family being at stake” is nothing but hogwash.

– David in Houston
An online comment in response to
Andy Birkey's Minnesota Independent article,
"Archdiocese Plans Anti-Gay Marriage Committees
in Every Minnesota Catholic Church
October 17, 2011

Doing the math and understanding that there are over one million Catholics in Minnesota, this organized effort by the bishops could be a powerful jumpstart in the campaign against fairness and equality. Question is, how many of these Catholics still hold firm to the traditional teachings of the church and how many still believe in its antiquated doctrines?

Our guess . . . is that many Minnesota Catholics have gay family members and may resist this push by their parish priests, further alienating the parishioners from the church and the already waning power of [Roman] Catholicism in America.

As an active member of a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, I was both disheartened and disturbed by the front-page story regarding Archbishop John Nienstedt's 2012 election priority.

With growing and stressing issues related to job loss; income, pension and benefit insecurity; hunger and homelessness, especially for children, and other related issues, he has declared the proposed marriage amendment to be the priority of the archdiocese in the upcoming election.

The threat to my marriage was a work-related, lethal exposure to asbestos, not the love between two consenting adults. I pray that the leaders of the Catholic Church rethink and reprioritize their political agenda.

– Susan Vento
Letter to the Editor of the Star Tribune
October 18, 2011

I, for one, am grateful for Nienstedt's loud and clear message about the amendment, which would deny civil marriage rights to gay citizens living in Minnesota. His dictates are totally in opposition to the core teaching of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself."

If the people in the pews and our priests heed the clarion call of Jesus, they will resist the bullying tactics of this archbishop, and we will all work tirelessly to defeat this very unloving referendum.

Darlene White
Letter to the Editor of the Star Tribune
October 18, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
What is "Marriage Itself"? – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 30, 2011).
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim
Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"
A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"
Another Testimony of Courage and Grace: "In Finding Myself, I Found God and My Voice"

Image: Brian Peterson (Star Tribune).

1 comment:

Mareczku said...

Thanks for sharing all these great articles. I still find it hard to believe that Archbishop Nienstedt continues his vendetta against gay people. There is so much else good that the Church could do, so many are hurting. Why does the Archbishop want to hurt even more people? I think it is horrible that he is allowing his personal animosity towards gay people to influence his policies.