Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Scandalous News from Maine

I can’t tell you how disappointing and, well, scandalous, I find the following news:

Bishop Richard Malone of Portland – whose diocese covers the entire State of Maine – has asked all parishes to take up a second collection to support Stand for Marriage Maine. The organization is the principal force behind a November ballot initiative in which voters will decide whether to overturn the state’s new same-sex marriage law, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Catholic Governor John Baldacci in May.

For full story, click here.

This news isn’t just scandalous because of its clear demonstration of just how out-of-whack the priorities are of the Catholic hierarchs in Maine, but also because it highlights just how mean-spirited these same hierarchs are choosing to be when it comes to responding to same-gender couples willing (and actually able in Maine) to enter into civil marriage.

Honestly, if members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are that concerned about “marriage” being redefined, then why don’t they push for that word to be reserved for religious use, and support “civil unions” for both gay and straight people in the civil arena? For many, this would be a win/win situation. Gay folks get the same civil rights and responsibilities as their straight counterparts, and those Catholics and others concerned about the “sanctity” of marriage, i.e., “holy matrimony,” get to keep and use that word for their religious purposes. Problem solved.

Of course, we won’t see such resolution by the time of Bishop Malone’s “second collection” to fund the hierarchy’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage. Accordingly, I hope we see the good folks in the Roman Catholic pews throughout Maine use this “second collection” as an opportunity to convey both their displeasure and disagreement with Bishop Malone. For instance, I hope people vocally challenge the bishops and priests when they announce this collection during Mass. And I hope some refuse to pass on the collection plate. Another strategy that I hope is enacted: messages added to the first collection plate notifying Bishop Malone that money is being withheld from the diocese and given instead to LGBT-supportive organizations until the time that the hierarchy stops meddling in the civil arena with regard the issue of same-sex civil rights.

Anyway, as always, I appreciate Michael Hamer’s no-holds-barred appraisal of this (and other) “scandals” within Roman Catholicism. Writes Michael:

There are times I truly wonder what alternate universe was the place of origin for members of the Roman Catholic Church. For an institution plagued by a world wide sex abuse scandal, falling membership and revenues in areas of the developed world, and a increasingly elderly and doddering priesthood, one would think that the Church fathers would have better things to focus on rather than fighting in opposition to recognition of committed, monogamous same-sex unions. First, there is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who instead of focusing on the horrific abuses that occurred in Catholic children’s homes and other Church run institutions in Ireland as revealed in a government report earlier in the year, has his panties all in a wad over CIVIL law recognition of same-sex civil unions. . . . I can only surmise that the good cardinal is trying desperately to change the topic from that of the Church’s failures and guilt.

. . . The Church’s hypocrisy [is] not limited to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In Maine where Catholic parishes are being closed and consolidated due to declining membership and/or revenues, the bitter queens in the Church hierarchy are nonetheless contributing moneys to over turn same-sex marriage legislation passed earlier this year. . . . The main stock in trade of the [Roman] Catholic Church nowadays seems to be hypocrisy as opposed to preaching the Gospel of Christ.

To read Michael’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

I also appreciate the perspective of “Chance” from Scarborough, Maine, who in May of this year posted the following in response to this article on the Catholic News Agency website:

A notary/justice of the peace in Maine has the legal authority to marry people. Under the law, marriage requires 1) a paid marriage license from the town hall 2) two witnesses 3) signature of the notary. Under the law, marriage does NOT require: blessings from any church or religious entity or a covenant with God. If a notary were to use their legal authority to marry two atheists, so long as they had their marriage license, two witnesses, and notary signature, that completed marriage certificate becomes, under the law, a binding legal document. That document does not require that they bear children; it does not require that they be married in a church. Religion, pro-creation, and divine covenants have no place in the marriage discussion under civil law, none.

There is no need to attack or defend religion as it applies to this discussion. Simply put, religion is moot as it applies to marriage under the law.

The actual issue here is about equal rights, not religious views. Excluding a person from marriage, or a job, or a place to live, under the law, based on a demographic (race, age, sexual orientation) is discrimination. I am not capable, in my heart or my mind, of discrimination. I have nothing but love for you all. God bless the faithful! Peace, joy, and love to the non-believer. I ask that you take all people one at a time, and extend equal rights to all people under the law.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Bishop Orders Statewide Second Collection to Oppose Same-Sex Marriage - Catholic Culture (September 7, 2009).
Irish Cardinal Urges Opposition to Homosexual Civil Unions - Catholic News Agency (August 25, 2009).
In Maine, Catholics Won’t Name Source of $100,000 Contribution to Anti-gay Campaign. What Are They Trying to Hide? - Joe Sudbay (AmericaBlog.com, July 18, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Misplaced Priorities of the Catholic Church in Maine
The Pope’s “Scandalous” Stance on Homosexuality
Why the Bishop’s Are Being Ignored
Maine Becomes Sixth State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Love and Justice in the Heartland
The Same Premise
Same-Sex Marriage: Still Very Much on the Archbishop’s Mind
What Straights Can Learn from Gay Marriage
The Same People
Love is Love
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
The Real Gay Agenda


colkoch said...

untlTo be honest Michael I hope these bishops keep this up. It merely points to the loss of both common sense and common humanity in some of our bishops.

I came across an interesting statistic this morning. In the last year of Archbishop Dolan's reign in Milwaukee church attendance dropped by 26,000. This is over six times the number in a normal year. Apparently Benedict got Dolan out of Milwaukee while there was still a church to save.

Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and other states most likely will see similar exodus numbers as their bishops continue to close parishes and obstruct justice in the abuse crisis. Wasting money on their gay marriage crusade is no longer appreciated by the rank and file.

Mareczku said...

SIGH! This is so discouraging. The Catholic Church is Maine is actually taking up a collection to help the "gay bashers." I wonder what the gay priests in Maine think. This must surely be a bitter pill. I think Dignity needs to set up shop in Maine, if it isn't already there.

Mareczku said...

What did Archbishop Dolan do in Milwaukee that turned off so many people?

Mark Andrews said...

Michael, a separate thread on parish closings would be useful. Can parish closings be (for lack of a better word) "politicized?" I don't doubt it.

Is there a rational methodology for creating, sustaining and yes, sometimes, closing parishes? I'd like to think so, but where do find such a methodology at work? Need such a methodology be uniform nation-wide? I don't know. To use a "Federal" analogy, one of the benefits of state governments is that they can try different solutions to similar problems and see what works better.

I think there is real benefit to looking at how other forms of Christianity approach this problem. For example, the evangelical/non-denominational folks tend to rent space, like public school auditoriums, for worship. The community needs a place to "commune," but the emphasis is not so much on infrastructure and building a parish plant.

A final thought. In the diocese where I live, there are some rural parishes staffed by a full time priest where the average Sunday attendance is under 10 people. The nearest parish is in the next town, about 30 miles away. Should those parishes be merged? Probably, but does a merger devalue the attachment those folks have to their 100 year old parish? There are larger demographic forces at work, namely the continuing depopulation of rural America. What should our pastoral response to those folks be? A tough question.

Mareczku said...

That cartoon is really hard hitting. It sure says a lot.