Thursday, September 30, 2010

Out and About – September 2010

The summer dying . . .
September lives in flame.

"Flaming September"
Marianne Faithfull
(from the 1995 album A Secret Life)

Where did the summer go? Indeed, the whole year seems to be just speeding by. And now the radiant colors of autumn surround me – overhead and underfoot. It is definitely a beautiful time of year – especially in Minnesota. The colors this year seem particular brilliant – no doubt because of all the rainfall we received throughout the summer. Indeed, I didn't need to water my garden once! The hose never left the garage.

Of course, the down side to this was that I never really spent time in my garden this summer. I basically let it take care of itself. Not surprisingly, it felt like having stranger hanging around outside the house, a stranger with whom I had no real engagement. I kinda regret that now. But then it was a very busy summer for me, so maybe it was just as well that I didn't have to worry about the garden.

Above and right: The big event in September was the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Synod of the Baptized: "Claiming Our Place at the Table," which took place on Saturday, September 18, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis Hotel.

I had the honor of being one of the main organizers of this inspiring event – one that saw 500 Catholics gather in a spirit of hope and joy to discuss ideas and strategies for church reform.

My friend Paula Ruddy, another key organizer, has written a report on the synod for The Progressive Catholic Voice. It can be read here.

Above: Paul Lakeland, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, CT, and author of The Liberation of the Laity, Catholicism at the Crossroads, and Church: Living Communion delivered the synod's keynote address: “The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission.”

Following is a brief excerpt from Lakeland's insightful and inspiring keynote address:

If we pay close attention to our national or even our local Church, which is certainly where we can have the most impact, I think it is helpful for us to reflect on the not altogether alarming possibility that our Church has entered hospice care. This startling thought, with which I first became acquainted in an address that Fr. Bryan Massingale gave to the priests of the Milwaukee archdiocese, suggests that the structures of the Church as we have known it are dying. Like the loved one in hospice care, it is coming to the end of a long, fruitful and loving life spent in the service of God. Its accomplishments should be cherished and celebrated, in the knowledge that God is about to wonderfully change them into some new life. After death comes resurrection, in the Christian view of things. But as Christians we also know that it is God who brings the new life and that it will be wonderfully changed from the old life while being its culmination and fruition.

Whenever a loved one is dying, the temptations to denial and despair are always present, and this is no less true when the patient is the American Catholic Church as we have known it. In my view, this is what is going on in the conservative or traditional temperament, whether among the baptized in general or in the ranks of the hierarchy. They love the Church, just as more progressive Christians do. But they love it in denial of the life of the Spirit, which will persist beyond the death of the present form, so they cling to the details of the Church the way it has been. But be warned, the liberals have their own form of this problem. If traditionals are in denial, liberals can be tempted to despair. Like the traditionals, liberals too can fail to put enough trust in the Spirit, in this case in the power of the Spirit to overcome the entropy of traditionalism. For both groups, hope in the power of the Spirit to lead us into the future is sometimes lacking.

Looking to the future, on the other hand, is not a matter of waiting for the Spirit to act, but of acting prayerfully with trust in the guidance of the Spirit . . .

To read the full transcript of Lakeland's keynote address, click
here. For a printable PDF version, click here.

Right: Terence Dosh and David McCaffrey, recipients of CCCR's inaugural Adsum Award, presented at the Synod of the Baptized.

Adsum is a Latin word which means "I am present and listening." Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter's Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: adsumus – "we are present and listening." The Adsum Award recognizes those individuals who are known within the local church for having committed to being present and attentive to the Spirit. Accordingly, they have served as partners with the Spirit in re-creating the face of the church here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Left: Terry Dosh is presented with the Adsum Award by CCCR board members and synod organizers Brian Willette and Mary Beckfeld.

Terry is a married priest and church historian who for over 40 years has been a dedicated advocate for church reform. Inspired by the vision of church launched by Vatican II, Terry began research on mandatory celibacy in 1962. This led him to significant involvement over the next four decades with numerous church reform organizations, including
CORPUS, the International Federation of Married Priests, Call to Action Minnesota, and various other Catholic organizations for renewal. He also helped found the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) in 1980, serving on its board for 24 years. Since 1975, Terry has edited and published four church reform newsletters, the latest being Bread Rising. He has also taught church history, scripture, and justice and peace topics extensively in parishes and other forums within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Right: My friend David McCaffrey is one of six co-founders of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), an organization that has worked since 1980 within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis for the equality and dignity of LGBT individuals and their families. In the 1980's, David played a crucial role in CPCSM's groundbreaking Needs Assessment Survey of local LGBT Catholics. He was also the executive producer of CPCSM's 1988 video, Silent Journeys of Faith, and the editor of its companion guidebook. Both resources were major components in CPCSM's training workshops given to pastoral and social justice professionals of 25 parishes throughout the archdiocese. In the 1990's, David played a major role in the development and implementation of CPCSM's Safe Staff Training Project, which provided sensitivity training around LGBT issues to the educational leadership of the archdiocese and to administrators and faculties of eight of the high schools of the archdiocese.

For a detailed history of CPCSM's Safe Staff Training Project, one which culminated with the 2007 publication of the book, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, click here.

Also, for the installments to date in The Wild Reed series documenting CPCSM's relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, click here, here, and here.

Left: Bret Hesla (left) and my friend Kathleen Olsen (right) were just two of the numerous musicians and singers who shared their gifts at September 18's Synod of the Baptized. Liturgy, prayer and music played an important role throughout the day – contributing mightily to the spirit of joy and hope that infused proceedings.

Right: Pictured second from left with Paul Lakeland and friends Eileen and Bernie Rodel. Bernie serves as a co-chair of CCCR, along with Paula Ruddy and I.

Interestingly, a few days before the synod, it came to the our attention that some within the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis disagreed with that part of CCCR's synod media release that stated that CCCR "considers itself in union with Archbishop John Nienstedt and as working for church reform within the Catholic tradition."

When the media release was posted on The Wild Reed, archdiocesan spokesperson Dennis McGrath left a comment which, in part, said: "CCCR is not 'in union' with either the Archbishop nor the Archdiocese in any way, shape or form."

To read Paula Ruddy's thoughtful reflection on what it means for Catholics in a diocese to “be in union” with their bishop, and CCCR's official response to McGrath's statement, click here.

Above: Doug and Nikki: My beautiful man and his cute little dog!

Above and below: Electric violinist and Emmy-winning composer Mark Wood performing with young musicians from the Twin Cities - including my friend Joey on violin.

Wood, a respected music educator, had been invited to the Twin Cities by two public school music teachers. The young people invited to play with him learned their music in less than two weeks. The concert they performed took place on September 24 at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. It was a great – dare I say, electrifying – night of music!

Above: Standing third from left with other local faith leaders at a press conference in Coon Rapids, MN, that focused on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board's refusal to implement anti-bullying education programs aimed specifically at anti-gay bullying. There have been seven suicides in the past year by students who attended or were connected with Anoka-Hennepin schools. At least four of these young people had been harassed and bullied by their classmates for being gay or for being perceived as gay.

I plan on writing more about this tragic situation very soon. So stay tuned! In the mean time, check out the previous Wild Reed post, Dave Navarro to LGBT Youth: "We Need to Hear Your Voice", and the Star Tribune article, Schools Struggle with Gay Policies.

Above and below: Autumn colors along the Mississippi River – Thursday, September 30, 2010. "Flaming September," indeed!

Above: Young Cass, pausing in his gathering of herbs from his grandparents' garden in South Minneapolis – September 30, 2010.

Quote of the Day

While [Archbishop Nienstedt] does not explicitly call on Catholics to vote for Republican candidate Tom Emmer, he does not have to do so. Any Catholic Minnesotan who watches the archbishop's DVD and the candidate's television ad - both issued in the same week – receives a one-two punch and knows exactly who the archbishop is championing.

The archbishop may not have explicitly crossed over the IRS tax-exempt line, but – with NOM's help – he is walking the tightrope. By associating so closely with a political organization, he runs the risk of endangering the charitable status of the archdiocese and – with that – the hard-earned money with which the Catholic faithful of the diocese have entrusted him.

Similarly, Carl Anderson who leads the Knights of Columbus is risking something perhaps even more hallow: the legacy of the Knights of Columbus. Knights work year-round to raise money for the needy and promote service in the church. "Charity" is the first of their four core principles. I imagine the majority of Knights never imagined that their Supreme Knight would take the money meant for charity and contribute millions of dollars not to the poor, but to political battles [over same-sex marriage].

Pope John Paul II referred to the Knights of Columbus as "the strong right arm of the Catholic Church." I can only hope that the Knights do not let Carl Anderson change their mission from knights who serve the church to knights who serve the political right.

– Nicole Sotelo
"Knights, Minnesota Archbishop Endangering Church Neutrality"
National Catholic Reporter
September 30, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Where to Donate Your Unwanted Copy of the MN Bishops' Anti-Gay DVD
The Minnesota Bishops' Last Ditch Effort
It's a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Exposing NOM's "Shameful" Behavior in Minnesota
The Minnesota Bishops' Unholy War

Dave Navarro to LGBT Youth: "We Need Your Voice"

Alternative rock guitarist Dave Navarro has released a powerful open letter in which he addresses gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens. The letter was first published on and has since been reprinted on numerous websites, including

I'm sure Navarro chose to write and release this letter in response to the alarming number of suicides by teenagers who, because they identified as gay or were perceived to be gay, had been bullied relentlessly by their peers.

I first became aware of the high rate of suicide among gay teens when researching and writing Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective in the early-mid 2000s. The book was published in 2007, the first text of its kind to focus on the Catholic high school context. It was promptly denounced by the Vatican for "questioning church teaching" on homosexuality."

Here's an excerpt from that part of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective that examines "High-Risk Factors for LGBT Youth."

Writing for In These Times magazine in July 2001, Anthony Chase notes that "gay males account for more than half of male youth suicide," and identifies "a pivotal 1978 study by Alan P. Bell and Martin Weinberg of Indiana University [which] first indicated a suicide rate among homosexual males 14 times higher than that f their heterosexual peers." Study after study, notes Chase, "reconfirms this result."

The Seattle Schools' 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, for instance, aimed to examine the "homosexuality factor in the suicidality statistical results." Some of its findings included the following:

· Gay- or bisexual-identified adolescents and heterosexual-identified adolescents assumed or suspected of being homosexually oriented (and thus subjected to verbal abuse, with a likelihood of physical abuse) are at about equal risk to be suicidal attempters: 20.5 percent and 20.3 percent. Yet they are about four times more at risk for a suicide attempt than heterosexual-identified adolescents not targeted for such abuse.

· Adolescents targeted for anti-gay abuse accounted for 21.3 percent of suicide attempters, and 27.8 percent of suicide attempters who required/sought medical attention in association with their suicide attempt.

– Michael J. Bayly
Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students:
A Catholic Schools Perspective

Harrington Park Press, 2007
p. 69

The situation has not improved in the years since the above statistics were compiled. Indeed, in today's Star Tribune it's reported that "a new nationwide survey shows that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and staff face relatively high rates of harassment on college and university campuses. They were twice as likely to be targets of derogatory remarks than their straight counterparts, according to the 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People, released this month. About 13 percent of GLBT respondents said they feared for their physical safety."

This past Monday, I attended a press conference in Coon Rapids, MN, that focused on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board's refusal to implement anti-bullying education programs aimed specifically at anti-gay bullying. The school district has seen five teen suicides in the past year.

I intend writing more about the press conference I attended and the situation in Anoka County shortly. For now, I share Dave Navarro open letter to LGBT youth.


OK everybody, here is the deal. I cannot imagine what it’s like growing up in a close minded environment and being gay, bi or transgender. I don’t think any of us who aren’t can possibly imagine. The strength and character it must take to stay true to yourself in such an unforgiving microcosm are qualities that a major portion of the world lacks. Sad, but true. It’s just how it is at the moment.

However, it’s that very strength and character that gives the world hope for a new way of thinking and acceptance in the future and when one of our children gives in and gives up, it is not only a tragedy but a victory for those who fear diversity. DO NOT LET THEM WIN! I know how overwhelming the feelings can get and how small the reality can feel, but the bottom line is that this is but a drop in the bucket in terms of the magnitude of life. You can get through this. High school is full of plenty of bullies and fear based hate, as is the world. With any group of people comes a percentage of people who just don’t get it and probably will never get it. That’s OK. We all deal with this to an extent. The truth is that in high school, you are kind of stuck in the group you are a part of until graduation, but trust me . . . You can pick and choose who you associate with and there are plenty of like-minded people in the world that are understanding, accepting and loving. Sometimes, we just have to stick it out to meet them.

The hard cold reality is that once you have chosen suicide, that’s it. No going back. Sure, there is a public outcry and MAYBE the bullies feel remorse for a while, but it all dies down, life goes on, the bullies let the memory fade and get on with their lives. They learn to laugh, love, reach their goals and in many cases go on to have a full and productive life. Who loses? You do! Your family! Your friends! Other teens who need support in this area! Oh yeah . . . We all Lose! Now the world has one less mind that is open and different and unique and sensitive. Instead, we inherit the bullies, the fear, the set back. Our world has one less soul to help it evolve with a new level of clarity.

Personally, I have seen a lot of darkness and tragedy that has felt insurmountable. The murder of my mother, my battle with drug addiction, the loss of friends and family. Utter depression and despair. Of course the thought of suicide has crossed my mind a time or two. Let me share this. THANK GOD I never took that action. The friends I have made, the experiences I have had, the laughter I have shared would have all been missed. In hindsight, some of my darkest moments now seem so small and insignificant that I am amazed I gave them so much power at the time. I am even able to laugh about it now. When I think back to the times I have considered ending it all I end up saying to myself, “What was I thinking?”

To those of you contemplating such a course, please do us a favor: Seek counseling first. Find a network of people who have gone through what you are going through. Help others in even more turmoil than you. I am certain that you can find peace. As you know, our society and political climate is SO divided right now. We need your voice. The world at large needs your sheer existence in order to come to terms with itself and where we are going as a planet and species.

– Dave Navarro

For reviews of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
"A Courageous Document"
"A Valiant Effort"
"A Useful and Comprehensive Manual"

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Confronting Classroom Homophobia
Homophobia? It's So Gay
A Girl Named Sara: A "Person of the Resurrection"
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection

Recommended Off-site Links:
Navy Rape Survivor's Message to Bullied Gay Kids – Kelvin Lynch (, October 1, 2010).
A Lack of Empathy Helps LGBT Suicide Thrive - Judy Shepard (, October 1, 2010).
Bullies Flourish with Christian Support – Candace Chellew-Hodge (Religion Dispatches, September 29, 2010).
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Michael

Today, September 29, is traditionally known in the Western Christian calendar (i.e. in Roman Catholicism, Old Catholicism and the Anglican and Episcopal traditions) as Michaelmas - the Feast of the Archangel Michael. In recent years the day has been designated to celebrate all four archangels – Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel .

I really can't top last year's post, St. Michael the Archangel: Perspectives and Portraits, and so encourage you today to either revisit this post or check it out for the first time.

In addition, you may also find of interest the following Wild Reed posts that also focus on St. Michael: Michaelmas and The Archangel Michael as Gay Icon.

Peace and Happy Michaelmas!

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where to Donate Your Unwanted Copy of the MN Bishops' Anti-Gay DVD

I received the following message from my friend Lucinda, who, as most readers would know, was recently "suspended" from her position as Artist-in-Residence at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis for going public with her DVD to ART project.

Lucinda initiated this project as a way of responding creatively to the Minnesota bishops' recently launched anti-gay marriage campaign - a campaign that involves the mailing of an "educational" DVD
to 400,000 Catholic households throughout the state. The DVD urges Catholics to support efforts to outlaw same-sex civil marriage in Minnesota. Two of the three candidates in the upcoming gubernatorial election support same-sex marriage.


Though I haven't seen one yet, I know the archbishop's DVDs are starting to arrive. I know we can make a difference, showing the loving and inclusive side of the Catholic community by transforming the archbishop's negative message into positive art. (More information at link below.)

Please help spread the word about how people can donate their DVDs to DVD to ART.

The following locations have generously offered to be drop-off sites for the DVDs:

St. Martin's Table Restaurant and Bookstore
2001 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis

Hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m.,
and Saturday: 9:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m.
(DVDs can be left anytime at the counter.)

Spirit of the Lakes/Minnehaha
United Church of Christ

4001 38th Ave. S., Minneapolis

Drop-off Hours: Thursday-Fridays: 9:00 a.m. -1:00 pm and evenings.

Parkway United Church of Christ
3120 Washburn Ave. N., Minneapolis
(across the Parkway from North Memorial Hospital)

Phone: 612-522-2982

OutFront Minnesota
310 38th St., Suite 204
(Sabathani Community Center)

Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Building Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.,
and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (DVDs can be left at front desk.)

NOTE: DVDs can also be mailed to:
P.O. Box 3028
Burnsville, MN 55337-3028

Please note on your DVD that it should be directed to DVD to ART.

Information about more DVD drop off sites will be posted on the DVD to ART Facebook Group (look at the group’s info page . . . and please join!) and

I would love to have volunteers willing to stand (off church property) with boxes and information near Catholic churches this coming Sunday. To volunteer please send an email to (so that we can coordinate efforts).

Spread the word!

Collect ‘em from your family and friends!

Again many thanks for your support of this project.

– Lucinda Naylor

Recommended Off-site Links:
The "Art" of MN Anti-Gay Marriage DVD? – Bryan Cones (U.S. Catholic, September 27, 2010).
Suspended Archdiocese Artist Moves Forward with Same-Sex Marriage DVD Project – Dan Olson (Minnesota Public Radio News, September 28, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Basilica Artist-in-Residence Suspended Over "DVD to ART" Project
Quote of the Day – September 25, 2010
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
The Minnesota Bishops' Last Ditch Effort
It's a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Exposing NOM's "Shameful" Behavior in Minnesota
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol

Quote of the Day

This year in Minnesota, as around the country, same-sex marriage is largely a fringe issue due to more pressing concerns. Minnesota projects a six billion dollar deficit in the coming fiscal biennial. That's six billion dollars.

. . . What infuriates me here is that the [Minnesota bishops'] DVD addresses, of all things, same-sex marriage – not teacher layoffs or cuts to local government aid. Not the unemployment rate or the thousands of children living in poverty. Not the six-billion-dollar deficit. Apparently these issues don’t deserve a single DVD, let alone 400,000 copies.

– Adam J. Copeland
This is An “Urgent Message”?
The Christian Century
September 27, 2010

Recommended Off-site Links:
“Reclaiming” the Marriage Culture – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 28, 2010).
Gay Marriage Causes No Harm to Traditional Marriage, Study Finds – Scott Raynor (The Iowa Independent, September 8, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort
It's a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
The Minnesota Bishops' Unholy War
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
Exposing NOM's "Shameful" Behavior in Minnesota
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol

Basilica Artist-in-Residence Suspended Over "DVD to Art" Project

I suspect 'suspension' is a kind word for termination. I'll miss the income, but there's times when people need to stand up for what they believe.

- Lucinda Naylor
Quoted in Jim Spencer's article,
Job on Line Over DVD Protest
Star Tribune
September 27, 2010

Following is how Fox 9 News in the Twin Cities is reporting the suspension of Lucinda Naylor from her position of Artist-in-Residence at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

And this from the Fox 9 News website:
Basilica of St. Mary Artist-in-Residence Lucinda Naylor was suspended Saturday after posting her intention on Facebook to turn anti-gay marriage DVDs into an art project. "Yesterday, the pastor of the Basilica of Saint Mary suspended me from my position as Artist-in-Residence (a position I've held for 15 years)," Naylor wrote on her DVD to ART blog. "This came 48 hours after I facebooked my intention to spearhead a personal art project turning the archbishop's disheartening, divisive DVDs into an artwork about inclusion and hope." Last week, the Minnesota Catholic Conference started mailing DVDs to Catholics across the state. The DVDs ask voters to watch and listen to the DVDs and contact their state lawmakers. "The bishops of Minnesota are alarmed by the continuing attacks on the institution of marriage, and we are taking action," Winona Bishop John Quinn wrote to his parishioners. Naylor wants to "create a beautiful piece of art using the free art materials being sent out by the archbishop." She said she wants to "transform the DVDs of fear into art of hope" and is asking anyone with a copy to send it her way. Disappointed as I am by my suspension, I do not want to overly focus on it," Naylor wrote. "My primary focus remains on making a great piece of art in collaboration with all of you who donate DVDs. . . . I want to create a sculpture so big and beautiful that everyone will see the love that is at the heart of the Catholic Church.
Recommended Off-site Links: DVD To ART Job on Line Over DVD Protest – Jim Spencer (Star Tribune, September 27, 2010). Lucinda Naylor Suspended by Basilica for Anti-Gay DVD Protest – Hart Van Denburg (City Pages, September 27, 2010). See also the previous Wild Reed posts: Quote of the Day – September 25, 2010 Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation" The Minnesota Bishops' Last Ditch Effort It's a Scandal Misplaced Priorities The Minnesota Bishops' Unholy War Exposing NOM's "Shameful" Behavior in Minnesota A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy) At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church Image: David Denny (Star Tribune).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exposing NOM's "Shameful" Behavior in Minnesota

. . . and by extension, the shameful behavior of the Roman Catholic clerical leadership, that shares the same ideological commitments as NOM (the National Organization for Marriage) and the same penchant for disseminating falsehoods about gay people and same-sex marriage.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
The Minnesota Bishops' Last Ditch Effort
It's a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
The Minnesota Bishops' Unholy War

The Minnesota Bishops' Unholy War

Following is an editorial that appeared in the Winona Daily News concerning the Minnesota Catholic bishops’ recently launched anti-gay marriage campaign, about which more can be read here, here and here.


Church is Picking Unnecessary Fight

Winona Daily News
September 22, 2010

Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to pick on gay people than it is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give shelter to the homeless. It’s probably cheaper, too.

For just the cost of a stamp, some letterhead and a DVD, the Rev. John Quinn, the Bishop of the Diocese of Winona, has joined his other unmarried brother bishops in sending out kits to parishioners in the diocese, warning them of the impending danger of same-sex marriages.

Quinn, if you’ll excuse the phrase, pontificated about the dangers of same-sex marriage in the diocesan newspaper, The Courier.

Yet, when pressed on the issue by the Daily News, a diocesan spokesperson referred questions to the archdiocese of Minneapolis/St.Paul, saying this was really its bailiwick.

This most recent example should be doubly disappointing to area faithful.

First, if Quinn has the conviction of principles enough to espouse it in print, under his own name, then he should be courageous enough to defend such a position, rather than deferring to some distant authority.

But even more troubling than Quinn’s silence is the position the church has taken. It’s urging Catholics to take legislative action.

If the church wants to preach and practice a policy of discrimination and second-class citizenry from its pulpits, that is an established constitutional right, even if irksome and disconcerting.

If the church — Catholic or otherwise — wants to preach a message of homosexuality’s sinfulness, then it can only be considered free, religious speech, even if we believe it grossly uninformed and patently hurtful.

But when the church starts urging political activity, especially using a vehicle as overt as the diocese’s own printed propaganda, then it crosses an equally hallowed line between church and state.

Any church’s authority is one of spirituality. Yet, politics, especially in our American democracy, is decidedly secular. When Quinn and other bishops urge political action, they go too far.

Nowhere do the bishops acknowledge that even if a marriage rights bill passed, it would never compel any church or denomination to perform weddings it didn’t approve of.

That makes us wonder if the bishops aren’t just taking an opportunity to engage in gay bashing, because the threat gay marriage presents to Catholic clergy is almost less than minimal.

Even area lawmakers — for example, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who introduced a marriage bill aimed at defining it as between a man and a woman — said the church’s interference seems ill timed, considering the massive budget problems looming.

It’s a scary thing when we urge the Catholic Church to follow the politicians’ lead.

If the church was really so concerned with families and the sanctity of marriage, it might realize that so many of the families are hurting because of lost jobs. Lost jobs mean lost food, lost homes, lost opportunities.

In a time of such hurt, such need and such brokenness, it’s hard to believe bishops would even spend the money and the political capital to fight a war that denies rights to some individuals, while granting them to others.

The bishops, including Quinn, would do well to remember: Just because God’s name is invoked, doesn’t mean the war is holy.

By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and deputy editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call 453-3507 or send e-mail to

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – August 6, 2010
The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort
It’s a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
The Misplaced Priorities of the Catholic Church in Maine
A Call to Emphasize Catholicism's "Sweet Spot"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"

A donation will be made to a local homeless shelter
for every one of the MN bishops' anti-gay marriage DVDs
that is passed on to newly formed group.

A local group of Catholics concerned about the priorities of the clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, have established a website that offers a plan of action for responding to the MN bishops’ mailing of 400,000 anti-gay marriage DVDs to Catholic households throughout the state.

Focusing on the “single issue of same-sex marriage shortly before the upcoming election,” states the site, “reflects misguided priorities and strays from the essential teachings of Christ.”

Accordingly, for every DVD sent to them from Catholics in disagreement with the clerical leadership's focus and strategy, the creators of Return the DVD will personally make a financial donation to St. Stephen’s Human Services.

“Our call to action is to create some good out of this unfortunate situation,” they write on their website.

Although not affiliated with St. Stephens Human Services, a non-profit working to end homelessness in the Twin Cities, those behind Return the DVD chose to make donations to this particular organization because it provides much needed services to the poor and homeless in Minnesota and does so regardless of recipients’ race, creed or sexual orientation.

The Catholics who have established Return the DVD also pose the following questions on their site:

• How could the over $1 million spent to distribute these DVDs have benefited the poor?

• Why did the [clerical] leadership in the Archdiocese choose same-sex marriage as the central issue to educate Catholics about now? Shouldn’t we spend at least as much (or more) time and energy educating Catholics about the plight of the poor in our area?

Although it's stated on the website that the plan is to return the DVDs to the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, negotiations are underway for all DVDs received to be sent to local artist Lucinda Naylor for her DVD to Art project - one that has seen her suspended from her 15-year-long position as Artist-in-Residence at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

To participate in this action, send your DVD to P.O. Box 3028, Burnsville, MN 55337-3028.

Related Off-site Links:
Archbishop John Nienstedt's Anti-Gay DVD Becomes Art Fodder
– Hart Van Denburg (City Pages, September 24, 2010).
Minnesotan Seeks to Creatively Re-Use Catholic Church's Anti-Gay Marriage DVDs
– Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, September 24, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Misplaced Priorities
It’s a Scandal
The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
The Misplaced Priorities of the Catholic Church in Maine
A Call to Emphasize Catholicism's "Sweet Spot"

A Hopeful and Encouraging Trend

Latinos, often said to be the future of the U.S. Catholic Church,
are helping pull Catholic social attitudes
towards greater support of gay rights.

Yesterday afternoon I joined with a number of Twin Cities Catholic lay leaders in a telephone conference call with the leadership of the Washington DC-based Catholics for Equality. For almost an hour we engaged in a very informative and productive dialogue, the results of which, in the weeks to come, will undoubtedly add to the ongoing conversation around same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

One of the people we spoke with from Catholics for Equality was Joseph Palacios (pictured at right), Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University. Joseph recently had an insightful commentary published in The Washington Post in which he explores the “new face of Latino Catholicism in California.” It’s a “face” that reflects the reality that Latino Catholics in California have become the most progressive group supporting gay rights in the U.S.

“This Latino trend,” writes Joseph, “helps pull Catholic social attitudes, already more liberal than Protestants, towards greater support of gay rights.” He then goes on to offer three reasons for this support of gay rights within the Latino Catholic community.

I find this news incredibly hopeful and encouraging, especially given the oft-quoted observation that the future U.S. Catholic Church may well be Latino – and, by the sounds of it, quite progressive when it comes to gay issues.

Following is Joseph’s article in its entirety.


U.S. Catholic Latinos: Liberal on Gay Marriage?

By Joseph M. Palacios

Washington Post
July 23, 2010

Have Latino Catholics become the most progressive political group supporting gay rights in the U.S.? The casual observer of culture often perceives that Latino Catholics are one of the most conservative groups regarding family values and faith. Yet the Public Religion Research Institute's July 21, 2010, report on “Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in California” found that Latino Catholics stand in sharp in contrast to many sectors of American public, especially Latino Protestants, illustrating the sharp effect of religion on Latino attitudes towards homosexuality and civil and human rights for the gay community. Regarding Latino Catholics the report, based on June 2010 polling of 3,351 California adults with oversamples for Latinos, highlights these two social dynamics:

• 57% of Latino Catholics would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage compared to 22% of Latino Protestants.

• Latino Catholics “say they trust the parents of gay and lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality.”

These two dynamics illustrate the new face of Latino Catholicism in California. According to the Pew Forum an estimated 31% of California’s population is Catholic. And of that between 40-50% is Latino. This Latino trend helps pull Catholic social attitudes, already more liberal than Protestants, towards greater support of gay rights.

Why is this so? I suggest the following reasons:

Family First: Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.

Catholic Communal versus Protestant Individual Faith: Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage. Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Latino community's cultural observances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, etc. Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. Fundamentalist Protestantism sees such Catholic cultural practices as contrary to a pure Christian faith. The study illustrates this communal-individual faith difference by noting that Latino Protestants (37%) lean toward a style of religious social engagement prioritizing "personal morality and faith" over a Catholic (59%) orientation that prioritizes “justice and action.”

Latino Catholic Tolerance versus Protestant Fundamentalist Judgment: Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible. Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making. Latino Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights – as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops. Further, as noted in the study, Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the Prop 8 campaign.

Recently same-sex marriage and adoption rights were legally approved in the Catholic countries of Argentina, Spain, and Portugal, as well as Mexico City. It is important to note that modern Latin Catholicism has a dual nature: it is “conservative” in the sense of family communalism and tradition that the church offers, yet it is classically “liberal” in the sense of not wanting the Catholic Church to have power in political life – particularly after the long historical experience of the Latin American Church “meddling in politics.” As Mexicans put it: “No meta en la política.” A sizeable majority of U.S. Latino Catholics shares these attitudes with them. Increasingly they are joining their Latin counterparts in accepting gays and lesbians as part of the social family that is both Catholic and liberal.

Joseph M. Palacios is Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University.

Recommended Off-site Links:
American Catholic Support for Gay Equality is On the Rise
Panelists Discuss the Future U.S. Catholic Majority: Hispanic
San Antonio Bishop: Latinos Are the Future of U.S. Catholic Church
De Colores – Lesbian and Gay Latinos: Stories of Strength, Family and Love

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – August 20, 2010
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
Grandma Knows Best
A Parent’s Prayer
The Bishops’ “Guidelines”: A Parent’s Response
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Thanks, Mum!
“That Utterly Profound ‘In-Loveness’”