Here's a message from Bishop Richard J Malone of the Diocese of Maine. It concerns the group Catholics for Marriage Equality and is pertinent to the rest of this reflection--especially the end.
A group of self-described Catholics who have chosen to dissent publicly from established Catholic doctrine on the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman recently published a paid political ad entitled “Statement of Conscience by Maine Catholics Regarding Marriage Equality.” (Wow, I always thought that after one was baptized in the Catholic faith one was Catholic--permanent indelible mark on the soul and all that. I guess it's not so permanent or indelible.)
The evidence for their dissent runs through the statement and is crystallized in the following sentence: “…we find disturbing any suggestion that formal Church teaching obligates all Catholics to oppose marriage equality.” (I do too.)
In contrast, please let your conscience be formed by these clear and authoritative words of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger): “In those situations where homosexual unions … have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty."(Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, July 2003)
A Catholic whose conscience has been properly formed by Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot support same sex marriage. Please vote YES on question 1. (What ever happened to the teachings of Jesus? The usually cited scriptures don't include the words of Jesus. His apply to adultery.)
Most Reverend Richard J. Malone, Th.D.Bishop of Portland
There's been a trend developing recently that seems to be threatening to some of our hierarchy. Progressive Catholics, or Catholics open to REASON are beginning to speak out.
Bishop Malone's sarcastic tirade is just one voice of many attempting to put a stop to this voice. The reality probably is that the existence of Catholics for Marriage Equality can be left at his doorstop. Had he not spent so much money on this campaign and made such an in your face big deal about this, Catholics for Marriage Equality might not even exist.
While the vote in Maine appears to be deadlocked, the damage Malone has done to the Church in Maine will last far beyond the outcome of this legislation. Maine Catholics are still going to demand an accounting of the $550,000 the diocese spent on this campaign, especially in view of the fact the bishop is citing financial short falls for closing parishes. Why is it reasonable to spend this kind of money on taking away the right of a small minority while closing parishes? One might be led to think the parish closures aren't an issue of money, but an issue of lack of priests.
What I find fascinating is his quoting Benedict's statement on the duty of Catholics to oppose same sex marriage. To be honest I find this totally laughable in face of the fact no such statement was issued on the duty of Catholics to oppose other social movements, Nazism comes to mind, but opposition to gay marriage is now a binding moral duty. Sorry, can't buy this one. It's hard for me to fathom that gays marrying people they love is going to precipitate a world war or bring down society or threaten the ecological balance. It just isn't reasonable.
I've also just finished reading the USCCB's opposition to all the health care bills. According to Archbishop Chaput, real Catholics are duty bound to oppose all these bills:
"To put it bluntly: all of the health-care reform solutions currently facing Congress violate human dignity in potentially grievous ways. Unless these proposals are immediately changed to reflect the concerns of Congressman Stupak, other like-minded members of Congress, and leaders of the national Catholic community, Catholics need to vigorously oppose and help defeat this dangerous legislation …"
The operative word in the above statement is 'potentially'. The USCCB statement uses the words potentially and might and could quite a number of times. And of course we are to oppose all these health care reform bills until they reflect the 'leaders of the national Catholic community'. Not having much in the way of insurance myself, I'm not quite sure I want to torpedo health care reform on potential violations. The Capps ammendment seems pretty reasonable, especially given the fact the USCCB isn't calling on all good Catholics to give up their current private health insurance if it covers abortion or birth control. I guess if you have such insurance you get to keep it, free from sin or any obligation to attempt to change it. Kind of grandfathered in I guess.
Given their distrust of Obama and all, I wonder why our bishops don't institute a Catholic health insurance plan, say through the Knights of Columbus. The K of C have the necessary infrastructure and also seem to have quite a bit of discretionary income. That way the USCCB could write the plan and have it pass muster without worrying about all those 'potential' problems they now worry about in congressional plans--and want good Catholics who still have their permanent indelible mark--to oppose. Maybe they don't think there are enough of those kind of Catholics left to fund such a plan.
In the meantime they are leading me to believe they no longer believe in the power of Jesus, or the real authority of their teachings to correctly inform Catholic consciences. They seem far more tied to the idea of legislating society to enforce their teachings. That, if they thought about it, is a really sad statement. It says to me they too might just believe their own authority no longer has much influence with Catholics, and it really is the culture and it's reflection in the state which move hearts and minds. If that's true, they have no one to really blame but themselves. Going back to the past and threatening condemnation from the pulpit no longer works and neither will campaigns to politically change what they don't like in the culture.
The Church threw their credibility out the window in the last century when they refused to openly oppose fascist dictatorships, and instead worked with them to preserve Rome's last vestiges of of political secular authority. Pope John XXIII saw the truth of this and called Vatican II to find another path to authentic institutional authority. Too bad those still enamored of that old kind of authority got the upper hand in the Vatican. Now we have a church that thinks it's a wiser use of limited funds to take rights away from a minority than to keep open Catholic communities, and that is also makes sense to deprive uninsured Americans of health insurance on the basis of potential conflcits, instead of finding ways to provide sacramental access for it's adherents. Kind of a sad statement all the way around.
And finally here's an even sadder statement from one of our bishops. Bishop DiMarzio is supporting New Jersey State Representative Vito J Lopez even though Lopez is endorsed by NARAL, is prochoice, and voted in support of gay marriage. Now why would Bishop DiMarzio appear to be a 'self claimed Catholic bishop' in regards to this politician? It seem Lopez was the legislative leader in torpedoing a bill which would have extended the statue of limitations in New Jersey for sexual abuse victims. Lopez saved the diocese a ton of money. Who says Catholic moral teaching isn't for sale? Not me.