This gathering was instigated in 2007 by Archbishop Nienstedt's view that family members and friends who support the their LGBT relatives and friends are cooperating in 'grave evil' and commiting mortal sin.
Archbishop John Nienstedt on Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage
by Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio - 9/22/2010
St. Paul, Minn. — Archbishop John Nienstedt discussed the DVD and Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage during an interview with MPR's Tom Crann on Wednesday.
Tom Crann: How much did this DVD mailing cost and who paid for it?
Archbishop John Nienstedt: I personally do not know the cost of the DVD or the mailing. It was an anonymous person -- who asked to remain anonymous -- came forth and said that they would be very happy to support this project. (How terribly convenient. I am so sick of this kind of purposeful 'ignorance'. Since gender is never assigned to the 'person', it could be a PAC.)
Crann: Summarize for us, the content of this DVD, if you could, please.
Nienstedt: The bishops of the state have an obligation by ordination to be teachers. And we all know the state of marriage in our society today -- the fact that ... four to five out of every ten marriages ends in divorce, the rate of cohabitation has gone from half a million in 1965 to over 5 million couples today. One out of every three Americans over the age of fifteen has never been married. And there are 19 million children being raised by single parents.
So the state of marriage is not very healthy in our society, and marriage is inherently something that involves our faith. It's a commitment for life, a life-giving commitment that is open to the procreation and the raising of children.
And so the church is very concerned about the state of marriage. The church also knows that in this state, a year ago, two pieces of legislation were introduced to the legislature suggesting that the definition of marriage should be changed. And so given that climate, we intend to and have been teaching what we believe is the God-given reality of marriage. Marriage isn't something that we create as human beings. It's already a given from the work of creation by almighty God.
Crann: If I could, I want to ask about the timing of this and this issue. Of all of the many of the issues the church champions, issues like social justice and poverty and speaking out against abortion, why this issue, and specifically why now?
Nienstedt: Well, this is one piece of an overall teaching that we've been doing here in this archdiocese... Since a year ago, we've had 37 gatherings of people around the archdiocese in various parishes directing ourselves to this teaching. And we've had thousands of people who have been in attendance. (Which teaching; the one that calls for opposing gay marriage, or the one that calls for straights to be faithful to their own sacrmental commitment and stop using birth control.)
Crann: Parishioners, as well as clergy?
Nienstedt: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. These are primarily all lay people. And I wrote an op/ed piece in the Star Tribune in April calling for a constitutional amendment on marriage to protect marriage as defined as a relationship between one man and one woman. Last year, in the Catholic Spirit, I wrote a column on the reality. The bishops themselves have been doing a catechetical piece, which they hope to put out soon, on this reality. (Which reality is that? The fake one that uses gay marriage for political points, or the real one that deals with the breakdown of heterosexual marriage?)
So it's just one piece of a series of things that we're doing to raise this issue before our people so that they can be aware that this is a critical question. Obviously, we do the same on the questions of life, on abortion and euthanasia. We do the same on the questions of poverty and that sort of thing. This is the first time we've done a DVD because it's the first time that we've had the opportunity to use this form of media, but I suspect in the future we'll be doing more of that on other topics as well.
Crann: Your position at the end of your statement on the DVD is remarkably like an email I received today telling me about an ad that's been released by the National Organization for Marriage supporting Republican candidate Tom Emmer and his position. And so I'm wondering how is this position not partisan politics, especially timed as it is, six weeks before the election?
Nienstedt: Well, we, and I'm particularly, are very scrupulous about not endorsing any candidate of any party. That's not our position. That's not our right. We would certainly never tell people who to vote for, but the issues themselves are critical issues. And as a religious leader in this state, as a pastoral leader, I have a right to raise the issues and bring that to the attention of my people. (But you have no problem using 'remarkably similar' language to the PAC National Organization for Marriage which is supporting a Republican candidate.)
Crann: In the DVD, you call same-sex marriage a 'dangerous risk to society.' Those are your words. Why is that?
Nienstedt: Because it confuses the very notion of marriage and the complementarity which marriage has always been founded upon between the two sexes, the man and the woman, the husband and the wife. And by expanding the definition of marriage, I mean where do you begin to stop? Who has the right to marriage? ... (Not Roman Catholic priests, which is turning out to be a real problem for gays.)
We've been labeled as discriminating against gay people. There's no discrimination when there isn't a basic right to something. And those who have the right to marriage are men and women who want to enter into a life-long, mutually supportive and procreative relationship. (Then broaden your legislative goals and add non procreative heterosexual couples to your 'non discriminatory' policy of who doesn't have the right to marriage. And dump the whole idea of 'mutually supportive'.)
Crann: If same-sex marriage is a 'dangerous risk,' as you put it, in society, wouldn't also divorce, as well, be such a risk?
Nienstedt: Obviously. That's obvious. And it has been a dangerous risk and it is a dangerous risk to our society today.
Crann: And yet there has been no effort from the Catholic Church over the years to outlaw divorce.
Nienstedt: No, the church doesn't permit divorce. I don't know - the use of your word 'outlaw.'
Crann: In a civic sense.
Nienstedt: But divorce is not acceptable. Divorce is not part of our teaching, no. (Answer the question. It wasn't about Catholic teaching on divorce. It was about civil policy.)
Crann: No, but in a civil sense. And I suppose what I'm saying is there has been a difference historically in the secular and civil world with marriage and divorce and in the context of the Catholic Church and other churches, too. And I'm wondering if there always will be that difference or do you want to see the civil definition of marriage be more aligned with your church's definition.
Nienstedt: There is no difference between the civil and the religious definition of marriage because marriage comes to us by virtue of creation and our creator. And so the state does not establish marriage. Marriage came long before there was any government. (The question is about divorce, not marriage.)
And so this is a natural reality, and it's defined by the natural law, what we call the natural law. And so it precedes any government. And government is meant to support marriage between a husband and a wife in order to give it a context for the raising of children and the protection of children. (The 'good' archbishop never answers the question about civil legislation to outlaw divorce. How stupid does he think we are?)
Crann: You also make a political statement at the end (of the video segment) that you feel that this issue should come before the voters of Minnesota.
Nienstedt: Well, that's not so much a political statement as it is saying that, as other states have done, we need to bring this to the people, rather than have it decided by the judiciary or by the legislature... We need to let the people say what the reality of marriage is going to be. I don't see that as that big of a political statement.
Crann: Let's hear that, if we could.
Audio excerpt from Nienstedt's remarks: The archdiocese believes that the time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to our state constitution to preserve our historic understanding of marriage. In fact, this is the only way to put the one man, one woman definition of marriage beyond the reach of the courts and politicians. (Not the Federal courts.)
Crann: Is that, in fact, a political statement?
Nienstedt: I don't believe so, no. I think that's a reasonable, common sense thing.
Crann: And you're calling for something to be put to a vote. Isn't that a political action?
Nienstedt: That is a political action, yes, but I think it also, in the context of the whole video, I think it makes sense. (Especially if you want the same people to vote for a Republican gubenatorial candidate who has made the gay marriage issue central to his candidacy.)
Crann: What do you want the families who receive the video to take away from it ultimately?
Nienstedt: Well, I want them to realize that this is a very serious issue ... We need to remind our people, our Catholic people what it is we believe, why it is we believe what we believe, and thirdly, why it's so important that we believe it. And so this just reinforces the teaching. As I said, this is one piece in a whole process by which we're trying to educate and catechize our people. (And the teaching seems to be that gay marriage is somehow worse for straight marriage than straight divorce and it has nothing to do with the Republican party......Moving right along.....)
Crann: There is the issue, as I'm sure you're aware, that in your pews in parishes there are homosexuals, there are gay couples, there are in the homes receiving this, or certainly their friends, their family members, their own children. And what is your message to them? (Don't forget about the gays in bishop's residences.)
Nienstedt: It would be the same message that I would give to young people who are not married that everyone, all of us, are called to live a chaste life and a chaste lifestyle and that sex is specifically meant to be expressed in a marriage relationship, a long-term commitment of a man and a woman, that is able to be reproductive in type, I think they use that expression, that it is open to the transmission of life.
For more on this story out of Minneapolis/St Paul, check out the Wild Reed's coverage. Michael Bayley, the blog's author, has had his share of fun and games with the Archdiocese and it's spokespersons. I personally really admire Michael for his persistence in articulating other perspectives of Vat II Catholics in Archbishop Nienstedt's Minnesota fiefdom. It's would also be worthwhile to read about the recently concluded Synod of the Baptized on the Progressive Catholic Voice website. They too have a fascinating relationship with Archbishop Nienstedt. One might call that relationship hypersensitive on the Archbishop's part. He seems to worry quite a bit about the idea that Minnesota Catholics might think PCV speaks in some way for him. Apparently only NOM and KofC can speak for him.
And he won't speak on divorce because divorce is all about heterosexuals being responsible for the disintegration of their own heterosexual marriages. It's way better for his political friends that gays be blamed for the breakdown in heterosexual marriages. That helps keep the spotlight off serial monagamists like Newt Gingrich. How it is that gays marrying each other are somehow responsible for straights like Newt repeatedly divorcing is never explained. Kind of like where all the money for this DVD campaign is never explained.
That kind of thing used to work in the good ole Catholic days--this never explaining penchant of Bishops--but that's no longer the case. I'm one of those people who isn't going to buy a teaching that makes no sense and there for seems to be designed for other purposes entirely. I really want to know what individual paid for this campaign and I know Nienstedt knows. But more than that, I want to know why he feels it necessary to practice 'mental reservation' about his knowledge.
One of the teachings given by a Navajo elder has stuck with me for a long time because it explains a great deal of what is happening in religion and politics. He said the last 400 years or so has been about a battle between two competing energies. The new energy is about the pre eminence of personal choice and individual responsibility, the old energy is about maintaining group control through authoritarianism. That's what I find so disconcerting about the Church's teaching on natural law. If it's truly written in our hearts than trust the teaching. Individuals will be guided to similar understandings. The fact they don't trust the teaching to work as they say, says a whole lot about the validity of their teachings as derived from natural law. The fact they are disingenuous about logical inconsistencies says even more.