Friday, September 11, 2009

This Silent Catholic Center Is Beginning To Growl

The Diocese of Maine may have some surprises in these this week end.

This has been an interesting and uplifting Friday for me. I wrote a friend the other day that the uber right had over stepped themselves, and in that over stepping had started to engulf the center right and centrist positions. The uber right was forcing people who had previously felt no compulsion, to really look at their positions and the people who voiced those positions. In many cases those previously complacent people were turning to the left center in order not to be engulfed in the anger and hate of the right. Many were adopting positions which they had not previously looked at nor considered.

Today in the National Catholic Reporter both John Allen and Michael Sean Winters gave voice to the phenomenon and how destructive it is to the pro life cause. But it isn't just the pro life cause this righteous anger, reflexive condemnation, and bankrupt logic has impacted. It's also the gay marriage issue. In Maine, some faithful Catholics are finally saying, "No the bishop does not speak for all of us." They are actively fighting the Maine diocese and its campaign to rescind the right of gay marriage in Maine and they are doing it in their parish churches.

Catholics for Marriage Equality Issues Statement in Response to Diocesan Fundraising for Campaign to Repeal Maine's Marriage Equality Law
Portland, Maine (Friday, September 11, 2009)---

Catholics for Marriage Equality (C4ME), an organization urging Catholics and all Mainers to vote no on Question 1 on the November 3rd ballot, today issued the following statement in response to the Diocese of Portland's fundraising for the campaign to repeal Maine's marriage equality law:

"Catholics for Marriage Equality calls on its members and all Catholics who share our support for marriage equality to take two peaceful but effective actions in our parishes this Sunday so that the diocese will know it is not speaking for all faithful Catholics.

"First, instead of money, we urge parishioners who support marriage equality to place a note in the special collection envelope stating that they do not support the bishop's stance to deprive same-sex couples of the right to civil marriage and will instead donate funds to NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality, which opposes Question 1, or to a charity that is inclusive of all families.
"Second, we ask supportive Catholics to sign our petition affirming that the Church can define marriage as it wishes for its members but that marriage as a civil right is the prerogative of the state to define.

Our petition is available at:

"C4ME exists to give hope to those who are hurt and angry because of our bishop's determination to overturn the legislature's passage of marriage equality. We will disseminate information that is truthful and respectful stating why marriage equality is a matter of civil rights and social justice that Catholics are free to support-indeed, may feel compelled to support as a matter of social conscience and responsible citizenship."

Contact: Anne Underwood, Catholics for Marriage Equality, (207)650-1588


For way too long gay Catholics have sat in the same pews with other faithful Catholics wondering how those fellow Catholics could sit there and listen to bishops and clergy scape goat and vilify gays. How could these Catholics deal with hearing these things about their children, or their brothers, or sisters, or an aunt or an uncle--or in many cases their parents. When would the deafening and cowed silence start to become a disgruntled growl. It's starting in Maine. It's starting in the pro life movement. It's starting in the health care debate.

When that growl reaches the crescendo of a roar, the squeaky wheels will not only not be heard, they will have been left by the side of the road.


  1. This weekend we will not be going to church because we cannot take any more of this: "they are ripping your marriage apart", "we(priests) will be forced to marry "them" if this law is not overturned", "marriage has to be between a man and a woman because that is the only way you can create life"-and if you are past menopause no marriage for you? "God wants you to vote against this law"-and more.
    Thank you Colleen for acknowledging out struggle to support our sons and daughters, brothers, sisters. Civil marriage does NOT effect what the church does with Catholic marriages.

  2. That the clergy are using (overly or subliminally) the false fear of 'being forced to perform gay marriages' as a leverage point is beyond vile.

    The State & hence Civil Law has no place dictating Canon Law. Conversely, the Church & hence Canon Law has NO place dictating Civil Law. End of discussion.

    ...unless you want to consider the historic fact that Jesus torture & death were the result of 'the church' (of its day) dictating the application of Civil Law.....!

    The problem is twofold: a) misuse of terms, and b) the vile scapegoating of gays.

    Marriage: is a strictly religious construct; it is Sacramental in ANY conception/denomination of religion A couple pledge themselves to each other in the presence of a priest, rabbi, minister, shaman, or whatever - who then invokes the blessing of the Deity upon the couple. Civil Law has always validated "Marriage" as a legally binding contract - and a virtual corporation (for all intents & purposes).

    Civil Union: has all the Civil Law rights, benefits, obligations & protections of "Marriage". It is the mutually binding contract entered into by the parties, witnessed & notarized by an official of the State. It has absolutely NO religious context, and is NOT Sacramental. Yet is 100% equal under Civil Law.

    The Civil Union of a man & woman is NOT a "Marriage". This applies to many religious traditions.

    Gay ppl have EVERY right to enter into Civil Unions - and be afforded full civil rights & protections pertaining thereof. Just the same as Str8 ppl.

    If the Church does not like this...too bad. It is truly none of their business, as a Civil Union is neither Sacramental, nor is it within the competence of the Church to decide on issues of Civil Law.

    ....unless of course they wish to have their IRS tax status re-examined:)

    Seriously - both sides need to acknowledge & use the proper terms & comprehend their meanings. In this wise, the persecuted Gays will get justice & equal rights. While the Bishops, Opus Dei, et. al. will be

  3. Colleen, a wonderful post. And you were definitely prescient in your observations that the silent center is being roused from its slumber by the ferocity and madness on the right. Remarkable that both John Allen and Michael Sean Winters posted to confirm your viewpoint in one issue of NCR.

  4. Bill, I've been reading Karen Armstrong's the Battle For God. It's just draw dropping accurate.

    Armstrong maintains two of the main components all fundamentalism shares, no matter where it pops up, is the removal of the core doctrine of universal compassion in favor of 'othering'. Second is the pervasive use of militarism in language and action by defining the spiritual path as an absolute battle against evil--usually secularism or some component of secularism.

    Both these positions are not just a distortion of spirituality, but a repudiation of key concepts concerning forgiveness, equality, and the traditional understanding of God and man's relationship to God.

    Ring any bells?

  5. Colleen, I am certain you are right, but I think it goes beyond just the Catholic church. Earlier this week I came across something I wanted to writet about, but didn't because I was travelling. Now I can't find the link to the original article.

    The content though, from a middle of the road Christian source, was about the well-known Newsweek article supposedly setting out the religious case for gay marriage. The article I saw was very critical, but not on the conclusions - just on the theology.

    Their argument was that the churches had failed in leaving it to a theologically illiterate journalist to make the case - they felt that the churches should have been doing it themselves, from the pulpits.

    Add to that the observation that the decision by the ECLA came after intensive study involving all sections of the church, and that the Episcopal/ Anglican communion is also embarking on a wide range study programme to entrench support and acceptance for their decisions, and it is clear that the ground is shifting.

    As the argument moves from shouting out prejudice to rational debate, the centre will grow, the hardcore right will find themselves isolated.

  6. Colleen, I have just seen your observation in a previous comment about Fr Geoff farrow, and agree absolutely. Celibacy, whether on the part of gay straight or undisclosed clergy, is a myth. Some respect the vows, very many don't.

    Instead of maintaining the fiction, we should be recognising, welcoming and celebrating those, of all orientations, who in honesty have renounced celibacy.

    I have no objections to celibacy which is voluntarily chosen and sustained - but agree with St Paul that this is the ideal only for those who are capable of it. For the others, we should permit and encourage them to be as fully human as the rest of us.

  7. Colleen, yes, those Armstrong ideas ring bells--and I'm happy to have a summary of them, too. I hadn't read Karen Armstrong's Battle for God. Have only read about it.

    When I hear your summary, I think, of course, right off the top of my head of Euteneuer and Finn and their imagery of blood--and also of the various apocalyptic movements this wing of Catholicism is getting into bed with now.

    But I think also of the overall thrust of patriarchy within the religions of the world today, which depends for its existence on its ability to other the feminine, and to draw battle lines around issues of gender. It's as if that decision within many world religions at this point in history is taking a tremendous burst of energy that could reshape the world in profoundly good ways, and putting it to the service of a battle that is all about destroying, and not winning anything at all.

  8. Bill Armstrong also makes some interesting statements about the differences in how fundamentalists experience their faith in comparison to non fundamentalists.

    They very much center their belief structures on externals. Take away or change the externals and it directly weakens their faith because the externals reinforced their faith. Nuns in habits come to mind.

    The gender complimentarity issue is also trapped in this dynamic because it's based on visual externals. Deny the externals by concentrating on similarities which can't be seen, and you thoroughly undercut fundamental notions of gender.

    That's why the young South African athlete is such an important story. The externals are only part of the truth and the patriarchal international sports scene is suffering collective brain lock.

  9. Colleen, I am glad you presented this and think it is informative as well as are some of the comments

  10. Great comments from all here and thanks once again Colleen for your very valuable political and spiritual insight in each and every blog writing.

    I believe that this "Growl" was inevitable from the center because as the extreme right fundamentalist kept ferociously being abusive verbally and so irrational to anyone who did not toe their line on outlawing abortion as the only "answer" or promoting civil marriage laws reflecting Church teaching despite the fact of separation of Church and State, that their insults and immaturity would eventually trickle on over to those in the center who are Catholic friends of these journalist such as John Allen and Sean Michael Winters.

    I am really glad to hear that Catholics are saying No to abuse of gays who are their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, cousins. It has hit them in a profound way in their family life and either we will be like Christ towards others or we will choose to deny Christ.

    Resentment, as you say Colleen, of gay priests desirous to keep gays in the closet seems the age old predicament and psychological state of "misery loves company." Often those with such a hard line towards others will accuse liberals and progressives of being touchy feely. Too bad. I'm touchy feely and warm and fuzzy when I know I am following Jesus and His teachings for us to "love one another." The alternative to that is having no feeling for others and no regard for others - a hardened heart. It always comes back to this saying from Jesus to "love one another." Testimony of our faith in Jesus is our love for one another.

    As well, I believe this blog had something significant to do with exposing these elements in the Church for the last year against these very cold hard-hearted negative energies that are truly divisive and ruining the Church and our American democracy. Kudos to Colleen and also to Bill and the others here for making their wise voices heard when for so long it seemed no one was listening or even cared.