Thursday, May 14, 2015

On the Second Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota, a Celebratory Look Back at the Important Role Played by Catholics

By Michael Bayly

Note: The original version of this article was first published on Michael's blog, The Wild Reed on May 14, 2014, which was the first anniversary of the gaining of marriage equality in Minnesota.

Today, May 14, 2015, marks the second anniversary of Governor Mark Dayton's signing into law the bill that allows marriage equality for same-sex couples in Minnesota.

To mark this special anniversary I offer a celebratory look back at the role Minnesota Catholics played in helping secure marriage equality in the civil sphere for same-sex couples.

In Minnesota, the Catholic organization that most helped organize support and advocacy for and education about marriage equality was the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), primarily through its Catholics for Marriage Equality MN (C4ME-MN) initiative.

This initiative was launched in the fall of 2010 in response to renewed efforts by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to push for a constitutional amendment banning civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. I say "renewed" because five years earlier the Minnesota Conference of Catholic Bishops, with Nienstedt, then Bishop of New Ulm, very much leading the charge, had lobbied hard for a similar amendment to the state constitution. In May of 2006, the state legislature adjourned without approving that first proposed amendment.

Most people have forgotten this victory, overshadowed as it was five years later when a similar amendment passed the legislature and was placed on the November 2012 ballot. Nienstedt, now Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, made the passing of the so-called "marriage amendment" very much a personal crusade. After almost two years of often contentious debate the "marriage amendment" was rejected by the citizens of Minnesota. I was honored to do my bit in helping defeat this amendment, both as executive coordinator of CPCSM/C4ME-MN and as editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice.

This victory in November 2012 paved the way for marriage equality legislation, which was swiftly passed in May of 2013 and signed into law by Governor Dayton on this day exactly one year ago. It took effect on August 1, 2013.

Above: Over 7,000 people gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol on May 14, 2013
to witness Governor Mark Dayton sign marriage equality legislation into law.

I started The Wild Reed in May of 2006, just as the legislative session was winding down. However, some of my early posts highlight CPCSM's role in challenging the Minnesota bishops' first attempt to enshrine discrimination into the state constitution, an attempt that dated back to early 2004.

One important document that has not been previously shared at The Wild Reed is CPCSM's official "Statement Regarding Civil Marriage for Same-Sex Couples." Released in 2004, this statement reads as follows:

The Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) opposes any effort to amend either the federal or state constitution to define marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman.

Such an amendment would single out and demean gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation – one that comprises an indelible aspect of their God-given identity. This type of singling out and demeaning undermines the charity to which we are called as members of the Body of Christ.

Furthermore, such an amendment would, for the first time, enshrine discrimination into our constitution. Ultimately, it would weaken families by fanning hatred and misunderstanding. We do not believe it is prudent for public policy to construct law on the basis of ignorance, fear, and bigotry.

We thus call upon both our federal and state governments to reject such a dangerous law and to choose instead to take proactive steps so as to strengthen marriages and families in truly positive and charitable ways. Such ways include expanding pre-natal and post-natal care, increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, mandating equitable family leave policies, and extending full civil protection to all families.

Following are links to (and brief descriptions of) a number of previous Wild Reed posts that document in words and pictures the role played by Minnesota Catholics in (i) challenging the bishops' first push for a state constitutional "marriage amendment," (ii) defeating the proposed "marriage amendment" that was placed on the ballot of November 6, 2012, and (iii) educating about the issue of marriage equality, primarily by sharing the stories of LGBT Catholic couples and families.

I believe all three of these responses played an important role in the 2013 gaining of civil marriage rights, benefits and responsibilities for same-sex couples and families in Minnesota.

Getting the Word Out

This April 17, 2007 post primarily focuses on an Indiana billboard campaign challenging Christians to re-examine their assumptions about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

At the end of this post, however, I share the text of a speech I delivered to a crowd of around 5,000 people at OutFront Minnesota's March 25, 2004 Just Fair rally. As noted above, at this time attempts were underway to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex civil marriage and all legal equivalents – including domestic partnerships and civil unions. Those opposed to this amendment recognized it as (and thus called it) the “Minnesota Anti-Marriage Amendment.”

The following excerpt from my March 2004 speech articulates the basic rationale for CPCSM/C4ME-MN's advocacy and educational efforts for marriage equality.

From a Catholic perspective, the Minnesota Anti-Marriage Amendment is contrary to Catholic teaching on social justice. Furthermore, this amendment is completely out of step with a broad consensus among the world’s Catholic theologians who insist that gay and lesbian persons should be treated with dignity, fairness, and justice.

This same position has been endorsed by the United States Catholic Bishops in their pastoral statement entitled Always Our Children, where they write, “Respect for the God-given dignity of all persons means the recognition of human rights and responsibilities. The teachings of the Catholic Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them.”

These are powerful statements. We believe that such statements, rooted as they are in Jesus’ call for social justice, supersede certain teachings of the Church that reflect a medieval and inadequate understanding of human sexuality – teachings that are thus unresponsive to the presence and movement of the Spirit in the lives and relationships of LGBT people.

Above: Mary Lynn Murphy, CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer,
and Paul Fleege at the Minnesota State Capitol in the spring of 2004.

The Bible and Homosexuality

In this November 10, 2006 post I share a St. Cloud Times commentary written by Vincent Smiles, published one year earlier in November 2005 (before the establishment of The Wild Reed.) The constitutional amendment to which Smiles refers was the one that failed to be approved by the Minnesota legislature in May of 2006.

The significance of this post to today's "celebratory look back" is that at the end of it I highlight the 2005 Minnesota Pastors Summit, an event that sought to encourage religious leaders to support the proposed “marriage amendment” of that year. The summit, held on November 10, 2005, saw the rare and unusual collaboration of Christian fundamentalists and the Catholic hierarchy in an unsavory effort to support the enshrinement of discrimination into the Minnesota state constitution.

Although both the summit and the proposed amendment were actively supported by the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, a number of Catholic groups – including CPCSM, Dignity Twin Cities, and Catholic Rainbow Parents – played a key role in organizing a coalition of Christian churches, groups, and individuals to challenge the Pastors Summit.

In October 2005, CPCSM and Catholic Rainbow Parents initiated efforts to protest the Pastors Summit. A coalition called People of Faith for Equal Civil Marriage Rights was formed which organized a rally on November 10 outside the Pastors Summit’s venue, Grace Church in Eden Prairie. As executive coordinator of CPCSM I spoke at this protest rally.

Such organizing efforts involved the collaboration of a number of ecumenically diverse faith communities dedicated to defeating the proposed amendment. From this proactive and ecumenical dialogue and action emerged the Faith Family Fairness Alliance, of which a number of Catholic organizations and individuals were members.

Naming and Confronting Bigotry

At the end of this 2007 post I share the October 2005 letter that the CPCSM-sponsored group Catholic Rainbow Parents sent to the priests of the archdiocese ahead of the November 10, 2005 Pastors Summit.

Following is an excerpt from this letter.

[The Pastors Summit] aims to help pastors mobilize their congregations in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban all forms of legally recognized unions of same-sex couples.

The goals of this summit thus reach far beyond the parameters of sacramental marriage. They seek to deprive an entire class of human beings their equal rights to civil marriage. We think it’s important to clarify that the Church itself distinguishes between sacramental marriage (or matrimony) and civil marriage. The Church, for instance, never uses the term “Holy Marriage,” but rather “Holy Matrimony,” and when the Church does talk about the “sanctity of marriage,” it is referring to the religious or sacramental aspect of matrimony, not the civil aspect of marriage.

Furthermore, the proposed marriage amendment endorsed by the summit is not really about protecting sacramental marriage – which owing to the separation of church and state, needs no protection; it is about discriminating against families. If passed, it would deny same-sex couples and their families the 1138 protections afforded to families headed by opposite-sex couples. If passed, this amendment would mark the first time in history that the Minnesota Constitution would be amended to enshrine discrimination, rather than extend rights to people.

Does the Church lobby against civil marriage for divorced couples? Of course not. Neither should the Church lobby against civil unions for same-sex couples. . . .

Some of you have already decided not to participate in this summit and for this we applaud your conviction. To the rest, we ask that you refuse to go or if you feel you must be there, to please break the conspiracy of silence that endorses discrimination in the name of religion.

Good News from Minnesota

In this May 26, 2006 post I report on the news that the 2005-2006 state legislature had adjourned without approving the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and all legal equivalents. I also highlight the CPCPSM-sponsored March 20, 2006 panel discussion at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church entitled “Putting a Human Face on the Marriage Amendment Issue.”

This event was part of "Encountering God at the Crossroads of Marriage, Catholicism, and the GLBT Experience," a series of educational events that CPCSM hosted and which sought to educate Catholics on the full ramifications for GLBT people and their families of the then-proposed "marriage amendment." Our March 20, 2006 event drew a record crowd for a CPCSM-sponsored event. Previous events in this series included University of Minnesota sociology professor Kathleen Hull speaking on the evolving nature of marriage, and Simon Rosser sharing reflections on same-sex marriage from a Catholic perspective.

The following Wild Reed posts were published in "real time," meaning they focus on events that had just taken place or were taking place at the time of writing. These posts cover the period from October 2008 to August 2013.

Same-Sex Marriage: Still Very Much on the Archbishop's Mind

Archbishop Nienstedt once again rallies the priests and deacons of the archdiocese to "fight" against same-sex marriage at the state and national level. (Note: This post reprints Paula Ruddy's October 2008 Progressive Catholic Voice article, "The Fight of Their Lives").

A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol

A report on the October 8, 2009 media conference at the Minnesota State Capitol at which I spoke as executive coordinator of CPCSM. The event saw a number of local religious leaders speaking out in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. Organized by OutFront Minnesota, this media conference was billed as the “first coordinated statement by clergy specifically in support of full, legal marriage equality in Minnesota.”

In the image above right, I'm pictured with Retired Bishop Lowell Erdahl of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and Pastor Doug Donley of University Baptist Church of Minneapolis.

At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality

On April 17, 2010 300 people gathered at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, for a CPCSM co-sponsored event that showed support for marriage equality for same-sex couples and protested the presence on campus of two high profile anti-equality activists, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA.

Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution

A response to Archbishop Nienstedt's April 28, 2010 public statement of support for a constitutional amendment banning civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)

Catholics participate in OutFront Minnesota's July 28, 2010 Day of Action against the "intolerance and discrimination" of the anti-gay and anti-marriage equality group known as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

It's a Scandal

Minnesota bishops spend big on a misguided campaign that encourages Catholics to support enshrining discrimination against gay couples and families into the state constitution.

What to Do with the MN Bishops' "Preserving Marriage" DVD

Not all Catholics appreciate the MN bishops' September 2010 expenditure of time, energy and money on the making and distributing of an anti-marriage equality DVD to 400,000 Catholic households.

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

The founders of a newly formed group concerned about the priorities of the clerical leadership of the archdiocese, announce that for every one of the MN bishops' anti-gay marriage DVDs they receive, a donation will be made to a local homeless shelter.

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

Basilica of St. Mary Artist-in-Residence Lucinda Naylor is suspended on September 25, 2010 after posting her intention on Facebook to turn the MN bishops' anti-gay marriage DVDs into an art project.

Shifting the Focus to the Real Issues . . . Live on Fox News

On October 7, 2010 I appeared on Fox 9 News and shared my perspective on Archbishop Nienstedt's recent denying of communion to students at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, MN. The students were wearing buttons with messages supportive of LGBT people. Also on the show to discuss the incident was St. Thomas University professor Robert Kennedy, who supports the archbishop's actions.

Daniel Maguire in Minneapolis

On October 21, 2010 over 300 people gathered in Minneapolis to hear theologian Daniel Maguire speak on why one can be Catholic and support marriage equality.

In the lead-up to Daniel McGuire's visit to the Twin Cities I shared a series of Wild Reed posts that featured excerpts from his book Whose Church? – A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism. This series starts here.

Lucinda Naylor's "The Wave"

Images and commentary on the October 30, 2010 unveiling of Lucinda Naylor's art project, "The Wave," which uses and "repurposes" unwanted copies of the Minnesota Catholic bishops' anti-marriage equality DVDs.

At the Cathedral of St. Paul, Rainbow Sashes and a Circle of Love

Images and commentary on the October 31, 2010 gathering of 150 people at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Paul in "loving opposition to the Minnesota bishops’ campaign of intolerance and discrimination against the LGBT citizens of Minnesota."

A Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality

The publishing of this statement coincided with the November 2010 launching of CPCSM's Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative.

A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness

OutFront Minnesota's February 10, 2011 Freedom to Marry Day, at which I spoke as executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

Disappointing but Not Unexpected: "Marriage Amendment" Bill Passes MN Senate Judiciary Committee

In the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban is approved by a Senate committee on April 29, 2011.

Out and About – May 2011

With approval of the "marriage amendment" almost certain by the end of the legislative session, the month of May 2011 was a very momentous one for CPCSM/C4ME-MN. Filming began on C4ME-MN's video project and at our May 2, 2011 educational event in Columbia Heights, we launched the Minnesota Catholic Campaign for Marriage Equality. The centerpiece of this campaign was a 5-Step Action Plan.

Speakers at the May 2 event included OutFront Minnesota's Legal Director Phil Duran and Hennepin County social worker Candace Mainville.

Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality and Against the Proposed "Marriage Amendment"

Tips and talking points compiled by David McCaffrey and I in May 2011.

Sadly, less than two months after publishing this resource, CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey died after a short illness. He is remembered at The Wild Reed here, here, and here.

The Real Losers at the Minnesota State Capitol Today

The Minnesota Senate approves a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage – May 11, 2011.

At the Minnesota Capitol, Signs of the Times

Images of the many anti-amendment signs and banners at the Minnesota State Capitol on May 20, 2011.

An Eventful Day at the Capitol

More images and commentary on the ongoing series of rallies against the proposed "marriage amendment" that took place at the Minnesota State Capitol on May 20, 2011.

At the MN Capitol, Protests Against the Proposed Marriage Amendment Continue

Photos and commentary from May 21, 2011, as the Minnesota House prepares to vote on the proposed "marriage amendment."

Day One of the Campaign to Defeat the 'Marriage Amendment'

Late in the evening of May 21, 2011, the Minnesota House of Representatives votes 70-62 in support of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Voters will now decide the question in November 2012. Within hours of the vote the launching of a campaign to defeat the "anti-family marriage ban" is announced. This campaign is called Minnesotans United for All Families.

Above: The Steering Committee of Minnesotans United for All Families. As executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN I served on this committee. I'm pictured (perhaps appropriately enough) at far left.

In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds

Although the Minnesota House recently voted 70-62 to allow the citizens of Minnesota to decide whether to limit civil marriage to heterosexual couples, a number of events that took place in the lead-up to and during the House vote are a cause for hope. For instance, a number of representatives changed their votes as a result of Catholics witnessing for justice and equality for all. We believe that this bodes well for the months ahead as we turn now to encourage and inspire our fellow Minnesotans to vote "No" on the discriminatory and mean-spirited marriage amendment.

This post also documents the May 1, 2011 filming of the documentary video series Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Above: Filmmaker Aleshia Mueller (right) of Reel Nomad Productions and director Mary Kay Orman prepare to interview Brent and Lisa Vanderlinden for C4ME-MN's film series Catholics for Marriage Equality – May 1, 2011.

Senator Scott Dibble's Message of Hope and Optimism

"We will win this fight! We’ve only just begun, and we already have so much to show for our efforts. . . ."

Sharing the Good News of Marriage Equality at the Basilica Block Party

Members and supporters of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN distribute "I support marriage equality" stickers to attendees at the July 8-9, 2011 Basilica of St. Mary Block Party.

Local Catholics to Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage Equality

The September 26, 2011 media release from Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

The Minneapolis and Online Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality

Images and commentary on the September 29, 2011 premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality at Minneapolis' Riverview Theatre.

Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry 'Victim'

A response to the October 5, 2011 Star Tribune op-ed by Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism

A sampling of progressive perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's directive to priests that they are to establish committees in their parishes to rally support for the proposed constitutional amendment banning civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality

My November 2011 op-ed, "Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate," which the Star Tribune declined to publish.

Thoughts on UK Archbishop Nichols' Support for Civil Unions

A look at the UK’s top Catholic bishop's December 2011 support of gay civil unions and how it relates to the current situation in Minnesota.

PCV Publishes Archbishop Nienstedt's Marriage Amendment Directives to Priests

Spotlighting The Progressive Catholic Voice editorial team's leaking of and response to Archbishop Nienstedt’s 'marriage amendment' directive to priests that “There ought not be open dissension on this issue.”

What Part of Jesus' Invitation to "Be Not Afraid" Don't the Bishops Get?

A examination of the fear-mongering that fuels the Catholic hierarchy's anti-gay and anti-marriage equality activism.

A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the 'Marriage Amendment'

My op-ed in the March 2, 2012 issue of Lavender, "Minnesota's GLBT magazine."

Documenting the "Living Word"

Spotlighting the blogsite Sensus Fidelium's documentation of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's series of Lenten prayer vigils at the chancery of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese (February-April, 2012).

From Northern Minnesota, Two Excellent Rebuttals to the "Convoluted Logic" of the Bishops' Pro-Amendment Argument

Two well-written responses to a March 21, 2012 op-ed in the Duluth News Tribune by Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (of Bishops) and the vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, the official campaign supporting the so-called "Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment."

Palm Sunday at the Chancery

The last vigil in Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's series of Lenten vigils saw over 250 gather at the chancery on April 1, 2012.

"Come On, Ethel, We're Leaving!"

At DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Archbishop Nienstedt's "marriage team" gets more than it bargained for when a number of students challenge what the team has to say about single parents, adopted kids, and gay marriage.

Media Matters

Taking to task the Star Tribune's inadequate coverage of the full range of Catholic responses to the "marriage amendment."

In Minnesota, Catholics Sing Their Support for Marriage Equality

Over 300 Catholics come together to record David Lohman's song "For the Children." This post includes filmmaker Matt Peiken's behind-the-scenes look at the April 28, 2012 recording session.

Casey Michel on Archbishop Nienstedt's "Crusade Against Gay Marriage"

Excerpts from (and commentary on) Casey Michel's June 20, 2012 City Pages cover story, "Tilting at Rainbows: Archbishop John Nienstedt Crusades Against Gay Marriage."

A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

Images and commentary on Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's presence at the Twin Cities Gay Pride parade and festival, June 23-24, 2012.

Catholic Q&A on the 'Marriage Amendment'

A resource that provides short, accessible answers to frequently asked questions about the Minnesota 'marriage amendment.'

"A Thoughtful, Entertaining, and Inspiring Program"

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's August 15, 2012 event "I Do! Believe in the Freedom to Marry" included the premiere of our "For the Children" music video.

Above: Jim Smith, C4ME-MN board member and the driving force behind the "For All the Children" music video, welcomes the over 300 attendees of the August 15 "I Do! Believe in the Freedom to Marry" event in Minneapolis' Loring Park.

Thanking You, Archbishop

Believe it or not, an August 2012 spike in the number of requests for C4ME-MN's "Another Catholic Voting No" yard signs can be attributed to Archbishop Nienstedt.

On September 24, 2012 I was the guest on Suzanne Linton's SCCTV program Our World Today. During the course of the hour-long broadcast, four of the five 'vignettes' of C4ME-MN's Catholics for Marriage Equality video series were shown and discussed. To watch this interview, click here.

As executive coordinator of CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN I organized the only Catholic event that opposed not only the "marriage amendment" but another amendment also on the November 6, 2012 ballot – one that would restrict voting rights. This event took place September 29, 2012 and was entitled "A Matter of Social Justice: Catholics Voting 'No' on Both Amendments." I was inspired to organize this event after reading Ricardo Levins Morales' August 10, 2012 Twin Cities Daily Planet article, "The Marriage Amendment as Decoy and How to Fight the Real Danger."

Featured speakers at C4ME-MN's September 29 event included (above from left) Eric Fought of Our Vote, Our Future; National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie L. Manson; and Jonathan Maurer-Jones of Minnesotans United for All Families. To read Jamie L. Manson's remarks, click here.

Into the Fray

Thoughts on resisting the"battle" metaphor while engaged in the journey to marriage equality.

In the Eye of the Storm, A Tree of Living Flame

A personal reflection on the need to be beacons of hope, encouragement and invitation in the face of the pro-'marriage amendment' storm of negativity.

In St. Cloud, A Prayer Vigil for Peace, Justice, Hope and Healing

Images and commentary on a very special November 4, 2012 gathering.

Both 'Marriage Amendment' and 'Voter Photo ID Amendment' Rejected by Minnesota Voters

On November 6, 2012, Minnesota makes history by becoming the first state in the U.S. to defeat an anti-marriage equality amendment.

Something to Celebrate


Acknowledging, Celebrating, and Learning from Marriage Equality's 'Triumphs of Faith'

Images and commentary on the marriage equality "debrief" organized and hosted by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC, December 3-4, 2012.

"It'll Be Legal August 1st"

With the 'marriage amendment' defeated, momentum builds for marriage equality legislation. Senator John Marty is particularly optimistic.

At the Minnesota State Capitol, Two Big Steps Forward for Marriage Equality

March 12, 2013 saw marriage equality legislation passed by both the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee (by 5-3) and the Minnesota House Civil Law Committee (by 10-7). As executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, I was honored to offer testimony in support of the bill during the House Civil Law Committee hearing. I'm pictured at left with Rep. Karen Clark (DFL, District 62A), chief author of the 2013 marriage equality legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Drawing the Circle Wide

Images and commentary on the May 8, 2013 Multi-Faith Rally for the Freedom to Marry. This event was held on the eve of the historic Minnesota House vote to grant the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage to same-sex couples. I was honored to be present representing Catholics supportive of marriage equality.

Karen Clark's Revolutionary Act: "Daring to Believe That People Can Change Their Hearts and Minds"

A celebration of Rep. Karen Clark (DFL, District 62A), chief author of the 2013 marriage equality legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the longest serving openly lesbian member to serve in a state legislature in the United States, and the recipient of CPCSM's 2004 Bishop Gumbleton Peace and Justice Award.

Photo of the Day – May 13, 2013

Marriage Equality Comes to Minnesota

Images and commentary on events at the MN Capitol on May 13, 2013 – a truly historic day.

Photo of the Day – May 14, 2013

Tongues and Souls on Fire

For many people of faith in Minnesota, the May 14, 2013 signing into law of marriage equality legislation involved a pouring forth of the Spirit of Pentecost.

Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts From the Very Beginning

A reflection on how a recent remark by Archbishop Nienstedt could be interpreted as encouraging us to rediscover the sacred call to seek, discern and lovingly respond to all expressions and experiences of God's transforming love – including those within the lives and relationships of gay people.

National LGBTQ Catholic Organization Honors Role Played by Catholics and Other Faith Groups in Securing Marriage Equality in Minnesota

At DignityUSA 2013 National Convention in Minneapolis on July 4-7, 2013 State Senator Scott Dibble, State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, and I were honored for our "prophetic leadership in achieving marriage equality in Minnesota."

DignityUSA also acknowledged and honored a number of representatives from the Minnesota inter-faith community who helped defeat the 2012 'marriage amendment.'

Let the Weddings Commence!

Images and commentary on "Married at Midnight: Minnesota's Largest Wedding Reception." This event took place in the hours leading up to and after midnight, July 31, 2013. It was at this time that civil marriage became legal for same-sex couples in Minnesota.

Above: Standing with six of my fellow CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN board members at DignityUSA's National Convention in Minneapolis on the evening of July 4, 2013.

From left: Lisa Vanderlinden, Cheryl Maloney, Kathleen Olsen, Brent Vanderlinden, Mary Beckfeld, me, and Jim Smith. Two board members, Mary Kay Orman and Bob DeNardo, were unable to join us that night.

Related Links:
A Look Back at 10 Years of Gay Marriage Victories in the U.S. – Denise Lavoie (Associated Press via HuffPost Gay Voices, May 16, 2014).
"This is the Living Word"Sensus Fidelium (March 28, 2012).
Voting No and No: A Catholic Perspective – Jamie L. Manson (Sensus Fidelium, October 25, 2012).
Why Do So Many Catholics Support Marriage Equality? Blame the Catholic Imagination – Jamie L. Manson (National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 2012).

UPDATE: 10 Incredible Improvements for LGBT People Since Gay Marriages Began 10 Years Ago – James Nichols (HuffPost Gay Voices, May 17, 2014).

See also the Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
Patrick Hornbeck on Why Good Catholics Are Challenging Church Line on Homosexuality
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 1)
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 2)
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vatican to Debate Teachings on Divorce, Birth Control, Gay Unions

By Henry Chu

Note: This article was first published April 30, 2014 by the Los Angeles Times.

Contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage and same-sex unions: They're issues that pain and puzzle Roman Catholics who want to be true to both their church and themselves. Now those issues are about to be put up for debate by their leader, a man who appears determined to push boundaries and effect change.

On Pope Francis' orders, the Vatican will convene an urgent meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people's lives. Billed as an "extraordinary" assembly of bishops, the gathering could herald a new approach by the church to the sensitive topics.

The run-up to the synod has been extraordinary in itself, a departure from usual practice that some say is a mark of the pope's radical new leadership style, and a canny tactic to defuse dissent over potential reforms.

Within a few months of his election last year, Francis directed every diocese in the world to survey local attitudes on family and relationships and report back to the Vatican, a canvassing of a sort that few of the faithful can recall previously. The results are being tallied and synthesized behind the walls of the Vatican.

The exercise reflects Francis' desire for less centralized and more responsive decision-making, mirroring his own self-described evolution from a rigid, authoritarian leader as a young man into one who consults and empathizes. His training as a Jesuit has taught the pope to cast as wide a net for information as possible, analysts say.

Taking the public temperature also brings tactical advantages. Nobody at the Vatican will be surprised to learn that vast numbers of Catholics disobey its ban on premarital sex and birth control, or that some are in gay partnerships. Setting down those realities irrefutably on paper, however, could strengthen a bid by Francis to soften the church's official line and put pressure on bishops inclined to resist, including some in the United States and many in Asia and Africa, conservative areas where the church has been growing.

"It is telling the pope and the Vatican what they already know. But it's what the Vatican in the past has not wanted to hear," author and Vatican expert John Thavis said.

"It's strategic, but it's also a genuine effort to find out what the voice of the church really is on this," Thavis said. "It's very much Pope Francis who wants less of a top-down model — the bishops preaching the rules and doctrine down to the faithful — and more of a dialogue."

Hardly anyone expects the pope to propose sweeping changes to Catholic doctrine at the synod in October despite widespread criticism that the modern world has left the church behind. Indeed, Francis has unequivocally upheld heterosexual marriage and procreation as God's established, sanctified ideal.

But liberal reformers have been excited by the Vatican's shift in tone under Francis. His remark regarding gays, "Who am I to judge?" has gone viral, as has his warning to the church not to obsess over "small-minded rules" and contentious subjects such as abortion.

So, although Francis almost certainly will not call for ditching the church's policy of denying communion to Catholics who have divorced and remarried, his emphasis on pastoral care and compassion could offer local priests a work-around, with greater flexibility to address individual circumstances. That would fit with the pope's vision of the church as a "field hospital" that triages people's spiritual wounds rather than aggravates them.

Likewise, Thavis said, Francis has hinted that same-sex unions, though not "marriage," could serve a practical purpose, if not a sacred one, by legally protecting the children of such relationships. This month, in an event that made headlines, the infant daughter of a lesbian couple was baptized in a cathedral in Francis' native Argentina, apparently with the Holy See's tacit assent.

"When he was cardinal in Buenos Aires, he really had a go at priests who wouldn't baptize the children of single mothers," said Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Tablet, a Catholic weekly in Britain. "He takes it back to a human place. It's more about the person than about sticking to the letter. He's willing to find a way through things."

But analysts warn that Francis' global popularity could fuel inflated expectations of the changes he is able, or wants, to deliver.

Although he's unquestionably the man at the top, disgruntled underlings can ignore or seek to thwart his injunctions. Conservative bishops in the U.S., most of them appointed by Francis' conservative predecessors, have grumbled about the direction Francis is taking and oppose relaxation of traditional strictures on marriage and family, said Massimo Faggioli of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"The Catholic Church is not a military dictatorship where, if they don't obey, you can send the army. It's very difficult for a pope to force bishops to do what you want them to do," Faggioli said.

Some jockeying is already underway.

Prelates in Germany, Switzerland, parts of the U.S. and a few other jurisdictions who favor a softer line have published their survey findings to bolster the case for change. The German bishops reported that many of their parishioners view the church's teaching on sexual morality as "unrealistic," its prohibition on artificial contraception as "incomprehensible" and its treatment of remarried divorcees as pitiless.

That the Germans also publicized their results in English "clearly meant they were trying to influence public opinion in a worldwide manner," said Robert Gahl, who teaches at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

The Vatican has reportedly requested church officials in Ireland, England, Wales and other places not to release their findings out of concern over stoking division.

The survey asked 39 lifestyle questions in each diocese — including whether unmarried couples living together was common, whether same-sex unions were legal, how many children were being raised in non-traditional families, and what programs effectively conveyed Catholic teaching on such matters.

Although the Vatican told bishops to distribute the questionnaire as widely as possible, apparently not all complied. In the U.S., the National Catholic Reporter found that many dioceses posted the survey online for parishioners to fill in, but others did not seem to notify laypeople at all.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese put a simplified version of the questionnaire on its website in English, Spanish and Korean and invited parishioners to participate. The results have been kept secret.

"There was no pretense of this being a scientific, neutral study," Gahl said. "It's like a massive global brainstorming."

While the published results from Western countries show large-scale rejection of Catholic dogma on sex and marriage, little is known of the response in Asia and Africa, where conservative views are more likely, analysts say. That could complicate reforms by Francis, who wants to broaden the input and influence of those growing regions.

Some critics also demand more participation by women in the discussion, so that crucial decisions on marriage, sex and family life are not made exclusively by a group of single, celibate, childless men.

The "extraordinary" synod in October is the first half of a two-phase process. Bishops will discuss the findings of the survey and air proposals to deal with them. They will then settle on new guidelines at an "ordinary" synod next year.

The two-step process should give prelates time to reflect and adjust to reforms proposed by Francis, author Thavis said.

But the pope would need to tread carefully, maintaining a tricky balancing act between ordinary Catholics who desperately want change and those among their leaders who spurn it.

"The pope is the pope, and I think we can expect that even more conservative bishops will listen to what he says," Thavis said. "In the end, it comes down to a policy that could be changed without causing people to leave the church or causing people to slam the door on the way out of the synod."

Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Convenes Vatican Synod on Family and Sex – Kevin Drum (Mother Jones, April 30, 2014)
Reconciling the Factions Within CatholicismCommonweal (April 30, 2014).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pope Francis Suggests Civil Unions For Gay Couples Might Be Acceptable

In an interview published Wednesday, March 5 in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis suggested that civil unions for gay couples might be acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church.

“Matrimony is between a man and a woman,” the pope told the paper's editor-in-chief, Ferrucio de Bortoli. But moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”

“It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety,” the pope said in response to being asked to what extent the church could understand laws recognizing civil unions.

Italian lawmakers are currently debating whether to legalize civil partnerships for gay couples.

A proposal to legalize civil partnerships for gay couples is supported by Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

In 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called on Argentina to legalize civil unions instead of allowing gay couples to marry.

Last year, the pope criticized church leaders for focusing on social issues, including its opposition to marriage equality.

Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis and Gay Unions: The Complete Text – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, March 5, 2014).
Pope Francis Says Church Must Examine Civil Unions – Michael O'Loughlin (The Advocate, March 5, 2014).
Francis Hints About Same-Sex Civil Unions – Lisa Fullam (Commonweal, March 5, 2014).
Catholics Still Lead Way on Gay Marriage – Jonathan Capehart (The Washington Post, February 11, 2014).
Catholics Urge Hierarchy to Evolve on Same-Sex Relationships – Michael O'Loughlin (The Advocate, February 13, 2014).
Homosexual Relationships: Another Look – Bill Hunt (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 8, 2012).

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Minnesota Safe and Supportive Schools Bill is in Keeping with Catholic Values


By Mary Beth Stein

Note: The following was first published February 13, 2014 as a letter-to-the-editor in the Twin Cities' Pioneer Press.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference rejects the Safe and Supportive Schools bill, expressing concern that the bill is part of a larger agenda to normalize same-sex attraction. These suspicions reflect the attitude of some of the ordained Church leaders but not the heart and soul of Catholics in the pews. As was demonstrated in the high Catholic percentage who voted against the marriage amendment, we already accept same-sex attraction as normal. Everyone is created by God; who are we to judge? Rather than judge we are called to cherish.

The real issue at hand is protecting students. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are frequent targets of bullying. The concern for all Catholics, indeed all Minnesotans, is to protect these and other vulnerable students from harm. What could be more in keeping with Catholic values?


Background Information and Action Steps

The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act:

House File 826: The bill was passed in the House in May, 2013, and sent to the Senate.

Senate File 783: The bill was tabled in May, 2013, and is currently in Finance Committee. The MN legislature convenes February 20, 2014.

Legislators to Call: Finance Committee Chair Dick Cohen (651) 296-5931, asking him to pass the bill out of committee and send it to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as the legislative session begins.

Senator Scott Dibble, the author of the bill and member of the Senate Finance Committee, (651) 296-4191, supporting him in moving the bill onto the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (651) 296-8881, asking him to facilitate the bill's passing on the Senate floor.

Recommended Resource:
Catholic Support for Anti-Bullying Legislation Without Exemption for Private Schools: A Position Paper – Daniel DeWan, Lisa Vanderlinden and Patty Thorsen for the Council of the Baptized (February 11, 2014).

Related Off-site Links:
Groups Organize Support for Safe Schools Bill – Andy Birkey (, February 12, 2014).
Bullying's a Problem. Could This Proposed Minnesota Law Be a Solution? – Christopher Magan (Pioneer Press, February 8, 2014).
Pioneer Press Fails to Identify Anti-LGBT Lobbyist in Bullying Report – Andy Birkey (, February 10, 2014).
GOP, Tea Parties Forge Ties with Anti-Gay Group to Stop Safe Schools Bill – Andy Birkey (The, January 27, 2014).
Meet the Team Behind the Minnesota Child Protection League – Andy Birkey (The, January 8, 2014).
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"The Progressive Catholic Voice (November 10, 2013).
Catholic Hierarchy's Rhetoric Does Not Reflect Changes to Safe and Supportive Schools Act – Rep. Jim Davnie (MinnPost, April 26, 2013).
MN Catholic Bishops Oppose Anti-Bullying LegislationThe Progressive Catholic Voice (April 6, 2013).
The Minnesota Safe Schools for All Coalition

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Catholics and Same-Sex Relationships: A Pathway to Doctrinal Change?

By Terence Weldon

Note: This commentary was first published February 14, 2014 at Terence Weldon's blog site, Queering the Church.

For all but those who choose not to see, it’s become blindingly obvious that across the whole gamut of sexual ethics, formal Catholic doctrines must change, and that includes doctrines on same-sex affectional orientation and relationships.

It won’t happen at this year’s family synod, although the global consultation in preparation for it has highlighted the great gulf between Vatican doctrine and actual Catholic belief and practice. This could just lead to some recognition of the need for some changes, in line with Pope Francis’ hint (in “Evangelii Gaudium”) that these are issues that “need further reflection and study”. More probably, the synod could see some marked adjustments to pastoral practice, and changes in practice will lead, in time, to substantive change in doctrine. One way or another, sooner or later that change will come – and could come more quickly than people expect.

The question is, how will that change come about? It certainly won’t be a simple matter of the CDF saying, “Sorry, guys. We were wrong. Here’s the new deal”. It’s not true that Catholic teaching doesn’t change – it’s done so constantly over 2000 years, and will continue to do so. Even Pope Francis has referred to the necessity and inevitability of this evolution in Catholic teaching, but that’s the key. Catholic change is always gradual: evolution not revolution.

Professor Charles J Reid of University of St Thomas, Minnesota, has reflected at Huffington Post on one possible way in which this doctrinal evolution could develop. He is writing specifically about a path all the way to same-sex marriage, but before we get there, we’ll need to see just the acceptance of simple relationships, possibly as civil unions. It’s already notable, without formal change in doctrine, that the resistance to full marriage equality has led some senior bishops to accept the value of civil unions, and that amidst all the heated rhetoric about the supposed “evils” of gay marriage, there’s been remarkably little said about the inherently “disordered” nature of the relationships themselves. That’s progress. The gradual Catholic evolution towards formal doctrinal change has already begun.

In developing his argument, Reid begins by noting that Catholic moral theology rests on the foundations of “Christian anthropology”. This seeks an accurate understanding of the human person, in order to develop rules and norms of behaviour which are not contrary to human nature, and which promote “a genuine understanding of human flourishing”.

The prevailing anthropology, he notes, is based on John Paul II’s “theology of the body”, which emphasises the complementarity of male and female, and the importance of sexual reproduction. On those grounds, the theology of the body, and any Christian anthropology that rests on it, cannot support same-sex marriage. Reid does not attempt to counter this conclusion (which certainly could be done), but takes another tack, instead.

He turns then to an alternative set of premises, beginning with human reason and human psychology – entirely respectable starting points in Catholic thinking about sex and marriage.

For Thomas Aquinas, whose conclusions about sex and marriage became so influential in later Catholic thinking on the subjects, the careful application of human reason was of great importance. More recently, the application of human psychology to questions of marriage, has been influential in the development of approaches to annulment,

Applying these two principles, and taking into account information from recent findings from psychology, leads to the inevitable conclusion that same-sex attraction is simply one part of the “natural variability of human sexuality”.

What it means to be human, in other words, not only embraces male and female, but it may also, in some cases, include same-sex attraction. If Catholics take this line of reasoning seriously, then it becomes impossible to speak of same-sex attraction as “objectively disordered.”

This much is reasonably well known, and must surely lead to some recognition of same-sex relationships. But in discussing marriage, Reid moves on to territory that is less familiar, at least to me.

But what of marriage? Here, one might turn to St. Augustine’s Treatise on the Goods of Marriage. In the opening sentence of this work, St. Augustine defines marriage as “friendship” – amicitia. The human person, St. Augustine asserts, is a “social being” made that way by our “human nature” (humana natura).

The three “great goods” of marriage according to Augustine, are procreation, unity and fidelity. The surprise is that among these, Augustine does not, as popularly supposed, place procreation at the apex.

For Augustine, the true significance of marriage was not procreation, but the enduring friendship of two human beings who are innately social creatures.

So, already we have some grounds for an evolution in Catholic doctrine that widens the meaning of marriage to include same-sex unions, but there remains a further problem, going back beyond Aquinas, all the way to Augustine. That is the Augustinian proposition that all sexual intercourse must be open to procreation – at least, theoretically so. That is “the core of the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception”.

Reid does not explore any further just how that difficulty might be resolved, noting that to do so, would require a rethink of the very foundations of all its sexual ethics, which he describes as “a very large undertaking indeed”.

However, that very large undertaking has, in effect, already begun. The global consultation on Catholic belief, undertaken in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, has already convincingly demonstrated that in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg, there is near universal rejection of this Augustinian assumption. The bishops’ reports from the remaining countries of Europe and also of North America are likely to show the same thing. Meanwhile, the Univision survey of twelve countries on five continents corroborate the European bishops’ reports, and show that even in Africa, the most conservative countries (in terms of Catholic belief), support for the traditional doctrine on contraception is no more than about 50%. Augustine’s principle may have underpinned Catholic sexual doctrine for a millenium and a half, but that does not mean it must stand forever. We already know that the majority report of the papal commission on birth control that preceded Humanae Vitae found that contraception did not need to be absolutely precluded, and found some way around Augustine. It’s not too difficult to imagine that majority report being dusted off, and reconsidered.

Related Off-site Links:
Do Progressive Catholics Care About Doctrine? – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, February 15, 2014).
Homosexual Relationships: Another Look – Bill Hunt (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 8, 2012).
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, August 16, 2007).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Catholics Urge Church Hierarchy to Evolve on Same-Sex Relationships

By Michael O'Loughlin

Note: This article was first published February 13, 2014 by The Advocate.

The Roman Catholic bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla., says people in his diocese "felt that the Church needed to be prepared to better respond to the reality of same-sex marriage."

In a blog post last week, Bishop Robert Lynch reported on findings of a survey he commissioned in response to a request from Pope Francis to hear from the laity on issues relating to the family before an important global meeting of bishops in October. The Vatican specifically asked bishops to consult the laity on how well the church cares for families headed by same-sex couples and the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics.

Lynch wrote that respondents to the survey, most of whom were over 50 and attend church weekly, said that "the Church needed to be kinder and gentler to those who identify themselves as gay and lesbian, be less judgmental and more welcoming."

Further, they "clearly stated was the opinion that an adopted child of same-sex parents should be treated in the Church exactly the same as a child born of a traditional marriage between a man and a woman."

Lynch wrote that he has "will not tolerate any discrimination or anything which smacks of the punitive to children of same-sex couples" and that "all representatives of the Church’s many ministries can be kinder, gentler, more welcoming and less judgmental of those who find our praxis and preaching on marriage and family life to be at odds with their experiences."

Earlier this month, Catholic bishops in Germany reported similar findings.

"The Church's statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases," said a report issued February 3 by the German bishopss conference.

German Catholics "regard the legal recognition of same-sex civil partnerships and their equal treatment vis-a-vis marriage as a commandment of justice."

Germany is home to one of the wealthiest and most influential Catholic churches.

A Washington Post poll of Catholics from 12 countries published earlier this week shows overwhelming support for same-sex marriage among Catholics in the U.S. but near-unanimous opposition from Catholics in Africa.

Last fall the Vatican sent a document to national conferences of Catholic bishops, asking them to consult the laity on a range of issues related to the family, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Questions about divorce, contraception, and same-sex marriage, all of which the church opposes, were included. "Does a ministry exist to attend" to same-sex couples? it asked.

It went on to consider children of same-sex parents: "In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?"

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not commission a national survey, leaving the discovery process up to individual bishops. The request did was made in October and results were due in December, leaving some bishops scrambling on ways to collect the information.

In England and Wales, Catholic bishops launched a website to collect information. Some bishops in the U.S. relied on already collected data, choosing not to consult the faithful in their dioceses. Few have followed Lynch in publishing data.

According to NCR, this was "the first time the church's central hierarchy has asked for such input from grass-roots Catholics since at least the establishment of the synod system following the Second Vatican Council."

The synod on families will meet twice, in October 2014 and October 2015.

Image: Michael J. Bayly.