Monday, January 30, 2012

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN Launch Online Petition

Group urges Archbishop Nienstedt to focus on Catholic social justice initiatives, not divisive politics

SAINT PAUL, MN – Today, the Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota launched, an online petition urging Archbishop Nienstedt and all the bishops of Minnesota to refocus their energy, time and commitment away from the divisive constitutional "marriage amendment" and back towards laudable Catholic social justice initiatives.

“Recent comments by Archbishop Nientedt have unnecessarily turned our church into a lightning rod on a controversial political issue,” said Michael Bayly, Executive Coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. “We urge Archbishop Nienstedt and all the bishops to redirect our church's time, energy, and money towards feeding the hungry and caring for the homeless and the sick, and away from this divisive issue which is causing unnecessary pain and hostility within the local Catholic community and beyond.”

This petition and all of its signers will be delivered to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis at a later date. Catholics for Marriage Equality MN encourages and welcomes any and all to sign the petition, which can be found at

Nature or Nurture? (Or Is That Really the Important Question?)

Do we bring our sexual orientation into this world (nature) or is it something learned (nurture)? Or is it a consequence of both? Or do some of us actually choose our orientation? Most of us--gay or straight--would concede our orientation is not chosen, but something given to us in the mystery of genes or our mothers' hormones, or a combination of our natural ingredients and those of our early formation. But at the end of the day, does it matter all that much? Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist and himself a gay man, goes to the heart of the issue in these last lines from this Sunday column:

I honestly have no idea if I was born this way. My memory doesn’t stretch to the crib.

But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream. These feelings gelled early, and my considerable fear of society’s censure was no match for them.

I know that being in a same-sex relationship feels as central and natural to me as my loyalty to my father, my pride in my siblings’ accomplishments and my protectiveness of their children – all emotions that I didn’t exit the womb with but will not soon shake.

And I know that I’m a saner, kinder person this way than trapped in a contrivance or a lie. Surely that’s not just to my advantage but to society’s, too.

Though Frank Bruni didn't choose his sexual orientation, he has chosen to live into it with apparent grace and dignity. No lies. No secrets. No apologies. A gorgeous acceptance of his orientation as perfectly natural and inherently good. And he is aware that by living into his orientation as he does, the world around him is better for it, too.

We pray that any child born into a Catholic family and who grows into an LGBT identity will be surrounded by good teachers – parents, grandparents, pastors, First Communion and Confirmation directors, coaches, grade-school and high school teachers. We pray these adults will help the child grow happily, gracefully and proudly into the person s/he was made to be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Has Christ Left the Church?

In the hierarchical zeal meant to mobilize Catholics around the proposed marriage amendment, something profoundly Christ-like is being profoundly overlooked.

Pastoral, compassionate ministry.

Plain and simple, the continual act of reaching out to those who are marginalized, whether they exist in our Sunday pews or not.

Think of our Catholic sisters and brothers who may be uncomfortable with marriage equality but equally uncomfortable with their leaders' efforts and money poured into changing a constitution that will change nothing (same-sex marriage is already illegal in the state of Minnesota). These Catholics are being told they are not faithful if they do not defend the hierarchy's agenda.

Think of the Catholic, church-going parents and grandparents of GLBT persons. They are told that if they invite their gay child and his/her partner to dinner--any night of the year, they risk their own salvation.

Think of LGBT persons who are sacrificing themselves daily as parents. They are being told in no uncertain terms that they are doing a violence to children.

Think of LGBT persons who are hanging on by their fingertips to their involvement in parish life. They are being constantly reminded of their "internal disorder" by the unprecedented efforts to deny them a place at the table.

If you are a Catholic pastor or pastoral minister, we implore that you do not forget these people who are hurting, these who deserve the compassionate care of your good servant leadership.

For a sense of how the Catholic church has suffered in the same regard in other states, go to this New Ways Ministry blog post.

The marginalization must stop.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Marriage Moment for All Catholics!

Our friends at Call To Action, a national intra-Catholic Church justice organization, are planning a Marriage Moment!

The Minnesota Marriage Amendment:
Can Faithful Catholics Vote "No"?

Join us to gain a Catholic perspective not available on Sunday mornings.

Saturday, April 21, at 9:30 am
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Snelling Ave., St. Paul

Mickey Martinez, Catholic attorney, will illustrate the shift from marriage being, essentially, a civil matter the first millennium to being vested with religious meaning in the second - His talk: "A Holy, Civil Matter"

Patricia Beattie Jung, Catholic Professor of Christian Ethics, will present "Marriage Equality and Catholicism", making a case for church endorsement of the civil recognition of same-sex unions.

Project 515 Players will dramatize experiences of GLBT people when legal protections are denied, in a skit called "It's all about Fairness". Trainers from OutFrontMN will help us shape conversations for talking to people about the importance of voting NO in November.

FFI – Art or 651-278-6630.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Courageous Conversation

As we continue to move forward in conversations with family members, neighbors, colleagues and friends about why marriage equality matters to us, we're given a beautiful example of two people not quite on the same page who come together in civil, respectful dialogue. Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum testifies that it really is humanly possible to suspend judgment long enough to listen. Give this description of such a conversation a read, and may it inspire us to have some courageous conversations of our own.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gospel Anger

A Minneapolis priest confessed this week that in the first time since he started parish ministry over 30 years ago, people are telling him they're embarrassed to be Catholic. The Archbishop's letter to priests, leaked to the Minneapolis StarTribune last Sunday (thank you Michael and Progressive Catholic Voice!) has apparently raised great alarm among the faithful. His demand for priestly silence and his egregious distortion of intention held by those who wish to vote NO on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment have inspired humiliation among rank and file Catholics.

We say, don't be embarrassed. Be angry.

Love your church. Remember all the good that flows from so many ecclesial corners and times. Love even those within the Church who attempt to bring hierarchical authority to distorted, destructive levels.

But be angry.

Not the "I hate these clerics" kind of anger. Not the name-calling kind of anger. Not the anger that limits its expression to bitch sessions with other angry people. But an anger rooted in the call of your baptism to proclaim the good news that Jesus came to welcome the outcast, to widen the circle of God's love and justice. An anger that mobilizes you to act courageously on behalf of this Good News.

We Catholics know how to passively resist dictates that counter the informed decisions of our conscience. What we could do more of is actively resist. Stand up and offer a clear, alternative voice--in church and out of church. Engage in respectful, honest conversations with those who may not agree with you. Call a "house church" gathering of fellow parishioners or neighbors to listen to the stories of those marginalized by constant barrages of judgment. Tell family and friends that you will vote NOT to enshrine discrimination into the constitution, and tell them what brings you to this conviction.

Embarrassment causes us to cower. Anger--of the Gospel variety--has the power to inspire our action on behalf of those Jesus welcomes into God's circle.

Don't be embarrassed. Be angry. Be Gospel angry.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Bishop Speaks from the Sacred Edge

As Catholic grass-roots efforts heat up within parishes to defeat the marriage amendment, some things bear reminding. And who better to remind us than a Bishop! Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, long-time supporter of LGBT dignity spoke recently at a Michigan faith gathering, and empowers us with a church teaching:

“The saving factor in Catholic teaching is we have, above everything else, primacy of conscience. That means that I must understand my own heart. I make the decision, is it right for me? The church’s teaching does provide conflict, but it is solvable in this way.”

He gives us Christ, our model of steadfast compassion and justice:

” ‘Jesus paid a terrible price for standing up for what he believed in. He paid with death,’ he said. ‘But most people don’t go that far. Most people back off. They get to a certain point and they just back off. Jesus didn’t do that.’ “

Great reminders to give us strength for the journey ahead.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shall We Talk About the Marriage Amendment?

How do we talk about the marriage amendment with people who might disagree? Below are some notes taken by a colleague of ours in the inter-faith movement to defeat the amendment. Liz O. is a Quaker in Minneapolis, and shares these insightful notes from a presentation given by Mark Oster, a professer at the University of St. Thomas Law School. They are worth our study:

Stop talking to one another (the choir); go to people we disagree with and talk to them in a civil manner, in the appropriate place. HERE ARE 5 IDEAS ON HOW TO APPROACH THESE CIVIL, PERSUASIVE CONVERSATIONS:

+ Be brave enough to talk with conflicted people and with people who disagree with you. They probably are among our work colleagues, our neighbors, our fellow-worshipers. Yes, the issue of marriage/of the amendment comes up... if you raise it!

+ Don't start with anger. Anger is valuable but not when you are advocating for a point, person, position, etc. Anger doesn't change anyone's mind! Anger ≠ Advocacy. The rally-chant "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay/Born-Again Christians, go away!" doesn't make for social change and doesn't change anyone.

+ Start with common interest and values. Picture you and the person you are speaking with as being part of a conversation that metaphorically draws a circle around you both.
Also, visualize standing where the other person is, side by side, facing in the same direction; then begin walking together to the destination we're moving toward.

+ Affirm the positive, shared elements, then work from there. Example: "Both of us value children in stable families. Gay men and lesbians already have kids and are raising children, that's a fact. Given that, wouldn't those kids do better by having the stability that marriage brings?"
Another example, related to religious people and others who are against abortion: "Gays and lesbians adopt many kids who have special needs or who are older. So gay and lesbian couples are helping address abortion, an issue you care deeply about."
Be realistic: No one will say, "You're right, I'm a bigot."

+ Leave the interaction on a positive note; change topics if you have to! Remember: People change their minds over time. And we never know who is listening or when it is that something will click. So ask about their plans for the weekend, or their family, or a hobby you know they are engaged in.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Archbishop in Minnesota Opposes Marriage Equality, Dissent in Equal Measure

NOTE: The following editorial was first published January 17, 2012, on the Common Dreams website. It provides a good summary of the current situation in Minnesota regarding the Catholic hierarchy's support of the marriage amendment.

Come November, Minnesotans will enter the voting booth and be given the opportunity to vote for or against a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages in the state. <a href=>Minnesota United for All Families</a>, a broad coalition of organizations and community and business leaders, opposes the amendment, saying the ban "would benefit no family, create no job, defend no institution, nor welcome any person to Minnesota," but would "hurt, disadvantage, and stigmatize tens of thousands of Minnesotans and their families."

The fight leading up to the vote will be hard fought on all sides and all voters, whether they support or oppose the measure, will be asked to stand up and voice their belief on the issue. Everyone, that is, except members of the Catholic clergy.

In a letter leaked by the Progressive Catholic Voice in Minnesota on January 5th, Archbishop John Nienstedt warned priests and deacons throughout the diocese not to publicly speak against the amendment nor the church's role in pressing for it.

The American Independent subsequently reported on the leak and the Progressive Catholic Voice's response to the Archbishop:

That group’s editor, Michael Bayly, called the speech problematic.

“The Archbishop’s letter is problematic in many ways,” he said. “As a gay man, I find it particularly offensive that he can’t even bring himself to name gay and lesbian people. We’re simply a ‘minority’ seemingly out to destroy the church and civilization. Such an absurd caricature would be funny if not for the hurtful and damaging consequences to individuals, couples and families resulting from the Archbishop’s anti-marriage equality activism.”

Minnesota’s Catholic hierarchy has come under intense scrutiny over its support for the anti-gay constitutional amendment.

In the run-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, the church sent out approximately 400,000 DVDs and mailings urging Catholics to vote for Republican Tom Emmer, the only candidate in the race who opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples and a staunch Catholic.

The campaign, paid for by an anonymous donor and produced by the Knight of Columbus, sparked protests against the church.

But, as the Minnesota Star Tribune reported Monday, the Archbishop shows no sign of backing off his stance:

Priests told not to voice dissent

Archbishop John Nienstedt is warning Catholic clergy across Minnesota that there should be no "open dissension" of the church's strong backing of a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would define marriage as a union only between a man and woman.

In other early signs of the fervent campaign the church intends to wage for the amendment, which will be on every ballot in the state this fall, Nienstedt is appointing priests and married couples to visit archdiocesan high schools to talk about marriage. He has directed parishes to form committees to work for passage of the amendment. He also has warned a priest that he may be stripped of his ministry if he continues to disagree "with the church's teaching on marriage."

One priest in particular has be singled out by Nienstedt, as the Star Tribune explains:

One vocal critic of Nienstedt is the Rev. Mike Tegeder, who spoke against the amendment at a priests' meeting with Nienstedt in October.

In November, Tegeder received a letter stating that if he did not end his public opposition, Nienstedt would suspend his "faculties to exercise ministry" and remove him from his "ministerial assignments."

And a report by United Press International adds:

Nienstedt told Tegeder unless he desists in opposing the amendment that would define marriage as a union only between a man and woman he would strip the priest of his "faculties to exercise ministry" and remove him from his "ministerial assignments."

Tegeder said he doesn't believe the church should be actively campaigning in support of the amendment. Minnesota has about 1.1 million Catholics.

"That's not the way to support marriage," Tegeder said. "If we want to support marriage, there are wonderful things we can do as Catholic churches and ministers. We should not be focused on beating up a small number of people who have this desire to have committed relationships."

Monday, January 16, 2012


"The endgame of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we support is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether." Archbishop John Nienstedt in a letter to all priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Bewildering. The Archbishop believes that those who oppose the marriage amendment want to eliminate marriage altogether. If he took any time to truly listen to those who oppose the amendment--starting with his own Catholics-- he would come to a very different belief.

While we wait for him to listen to the good minds and hearts of the people entrusted to his care, we are already responding. If you are a Catholic who loves the church but in good conscience opposes the marriage amendment, we're offering you an opportunity to stand up. Throughout the metro, and soon throughout the state, Catholics are gathering in "house churches" to listen to the stories of gay and lesbian couples, and listen to the stories of their Catholic parents and Catholic friends. If inspired, Catholics sign a support statement in which they commit to voting NO on the proposed amendment in November. Other action steps are also offered.

Visit our website: to sign the support statement online and to contact us with your desire to participate in a house church gathering in your parish.

And pray that Christ's call for compassion, justice and unity inhabit this great state in the months and years ahead.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

House Church Trainings Begin!

Catholics for Marriage Equality had its first training for Catholic leaders in MN on January 5th. These Catholics have come forward to invite from 10 to 40 fellow Catholics to gather for a 'house church' discussion on the proposed Marriage Amendment.

Thirty people showed up for the simple training, representing ten parishes throughout the metro area.

It was a striking moment. One after another introduced themselves at the beginning of the meeting and briefly shared why they landed here. Eloquent testimony, passionate convictions. Sadness, anger, hope, empowerment, all these describe the dispositions brought to our meeting.

These are Catholics committed in faith, alive in compassion, active in their parishes. Many of these Catholics have children or friends or co-workers who are gay or lesbian. They see the face of God in these persons and in their relationships of love and deep commitment.

Can one be a faithful Catholic while honestly grappling with a teaching or directive of the hierarchy? Actually, one's baptism demands a searing, thoughtful examination of teaching within the lived experience of God's people. If such a teaching comes up short time and again, it demands our scrutiny. These Catholics take seriously the call of their baptism to be faithful to the Gospel of Christ and faithful to the cause of bringing the Church to become what it professes to be--the Body of Christ, the Community of the Beloved Disciple.

Thanks to the 30 Catholics who showed up in early January and are committed to gathering others in house church meetings.

We are planning a second training for March. This grass-roots Catholic movement marches on.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Archbishop Orders Minnesota Priests to Support or Stay Silent on Anti-Gay-Marriage Amendment

By Andy Birkey

NOTE: The following article was first published January 5, 2011 by The American Independent.

Minneapolis Archbishop John C. Nienstedt's private speech was leaked
to a progressive Catholic group, which published the anti-gay text Thursday

“There ought not be open dissension on this issue,” is the message the Catholic hierarchy is telling priests in Minnesota — “this issue” being same-sex marriage.

In a private speech to Minnesota’s priests last October, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt said that any priest who disagreed with the church’s efforts to place a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples should remain silent. Any disagreements should be brought to him personally, he said. The Catholic Church in Minnesota has been a driving force for the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment since it passed onto the 2012 ballot last May.

Nienstedt later sent the text of that speech to priests who were unable to participate in the gathering. Someone in the church recently leaked the text to the Progressive Catholic Voice, a group working for reform within the church. On Thursday, PCV published statements condemning Nienstedt’s speech.

In the speech, Nienstedt told the priests he expects participation in getting the amendment passed from everyone within the church:

It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead. The gravity of this struggle, and the radical consequences of inaction propels me to place a solemn charge upon you all — on your ordination day, you made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches. I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly. If anyone believes in conscience that he cannot cooperate, I want him to contact me directly and I will plan to respond personally.

Nienstedt also noted that he’s created teams of “a priest and a married couple” to go into Catholic schools to talk about the amendment.

In a public statement, various members of Progressive Catholic Voice said the Archbishop’s direction is unbelievable.

“When I first read this letter I couldn’t believe that the Archbishop was telling priests and deacons to be silent if they were opposed to the marriage amendment,” said Paula Ruddy, parishioner at Minneapolis’ St. Boniface. “Is one’s position on whether the State constitution should be amended a matter of Church doctrine? How are Catholics to form their consciences if their pastors are not candid with them?”

Ruddy is also a member of the editorial board of the Progressive Catholic Voice.

That group’s editor, Michael Bayly, called the speech problematic.

“The Archbishop’s letter is problematic in many ways,” he said. “As a gay man, I find it particularly offensive that he can’t even bring himself to name gay and lesbian people. We’re simply a ‘minority’ seemingly out to destroy the church and civilization. Such an absurd caricature would be funny if not for the hurtful and damaging consequences to individuals, couples and families resulting from the Archbishop’s anti-marriage equality activism.”

Minnesota’s Catholic hierarchy has come under intense scrutiny over its support for the anti-gay constitutional amendment.

In the run-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, the church sent out approximately 400,000 DVDs and mailings urging Catholics to vote for Republican Tom Emmer, the only candidate in the race who opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples and a staunch Catholic.

The campaign, paid for by an anonymous donor and produced by the Knights of Columbus, sparked protests against the church.

More recently, the Archdiocese’s lobbying wing, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, has joined with the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council to form the Minnesota for Marriage Coalition, a group dedicated to passing the amendment in November.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another Day, Another Beautiful Prayer

In response to Archbishop Nienstedt's prayer to exclude civil rights to same gender couples, another Catholic offers an alternative prayer. Here at Catholics for Marriage Equality, we hope these alternative prayers multiply in the coming months, giving Catholics lots of choices to pray in a spirit of Gospel welcome and compassion. Read the latest prayer, this by Dr. Bernard Schlager, and his accompanying commentary. Pray well, good people!