Monday, November 9, 2009

The Catholic Church Suffers From Scrutiny - Mormons Give a Sigh of Relief

The Mormons no doubt are very happy that Question 1 passed, but may be not for the reasons you would think. Finally, the scorn of the LGBT population is off of them (so they believe) and on to another target: The Catholic Church.

Bishop Richard Malone of Maine's Diocese actively campaigned for the Yes on 1 campaign, sending DVDs of himself to parishes around the state to be played at services, imploring parishioners to donate to the campaign. In all, the church gave $550,000.

This past week in Maine, several protests took place against the passage of Question 1, but on Sunday, a silent protest took place in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, organized by the Facebook group Demand Equality Now.

But what's different about these protests compared to last year's against the Church of Latter Day Saints is that Catholics are either joining in with them or voicing their support.

(See WGME news report.)

America Blog's Joe Sudbay states that he was baptized in this particular church and that his mother still attends there. "That's the church my parents attend, where I was baptized and confirmed and where we had the funerals for my grandparents," he said on his blog. "The Facebook crowd was organizing the protest, but when I told my 73 year old mother about it (and she's not the Facebook crowd), she said, 'Oh, I wish I knew.'"

This echoes the larger, growing divide within the Church.

In its article "Victory over same-sex marriage comes at high price", the National Catholic Reporter looks into the turmoil that Question 1 has caused.
. . . Malone chastised "a group of self-described Catholics who have chosen to dissent publicly from established Catholic doctrine on the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Malone was writing about 140 people whose names appeared in a newspaper ad titled "Statement of Conscience by Maine Catholics Regarding Marriage Equality." Malone wrote, "A Catholic whose conscience has been properly formed by scripture and the teachings of the Catholic church cannot support same sex marriage."

But hundreds of Catholics disagreed with the bishop.

"It is a sad day, as the leaders of the Catholic church in Maine relish, in delight, that they have succeeded in keeping the homosexual families of Maine outside of the walls of society where they must beg to maintain their very existence, much like the lepers and blind in the Bible were kept outside the city walls in days of old," said Jack Dougherty of Eliot, Maine, a member of Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Portland attorney George Burns, who helped draft the Catholic statement on equality, said "The bishop won at a great price -- whether he cares about that price or not. He has divided his flock."

One Catholic, Pamella Starbird Beliveau of Lewiston, Maine, was removed as a lector and eucharistic minister after her pastor read an opinion piece she wrote for the local newspaper approving of same-sex marriage.

She told a rally outside the Portland cathedral Nov. 1, "I am sad but not surprised by what happened. … The Catholic church has every right to determine who can and cannot serve as ministers in the church. I respect that. We must keep our eyes focused on the issue and that is equality for our gay and lesbian citizens."

It will be interesting to see what effects this chasm within the body of the church creates. Though this story in particular deals with the consequences of Question 1 in Maine, currently New Jersey is considering a marriage equality bill of its own, and the Catholic Church in the Garden State has already actively stood against it. Worse, I've reported on how the church plans to spend $2 million on fighting marriage equality nationwide.

With all of its past problems, can the Catholic Church sustain its momentum against LGBT rights amongst growing criticism?

Patricia Brinkman said it best in her letter to the Portland Herald Press' editor. "Newsflash to Bishop Malone: civil rights are not 'values.' And, as the multitude of successful lawsuits against the church on behalf of exploited children will attest, you long ago surrendered your legitimacy to dictate morality regarding sex."


Images by Kimberly Robinson

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