Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Protecting whose family? Roman Catholic bishops in MN and KC

The Roman Catholic archdiocese in MInnesota is mobilizing against marriage, in advance of the vote on an anti-equality amendment.
Archbishop John Nienstedt sent a letter to every priest in the state at the start of October urging them to put every Catholic church in Minnesota to work passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage....

The archbishop said it wants priests in every parish to identify a “church captain” in order to create an “ad hoc committee” in every church in the state. The “church captain” is a component of the Schubert Flint strategy used in 2008′s divisive Proposition 8 battle in California...

Nienstedt wrote [:] “The sanctity of marriage and vital role of the family is at stake. It is a firmly-held teaching of our church that a marriage is a union of a husband and a wife, and that they together are the ones suited to be a father and a mother.”
Because after all, two happily married gay people are monstrous threat to children and family, unlike the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Of course, previously, Abp Nienstedt suggested that parents should reject their gay children to save their own souls:
those who could not agree with "the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality ... ought not participate in the sacramental life of the church." The archbishop added that the mothers' "eternal salvation" could depend on their adopting the church's position on homosexuality.
And then of course, there's the Church's stallwart defense of family and children in the Diocese of Kansas City
On Friday, prosecutors in Kansas City, Mo., secured an indictment from a grand jury that alleges Bishop Robert Finn neglected to inform the police for months after discovering "hundreds of disturbing images of children" on a priest's laptop in December 2010, including photographs focused on the crotch, up-skirt pictures and at least one image of a child's naked vagina. The offending priest — Shawn Ratigan — was relieved of his position as a church pastor and transferred to a convent, but neither the police, his parishioners nor parents of students at a nearby Catholic school were informed of the pictures until May 2011. In the interim, Ratigan continued to attend events involving children, including birthday parties and a first communion, and allegedly attempted to take lewd pictures of a 12-year-old girl. Finn and Ratigan have both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

UpdateDr Primrose points out that the Episcopal Bishop of MN has come out against the amendment. Similar to what happened in NY and before that in CA, where the contrast between TEC and RC bishops was very striking.

Update 2: yes, this is legal. Churches can campaign on social issues. TEC can campaign pro marriage, and the RC (to their credit) have typically been positive voices for the immigrants. That's not the point. The point is the double standard on children, what it means to campaign to deny non-Catholics their civil rights, and the hypocrisy of logs and motes....


James said...

This moves beyond separation of church and state. When clergy tell their parishioners to vote to deny civil rights to any group of citizens, THAT is a political activity, not a religious activity. Why aren't the GOP funding special prosecutors to pursue this violation? Or why aren't they prosecuting priests/bishops who protected child molesters? Oh, that's right, they are too busy funding the fight to keep civil rights away from citizens.

Brother David said...

It is not considered political activity in your country James, it is legal influence on social legislation. TEC also does it.

dr.primrose said...

At the risk of being a broken record on this point, federal law permits religious organizations (and all other charitable organizations) to "lobby" legislatures on issues, provided that their lobbying does not constitute a "substantial part" of their overall activities. By contrast, they are not permitted to directly or indirectly support or oppose political candidates, which is a wholly different thing. The IRS has put out a helpful booklet on this subject -- Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizatons -- that summarizes the applicable rules in detail.

The RC Church is legally permitted to do what they're doing so long as it doesn't constitute a "substantial part" of their overall activities. Balancing this activity against everything they do, it probably doesn't go that far.

From the other side, The Episcopal Church, and other groups, are legally permitted to oppose proposed laws that limit marriage for same-sex couples. And it has done so. For example, in 2008 the Episcopal bishops in California issued a statement opposing Prop. 8.

While I adamantly oppose what the RC Church is doing in this area, I don't think we want a situation where everyone in the country is legally permitted to express opinions on public matters and to work for or against laws except for churches. That kind of situation would almost certainly violate the First Amendment rights of free speech and of the free exercise of religion. It would also violate what I view as the strong Biblical mandate of speaking the truth to those in power.

Finally, the RC Church strategy may be very counter-productive internally. Recent polls have shown that almost half of Roman Catholics support marriage for same sex couples and another third support legal civil unions, see here and here. This campaign by the hierarchy is bound to create a fair amount of resentment from people in the pews who are not in line with the hierarchy on this issue. From what I have been told, during the Prop. 8 fight in California the pressure from Mormon church leaders created a lot of resentment by Mormons in the pew, see here -- and Mormons are much less supportive of marriage for same-sex couples than Roman Catholics.

dr.primrose said...

And see Bishop of Minnesota Speaks Out for Marriage Equality. We've waded in on the other side on this proposed law.

dr.primrose said...

At the risk of monopolizing this thread, a point in addition to the ones that IT identified in her second update is the extent that the civil law should reflect one denomination's theological views of marriage in a country that is as diverse as the United States.

For example, the RC Church theologically does not believe in remarriage after divorce and that persons who remarry after divorce while a living spouse of either remains living are committing adultery.

In the past, when it has had the power to do so, the RC Church has influenced civil authorities to bar civil divorce to reflect its theological views. Divorce remains unavailable in the Phillipines. In several predominantly RC countries in Europe, divorce was not permitted until after 1970 --Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Malta. I remember reading an article about what pre-divorce Chile was like -- a horror similar to the not very distant past for gay and lesbian couples. One spouse would separate from the other spouse, begin a live-in arrangement with someone else whom they could not marry (which would often continue for years or decades), the separated spouse would die, and then the other spouse (who had had no contact with the separated spouse for all those years or decades) would swoop in to take all the assets and throw the live-in companion into the street.

So do we want the civil authorities to adopt the RC Church's full theological view of marriage? I hope not.