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09/15/2010

For a Catholic, Mr. McClusky sure has trouble making factual confessions

by Jeremy Hooper

Catholics-for-equalityOn yesterday's press call for the newly-launched Catholics for Equality group, board member Anne Underwood, Esq., gave the following heartfelt testimony about the facts that she witnessed on the ground in Maine:

"My husband and I live in Maine, where our bishop made a political choice last year. He led the drive for a referendum that narrowly overturned legislation to permit same-sex civil marriage. Forty-six of the 178 Roman dioceses across the nation (26%) sent money.

Contributions ranged from $150 to $50,000. Each of these bishops took money from the charitable donations of Catholic laity and sent it to Maine to deny people the privilege of marrying the person they love. The Diocese of Portland spent over half a million dollars to defeat a right the majority of Catholics support. Thirty-eight percent of the funds came from bishops outside of Maine.

For many Catholics like me in Maine, 2009 was a soul-searing year. During the six month campaign leading up to the November vote, our liturgies became vehicles for the hierarchy's political agenda. Full-page bulletin inserts and frequent letters from the bishop warned of loss of personal, economic, and religious freedoms; removal of parental rights; and the endangering of the safety of children in schools if same-sex civil marriage were legal. Petitions were circulated in early summer before and after Masses on behalf of this campaign for a ballot initiative.

Six weeks before the election, our bishop decreed a particular Sunday that priests were mandated to preach on "traditional marriage values" and their incompatibility with same-sex marriage. Specially printed envelopes for the political action committee Stand for Marriage appeared in the pews for our weekly collections. The next Sunday, a T.V. was rolled into every parish sanctuary. Rather than hearing our own priest, we viewed a DVD homily in which our bishop reiterated all that he had said and written about the dangers of same-sex marriage. "DVD Sunday" nearly backfired for the bishop. One Eucharistic minister noted: "in four months our bishop has never preached about Jesus, the Gospels or Catholic social teaching. He's only lectured us about politics."

Catholic lay leaders, many from the Bishop's own Councils and Boards, publicly opposed the bishop's campaign. Some personally funded sign-on ads, supporting same-sex marriage, in all of the state's Sunday papers. As election-day approached, each time the bishop spoke to the press, a representative from Catholics for Marriage Equality was interviewed for comments.

Although we did not prevail at the election polls, the holy winds of change are blowing here in Maine. I live in a largely French-Canadian, conservative Catholic neighborhood. Many of the "ladies of a certain age” attend daily Mass. Amongst us lives a lesbian couple, Mary and Leah and their adolescent offspring. The day after the election, Leah was walking their dog. One of the ladies, not usually the most friendly, called from her porch for Leah to come over. Mrs. LeBlanc looked her up and down and said, "I want you to know that I voted for you yesterday. You have really nice kids and you do a good job as mothers. The other ladies on this block, they voted for you too. We all voted for you."

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church is out of step with the people in the pews. People like my neighbors. Our experiences in Maine and the extension of marriage to same-sex couples in the predominantly Catholic states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire prove that the hierarchy does not control the politics of the majority of Catholic laity.
"
Anne Underwood [Catholics For Equality]

Absolutely correct. Because there's no debating it: In 2009, Maine's Catholic church established entered into politics in a MAJOR way, with Portland's Bishop Richard Malone leading the charge. It's not an "attack" to acknowledge this reality: It's simply an accurate assessment of the facts. We'd hope that even those who think the church's role had merit would at least agree with us on this. I mean, we all saw the videos. We all read the church bulletins. We had a front row seat to the uncivil church/state marriage that was Question One. It's all on the record.

But now check this out. The following is how the Family Research Council's Tom "my organization doesn't reference bestiality except when we totally do" McClusky relays Anne Underwood's comments for his own reading public:

"As a practicing Catholic the call was rather appalling. On the call were some of the group’s board members, including the first speaker who is apparently from Maine and proceeded to attack Maine’s Bishop Richard Malone for making protecting marriage in the state of Maine a major issue last year and sermons by Maine Catholic clergy focused so much on the Catholic teachings of marriage. She neglects to mention this is not a fight the bishop asked for, but one homosexuals in the state, with large donations from national homosexual groups, started when they challenged the very definition of marriage, which is the centerpiece of civilization as well as a holy sacrament to the Catholic Church. What Bishop Malone did was stand up for Maine families and for his church’s teachings."
Catholycs Against Quality [FRC]

Mmm hmm, right. Because everything gays or their straight allies do is an "attack" to these social conservatives. And it doesn't matter to them if someone like, say, a preacher takes considerable time out of his life in order to raise resources, capital, and voters for the sole sake of rolling back a legislatively-approved CIVIL right via a majority ballot vote. Because anytime equality-minded people accomplish anything that fosters greater peace and civility, these FRC types act as if their families are the ones who've been personally drug into a boxing ring. It's INFURIATING!

But look, we don't blame Mr. McClusky for finding Ms. Underwood's comments appalling. Her tales are appalling, though not for social conservatives -- rather for the gay and straight allies who've had to pause their lives because certain self-appointed moral authoritarians have decided that their personal theology matters more than fair public policy. Again: That's just a fact.

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