Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine asked parishioners to donate to the Maine “marriage restoration” campaign. Officials said the donations were to help pay for television ads aimed at overturning a state law legislators passed last spring recognizing same-sex unions as “marriage.”
~Catholic News Agency, 9/14/09
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine accounted for 81% of in-state fund-raising to fight Equal Marriage.
~EqualityAmerica on Twitter, 11/4/09
…thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millenia by civilizations and religions around the world…
While the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, it remains devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.
~Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Maine, Catholic News Agency
Dear Bishop Malone,
When I was a girl sitting in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Albuquerque, my dad always let me drop the tithing envelope he prepared every Sunday into the basket. I watched my knock-knees bob as I swung my legs, waiting for the usher to get to our pew. Ours was always the same usher, lanky and worn and with a thin mustache. He would stretch with the basket-on-a-stick to reach me. In the envelope went, with pennies, quarters, and bills from other parishioners.
Dad also gave to the Maryknoll nuns, and each month I leafed through the small magazine that came, showing what Catholics did in the world to help the poor. I saw pictures of round-bellied toddlers in Africa and sad-looking orphans in Guatemala. We had bake sales outside our church, and the little Spanish-speaking mothers and grandmothers who’d lived in the neighborhood for generations came together to work for those in need.
I couldn’t imagine being a girl in a church today and having my father give me money to put into the basket. What does a parent say to the child in one of your churches?
“Oh, that twenty dollar bill? It’s going to pay for a television ad that will tell the world what a sin it will be if gays and lesbians get married like us.”
“But, Mama, why can’t they get married?”
“Because, marriage is our precious gift. God only gave it to heterosexual men and women.”
Almost a third of individuals in the US who were raised within the Catholic faith leave the Church, and those who leave outnumber those who join. This means that Catholicism in the U.S. is a religion in decline. Moreoever, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among religions that experience a loss of members due to changes in affliations, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net loss.
And it’s not just the parishioners that you have failed to inspire. It is those who are supposed to do the inspiring. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate statistics show that in 1965, there were 8,325 graduate-level seminarians in the U.S., almost a thousand ordinations, and more than 58,000 Catholic priests. By 2009, the number of seminarians is down to just over 3,300, only 472 ordinations, and just above 40,000 priests.
All over the nation, Catholic churches are closing or merging. There is a lack of Catholic chaplains in the military. The Vatican even announced last month its desire to bring on Anglican priests disgruntled over their church’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops.
Is this what the Catholic Church has become—a haven for those who cannot tolerate equality? Don’t want to see women stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men? Join the Catholic Church! Don’t think that homosexuals are fit to be spiritual leaders? Join the Catholic Church! Want to keep loving and committed gays and lesbians away from the ritual of marriage? The Catholic Church wants YOU!
In my family, a priest was the best thing a boy could grow up to become. My father was altar boy in two masses each Sunday, and his cousin went into the seminary. But Father Tony, as we called Dad’s cousin, was gay. He left his parish not long after becoming a priest. Much later, stricken with AIDS, he was reinstated and allowed to give mass one last time before he died. That was two decades ago—during a kinder, gentler Catholicism.
You and your fellow leaders are the opposite of what I understood Jesus Christ to be, one who walked among those rejected by the rest of society, who advocated on their behalf, who protected the marginalized. Without havng children yourselves, you instruct us on family planning. You are celibate and unmarried, yet you claim to understand love, intimacy, and the precious gift of marriage? What conceit.
Instead of trying to protect this gift, why not work at bettering men who abuse women and make marriage untenable, or heterosexuals who step in and out of the ritual as if it were a coat? Maybe those denied the right to marry for so long will treat it as the precious gift you say it is.
My father still goes to church and still tithes. He is frail now, and sometimes he watches mass on TV. Most Sundays, my sister or brother take him. They walk him slowly to the spot he likes, in the middle of the church. Not so close as to appear overly eager, but not so far away as to seem laggardly. He left Our Lady of Guadalupe after 35 years in 2004, when the priest told him who to vote for. This latest parish has thus far not meddled in places it has no business being.
I used to be sad about the direction of the Catholic Church. But now I am ashamed and angry.