Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why the So-Called ‘War on Religion’ is a War Only in the Minds of a Few

Washington State Drive to Deny Marriage Equality  Not Supported by All Catholic Congregations

This Forum is a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, and in one of Holmes’s most famous citations he remarks on the dog that did not bark.

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

The ‘curious incident’ in recent politics is the fact that the much heralded ‘war against religion’  and ‘war on religious freedom’ charges against Mr. Obama for wanting to make certain that women could make their own decisions on contraception did not stick.  While some polls show Mr. Obama with a lead against Mr. Romney and some show him tied, none show him suffering a devastating loss of voter support from the recent controversy over requiring religious sponsored organizations operating non-church related activities to provide access to contraception for its employees.

Convention wisdom by the so-called ‘experts’ was that Mr. Obama had suffered a huge loss because religious voters in general and Catholic voters in particular would turn against him en mass.  Illustrating one reason why this did not happen is the situation involving gay marriage in Washington stateWashington’s legislature passed and the governor signed a bill allowing same sex marriage.  Opponents are trying to get enough signatures on a petition to get the issue on the ballot for the fall. 

As might be expected, the Catholic church in Washington state is strongly behind such a petition.

Archbishop Sartain, in a letter that Clark will place in his parish bulletin next week, asked the Catholic faithful in Western Washington to support Referendum 74.  Opponents of marriage equality need to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6 to block the state’s new same-sex marriage law from taking effect and put the issue on November’s ballot.

The archbishop said that all persons “should be treated with respect, sensitivity and love,” but reiterated church teachings on sexuality that are eschewed by many American Catholics.

“It is important to remember that all Christians are called to chastity, and sexual intercourse is so intimate and significant that it is intended only for a man and woman in marriage,” said the letter, cosigned by Archbishop Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo.

But that is not the real story here.  The real story is that not only did some parish religious leaders refuse to support the petition, but also those that did refuse had the support of their congregations.

The congregation at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave the Rev. Tim Clark a standing ovation Sunday when he announced that the parish would not gather signatures for a referendum to repeal same-sex marriage.

The parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,” Clark wrote in response to an e-mail.

Also, credit must be given to the Archbishop for allowing individual parishes to make their own decision.  This was not the case for other parishes in other states.

The Rt. Rev. John Nienstedt, archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, is pressing to amend Minnesota’s state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

In a fiery letter to priests that also condemned no-fault divorce and cohabitation outside of marriage, Archbishop Nienstedt said he would brook no public dissent from any priest in the archdiocese.

“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,” Nienstedt wrote.

“There ought not to be open dissent on this issue,” he added.  “If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly.”

Archbishop Nienstedt has also mailed out 400,000 anti-gay DVDs to Catholics in his diocese and refused communion to students wearing rainbows at a diocesan mass.

And while Rt. Rev. Nienstedt is certainly entitled to express his position and operate as he sees fit within his Church, someone should gently tell him that what he is doing is probably not the way to win friends and influence people. 

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