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Is the Catholic Church overstepping its bounds in marriage equality fight?

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The more the National Organization for Marriage fight against marriage equality statewide, the more it becomes clear just how deep the Catholic Church seems to be involved in the organization's efforts.

And now with the campaigns in New York and Minnesota, possibility is becoming a bit more disturbing. Today, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, wrote a piece called Marriage amendment deserves our support. Nienstedt is speaking about the amendment which will be voted on by Minnesotans in 2012:

Theologically, the definition of marriage predates any government or religious denomination. As we read in the Bible, it reflects God’s plan for man and woman to share in his creative power of bringing new life into the world (Genesis 1:27-28). This is ratified by Jesus himself in Matthew 19:8-9. It is a truth that is also evident in light of the natural moral law, which grounds our understanding of the dignity that belongs to each human person.

In addition, the very biological, not to mention spiritual, complementarity of the two sexes defines the reproductive nature of their relationship which, in turn, enhances the well-being and joy of that union. The enfleshed oneness of a man and a woman is indeed a communion of life and love.

Ironically, Nienstedt chose to end his piece by publishing, word-for-word a piece from Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan called Marriage: the core of every civilization. New York is also facing a fight over marriage equality.

Nienstedt really shouldn't have bothered because Dolan's piece says pretty much the same thing as his:

“We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage. The definition of marriage is a given: it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.”

“History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so. The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.”

I can't help wondering if the two archbishops wrote these pieces themselves or did they lend their name to press releases written by someone else?

Am I being paranoid? Maybe or maybe not. NOM is already rumored to be a bit more linked to the Catholic Church than a non-profit group should be. From the webpage NOM Exposed:

NOM is comparatively unguarded about its ties to the Catholic Church, acknowledging that its early funds in California came from “well-off Catholic individuals,” and NOM openly aligned with the Catholic Archdiocese in Maine. The largest known donation to NOM is $1.4 million from the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus in 2009; that comes on top of the Knights’ $500,000 donation in 2008.

All three of NOM’s top leaders – Brian Brown, current president, Maggie Gallagher, founding president, and Robert George, board chairman emeritus – are Catholics. Additionally, NOM founding board member Luis Tellez, is a numerary of Opus Dei, a highly secretive Catholic organization. He lives in a house on the Princeton University campus that the Daily Princetonian has described as the hub of Opus Dei activities in the area.

NOM and the Catholic Church teamed up to fund almost the entire Maine campaign against same-sex marriage in 2009. According to the Bangor Daily News, “…$1.1 million of the $1.4 million raised by Stand for Marriage Maine in October 2009 came from a single source: the National Organization for Marriage. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has poured more than $550,000 into the campaign to repeal the law, including more than $150,000 from its general treasury since October 1, 2009. The Portland diocese also collected more than $200,000 for Stand for Marriage Maine from bishops and dioceses outside of Maine.”

According to Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou.org, Gallagher appeared at “a ‘private meeting for Catholic clery’…at the request of Maine’s Bishop Malone” in Maine in September 2009 at the height of the Question 1 campaign.

At least a half-dozen Roman Catholic bishops met with NOM board chairman emeritus Robert George to discuss his 4700-word manifesto called the “Manhattan Declaration” that warned of civil disobedience if same-sex marriage or stem cell research were approved by the New York legislature. According to Church & State, the Declaration “also represents perhaps the most far-reaching effort to date to juice up the Religious Right by adding the political power and media respectability of the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies.”

I'm certainly not trying to offend anyone who is Catholic but the subject of marriage equality isn't necessarily a religious issue. It's a state issue. The Catholic Church is not forced to marry same-sex couples.

Now as for the adoption mess (i.e. the Catholic Charities in Illinois which are suing for the right to use taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples), I stand by the belief that the Catholic Charities shouldn't take state money if they aren't willing to follow state rules. There is nothing with the Catholic Charities pursuing private adoptions.

But the fact of the matter is this - I feel very uncomfortable when I think of the possibility of how deep the Catholic Church is putting itself into this state issue. I think people should vote as their faith dictates. But I have a serious problem with a church official using his office or name to marshal  large groups of people to vote in a particular way. And my problems become even more deep when I realize that the church where that official belongs is tax-exempt.

And the Catholic Church is rumored to be involved in efforts to hinder marriage equality via NOM in ways that may not ethical or legal. Perhaps this is why NOM has fought so hard against statewide disclosure laws.

An entity flexing its power over how large groups of people should vote while being exempt from laws which cover this sort of thing is a dangerous entity in terms of manpower and money. Moreover this entity's actions is a slap in the face to an American core belief - the right to vote as your conscience dictates and not be threatened via implied threats, be they physical (you are going to be murdered) or spiritual (you are voting against God's law and will go to hell for it.)

It's definitely a license to create havoc. You may not think it's a big deal but it is. In fact, it is a nasty precedent. Today it's marriage equality. Tomorrow it could be another issue decided, not by individual choice, but by spiritual groupthink.

The Catholic Church needs to be upfront with just deeply involved it is with the political fight of marriage equality. And if it has legally or ethically overstepped its bounds, then the Catholic Church needs to make amends.

You cannot defend morality through unethical actions.

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