Catholics Against the Ban

Last night I had the pleasure of joining a Catholic group named "Call To Action" at their monthly meeting at Edgewood College. Having been raised Catholic myself, I was surprised and delighted to see that there are people who are both opposed to the ban and actively Catholic.

When I was growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality, I generally thought that the Catholic church was the last place to look for support. While it remains true that much of the Catholic leadership is still very opposed to rights for gay and lesbian people, it is also true that there are many members of the Catholic church who either are themselves gay, or are strongly supportive of equal rights.

Many of the people at last night's meeting had questions about the implications of the ban. The question was raised as to whether or not the ban would prohibit unmarried heterosexual couples from getting domestic violence protections. I told them that such a scenario has unfolded in Ohio, which in 2004 passed a constitutional amendment very similar to the proposed amendment here in Wisconsin.

Other folks wanted to know if the ban would jeopardize domestic partner benefits. I explained that the broad scope of the ban's second sentence, which prohibits any relationship "substantially similar" to that of marriage, means that public employers could have a hard time ever offering domestic partner health benefits, and that public employees who currently have DP health benefits could lose them if the ban passes.

Most people at last night's meeting just wanted to know how they could help. I told them that the most important thing for us to do between now and November was to have personal conversations with those we know about why the ban is wrong and why we oppose it. I also encouraged them to check out our new faith website that Josh mentioned in his post this morning.

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At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

It's interesting how persistent is the sterotype of the Catholic Church as a bastion of homophobia.

As Justin notes, the Vatican and the hierarchy are more problematic than the rank 'n' file. But even the hierarchy (the Vatican and the US Conference of Bishops) have published official documents that are really pretty balanced. Not pro-gay so much as balanced.

That's why Joshua's note about the 16 Catholic bishops (including Madison's Morlino) who have joined the federal cacaphony in favor of the ban is a disappointment. Morlino is out of the mainstream.

Meanwhile, there are lots of rank 'n' file, not even radicals like the Call to Action folk, on whom we can count for support. In spite of the negative Catholic sterotypes, when I was coming of age in Northeast Wisconsin, the Church was the one place where I was completely, unequivocally supported. From the priests and nuns at Appleton Xavier High to the folks in the Green Bay diocesan offices, to the folks involved in the Youth Ministry programs, I only once encountered intolerance and then only briefly.

Are we doing anything to work with the Wisconsin Catholic Conference? I can imagine an official statement from the 5 Ordinaries of Wisconsin that quotes extensively from Vatican and USCCB documents and from the Catechism that concludes "YES on the 1st sentence + NO on the 2nd sentence = NO on the amendment."

Any other conclusion would not be consistent with Catholic teaching.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Tom in Rhinelander said...

Very nicely written, Keith. I agree with you, there is great hope in the laity and even some religious. However, the hierarchy is a different story. For awhile I did volunteer work for the Diocese of LaCrosse working to support people living with HIV & AIDS. Then Bishop Burke (promoted to Archbishop – St. Louis) said we could not participate in AIDS Walk because money went to support youth struggling with their sexual orientation. My ties with the Catholic Church were severed on that day. I still occasionally attend Mass with family members but cannot condone this kind of intolerance and ignorance. I have great respect for those who stay with the Church to promote change but I could no longer stand the out right bigotry within the hierarchy. Thank goodness I found a loving home in the Presbyterian and Congregational Church. I wish Call to Action well… they have a long way to go!

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

I'm still quite curious to know what's going on in the minds of our 5 Ordinaries and their Wisconsin Catholic Conference.

Morlino has a reputation for being a bit trigger happy about traditionally conservative causes, so I wish we had talked with him earlier, before his knee-jerk of joining the cardinals in signing the Federal amendment thing.

Dolan here in Milwaukee, although an old friend of Burke, has more roots in the Vatican from his time as rector of NAC in Rome. He will do what he senses is the right thing, from a Vatican perspective. And I am convinved that it means coming out AGAINST the amendment, like Bishop (now Archbishop) Niederauer did when he was in Utah and faced a similar amendment. If being against bigotry in Utah got Niederauer promoted to San Francisco, perhaps standing up for a Fair Wisconsin will get Dolan promoted, too?

Zubik in Green Bay is definitely on our side. I know people who know him in Pennsylvania, and I know folks who know him here. He's a very good guy.

I'm not sure where La Crosse and Superior stand.

Nonetheless, we should start work with the Wisconsin Catholic Conference to craft a better message. Currently, although they have expressed vague support for "putting the amendment before the voters," their main message is more balanced.

“Supporters of this amendment must serve only to affirm marriage, not foster hostility to any group or individual. The bishops hope they will do so with courage, compassion and civility.”

I think they should build on that, and we should help them.


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