Well, this story is certainly welcome after the story I wrote about last night. As much as I wrote about bigots and homophobes, I love a story like this. Despite the Catholic Church having ordered priests to fall into line with the Church's support for the anti-gay amendment in Minnesota barring marriage equality, at least one priest isn't having it. Meet Father Bob Pierson. He's not afraid to speak his mind and urge Catholics that they can--and should--vote "no" on the amendment.
To a crowd of 200 Catholics in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Pierson--who is gay himself--delivered a passionate speech in favor of marriage equality. He rightly argued that marriage equality will have no bearing on Church policy and that the Church therefore has no business pushing for the amendment. He also cited Paragraph 1782 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms Catholics' right to make decisions based on conscience. He even cited Pope Benedict himself:
Our holy father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew that he was going to be Pope when he said that.And here's the kicker:
As Catholics we must follow our own conscience in making decisions such as how to vote. My conscience tells me to vote no on the amendment because I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need such an amendment to our state constitution. In fact, I believe the church does not have the right to force its moral teaching on others outside the fold.Follow me below the fold for the video and more.
Here's the video clip of the speech:
If I had the time and energy, I would provide a full transcript, but I am kind of rushed, so I'm sorry to those of you who can't watch at this time. Please do watch it at some point, though.
EDIT:: Here's the transcript. H/T to pico!
I would like to talk to you today about why Catholics can vote No on the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota. The Catholic Church is obviously very supportive of this amendment, which would, they say, protect traditional marriage. But as an ordained priest, I feel compelled to speak out now, and let me explain why:Of course, this speech isn't going to sway the Vatican, nor is it going to get the Catholic Church out of the anti-gay business in Minnesota, or anywhere else for that matter. But what the loud applause in response to Pierson's comments shows is that, as we already know, the sands are shifting beneath the Church's feet on this issue. Whether they like it or not.
On Saturday, June 2, I celebrated my 28th anniversary of ordination. I became a priest because I felt compelled to share the good news that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally. Too many of us have been taught to think of God in terms of God's judgment rather than God's tremendous love and mercy.
In 2001 I began a 5-year assignment in campus ministry. It wasn't long before I found myself meeting gay and lesbian students who were being put down by some of their peers because of their sexuality. When I turned to my professional colleagues in student development to ask how I could support these gay and lesbian students, I was told, "Well, there's not much we can do. You know what the Church says." The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, in #2358, that gays and lesbians "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard must be avoided." I spent many years with an LGBT ally on our campus, starting the Safe Space training program. And while it was not without some controversy, I knew I was doing the right thing. In good conscience I needed to speak out.
It was in November 2005 that I was offended to learn the Vatican had released a document that said gay men could not be priests because they are "seriously obstructed from properly relating to men and women." (laughter) I couldn't believe what I was reading. I knew that I was gay when I was ordained. Did that mean that my 21 years of ministry was a mistake? My faith suggested that I could not in good conscience continue to remain silent, and I cannot remain silent today. I spoke up then, and I'm speaking up now, to say that I believe this amendment violates an important principle of Catholic teaching, and that as Catholics, we can vote No. (applause)
As a Catholic priest I'm not here to criticize our Church's teaching, but rather to lift up an aspect of the Church's teaching that seems to have been forgotten by some who are supporting the amendment. The issue I'm talking about, of course, is freedom of conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic church states in #1782: "The human person has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience, nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters." Let me say that again: we must not be prevented from acting according to our conscience, especially in religious matters. A young theologian by the name of Joseph Ratzinger (laughter), whom many of you know now as Pope Benedict XVI, put it this way in 1967: "Over the Pope, as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even, if necessary, against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority." (applause)
Our Holy Father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew he was going to be Pope when he said that. (laughter) As Catholics we must follow our own conscience in making decisions such as how to vote. My conscience tells me to vote No on the amendment, because I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need such an amendment to our state constitution. In fact I believe the Church does not have the right to force its moral teaching on others outside our fold. When the religious beliefs of any particular religious group become the law of the land, we run the risk of violating everyone's freedom to believe and their freedom of conscience.
Allow me to mention three examples where I see the Church fudging the facts, trying to get us to think one way:
First of all, we heard it said that civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples will destroy the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony. But the truth is, until now, the Church hasn't concerned itself with civil marriage. the Church doesn't recognize civil marriage of its members. If a Catholic is married in a civil ceremony, they are said to be married outside the Church, and the marriage is not recognized as a Sacrament due to lack of canonical form. Civil marriage for committed, same-sex couples is not the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the government can't tell churches who they may and may not marry. In other words, committed, same-sex marriage has nothing to do with the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church.
Second, we've heard it said that if committed gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry, then the Church will be forced into recognizing the rights of those couples to adopt children. And according to supporters of the amendment, studies show that same-sex couples are not effective parents, and that children need to have both a father and a mother. But the truth is, the most reputable studies - those accepted by the American Medical Association, the American Pediatrics Association, and the American Psychological Association - say that same-sex couples are just as effective as parents as heterosexual couples are. There's no correlation in their effectiveness as parents.
Third, we've heard it said that if committed same-sex couples get married that the Church will have to recognize those marriages in its social service programming in housing, health care, and education. This is true... (laughter) ...to the extent that the Church accepts government funding for social service programs, the same rules that everyone else must follow. Would we want other religious groups to discriminate against us based on their beliefs while using government tax dollars? I don't think so.
In any faith, marriage is about love, commitment, and responsibility. In our faith, marriage is a Sacrament, a commitment to God to live with your partner, to raise a family together, and most of all, to live the word of God. We know that gay and lesbian couples want to get married for the same reason as everyone else. And I believe it's important that we as Catholics help to insure that the people in our community have the same freedoms, whether it's the freedom to worship or the freedom to marry. My conscience tells me I have no right to limit someone else's freedom.
I would like to conclude my remarks with a quote from one of my favorite Catholic churchmen, Cardinal Basil Hume, who said in 1995, "Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner, in this world, what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next. To love another, whether of the same sex or a of different sex, is to have entered an area of the richest human experience."
Thank you. (applause)
I just love this video, and I love this priest.
In related news, if you didn't see the viral clip of Dallas pastor Frederick Haynes defending Obama's endorsement of marriage equality, please do watch it as well. This is almost deserving of its own diary, but it fits in with this one quite well.
Sometimes we get so caught up in religiously-based homophobia that we don't give enough credit to brave souls such as Pierson and Haynes. But they're representative, I think, of the future...even if that future seems out of reach right now.