Thursday, October 09, 2008

California Priest Says the Bishops Are Wrong to Support Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The National Catholic Reporter says a very brave diocesan priest in California has told his college congregation that their bishops are wrong to support a state initiative to reverse the California Supreme Court's ruling that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The bulk of NCR's article follows.

In his Sunday homily Oct. 6, Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, a diocesan priest, criticized church leadership for supporting Proposition 8, a state ballot measure that would make it unconstitutional for same-sex couples to marry.

“In directing the faithful to vote ‘Yes’ on Proposition 8, the California bishops are not only entering the political arena, they are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology, and the very statements by the church itself that homosexuality is [an] innate [orientation],” Farrow told the congregation at the St. Paul Newman Center at the University of California in Fresno.

In May, the California Supreme Court ruled that a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional and that same-sex couples have the right to designate their unions as marriages.

The California bishops called the ruling a “radical change in public policy” that “discounts the biological and organic reality of marriage.” They climbed aboard a movement to reverse the ruling by getting Proposition 8 onto the state ballot in November. And they encouraged “Catholics to provide both the financial support and the volunteer efforts needed for the passage of” Proposition 8.

In a statement to Catholics issued in August, the bishops had written that the court ruling is a “radical change in public policy” insofar as it “discounts the biological and organic reality of marriage” what they consider “the ideal relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and the continuation of the human race.”

The ruling also “diminishes the word marriage to mean only a ‘partnership’ a purely adult contractual arrangement for individuals over the age of 18,” according to the bishops.

Farrow told worshippers the bishops’ support for Proposition 8 “has placed me in a moral predicament.” He added, “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?”

He continued: “The statement made by the bishop reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered by individuals and their loved ones who have left the church over this very issue. . . .

“How exactly is society helped by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? . . .

“This ‘theology,’ which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society which they claim to abhor. . . .

“I do not presume to tell you how to vote, but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. … Personally, I am morally compelled to vote ‘No’ on Proposition 8.”

Farrow also told local media, he is a gay man. “It’s a secondary issue. But, yes, I am,” he said.

Farrow told NCR Oct. 8 that he had taken a personal retreat this week. He said he had written to his bishop, John Steinbock, saying that he planned to return to the Newman Center and his job as pastor there Oct. 13.

A spokesman for the Fresno diocese said Farrow’s whereabouts were unknown and he had no comment about the priest’s status.

A Sept. 18 Field Poll found that 38 percent of likely voters support the initiative, with 55 percent opposed. A CBS poll, conducted Oct. 4-5 among 670 likely voters, showed Proposition 8 winning statewide by a five-point margin, 42-to-47 percent.

Supporters of the initiative have raised $28.6 million, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, while opponents have pulled in $21.4 million, including a $1.275 million contribution from the Connecticut-based Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order. Raising funds is crucial in California where television advertising sets the tone, tenor, and messaging for each side.

In Los Angeles, Fr. Kevin Steen, a former Benedictine monk, is working to defeat Proposition 8.

“The bishops are trying to impose their theology on everybody else,” said Steen, who works with California Faith for Equality, a statewide interfaith network of congregations and people of faith. “Marriage is a civil matter best left to [secular] authorities.”

A member of the Catholic organization for gay, lesbian and transgender person, Dignity, Steen says he and others have written to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, requesting to speak with him. “We send letters and get form letters back. It’s very sad and hurtful he won’t speak with us and listen to our stories.”

A spokesperson for the cardinal said Steen is not in official standing with the Los Angeles archdiocese.

No comments: