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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Two important Catholic statements.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley finally realized that some of his fellow opponents of civil marriage rights for same-sex couples are downright nasty, and urged Roman Catholics to be courteous in opposing gay marriage:

Roman Catholic Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley yesterday expressed "deep sadness" at the impending legal marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts, but cautioned Catholics not to express "anger against or vilification of any group of people, especially our homosexual brothers and sisters."

He was planning to issue the statement this weekend, but decided to release it on Thursday after a group of prominent Catholic laypeople, theologians, nuns, and priests issued an even more conciliatory statement "calling for 'all of our brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth to treat same sex couples with respect and to do no harm to them or their families.'"

That statement did not criticize O'Malley or other bishops, but organizers said it was driven by frustration with a variety of statements from the bishops, including the decision by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference to distribute to parishes a video on marriage that critics found offensive.

"Some of us felt very strongly that, given the harsh negative tone that some church leaders took during the spring, someone needed to take the high road and call folks back to a more Gospel-oriented and gentle place, as well as remind people of the need for more civic discourse," said Larry Kessler, founding director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and one of the organizers of the letter.

Another organizer, the Rev. Walter H. Cuenin, emphasized the call for discussion that he said has been missing thus far within the Catholic Church. "The letter is not meant as criticism, but certainly over the last several months, as this issue has been so controversial, we've seen the need for the church to find a way to express its teaching, but at the same time to do it in a way that doesn't alienate gay Catholics," said Cuenin, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton.

Cuenin said he was delighted by O'Malley's statement yesterday. "He presents the teaching of the church, but his whole tone was very pastoral," Cuenin said.

("Archbishop warns against vilifying homosexuals," Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 5.14.04)

Some of the "pro-family" folks, however, have taken offense at the archbishop's statement:

Some pro-family activists say they resent the implication in both statements, complaining that such comments play into the hands of those who would falsely paint the pro-life/pro-family movement as one prone to hostility and violence. Catholic World News reports that one Boston Catholic supporter of traditional marriage said he took offense at being "smeared by my own side."

I grant that most opponents of same-sex marriage are kind-hearted and nonviolent people. But, dear friends, there's no "falsely" involved in the implication that some of your allies are nasty. Who gave people the impression that anti-gay people are "hostile" or "violent"? I'd nominate as "hostile" the so-called ministers who carried signs saying "God Abhors You" and "Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons" outside the Massachusetts State House back in March.

Sometimes you have to condemn the misbehavior of your own allies rather than always blaming your image problems on your opponents.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 15 May 2004 at 10:39 AM

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Nate Oman:

May 17, 2004 12:52 PM | Permalink for this comment

Fair enough. On the other hand, I take it that no one thinks that the civility and respectfulness of the gay rights movement should be judged based on the antics of ACT-UP.

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