December 2, 2010
By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter
The executive director of the National Organization for Marriage wasted no time in soliciting funds for the nation’s leading anti gay-marriage group at the same time he trumpeted recent developments at a gathering of Catholic Church hierarchy.
The reason for Brian Brown’s delight: Meeting in Baltimore, from Nov. 15 – 18, Catholic bishops elected new leadership, elevated their Ad Hoc Committee on the Defense of Marriage to a permanent subcommittee, and pledged a full-time staff advisor on marriage and the family.
But pro-LGBT Catholic groups and an organization of nuns were just as quick to voice their displeasure.
And there was some drama and a surprise as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops elected New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to lead the official organization of Church hierarchy in America.
Dolan’s surprise win over Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas by a close vote of 123 – 111 represented a departure from a long-standing tradition of selecting a sitting vice president.
The Chicago-based Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM), an LGBT advocacy group, claimed their endorsement of Kicanas was perhaps his undoing.
“We endorsed a shoe in candidate,” wrote Joe Murray, executive director of RSM. “As soon as the endorsement was placed on our web page, the hit count reached over 20,000 inside of two hours, and was reported in many far right Catholic online blogs,” he explained. “The drama surrounding this issue would put drama queens to shame.”
No matter what ultimately influenced the election, leaders from gay Catholic organizations agreed: The election of Dolan as president and Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as the new vice president signals a Church hierarchy ready to continue, if not escalate its secular politicking against same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
Kurtz served as chairman of the defense of marriage ad hoc committee.
During the recent bishops’ meeting Kurtz compared the current legal and political advances of marriage equality to the time before the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.
“Today is like 1970 for marriage,” Kurtz told his fellow bishops, according to Catholic News Service. “If you had seen Roe v. Wade coming three years out, what would you have done differently?”
Kurtz also said that 4,500 copies of a traditional marriage DVD, “Made for Each Other,” have been distributed nationwide and that other teaching materials, aimed at teaching children, are in development.
Meanwhile, in Boston one gay Catholic offered his assessment.
“The election of Archbishops Dolan and Kurtz to head the USCCB, signals a particularly virulent anti-gay agenda by the Catholic hierarchy on a national level. Distorting the truth about gay persons, and denying civil rights by their so-called ‘Defense of Marriage campaign,’ will continue to be at the forefront of their efforts to convince Americans that gays don’t deserve equal treatment under our Constitution,” said Charles Martel, a board member of Catholics for Equality, a national advocacy group.
“Anticipating civil marriage equality in 2011 in Rhode Island, it will be critical for Catholics who believe in justice and fairness, to contact their legislators and show their support for same-sex couples. The citizens of Rhode Island know very well from their Massachusetts neighbors how civil marriage equality has in fact been a source of great joy to their families and friends.”
Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.
The bishops’ meeting comes at time of profound economic uncertainty. In one analysis, Jesuit priest Thomas Reese noted the bishops said nothing about the Great Recession or the ten percent unemployment among some parishioners.
Just as social and economic justice concerns escaped the bishops’ concerns, so pastoral sensitivity to the recent spate of youth bullying and teen suicides eluded the hierarchy.
The Detroit-based National Coalition of American Nuns, an organization of 500 Catholic sisters from various congregations of women religious, was “appalled” by the omission.
“More than a month has gone by since the media broke the news about a series of gay suicides. During that time, the US Catholic Bishops failed to make a single statement regarding these tragic, preventable deaths,” the sisters wrote in a statement.
“Not one bishop’s voice was raised to condemn a culture where youths are bullied for being who God created them to be and are sometimes pushed by society’s judgments to attempt suicide. Many people have accused certain segments of organized religion, including the Catholic hierarchy, of fueling these attacks and contributing to suicides,” the nuns wrote, adding, “This week offered an opportunity to decry these horrendous events. Instead, the bishops have chosen to discuss ‘the defense of marriage,’ their well funded attack on same-gender couples.”