The American Catholic hierarchy is escalating a campaign against gay marriage—and progressive Catholic churchgoers are angry. Angry enough to leave. Angry enough to organize. Angry enough to stop tithing. How much money from that donation platter is going into the fight against gays and lesbians, anyway?
Most of the country's 75 million Catholics disagree with their church on gay rights. A Washington Post–ABC News poll last March found that 63 percent of white Catholics believe same-sex marriage should be legal. When Catholics are assured that the issue is civil marriage "like you get at City Hall," 71 percent of all Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a national poll by the Public Religion Research Institute also conducted last March.
That's more supportive than the public at large, whose support for gay marriage, poll after poll shows, hovers just above the 50- percent mark.
Western Washington has a huge population of Catholics, roughly one million strong, many of them political progressives, which probably explains why the Most Reverend J. Peter Sartain positioned himself as a spiritual moderate when he was installed as the Seattle archbishop in December of 2010. He said he would heed the decrees of Rome but listen to local points of view before making decisions. Seattlepi.com columnist Joel Connelly, himself a practicing Catholic, wrote that Sartain's welcome mass brought "palpable relief that the Vatican has not sent a hard-line 'enforcer.'" Likewise, the Seattle Times reported, "Sartain realizes that reaching people in the largely unchurched Pacific Northwest will be not just about preaching church doctrines but asking the more universal questions."
"I liked what I read," says Barbara Guzzo, 62, a lifelong Catholic who attends St. Mary's in the Central District. She recalls, "People I know were very supportive of him coming, saying that he seems very open-minded."
But Sartain's political views were somewhat mysterious. When evangelical Christians tried to repeal domestic-partnership rights for gay couples in Washington State in 2009, Sartain was still in Illinois, and the Seattle Catholic Church largely abstained from participating. (A local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, gave only $100 to the repeal effort, which failed.)
The first clue about Sartain's views didn't come until January 13, 2012, when Sartain and three other Catholic bishops in Washington State issued a proclamation declaring a campaign to stop the same-sex-marriage bill in Olympia, saying that the "continuation of the human race" hangs in the balance and that "bringing to life the next generation" requires restricting marriage to straight couples—and that everyone should contact their legislators.
That position wasn't shocking, considering that the Catholic Church is an absolute hierarchy and that Pope Ratzinger had decried gay marriage the same week to protect "the future of humanity itself." The unknown was this: Was Sartain simply giving lip service to opposing the marriage bill or was he going to personally and enthusiastically jump into the fray to assist Ratzinger? After all, Ratzinger has something of an unresolved vendetta against gay-friendly Seattle Catholics: In the mid-1980s, then-archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen addressed a group called Dignity, a Catholic LGBT organization, and allowed Dignity to hold its mass at St. James Cathedral on First Hill. This triggered an investigation by the Vatican spearheaded by Ratzinger—who was then a cardinal—instructing the withdrawal of support for "any group which does not unequivocally accept the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity." But when Ratzinger sent in a hardliner to usurp Hunthausen's power by assuming his responsibilities, the progressive Seattle Catholics in the pews pushed back. (There's a book about it called Holy Siege: The Year That Shook Catholic America.) Backed by his congregants, Hunthausen ultimately prevailed and remained the archbishop until retiring at his leisure in 1991.
The answer about the extent to which Sartain was going to personally involve himself emerged a week after his initial proclamation. Sartain forced all 147 parishes in Western Washington and another roughly 100 parishes in Eastern Washington to print articles in their church bulletins again instructing all Catholics to "call, e-mail, or write your state senator and two representatives..." Then he traveled to Olympia and, in his testimony against the bill before a state senate committee, explained that straight people require "special laws" to ensure the human race doesn't perish. (Of course, gay-marriage laws are passing left and right and, um, the human race is booming.)
He didn't stop there.
In the week following his testimony, Sartain turned the home page of the Archdiocese of Seattle website into a hail of warnings in red text, ALL CAPS ACTION ALERTS, and links to his latest writings decrying marriage equality. On February 7, Sartain kept up the drumbeat to lobby lawmakers by conflating the anti-gay-marriage campaign with the larger crusade for "conscience rights." The marriage law may not provide "protection to churches and religious organizations" that wish to discriminate against gay people, Sartain warned. "Threats against religious freedom are current, real and concrete," he added. "I will be asking our Catholic people to make our federal and state legislators aware of our alarm and our firm objection."
After both houses of the state legislature passed the same-sex-marriage bill, Sartain published still more directives for parishioners to ask Governor Gregoire to veto it. If you clicked the links, you found the website for the Washington State Catholic Conference (which Sartain is the president of) festooned with the logos and names of beloved local nonprofit Catholic charities. In a sense, Sartain was harnessing the full force of the Seattle archdiocese with all of its affiliates and subsidiaries—even the government-funded human-services nonprofits (more on that later)—as well as every parish in the state for his lobbying campaign.
In other words, Sartain, once the hope of Seattle's progressive Catholics, is defining his rise to prominence with a campaign against gay rights. "In the last few months, obviously, my views of Sartain have changed pretty radically," says Leo Egashira, a 52-year-old Seattle Catholic. It wasn't the bishops' initial statement against marriage equality that surprised him. "He has to toe the Vatican line," Egashira acknowledges. "But in the past couple weeks, he's gone above and beyond toeing the line. He really believes in the statements and is not afraid to speak out strong. Which is disappointing, because up until now, there has not been an issue as divisive as this."
Sartain declined to be interviewed for this story, but his spokesman, Greg Magnoni, says he expects the archbishop to "support a referendum in opposition to the law changing the legal definition of marriage." That means the Catholic Church in Washington State—the state's most organized religious body—is just getting started.
The internal backlash within the church is just getting started, too.
Barbara Guzzo is part of a group of Catholics who are organizing to protest Archbishop Sartain. "We support marriage equality in Washington State and do not agree with the bishop on this issue," Guzzo says. She and other Catholics met in January to plan some sort of protest, she says, and since then "about 60 or 70 people said they would sign up or help put an ad in the paper." Their group doesn't have a name yet.
Similarly, a state lawmaker who voted for the same-sex-marriage bill forwarded me an e-mail from a constituent that read in part: "I am a practicing Catholic, and... I want you to know that all Catholics have their own opinion on this issue, and the archbishop's conservative opinion is not one that I share."
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of the LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA, which is still around, explains the clash between hierarchy and laity: "They've lost on this and they know their message isn't getting through. This last desperate attempt to show that they have any moral authority or moral relevance is being played out at the expense of LGBT people and our families, straight and gay alike, but it's clear that church leaders don't realize how the issue of marriage equality affects the entire church. We see the ramping up in so many ways. We're also seeing more and more money funneled into both state and federal anti-gay initiatives. The only thing that is more important than defeating us are reproductive issues—not housing, not peace, not health care. I grieve the days of Hunthausen, who was such a promoter of justice. They took him out of his place, which is what happens to anybody who doesn't follow the party line these days, whether you be a choir director, a parish priest, or a bishop."
How much more will churchgoing Catholics tolerate?
"That is a really good question that I ask myself all the time," Guzzo says. "I do ask myself: Where do I say, I can't do it anymore? One of my criticisms of my church is that it is all about sex, anything tied to sexuality. It makes the church irrelevant for so many, including my three adult children who have given up. What I don't know is if there is a point when there is so much I disagree with, I can't call myself Catholic anymore."
Guzzo is like plenty of Catholics who, despite being straight and married, are considering leaving the church for some of the same reasons that so many gay people have left.
"The more heavy-handed our bishops get, the more American Catholics in the pews rush to protect their LGBT family members—and get mad," Catholics for Equality director Phil Attey says. "We don't have a role in the decision-making process. Because of this, sadly, many Catholics are leaving our church."
State senator Ed Murray, prime sponsor of the same-sex-marriage bill and a practicing Catholic, says, "They are taking this issue to a place where they haven't taken issues like poverty or the death penalty. When it comes to issues of sexuality, I am more and more concerned that my church is becoming a single-issue church."
I remember when it was a multi-issue church. I recall growing up in the progressive St. Therese Parish, which was devoted to the social-justice tenets that Murray and every other Catholic parishioner I interviewed for this article see as the church's guiding lights. I vividly remember hugging Archbishop Hunthausen when I was 6 or 7. He was visiting our parish to bless a modern-art mobile, back when no one thought twice about a little boy in the mid-1980s waist-hugging a Catholic bishop.
At St. Therese School, where I was one of only two white kids in my grade, we were steeped in the history of the civil rights movement. MLK was basically our Jesus. Alabama was our Rome. In fourth grade, Sister Maureen would reflect on her years in Nicaragua helping locals. Mrs. Lindsay once performed a heartfelt funeral for a dead sparrow on the playfield. I took my first communion in that frankincense-and-myrrh-scented church, accepting real loaves of warm brown bread, broken off into hunks. It wasn't until years later I discovered that the suckers at other congregations were choking down those god-awful wafers. So—despite the boy-raping scandals and the gay campaigns—my sentiments were a sort of soft-focus impression of equal rights for all, sacrifice for the oppressed, upbeat sing-alongs, and freshly baked snacks.
But the politics were too much. One of the reasons I left the church in my teens, as did my gay older brother, were the decrees from Rome saying that our homosexuality was literally "evil"—that we would have unequal relationships, that we would never be fully accepted before their altar. Like millions of other gay Catholics, I left the church and entered the secular world, where the church, I thought, couldn't touch us anymore.
Perhaps I'd been naive.
Catholics have a right to know where the money they put in those collection plates is going, and many of them probably believe that it's going toward feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, keeping the church's lights on, and social charity. But the truth is that government, not the laity, finances the vast majority of the Catholic Church's charity work.
A records request with the City of Seattle revealed that the city gave the Archdiocesan Housing Authority $1.5 million in 2011 and has pledged $1.2 million this year. The city gave Catholic Community Services of Western Washington $5.6 million in 2011 and pledged $3.2 million this year. Looking at the 2010 annual report for the archdiocese's Catholic human services and housing programs, I found that 72 percent of their $120 million annual budget comes from the government. Only a fraction (10 percent) comes from public contributions. (That annual report opens with a statement from Archbishop Sartain, who controls the organizations.) This is typical around the country, where the Catholic charities are largely funded by government endowments.
"Most Catholics are unaware that so much of their charity work is not charity at all," says Attey of Catholics for Equality. "It's management of government programs."
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Seattle assesses roughly $5.5 million annually from parishes in Western Washington, according to its annual report. An additional "$10 million is raised annually for the archdiocese by parishes through our Annual Catholic Appeal," says archdiocese spokesman Magnoni. (A national body of bishops then assesses millions more from the various archdioceses around the country.)
How much of this money helps fund Seattle's Catholic housing and service charities?
"Zero," says Magnoni.
Magnoni explains that they are "separate nonprofit corporations." Catholic Community Services of Western Washington did not respond to requests for interviews.
I don't mean to make a j'accuse here. The government money that funds the charities isn't being abused for political purposes, nor is the church violating federal nonprofit rules. Compared to the entire annual budgets for the various Catholic entities, the organizations spend only a fraction of their money on lobbying efforts, as allowed by the IRS. Magnoni won't say how much they've spent on the recent anti-gay political campaign but writes in an e-mail that the amount "is negligible (close to zero) when compared with all other activities." But here's something to consider: Progressive Catholic parishioners all over the United States place lots of money on those collection plates every Sunday and, yeah, they're fine with it trickling up from their parish into the archdiocese's coffers. Because the archdiocese does such good work. It's true—they do do good work. But not with the collection-plate money. The good work for human services and social justice is funded mostly out of tax dollars. It's hard to say where all that money from the collection plates goes. But some of it, we know, goes into the anti-gay campaigns.
Plus, consider how Sartain is using the goodwill of these local Catholic charities to support the church's lobbying. For example, the same Catholic Advocacy Network webpage he runs that tells people to "send a message to your state senator and your two representatives" etc. features the logo for Catholic Community Services and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority. Meanwhile, Catholic Community Services is promoting Catholic Advocacy Day on February 15 to join Sartain in lobbying lawmakers.
Who dictates the church's lobbying agenda?
All roads lead to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the hub of the American Catholic hierarchy. Under the USCCB's leadership, the church has deftly pulled money from other states and concentrated it. For example, the money used to repeal same-sex marriage in Maine: It was siphoned from elsewhere.
In 2009, after Maine's legislature passed a same-sex-marriage law, dozens of archdioceses and bishops from around the country sent $568,024 (in quantities ranging from $500 to $10,000) to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, according to records held by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The archdiocese subsequently transferred every dollar of that to Stand for Marriage Maine and other parts of a campaign to repeal Maine's same-sex-marriage law, and they succeeded, overturning it with 53 percent of the vote.
This year, USCCB's financial power and influence stands to be only stronger. When the bishops' conference met in Baltimore in November, members voted to collect 3 percent more from each archdiocese for 2013. That will require raising the funds this year, money that ultimately comes from the collection plate.
"If a parish fails to raise the money for the bishops' appeal, that money comes from the parish's operating budget," explains Attey. "So either way, the bishop gets his money and the USCCB gets its money."
However, the USCCB itself is just the tip of the cash pile.
Working in tandem with various PACs and the Knights of Columbus, the American Catholic Church has been raising millions more in recent years with less obvious fingerprints. With that aim, the USCCB recently established the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, which concerns itself with the political strategy for stopping the gay-marriage movement. In a report to bishops last June, anti-gay-marriage committee chair Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland acknowledged that working in tandem with affiliated Catholic groups is vital to the church's new strategy: "We remain deeply grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their continued, generous support of the bishops' work in this area."
Likewise, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is widely accepted as a bulldog front organization for the church. "The largest known donation to NOM is $1.4 million from the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus in 2009," the Human Rights Campaign reported in its NOM Exposed project. Furthermore, NOM's top leaders—president Brian Brown, founding president Maggie Gallagher, and former board chair Robert George—are all Catholics. Funded by individual Catholics as well, NOM alone contributed $1.4 million to repeal marriage in Maine in 2009 and $1.8 million to repeal marriage in California in 2008.
Combined with these groups, the Catholic Church has leveraged centuries of organization and the credibility of bishops who are embraced by mainstream media to amplify its anti-gay campaign in a way that evangelical churches, for instance, could never do on their own. And while evangelical voters were considered essential to the Bush reelection strategy in 2004, the involvement of the Catholic Church in the last few years has pushed their political movement into prime time.
The church's creeping influence on American politics evokes the presidential race of 1960. John F. Kennedy famously struggled to allay fears among Protestants that if he were elected the first Catholic president, the Vatican would use him as a conduit to shape American policy. Looking back, Senator Ed Murray says, "The fear that took place in the 1960 campaign around the Catholic Church appears to be playing out now in the same-sex-marriage issue."
NOM and the bishops are planning to stage another public fight in Washington State: On February 13, the same day Governor Chris Gregoire signed the marriage-equality bill into law, opponents of gay marriage filed Referendum 74, attempting to overturn the law at the ballot (thereby putting marriage equality in limbo until the election). Mind you, no state has ever approved marriage equality by popular vote—only courts and legislatures have enacted it—and every state that has repealed marriage equality has done so at the ballot with a decisive, well-financed boost from NOM and the Catholic Church.
"Yesterday, there was a commitment of $1 million made to this campaign" to repeal marriage in Washington State, Cedar Park Assembly of God Church pastor Joe Fuiten announced on February 2. Who made the pledge? "I'm not going to say, but it's been committed," replied Fuiten, adding that it was out-of-state money. But the out-of-state funder seems obvious: NOM announced the same day on its blog that it would help run the referendum campaign. The day the referendum was filed, National Organization for Marriage's Christopher Plante, who had just flown in from Rhode Island, announced that NOM and its allies would likely spend $2 million to $6 million to repeal the marriage law in Washington State.
And there will be hell to pay for any lawmaker who crosses NOM's path.
In mid-January, NOM pledged $250,000 to oust any Republican legislator in Washington who voted for same-sex marriage (six voted for it anyway) and similar pledges to fund legislative races for lawmakers who help repeal same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and New Jersey.
NOM didn't respond to repeated interview requests.
Meanwhile, US bishops are also ramping up their campaigns. In Minneapolis in particular, Twin Cities archbishop John Nienstedt is working his way toward passing a constitutional amendment this fall banning same-sex marriage. He's helped raise $750,000 for Minnesota Catholic Conference's portion of the campaign, mailed 400,000 DVDs to Catholics around the state arguing against same-sex marriage, and even demanded that priests read a "marriage prayer" from the pulpit while parishioners recite a pledge to "proclaim and defend [God's] plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman..." Just last month, Nienstedt silenced clergy and said there would be zero "open dissension."
The US bishops also have plans for anti-gay-marriage campaigning in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virgina, and Iowa, according to a November 2011 report.
What does this mean for Washington State?
"Through this marriage committee of the USCCB, the bishops in Washington State will have a network of funding sources from across the country, some from archdioceses and collection plates, some from Knights of Columbus chapters, Opus Dei, and Catholic women's groups that will fund the most sophisticated campaigns at the highest levels," says Attey.
"You need to be prepared for that."
"If the label of 'bigot' sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we'll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result," Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York said in a report to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops last fall. Indeed, the pitfall for the Catholic Church in pursuing its political agenda is being perceived as a bully. It would be far better for bishops if they could couch their top two legislative goals—curbing access to contraception and curtailing gay marriage—while taking the opposite posture, the posture that the Catholic Church has historically preferred: being the victim.
Which is why the USCCB created the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty on September 29, 2011. In collaboration with the gay-marriage committee, this new body focuses on recasting the church's clashes with gays and women as a defense of Catholics—staving off threats to their conscience. Dolan's report continued: "The establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee is one element of what I expect to be a new moment in the history of our Conference."
Indeed, America has witnessed the church's clever, effective reframing in the past month.
President Obama bowed to the American Catholic Church on February 9 by withdrawing the White House's plan to require private employers (including religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals, adoption agencies, and service providers that rely largely on tax revenue) to provide health-insurance plans that cover contraception. Instead, insurance companies will be required to provide that coverage free of charge. Catholics claimed victory, both on policy and in the media.
That same Catholic rhetoric of religious victimhood got more traction on the floor of the Washington State House last week when Republican representative Norma Smith called same-sex marriage part of "a broader issue that we are seeing play out across the country, and that is the issue of religious liberty. Small-business owners who may have a heartfelt view born out of love, born out of their love of God... for traditional marriage have the potential to be silenced. The issue of religious liberty is being challenged across the nation."
Smith added that the threats are "not a red herring. They are not hyperbole. Catholic charities had to close their doors due to their view of traditional marriage." Other lawmakers sympathized with florists, photographers, caterers, hoteliers, and other workers who would face fines if they followed their conscience and refused to serve gay couples.
A quick question: anti-gay florists?
"This religious liberties argument is disingenuous to the point of being criminal," says Catholics for Equality director Attey. Adoption services, hospitals, schools, and other institutions can set their own conscience rules—provided that they are privately funded, he points out. But Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts and Illinois decided to shut down because they would rather close than meet the equal-service standards that accompany public financing. "They want to take money from taxpayers then claim victimization when the taxpayers expect them to honor the laws of their state," says Attey.
In Washington, despite Archbishop Sartain's implications, churches still have nothing to worry about if voters uphold same-sex marriage this November. Washington's new marriage law explicitly reiterates constitutional protections for religious institutions to refuse marriage services and for a church to deny use of its facilities to same-sex couples.
But the argument gets traction.
Jamie Pedersen, sponsor of the marriage bill in the state house, an attorney, and a practicing Lutheran, says the religious liberty argument is "a red herring." Despite an LGBT anti-discrimination law on the books since 2006 and domestic partnership ceremonies under way since 2007, Pedersen says, "They can't point to a single claim that's been filed in six years in our courts. So the idea that there is going to be some tidal wave of lawsuits is fearmongering."
Both Pedersen and senate sponsor Ed Murray say that carving out an exemption for private businesses to deny service to customers would be tantamount to refusing service to African Americans at the lunch counter.
"If we go back and allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians," says Murray, "I believe we set a precedent to going back and letting businesses discriminate against Catholics and Jews, Asians and African Americans—we just absolutely do not want to go there again."
I went to St. James Cathedral on a recent Sunday to ask church leaders if they agreed with Archbishop Sartain's crusade and logic (the argument that same-sex-marriage laws would cause humanity to die off). And if they disagreed—as most Catholics in our famously liberal archdiocese do—would they denounce the decree from the four local bishops?
As people left the mass, I approached a man in a long white robe wearing a mammoth silver crucifix necklace. "I can't speak for any of those people," said the man named Jerry, who claimed he didn't have a last name. Do Seattle's liberal Catholics believe the argument about procreation? "He, being the archbishop, has to toe the line of Rome," Jerry explained. "But for most of us, we toe the line of Jesus: He didn't speak hatefully of anyone. There is a large lesbian, gay, and transgender population at St. James."
Would they oppose this campaign?
"Yes, in many different ways," said Jerry, but he wouldn't say how.
Jerry said I should catch up with Father Michael Ryan—who was Hunthausen's right-hand man during the 1980s—in the parish hall next door, where they were serving Filipino food. The parish hall smelled of sesame oil and roasting meat, and I waited near the entryway for Father Ryan. I hadn't interviewed anyone, but I had my reporter's notebook out.
As I waited, a thirtysomething woman rushed up and ordered me to leave. I explained that I was a reporter and I'd been told to come speak to Father Ryan. "It is not appropriate," said the woman, turning red in the face. She said she worked for St. James. As I noted that, she lunged for my hand and grabbed it and then shifted her grip to take my pen from my hand. Holding onto the pen, I asked, "What are you doing? I'm a reporter and you're getting physically confrontational with me for taking notes." She said she didn't want to be named (I never got her name), briefly apologized for trying to take my pen, and then insisted I stand outside. So I went and stood in the snow.
At that moment, a man standing in the doorway said he wanted to speak to me.
"I support Governor Gregoire," said parishioner Bill Baumgartner, 76, explaining his support for the marriage-equality bill. "We should have marriage for all people."
He volunteered the church's hypocrisy in targeting gay people: "Would the bishops say, 'If you are divorced one or two times, leave the church' or 'If you have used contraception, leave the church'? But we don't do that."
I stepped a few feet back inside to see if Father Ryan was available, when a woman, declaring herself to be another employee of St. James, rushed up and began screaming at me. She yelled that she would get Father Ryan and then told me to get out, so I went back outside and stood under a sign that read "All are welcome."
I waited for an hour and a half.
Father Ryan never came. When another staffer stepped outside, he told me, "Father Ryan already left." So I guess Father Ryan slipped out the back door.
While it's understandable that some people at St. James and the archdiocese may feel like they're being wrongly placed under a microscope by having a reporter arrive, it was their leaders who issued the proclamation, their leaders who lobbied our lawmakers in Olympia, their leaders who are going above and beyond to infringe on other people's rights. If they are scrutinized, it's because their institution initiated a conflict.
The church isn't the victim here.
So perhaps I was naive for having faith in Seattle's Catholic leadership, for thinking that they were kind or at least brave enough to explain themselves. The shepherds, not the flock, are the collective problem. To Father Ryan's credit, his sermon on February 12 spoke warmly of gays and lesbians, noting that "there are no outcasts whatever: only fellow humans in need of love, human warmth, healing, acceptance." But he never addressed the massive political campaigning being waged in the name of Catholics, with Catholic money. By refusing to directly repudiate bigotry, priests in parishes around the state are the ones defending it.
St. James parishioner Dave Clemens has had enough. "Regretfully, I need to withhold my 2012 pledged contribution to the Cathedral until I see what St. James Cathedral will do on this issue, which will likely be a ballot question in the Fall," Clemens wrote in a January e-mail to St. James pastoral assistant Larry Brouse. "I'm very discouraged that Archbishop Sartain is going to pull the local Church into a divisive election issue this fall."
In a follow-up e-mail to me, he continued: "If Sartain gets heavy-handed with us before the fall vote, I think there will be widespread disobedience."
Joel Connelly, the Catholic columnist who welcomed Sartain in 2010 for not being a hardliner, was attending mass at St. Hubert on Whidbey Island in the week following Sartain's proclamation.
"The priest, who I respected, began to deliver a sermon about threats to religious liberty in the United States. He then got into same-sex marriage and talked about Catholics who disagreed with the church's position being unwilling to face the truth," Connelly says.
"I decided to face the truth, and heeded the age-old admonishment of St. Thomas More: 'Silence gives consent.' So I got up, and I left the church. I have found another parish home."