Take Your Petitions and Shove 'Em

Seattle's Catholic Churches Are Rejecting the R-74 Campaign, Calling It "Hurtful and Divisive"

Take Your Petitions and Shove 'Em
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Catholic churches aren't supposed to push back against the pope. So when Pope Benedict XVI decreed in January that gay marriage is a threat to "the future of humanity itself," his anti-gay advocacy was expected to be echoed and supported by US Catholic leaders—including those in Seattle—who collectively represent the largest Christian denomination in the country.

What happens if a bunch of local Catholic priests refuse to get with the homophobic program? We're about to find out.

In an e-mail to his flock on April 11, St. James Cathedral pastor Michael Ryan kicked off a heartening trend when he said he will not be circulating petitions at mass for Referendum 74, the campaign to repeal the state's marriage-equality law. "Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community," Father Ryan wrote.

He was responding specifically to Seattle archbishop J. Peter Sartain's call the previous week for all 250 parishes in Washington State to gather signatures for R-74—which, if it gets enough signers, will put the marriage law up for a popular vote on the November ballot.

Father Ryan isn't alone. Two more Catholic parishes in Seattle also refused last week (St. Mary's in the Central District and St. Joseph on Capitol Hill), and five more parishes are rumored to be taking the same adversarial stance (St. Catherine, St. Patrick, St. Therese, and Christ Our Hope in Seattle, plus St. Leo in Tacoma).

In another charged letter of dissent, the pastoral life coordinator at St. Mary's, Tricia Wittmann-Todd, wrote: "I am particularly concerned about our youth who may be questioning their own sexual identity and need our support at this time in their lives." Similarly, Father John Whitney at St. Joseph declared that "no petitioning will be permitted anywhere on the campus."

This righteous resistance clearly has support among some liberals in the pews. Parishioners at St. Mary's recently created a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality in Washington State, designed to specifically resist the bishops and uphold marriage equality on the fall ballot. But as nice as it is to see the laity pushing back, the sight of some of their priests leading the revolt (and stating their objections to anti-gay signature gathering on moral grounds) is even more eye-catching.

The question: How far can they all go with this?

We'll see, but it's useful to recall that Pope Benedict has a vendetta against gay-friendly Seattle Catholics: In the mid-1980s, then-archbishop Raymond Hunthausen allowed a gay Catholic group called Dignity USA to hold its mass at St. James. The current pope, who was then a cardinal, led an investigation and told Seattle churches to withdraw support for "the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity."

He even tried to oust Hunthausen, but Seattle Catholics pushed back. (There's a book about it called Holy Siege: The Year That Shook Catholic America.) Hunthausen ultimately prevailed, with support from the congregations, and he carried out the rest of his term. His right-hand man at the time? You guessed it: Father Ryan.

This time, Father Ryan and other priests who are resisting appear to have the letter of current church "law" on their side. When the archbishop invited petitions into churches, he sent a private note, obtained by The Stranger, that allowed petitioning only with the "permission of the pastor." That suggests that the resisting pastors aren't guilty of direct insubordination; they're merely refusing "permission."

It's another thing, though, to call the Vatican's agenda "divisive." Stay tuned. It's going to be a long show between now and November. recommended


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slade 1
"his anti-gay advocacy was expected to be echoed and supported by US Catholic leaders—including those in Seattle—who collectively represent the largest Christian denomination in the country"

Dude! your a Repuklickin or a new citizen?

you "expect" crap in America? your such a prejudiced stereotyping turd its up there with the Republican party or the Pope himself?

and they wonder about "Inslee" in the Media? I guess you over looked the giant rainbow banner that hangs off the church on East Broadway and East Republican that says "ALL are welcome here, Come as you are"

Welcome to America Welcome to Seattle and welcome to the Church.
Posted by slade on April 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM · Report this
don't feed the trolls
Posted by FfidRat on April 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Report this
slade 3…

Catholic bishops' overwrought call for civil disobedience
Posted by slade on April 19, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this
I went to college with Pete Sartain in Indiana.......he subsequently went to theology school in Rome, I opted to pursue a life of material wealth and success. I have to wonder if the archbishop has sold out his principles and follow blind allegiance in pursuit of the a crimson cassock.

As a rule the bishops constitute a group of old drag queens out of touch with average Americans--by some estimates white Catholics favor gay rights and their ability to marry. Does any bishop honestly think their churches will be filled with endless lines of men wanting a sacramental ceremony?

After the scandals created by pedophiles in the clergy, do bishops think a straight man would now want to marry another man and suddenly change his orientation simply because gay men and women are permitted the same rights in marriage afforded to straight couples?

Thee should be further investigation into who actually ordered the procedure followed by hierarchy pursuant to a sexual assaunt of a young victim? What hand did Ratzinger have in crafting this detrimental policy?

Posted by CatholicMuscle on April 19, 2012 at 9:49 PM · Report this
Pizzaman 5
Ratzinger,aka Benedict, probably cultivated his homophobia during his participation in a Nazi youth group. Sad commentary that the local bishop would follow his lead.
Posted by Pizzaman on April 20, 2012 at 8:11 AM · Report this
Why Slade, why?
Posted by buttmonkey on April 20, 2012 at 1:17 PM · Report this
The Catholic Church is undergoing it's own culture struggle right now, but that doesn't mean TPTB are wrong for trying to hew the conservative definition of marriage line. There's a place for Catholics who believe in gay marriage, in guilt-free divorce and all sorts of other less-Biblical interpretations: The Anglican (Episcopal) church.

That's diversity.
Posted by Northside Tony on April 22, 2012 at 6:40 AM · Report this
It's the concept of gathering signatures for a secular political petition by a religious organization that is what's wrong here. Any church, any religion can believe and teach any principles it wants - and, in fact, that is precisely what a "religion" is. But engaging - as an entity - in government? How incredibly medieval.

That practice wasn't given up because it was deemed immoral, you know; it was given up because it didn't work. A laity that wasn't chained to within a 2 mile radius of where it was born discovered that, really, there where lots of different ways to think about something, not just the one that their priests espoused as the "only" way.

Thus was born the concept of separation of church and state - a concept supposedly enshrined in both the constitution and governmental practices by Thomas Jefferson. And now, when a person can sit in their own home 24/7 for a lifetime and _still_ be exposed to an entire world full of ideas, the church (and in particular, the archbishop) thinks that returning to the 12th century is not only a "good" idea, but actually viable??? And that it would actually have the same (pro-church) effect that it had then?

Following Benedict's dictum regarding the "sinfulness" of homosexuality does _not_ require - or even endorse - bringing secular politics inside the doors. He, himself, may actually approve of this behavior, but that's not relevant. The archbishop can tell Catholics that he thinks that they should sign the petition. He can tell them as often and as vociferously as he likes that the Catholic Church condemns homosexuality. But actually putting a copy of the petition inside each church and putting social pressure on the congregants to sign it? Does he not realize that inviting the state into the church means inviting the state INTO the church?

The government hasn't pursued the opportunities the evangelical churches have offered it by playing politics, because the cost of removing their special status hasn't been worth it for the penny-ante results the state would get. But the largest single landowner in the US declaring that they were just another lobby group?? That could almost clear up the national debt!
Posted by alisoncircus on April 23, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
If these Catholic Priests and laity do not agree with the direction of the church's teaching it would be far better for them to do what Henry VIII did and start their own church and take their followers with them but leave the ones that wish to follow the strict guidelines to do so and not cause dissention and confusion by imposing their own interpretation on the church's teachings.

As for priest and lay brothers who have used the shelter of the church to carry out abuse on children one is at a loss to understand why they are prepared to spend time studing to be priests or join the orders when their agenda was to carry out abuse.
Posted by Erasmus on April 29, 2012 at 6:33 AM · Report this
my take on Dan Savage comments of the bible: he should have been more respectful with how he said it. can't call the bible bull... but we can point out the hypocrisy. we need to fight this hate-speech in the bible . read the didache and remember the word homosexual is of a 19th century origin and as for the Hebrew bible (old testament) that is for the Jews to deal with, As far as I am concerned we shouldn't even include the hebrew bible as book for christians or the "Way - Jesus movement". read my story:… peace and love john

Posted by jesusluvs on April 30, 2012 at 9:01 AM · Report this

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