Friday, October 12, 2012

Share Your Open Letter to the Archbishop

Dear Readers:

We invite you to send us your open letters to the Archbishop. We will post them here on the Progressive Catholic Voice.

Did you know that canon law says we are free to make our spiritual needs known to our church leadership? Of course, as free people of God, we don’t need permission, but it is good to have this freedom acknowledged in canon law. Sometimes, canon law says, the faithful have the duty to make their needs known. If your letter does not move the Archbishop, it may move someone else in ways we can’t foretell.

Send your letter to Please also consider writing about your concern to the papal nuncio or sending him a copy of your letter. He has said he is willing to hear from us. His name and address: Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20008-3610.

Following is the first of hopefully many open letters to the Archbishop that we'll be sharing at the Progressive Catholic Voice.

– The Editorial Board


October 11, 2012
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
226 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

Archbishop Nienstedt:

I am in receipt of your letter of October 1, 2012, requesting me to vote Yes to a constitutional amendment limiting civil marriage. It makes me sad that the leader of my beloved church is asking me to betray both my citizenship and my commitment to the Gospel.

I find your stated purpose to keep a definition of civil marriage “safe from politicians, activists, and state court judges” to be a cynically-stated betrayal of U.S. citizenship. Our government is based on principles of freedom and equality constitutive of our nation, i.e. our constitution. Citizens in dialogue (activists) work for laws to be made through their representatives (politicians), whose work is reviewed for fidelity to the principles of freedom and equality by the judiciary (state court judges). A moral people thus evolves through this process toward freedom and justice for all. You are undermining this process on which Catholics have depended for their own freedom and equality in the past and may again in the future.

I call on you, as leader of the Catholic Archdiocese in St. Paul and Minneapolis, to make arguments that appeal to the reason of all our fellow citizens, no matter their religious beliefs or lack of them, in favor of your position on this amendment you have championed if any such arguments are available. You must also openly submit those arguments to the reasoning of opponents. This is the only way to gain respect as a citizen in political discourse. Otherwise you are a religious demagogue, leading your followers to unreasoning conclusions. As a telephone campaigner, I have heard many Catholics following your lead.

Your argument based on the “nature” of marriage does not hold up. We are talking here about civil marriage laws and those laws have defined marriage over the centuries in many nations in any number of ways. What is the necessity for civil marriage laws to limit the status to heterosexual couples who are biologically capable of procreation as a couple? There are numerous unions of same-sex couples with children who desire the status of civil marriage and for whom it would be a benefit. On what argument do you depend to justify denying them equal protection of the law as our constitution already provides?

I’m sure you are aware of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the dignity of the human person. I look upon the principles of freedom and equality undergirding our form of government as an outgrowth of that Western tradition. When I see people suffering from unjustified, unequal treatment based on their sexual orientation, which is their “nature,” I am moved by my conscience to try to alleviate the unjust situation. I look upon this as the Gospel commitment you are asking me to betray.

I ask you to reconsider your position and to enter into dialogue with the people whose lives will be affected by your political activism.

– Paula Ruddy


  1. Wow, nice job Paula, very well written.

    I'm unclear on how this works.

    Does the Bishop have the ability to do what you are asking?

    Do Bishops still have meaningful powers of their own, or is their role these days limited to passing along whatever has been decided in Rome?

    My impression, perhaps misinformed, is that if the Bishop were to publicly agree with you, he would be committing career suicide.

    Is that about right, or am I confused on this?

  2. Can you give a reasoned response, Ray? Evidently Minnesota civil marriage law does not require people to have babies. Evidently many Minnesota same-sex couples do have babies, biologically from one of the parents or adopted. How does your response justify the Archishop's position?

  3. Paula, I really like your first paragraph, especially. For the Archbishop to focus on keeping us safe from our own democratic system is demeaning to that system. He is simply espousing populist thinking not based in logic. But, that has been the nature of the vote yes campaign from the beginning, inclusive of the DVD.

  4. Given that the Church is a monarchy, and lower ranking officials would seemingly have no meaningful power over these questions, I suggest we write the highest ranking Church officials we can get access to.

    I invite readers to join me in commenting regularly on Cardinal Dolan's blog. That's as close to the top as I've been able to find so far.

    First, Cardinal Dolan is a pretty good writer, so his blog posts are easy to read. He expresses himself in simple language, and steers clear of obscure theological theory etc. Reading his posts is not a chore.

    Second, his moderating team seems pretty open to publishing posts that debate Cardinal Dolan. It can take a week or ten days for comments to be approved, but so far they've approved most or all of mine, and most of my posts debate the Cardinal.

    My strategy for getting approved by the mods so far has been as follows.

    - I include my url with my post, so that mods can see my arguments are coming from within the faith, and are not an attack from the outside.

    - I'm respectful of Cardinal Dolan personally, and compliment his ideas where I can.

    - I roll up my sleeves and hold no punches on issues like gay marriage. Here's an example:

    So far, this approach seems to be working.

    I don't know if Cardinal Dolan reads the comments on his blog or not.

    However, we know his mods are reading every comment, and other readers may as well. While one of us may go unheard, a hundred of us could have an impact.

    As best I can tell, the vast majority of the comments on Cardinal Dolan's blog posts are from his supporters. Why don't we change that?

    Perhaps PCV might organize progressive Catholics to engage in regular responses to the highest ranking Catholic in the United States?

    See you there!