Thursday, May 17, 2012

80 Former Priests Oppose Marriage Amendment

A group of 80 former Minnesota Catholic priests spoke out May 17 against the proposed marriage amendment at a media event in Minneapolis. Representatives distributed a list of the 80 former priests, who, they emphasized, "collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church."

Since active priests in the local archdiocese were strongly discouraged to engage in any public dissent on this issue, the former priests stated they were "free to express our opinions openly."

The spokesmen, all highly respected in church circles, explained that Catholics have a choice on this matter when they vote in November.

Paul Mohrbacher, a published novelist and playwright, said: "The amendment is called the 'Sanctity of Marriage' amendment. The name implies that we should be very afraid for the institution of marriage if it is defeated, sanctity has never been a property of the law." He concluded that "people of faith can be opposed in good conscience to this amendment."

John Estrem, the former rector of the St. Paul Cathedral, cited a striking example of how discrimination can harm gay Catholics. He said that "the church I know and love is about welcoming and inclusion. We live in a pluralistic society."

Ed Flahavan, a priest for 48 years, served on Governor's Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Minnesotans. He revealed that his homophobia quickly evaporated when he got to know some gay people. "For the life of me," he said, "I cannot see how same-sex marriage is in any way a threat to my happy marriage."

Following is the statement released by the group.

As former Catholic priests who collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church, we strongly oppose the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Free to express our opinions openly, we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their consciences and to resist discrimination against any of God's children.

We encourage Minnesotans to base their vote on principles of justice and love. the proposed amendment, in violation of those principles, would deprive an individual of his or her right to marry the person he or she loves. Therefore, as former priests, we encourage all Minnesotans to vote "NO" on the marriage amendment.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Resigned Priest Ed Flahavan: I Have Heard the Arguments for the Marriage Amendment and I Find Them Wanting, Prejudicial and DestructiveSensus Fidelium (May 17, 2012).
Some MN Priests Split with Catholic Hierarchy Over Marriage Amendment – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio, May 17, 2012).
Conflicted Catholics: Consciences Wrestle with Church Actions on Marriage Amendment – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, April 18, 2012).
Catholics Engaged in Gay Marriage Battle – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio News, May 14, 2012).
"This is the Living Word"Sensus Fidelium (March 28, 2012).
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the "Marriage Amendment" – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, March 2, 2012).
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 17, 2011).
Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate – Michael Bayly (Sensus Fidelium, December 12, 2011).


  1. Once a priest, always a priest. There is no such thing as a "former priest." Even in the situation where a priest loses his priestly faculties through the Church's judicial process, in a case of a dire emergency, he may, for example, administer the Sacrament of Confession to the occupants of an airplane about to crash.

    Most of the problems that have occurred in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 50 years were due to priests like these that broke most of their vows and made up their own liturgies and sacramental procedures and neglected to instruct their parishioners in anything about the the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    But they cashed their paycheck each month. They did believe in that clerical procedure.

    Fortunately, most Catholics these days have never heard of these guys. It's interesting that only a few of those 80 names seem to have been released to the public. So they can be classified as hypocrites.

    1. Great post and I could not agree more with your comments. I knew one of these priests, Fr. John Estrem when he was rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. I was a lector then and I remember his social justice tone in his homilies. Also, Estrem was a pompous and arrogant self-important type. I am not surprised that he has abandoned his sacred vows.

  2. I am not aware of any laicized priest who is highly respected in Catholic Church circles. Maybe there is one somewhere, I think that is possible. Certainly it would not be one who was in favor of same sex "marriage", or gave scandal by publicly speaking against the natural moral law and Catholic teaching. These men do not have a Catholic understanding of the nature of marriage, which cannot be divorced from its purposes of uniting a man and a woman for life, and procreating, raising and educating children. Willfully sterile "marriages" of a man and women are not valid marriages either in the Catholic understanding, though at least it is the -kind- of union through which children are conceived. Same sex contact is not.

    I pray for priests and religious daily and try to remember to pray also for the laicized ones. Unfortunately many, like these, seem hardened against Catholic faithfulness. But they are called to holiness every bit as much as others and I have hope for them because God still loves them.

  3. Ray, I just added the list of names of signees released to the media. I don't think it's fair to label these signees "hypocrites" just because mainstream media outlets chose not to publish their statement (which included their names) in its entirety.



  4. They are hypocrites. They destroyed a lot of gullible Catholics along the way with their made up Catholicism. They will have much to answer for. So, you don't like the Catholic Church, go somewhere else and be quiet. We have heard enough from you to last a lifetime.

    1. Anon, speak for yourself. No priest, good, bad or indifferent shakes the faith of a person who truly believes in the message and teaching of the life of Jesus Christ. Adult faith will not be swayed by the opinions of others. Nor does adult faith have a need to demand the removal or expulsion of those whose opinions are different. Your attitude is not that of child like wonder, but that of a child throwing a tantrum.

  5. Can a Catholic Christian reconcile what you’re promoting with what's written in these verses – especially the last line? Can they pick what is truth and what is not from Christ's teachings as though it were a choice in a cafeteria? Does what is true change with the times? The answer to these questions is no. Clearly we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Fortunately, God forgives the contrite person's sins and says go and sin no more. This is, however, a far cry from institutionalizing and codifying sin. You may have your own belief system that somehow says otherwise, but I'll follow God's word. You heap condemnation on yourself and those that listen to you! "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."
    Romans Chapter 1 v16-32
    I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous by faith will live." The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
    For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.
    While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.
    Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.
    And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents.
    They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    1. My guess is that you are a very unhappy, rigid person. Such certainty about the mind of God.
      I'd say you are much more in need of prayers than most. I hope you find some peace.

  6. Wow, the 80 resigned priests hit a nerve here! I have great respect for these men for the courage they have shown in following the call of the Spirit in their lives during the course of a lifetime. Deciding to become a priest, deciding to resign, deciding to remain--the process in each person's case cannot have been easy or done lightly. Let us honor each other, Ray, Elizabeth, and those of you who did not sign names.

  7. John Estrem's statement that "Enshrining discrimination does not promote marriage. It simply diminishes us all." hits the nail on the head for me.

    If anything, gay marriage promotes monogamy amongst members of a sexually-active community. That's a good thing for many.

    1. I agree Shash, but there is a significant part of the heterosexual community that seems to need to justify the 'rightness' of their own sexual activity, activity they apparently feel is inherently unholy, by condemning the 'unrightness' of others. That's pretty sad.

  8. I don’t get it. Suppose gay sex is sinful. What is the greater reward to be had by the people trying to legislate something that God wants us to choose freely (morality?) Wouldn’t He be more impressed by the gay person who had the legal right to get married and have sex, but chose not to? Do they honestly think God is going to judge us on how politically active we were? “Hello, my child. Welcome to your Judgment Day. I can see your voting record and you did okay on the gay thing, but you never once chose a political candidate based on his anti-fornication stance. Oh, fornication wasn’t a ‘hot political issue’ when you were alive? You think I care? It’s just as much a sin! A hundred thousand years in Purgatory for you!” I can’t get my head around why anyone thinks these amendments mean anything spiritually, to themselves or to anyone else. They are Caesar’s laws anyway, aren’t they? Why do I care if my gay neighbor gets married? If it’s a sin, it’s his problem. If it’s not, at least I didn’t make it my problem. I just try to keep my eyes on my own paper (which could always use some work) and trust that God will figure it all out in the end—with or without our weak, pathetic laws to help us along. I do. Not. Understand. why people can’t resist trying to legislate morality.

  9. Same sex is so romantic. If you can visualize. It's hard to understand how we have come to this. You can twist and turn the Scripture to reflect your same-sex views all day, but, fact is, it is unnatural and repulsive. And, oh, by the way erin, it is a sin, whether you like it or not.