Monday, November 12, 2012

The Archbishop’s Statement on His Marriage Amendment Defeat

By Paula Ruddy

The Archbishop has issued a statement in the wake of the defeat of his relentless campaign to make sure gay and lesbian citizens of Minnesota will never get equal protection of the civil marriage laws. He says “It has never been the aim of the Catholic Church to alienate anyone.”

Let me try to understand this: He wants to deprive some people of any possibility of living a socially accepted, legally sanctioned, married life, and they are not supposed to take that personally?

He initiated an eight year attack, pitting a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority to prevent the democratic process from working in the minority’s favor. This attempt to limit marriage by constitutional definition ultimately failed on November 6, 2012. Resisting it took a tremendous expenditure of time, energy, and money. The moral cost may never be recovered. And he never meant to alienate anyone?

Look at the history: There has been a law in Minnesota specifically prohibiting same-sex marriage since 1997. Did John Nienstedt need to do anything to prevent gay marriage? No, he didn’t, but he decided a preemptive move was necessary to prevent any future “activists, politicians, and state court judges” from changing the status quo. So he mounted his campaign to amend the Minnesota constitution with a letter signed by all the Minnesota bishops in 2004. The letter defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman “with no legal equivalents.” No legal rights at all for the homosexual minority.

In 2006, the DFL controlled the senate judiciary committee, and they kept (then) state senator Michelle Bachman’s amendment bill from a floor vote. So it did not get on the ballot. A legislator’s oath to uphold the constitution prevents him/her from putting basic human rights of a minority on the ballot for a majority to vote on. The 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution provides that the state shall not deny any person equal protection of the law. If heterosexual people have the legal right to marry, there must be good reasons to deny homosexual people that same right. Whether there are good reasons is a question for the legislators themselves to answer. It is not for a majority of voters to decide whether a minority can have equal protection of the law. I remember Senators John Marty and Dean Johnson holding that moral line in the senate judiciary committee in 2006. The Archbishop does not seem to understand this basic principle of equality in a democratic constitutional republic, or he pretends not to. I find that alienating.

With a Republican majority in the state houses in 2011, the amendment was the Minnesota Catholic Conference's top legislative priority. The Archbishop sent priests to hearings to testify for the amendment and paid lobbyists to talk to legislators. Despite their oath to uphold the constitution, the legislators put the bill on the ballot for 2012. The phrase “with no legal equivalents” had been dropped. When the Archbishop framed same-sex marriage as a threat to straight marriage and the common good, the majority was set up against the minority to assure the passage of the amendment.

During all these years and especially during 2012, the minority had to defend against this attack on a right it didn’t even have but might possibly gain in the future. It was a strenuous, expensive, and sometimes demoralizing effort. It caused anxiety, anger, and grief in both the No voters and the Yes voters. Even in the little phoning I did to ask people to vote NO, I felt rage that justice depended on people who seemed to have no awareness of the effects of their vote on other people’s lives. For them a YES vote, easily done, would have no consequences.

Some Catholics suffered conflict between their consciences and what their church was telling them to do. Family ties were strained. Priests were told to be silent on the issue. Parish staff who didn’t agree had to “stay under the radar.” Some people could not bear to pray the Archbishop’s mandatory prayer or hear their pastor’s political instruction at Sunday Mass. Catholics had to hear the leadership of their church ridiculed in the public forum. Some people left the Roman Catholic Church for good.

The moral cost, the cost in human dignity, of this campaign was enormous—and alienating.

Yes, there were also enormous joys in the gay community and its allies working together. The spirit among the people of faith community was inspiring. And thanks to the good sense and fairness of Minnesota voter, straight and gay, the Archbishop’s campaign was defeated.

But isn’t it outrageous now for the Archbishop to say in his statement that this was a normal give and take in the democratic process? He sees himself as a good citizen who has done his best in a fair and honorable contest for the common good. I think it is instead like a man who has brutally tried to cripple and rob you, coming to shake hands after he has finally failed, congratulating himself on his attempt on your life. He even says he isn’t finished with you yet. But try not to be alienated.

Is there any way to call Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to account for the damage he has done? Would we be justified in trying to do so? What is the common ground he speaks of? Many of us begged him repeatedly to reconsider his strategy to “strengthen marriage,” but with absolute power and Rome’s approval, he has no incentive to hear any other point of view.

Or is this just another occasion to shrug off the banality of evil and put up with all the cynical comments about bishops? Anyone?

Related Off-site Links:
A Call for Healing in Minnesota – Eric Fought (, November 12, 2012).
Chastened Catholic Bishops Told They Have to Reform Themselves – David Gibson (The Washington Post, November 12, 2012).
Bishops Stay Course on Gay Marriage Fight – Rachel Zoll (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, November 12, 2012).


  1. What I don't understand is how the Archbishop can spend so much money on creating division in our state in regards to consenting adults who may not even be catholic, yet there are still priests who are being found to hurt children, we have a 37% poverty rate in Minnesota, tons of people in prison, people who have little good food to eat, homelessness.. and on and on...and yet I don't hear the Archbishop being outspoken about these issues. Does he make the pastors pray his prayer for the poor every Sunday? Does he mandate his congregations to help the poor or they aren't "Faithful Catholics"? That statement about being a "Faithful Catholic" was just a thinly veiled way of saying you're eternal salvation is in jepordy. THAT is spiritual abuse.

  2. I've been reviewing hundreds of Catholic blogs over recent months. I mention this to make it clear I'm commenting on the state of the Catholic web at large, and not only this blog.

    My research has brought me to this question.

    Does anybody in the Catholic community actually really want common ground, reconciliation and a sense of restored unity?

    Or is the never ending ideological conflict just too stimulating and entertaining to give up? Do both traditional and progressive Catholics each find their respective victim claims too emotionally satisfying to surrender?

    This seems a fair question, because the path to peace and reconciliation that so many Catholic bloggers claim to be looking for is very clearly articulated by the heart of our religion in simple language anyone can understand.

    Each of us, whether traditional or progressive Catholic, has the choice to redirect our attention and energy towards serving those who have much bigger problems than we do. Each of us, every Catholic, has the choice to focus on somebody other than ourselves and the passions of our particular ideological faction.

    Do we want unity and common ground??

    I've yet to meet a Catholic who is against Catholic Charities. The Church leadership supports it. The Catholic laity supports it. Traditional Catholics support it, as do progressives. Catholic Charities is most likely the most popular aspect of our religion with non-Catholics. It's a great service of the Church, everybody respects it, and it's already quite successful.

    Focusing 95% of our energies on Catholic Charities would not require any of us to surrender our beliefs on any other issue.

    So, it appears that if it's Catholic unity we want, we can have it anytime we're ready.

    And yet, one can travel the Catholic blogosphere for weeks before encountering a mention of Catholic Charities.

    Instead, there is the eternal argument on the Catholic web today about who is the true Catholic. Hey, look, I'm doing the superior dance too! :-) This dance craze appears to be a compelling obsession. I do see the appeal, and have my own judgmental junkie habit but...

    It might be easier and more honest to ask...

    Are any of us really Catholic?

    Are we?

    Is this what being Catholic is supposed to be, a never ending squabbling among competing victim claims, which leaves us with little time to discuss hungry kids?

    So what's the solution to annoying Bishops then?

    Like annoying commenters who won't be mentioned in case their name might be Phil, the Bishops have deliberately chosen to focus on hot button issues in order to put themselves at the center of attention. The Bishops are using controversy to put themselves in the spotlight in order to build their power and influence.

    Bishop John Nienstedt is much more widely known now that he has successfully engaged you in a public conflict. You've helped make him a big hero with his core supporters. And it cost him nothing, because he was never going to win your support anyway, and he's pleasing his bosses.

    A solution?

    What is our goal?

    If you want to make me a more influential and enthusiastic challenger to the culture of this blog, you could argue with my comments, put me in the spotlight.

    If we want to make Bishop John Nienstedt a more influential leader in the Church, we can argue with his comments, put him in the spotlight.

    If we want hungry kids to be more influential in the Church, we can give the spotlight to them instead.

    We aren't victims, the power is ours, to invest as we please.

    My guess is that we'll get whatever we really want, and whatever we really deserve.


    1. I'm probably one of those bloggers Phil, and yet I also spend some of my blogging space talking about the power of compassion. I take up my sword when I detect no compassion, and yes I have occasionally taken on the left.

      If we all spent more time seeking the compassionate self within, bishops like Neinstedt might lose their path to a red beanie. What sickened me most about this campaign is I couldn't help but think Neinstedt didn't really give a damn about this issue except how it played in red beanie land, and how gay marriage would effect the celibate priesthood. Catholic gay men would have another avenue besides the celibate priesthood. And finally I think your Archbishop had Chicago on his mind with it's red beanie. He wasn't the only one.

      Excellent piece Paula.

  3. "I think it is instead like a man who has brutally tried to cripple and rob you, coming to shake hands after he has finally failed, congratulating himself on his attempt on your life. He even says he isn’t finished with you yet. But try not to be alienated." Well said. He harmed parishioners and staff. He turned parishioner against parishioner. Only time will tell the price the church will pay in broken trust and broken relationships.

  4. Howdy Colkoch,

    Yes, well said, we can all spend more time seeking the compassionate self within.

    The sword you mentioned is most useful when aimed at our own weaknesses, an inconvenient truth I should probably have tattooed on my typoholic fingers.

    As for Neinstedt and the red beanie, let him have one if he wants it so bad, and the PopeMobile too, who cares?

    None of the Church leaders have the power to dictate our relationship with God, ourselves, our family, neighbors, or Catholic faith.

    Yes, sometimes Church leaders deserve the sword, as we all sometimes do, but bottom line, they really aren't worth fighting with.

    After all, anybody who would actually wear a red beanie in public need not be taken too seriously... :-)

    However, I'll still accept one if you're offering, on the condition that it must have a propeller on top.

    My first act as Pope Philbutt the First will be to require all Catholics to wear the red beanie with propellers, which should make rather more difficult for all we blowharding morally superior Catholics to take ourselves so very seriously. :-)

  5. Hey..the BIG GUY didn't preach to us about birth control 
    ...and abortion...and fear and hate...and gay marriage .
    HIS words were simple and "down to earth":
    1 Corinthians 13
    New King James Version (NKJV)The Greatest Gift13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whetherthere is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  6. When you love someone and care about their health mind, body and soul you tell that person to stop the harmful behavior. Maybe you haven't seen this website and the harm of practicing homosexuality causes people. It is the same as people who smoke cigarettes, if they continue it will cause a physical illness to them, shuld we encourage that or tell our loved ones it is dangerous. You are all hypocrites talking about compassion for if you were honest and true you would compassionately tell someone of the harm they are cusing themselves. I hope you visit someone in the hospital suffering from HIV from leading a homosexual lifestyle maybe your eyes would be open to the truth then. Maybe prostitution should be made legal to since it is jusy another sexual alternative, use your hearts not your " so called intellectual reasoning" because and of course Our Lord teaches about contraception and abortion and gay marriage, etc, It's called.. THOU SHALL NOT KILL. that includes body, mind and soul. You are the synogauge of Satin, staining the very love and holiness of the Catholic Church. It is love to tell someone when they are hurting themselves. It goes against nature to practice homo- sexulual acts even the animals know better. You are not repairing the Church but you are part of what is says in the Cathecism on the second coming: the Church will go through a historical decline before the Paurosia takes place. This is because the populus will go along with what you are teaching because of the herd mentality and there will only be a remnant. Be not of the world.

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    Well, you are surely entitled to your beliefs, and I'm glad you shared them here, but I'm afraid you are entirely ignorant about homosexuality.

    Your ignorance is not a crime, nor your personal failing alone, but I think you'll find public engagement more rewarding if you inform yourself further.

    If it could be scientifically proven beyond doubt to your satisfaction that homosexuality is not related to AIDS, or child abuse, or troubled homes or anything else negative, any more than straight sexuality is...

    Would you then embrace your fellow Catholics who are gay and argue that they should have exactly the same rights as we straight Catholics?

    I've yet to meet a person of your point of view who can answer this question with a simple yes.

    Here's why.

    The point of view you're expressed was not created with reason and evidence, and thus it can not be edited by these processes.

    Within the point of view you've expressed, reason and evidence are used only as props, to promote a perspective which has been reached via a process of authority worship and blind ignorant bigotry. That is, this point of view is emotion based, and thus largely impervious to a rational examination of facts.

    To be fair to you, my reply here is also emotion based, and is also ignoring a well established fact that the chances that anything I say here will have any affect upon your viewpoint is very slim to non-existent. Like you, I'm clinging to a distorted emotion based view of reality. So we are brothers in that.

    I can tell you with absolute confidence how this story will end.

    The next generation, those entering adulthood now, have opened their minds and hearts to the gay community, and as they take the reins of power they will be bringing this era of ignorant bigotry to a swift conclusion.

    You can resist this inevitability if it entertains you, but none of our words have the slightest chance of changing this coming reality.

    Go in peace, and go to heaven too, but know that as you and I leave this world, a better one will take it's place, and there's nothing you can do about it.

  8. Hi Phil,

    You write, "Go in peace, and go to heaven too, but know that as you and I leave this world, a better one will take it's place, and there's nothing you can do about it."

    You should try reading a history book sometime. A better world will not take its place. Even if it is better for homosexuals in the short run in the long run it will not be.

    I may also point out any world that accepts homosexuality is not a better one by definition.

    I also find it interesting that you admit your view is not based on reason.


  9. Hi George, thanks for your reply.

    My views on homosexuality are reason based, but my addiction to these exchanges is not.

    I'm suffering from the illusion that these exchanges will accomplish something, simply because I like typing more than a bit too much, for my own emotional ego-centric reasons.

    I notice that you've declined to address my question, which is normal in these conversations. I'll try again.

    If every scientist in the world were to provide exhaustive evidence that homosexuality is neither harmful or a choice, would you change your view and embrace the gay community as full equals without reservation?

    Unless you can answer my question with a clear, simple and unequivocal yes, then your view on this particular subject does not arise from reason and evidence, but from your interpretation of Christianity, which you are of course entitled to.

    If true, then there's really no point in discussing reason and evidence with you on this topic, and you are unintentionally misleading us by implying in your posts that reason and evidence are relevant to your viewpoint.

    We're not that different.

    You seem to have a need to feel superior to others because you are straight and they are not.

    I seem to have a need to feel superior to others who aren't as clever at reason and typing as I am, even though reason and typing are largely worthless tools on primal emotion based subjects like ego and sexuality.

    We are brothers in foolishness! :-)

    If we can learn to laugh at our own silly situation with the same energy we invest in judging others, perhaps there's a profit to be found in all this typing after all?

  10. A quick idea that I hope is constructive...

    Here's a new enemy that all Catholics should be able to unite in fighting.

    The tobacco companies kill about 100,000 of our fellow Catholics in the U.S. each and every year. They do this by deliberately engineering a highly addictive and deadly product that they know will end the lives of huge numbers of people all over the world.

    Surely this qualifies the tobacco companies to be the target of the moral outrage we Catholics are so good at, yes?

    Shouldn't this be of even more concern than abortion, which at least is not a business model?

    While we Catholics are so busy fighting amongst ourselves, we've forgotten to notice that the tobacco companies are killing 100,000 of our fellow Catholics every year, and that's just in the U.S.

    Isn't that strange? Aren't we human beings odd creatures indeed?

    It's clear we Catholics were born to wage ideological battles. I accept that reality now.

    Perhaps all we need to do is be more careful about what targets we pick for our outrage? We'd be so much more effective if we picked a target we can all agree on and unite against.

    77 million U.S. Catholics vs. the tobacco companies. Wow, now that's a fight I want to be part of. Take us there PCV!

  11. Nienstedt should just resign. Resign is probably too good for him. Nienstedt is just another papal hireling. The hireling does not have a heart and is no shepherd. I doubt the sheep are without a shepherd. There are intelligent and compassionate people out there to lead on this issue. It's beyond Nienstedt's time.

  12. Thank you for an excellent article, Paula Ruddy. Archbishop Nienstedt's attack on gay people is painful to read about. This isn't the Church that I was raised in. It is amazing to me that he doesn't seem to really care about the hurt that he has caused. How can he honestly believe that he didn't mean to alienate anyone? Well, maybe he is a hero with people that dislike gay people but I wonder if his bosses are all that happy with him since he is driving some people out of the Church.
    Mark from PA

  13. Faithful upright Catholics will never compromise with heretics and outright sodomites. We will protect our own and let His will be done.

  14. Move on
    The Episcopaleans are calling

  15. The Church clearly states that sexual acts between 2 men or 2 women is disordered nature and a sin against God. Deal with it as you may, but the truth is the truth.
    You've won nothing but sinful pride against the sanctity of the holy family.

  16. Why are some people so exercised over what gay people do in private? Whom does it hurt? Let me suggest what DOES hurt: heterosexuals, married or unmarried, that are producing too many children, wanted or unwanted, and people who are more concerned with protecting embryos than protecting our planet. I am not suggesting that abortion is a good solution after, let's say, just for the sake of argument, 8 to 10 weeks of pregancy. (Late-term abortions are horrible in the third trimester, unless necessary to save the life of the mother.)
    In short,overpopulation is problem that we should ALL be concerned about, but we hear precious little about it from our fearless politicians and nothing from our clergy. And some of you people are concerned that some gay folks are enjoying themselves. None of your business! Let me add that Marriage is a legal commitment, while Matrimony is a sacrament Perhaps if folks could make that distinction it might help them to see that two people who want to make legal commitment should be encouraged to do so as it is a moral thing to do and encourages stability in communities and in nations.

  17. Congratulations, Paula, on your excellent article. You and the other members of your organization have done an excellent job for years fighting for the rights of GBLT Catholics. We are very grateful that your intelligent, moral, compassionate views have prevailed.