In 2009, after Maine governor John Baldacci signed into law a bill passed by the state legislature that would have permitted same-sex marriage in that state, citizens passed a referendum blocking the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage in Maine. The drive to remove this civil right from gay citizens of Maine was led primarily by the Catholic church.
During the campaign to pass the referendum removing the right of civil marriage from gay Mainers, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices released a report showing who was providing financial support to the Catholic diocese of Portland, Maine, which was leading the battle to pass the referendum voiding the gay-marriage legislation signed by Gov. Baldacci. The Ethics Commission report revealed that dioceses across the U.S. sent funds to Maine to remove the civil right of marriage from gay citizens of Maine. I discussed this report in a posting in November 2009.
As this posting stated, while Catholic dioceses throughout the U.S. are closing churches and schools due to lack of funds, they've been gathering money to attack a vulnerable minority community. The money being used to fund this cynical, cruel, calculated attack on a targeted minority is money given by lay Catholics to support schools, churches, programs to feed the hungry and heal the sick. It is tax-free money given as donations to churches, without any political intent other than healing the wounds of the world in the mind of most Catholic layfolks donating that money.
And now a recent news report indicates that the very same pattern is occurring in Minnesota, as the Catholic bishops of that state lead the battle to amend the state constitution and inscribe anti-gay discrimination into the constitution (though same-sex marriage has already been banned in Minnesota by a 1997 legislative initiative). Baird Helgeson reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week that "Catholic parishes and affiliated groups around the country are pouring money into Minnesota's fight to pass a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage."
As Helgeson's report also indicates, Catholic officials in Minnesota are claiming that the funds being sent by dioceses across the nation (and within Minnesota itself: the dioceses of Crookston, St. Cloud, and Winona have given $50,000 each) does not come from collection plates. This claim is somewhat difficult to believe, since the donations of lay Catholics sustain all diocesan and parish initiatives and programs. It's also impossible to verify, since the tax-exempt status of the Catholic church assures that the financial records of the church--both records of revenues received and records of how the revenues are expended--do not have to be disclosed to anyone at all, including lay Catholics donating the revenues to the church.
I've also noted in the past that claims were made in 2009 that the Crookston diocese* gave, per capita, more than any other diocese in the nation to snatch the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of faraway Maine. If that's the case, then it's not surprising to see this same diocese, in which my partner Steve grew up and has deep family roots, leading the pack in the current fight against gay civil rights--though this is not by any means the most populous or affluent Catholic diocese in the state.
And, of course, the choice of his own people to support initiatives that try to block or remove his civil rights and the civil rights of the entire gay community, pains Steve more than a little bit. As I imagine it pains many other gay folks with roots in the northwest corner of Minnesota, and their family members. To have this done in the name of a God who, the church tells us is love, is incredibly hurtful.
But this has been going on for some time now, with each initiative in any part of the U.S. to remove or block the civil rights of the gay community, and it appears this will continue to go on as long as lay Catholics permit their church to behave in this way. Certainly publicizing what's going on as dioceses collection money nationwide to target a specific minority group doesn't seem to have shamed Catholic communities sufficiently enough to stop them from behaving in this shameful behavior.
And people wonder why we who are gay claim that the Catholic church treats us as the enemy, as despised, dirty, unwelcome outsiders who have no business in the holy sanctuaries of the Catholic church.
*For more of my previous postings relating to this Minnesota diocese, see
The graphic, from New Ways Ministry's Bondings 2.0 blog, shows resigned Catholic priest Ed Flavahan protesting in May 2012 when it was revealed that in 2011, the diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis had spent $650,000 to promote the anti-gay amendment to the state constitution.