Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Updates: The Maine Catholic Diocese's Battle vs. Gay Marriage, Virginia Foxx Still at It

And more updates: several weeks ago, I blogged about the surprising discovery that the financially strapped Catholic diocese of Maine has recently found major funds to spend as it tries to overturn Maine’s same-sex marriage law. While the diocese is closing churches with claims that it can no longer support these churches financially, it has somehow found $100,000 to support the drive to repeal same-sex marriage in Maine.

And the diocese seems curiously unable to account for where that anti-gay money is coming from. If it comes from donations of Maine’s Catholic parishioners, then the diocese seems to have some fancy explaining to do. Parishioners donate to their parish with the understanding—normally this is the case—that the funds they’re giving will go to the upkeep of parish buildings, support of the parish school, implementation of parish programs. Not to some political crusade the church is backing.

If the funds are coming to the Maine diocese from somewhere else—for instance, another religious body in another part of the country—then the diocese still has explaining to do. What does our democratic system of governance mean, when religious groups can shift money around from one region of the country to another, to impose their theocratic will on the citizens of states in which the religious group funding a political crusade doesn’t even have its headquarters?

These are questions being asked, for instance, about the Mormon church, after the archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer, invited the Utah Mormons to enter the California fray with a massive infusion of funds in the last election cycle, to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens of California.

I find I’m not the only person asking critical questions about the Maine story. Recently, Michael Bayly’s outstanding Wild Reed blog linked to an article by Michael Jones, communications director for the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, about the Maine story. Jones was previously communications director for Pax Christi USA.

Jones sees the decision of the Maine diocese to spend lavishly to roll back the right of marriage for gay citizens, while the diocese is closing churches due to financial problems, as a case of “misplaced priorities.” He’d like to tell Mark Mutty, director of public affairs for the diocese of Maine, the following:

Here’s a memo to Mutty: not only would some people say it’s misdirected to spend this type of money on denying rights to gays and lesbians instead of on initiatives for the poor, but Jesus himself would have likely said the same thing, too.

Indeed. The Catholic church gives itself a black eye when it talks out of one side of its mouth about the need to defend human rights, while out of the other side of its mouth, it calls on citizens to combat the human rights of a targeted minority. People tend to look at what we do and not what we say, when we preach.

Much Catholic preaching about the sanctity of life and human rights falls on deaf ears, when the church’s own track record in these areas is so abysmal.

And that’s a point that needs to be kept in mind, as well, by anyone assessing the record of Virginia Foxx, representative for North Carolina’s 5th Congressional district. Foxx was last in the eye of the nation back in April, when she tried to shoot down hate crimes legislation by arguing that the heinous murder of Matthew Shepard had nothing to do with the fact that Shepard was gay.

As I noted in a number of postings about this remark at the time, it’s an embarrassment to me that Foxx is a Catholic. A Catholic who appears to defend hate based on sexual orientation. And who has opposed S-CHIP legislation to provide health coverage for poor children, despite the support of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference for this legislation.

Well, Foxx is back in the news. Still running her mouth. Still belying Catholic values and Catholic principles in the name of, well, that western North Carolina Catholicism that her fellow Catholic congressman (and ideological bedfellow) from the neighboring 10th district, Patrick McHenry, once defined as “truer and purer” than Catholicism in the rest of the world.

Foxx was in the news lately for making the absurd claim that “there are no Americans who don’t have health care.” Now she’s back in the news with the equally bizarre claim that, in contrast to a Democratic health care plan, a Republican one will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.

I agree with Pam Spaulding. The voters of western North Carolina need to put this walking nightmare of a representative out of her misery and stop allowing her to embarrass their region by such appalling, ill-informed, deliberately inflammatory remarks. And as for Foxx’s claim to represent the truer and purer Catholicism that prevails in her neck of the woods, someone needs to send her a parcel of USCCB documents about human rights and health care. Right away. So she can at least inform herself when she spouts off about Catholic values.