Thursday, May 6, 2010

As Catholic Dioceses Fund Anti-Gay Movements, Churches and Schools Still Close: Update of Crookston, Minnesota, Story

The following is a quick update of a story about which I last posted in early April.  This update links to what I posted earlier today about the inability of the Catholic church to develop a credible apologetics for the new millennium while its leaders’ lives and actions belie the core teachings they want to offer us.

Back in April, when the story of a priest’s abuse of two girls in the Crookston, Minnesota, diocese (and the priest’s return to India to escape legal action in the U.S.) made international news, I noted that the Crookston Catholic diocese gave a substantial sum of money to the diocese of Portland, Maine, in 2009 to help remove the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of Maine.

As my April posting notes, at least one blogger has claimed that the amount donated by the Crookston diocese was the largest donation per capita of any diocese in the nation to the crusade to eliminate the right of marriage from gay folks in Maine.  The amount was $5,000.  The Crookston diocese is a relatively small diocese in the northwest corner of Minnesota, where population is thin and people work hard to make a living.

One of the points I’ve made a number of times as I’ve blogged about the donations from Catholic dioceses around the country to remove marriage rights from gays in Maine is this: the donations given by these dioceses are donations using funds given to the church by parishioners who, in most cases, don’t even know their donations are being used for political purposes in other areas of the country.

These donations are given to keep churches and schools open, to fund ministries like feeding the hungry and healing the sick.  In some areas of the nation, when Catholics have discovered that their bishops are funneling their donations given for those purposes to other parts of the country to fund an anti-gay political cause, they’ve been very upset.

People want to have a say over where their money goes when they donate to a tax-free non-profit.  And they want their money used for local needs and for purposes of which they approve.

And here’s my update: as I’ve noted previously, my partner Steve grew up in the Crookston diocese.  As a gift for all of her children living out of the area, his mother buys a subscription to the local paper each year for the prodigal sons.

Two weeks back or thereabouts, when we opened the latest issue of Steve’s hometown paper, we saw a front-page headline announcing that the parish school is closing.  No funds to keep it open.  The school has been in existence 108 years.  Steve attended it, as did all of his siblings.  His aunts, Benedictine sisters, taught in the school.

No money to keep the parish school open in the county seat of the largest county in the Crookston diocese.  While an historic Catholic school in the area was struggling just to keep its doors open, the bishop of the diocese was sending money—unbeknownst to those who donated the funds—off to another state to attack gay citizens of that state.

Something’s tragically awry here.  Something’s very wrong with the choice to allocate funds donated for education of Catholic children to political crusades against gay citizens of a distant state.  Political crusades to remove the right of civil marriage from a group of citizens.

This is not, of course, a unique story.  As my postings on the activities of the Portland, Maine, diocese in the battle against gay marriage in Maine noted last year (links to some of them are in the posting cited above), even while that diocese was begging for money from around the nation to attack Maine’s gay citizens, it was closing churches and schools.

This activity presents a serious apologetic problem for the Catholic church today.  You cannot effectively proclaim mercy while behaving unmercifully in such a conspicuous way.

I suspect that if the hard-working Catholic people of the Crookston diocese knew that money they had donated to their parishes to keep churches and schools open was being sent to Maine while one of their historic schools was in danger of closing, they’d be hopping mad.  And they should be.

The graphic is a detail of an eight-part miniature in in Matfré Ermengau of Béziers's Breviari d'Amour, a 14th-century Spanish breviary, showing the corporal works of mercy, including feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.  The breviary is in the British Museum.