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Archbishop Nienstedt to priests: Support marriage amendment or be quiet if you disagree

Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop Nienstedt

Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt has told priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that they must support his efforts to help pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state, according to the blog Progressive Catholic Voice.

Any priests with "personal reservations" about the effort should not share them publicly, the archbishop says in a letter to priests and deacons, which was published by the blog.

A note on the blog explains why it publicized the letter:

We believe it is important to republish this communique as the central issue it addresses, i.e., the hierarchy's support of the "marriage amendment" to the Minnesota Constitution, is one that many Catholics in the Archdiocese feel strongly about. Also, we at The Progressive Catholic Voice believe it is important to model a way of being church that is open, honest, transparent and participatory. We welcome your feedback to both our sharing of the Archbishop's letter and its contents.

In the letter, Nienstedt says it is no exaggeration to say that "the movement to protect and defend the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman we are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our times."

He says he expects "all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese" to "support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead," noting that when ordained, each "made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches."

And he says: "I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly. If anyone believes in conscience that he cannot cooperate, I want him to contact me directly and I will plan to respond personally."

The letter:

Dear Fathers and Deacons,

 At our recent Clergy Study Day on October 19, I gave the following talk. I offer it here again for those who were not in attendance.

My dear brothers, I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that in this movement to protect and defend the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman we are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our times. None of us can deny that the institution of marriage and family life are unraveling before our very eyes due to no-fault divorce, wide-spread cohabitation and promiscuous sexual activity. The end game of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we support is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether. This can only lead to continued destabilizing the family unit itself. Both those realities will happen if marriage is redefined or, perhaps better put, “undefined.” Today we can say with clarity what the natural reality of marriage is. That may not be possible in years to come if we fail to be successful now. As I see it, we have this one chance as Minnesotans to make things right. The stakes could not be higher.

We did not choose this challenge nor do any of us relish the confrontation it will bring, but neither can we remain silent in order to get along. We must witness to the truth so as to realize the common good of our society. While the greatest good is surely life with God in heaven, we must, in truth, seek to foster the good here on earth. And we are not the first to confront this task, our brothers in California, Maine, Hawaii among others, have all taken up this defense and have been successful in doing so.

In doing so, we must never vilify or caricaturize those who argue otherwise. Indeed, we must acknowledge that all men and women are God’s sons and daughters. But it is this very truth and the fact that the truth is one and bears no contradiction that the Church and her ministers must witness here and now.

It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead. The gravity of this struggle, and the radical consequences of inaction propels me to place a solemn charge upon you all — on your ordination day, you made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches. I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly. If anyone believes in conscience that he cannot cooperate, I want him to contact me directly and I will plan to respond personally.

I see our united effort as a part of the New Evangelization, that of building a new culture for marriage. You know, this effort to pass a constitutional amendment is not an end in itself. We began a year ago to host 25 seminars across the Archdiocese to explain why marriage is what it is and why we believe in it.

Presently, I have appointed teams of a priest and a married couple to go into each of our Catholic high schools to address the topic of marriage.

I want the focus here to be a positive one — let’s celebrate the reality of what God designed from the beginning as affirmed in the first chapter of Genesis and that Jesus reaffirmed in the 19th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

I am actively raising funds to assist in this educational endeavor. And if you and your parish wish to benefit from these programs, please let me know.

I thank you for your support. I count on your prayer. Be assured you have the same from me. Together, let us turn to our Blessed Mother — mother of all families, Mother of the Church and patroness of the new evangelization. Through her maternal intercession, our Lady will secure for us that which is needed most in these days — protection, wisdom and peace through the grace of her Son and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May God bless us all.

With every good wish, I remain

Fraternally yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt

Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

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Comments (18)

"the movement to protect and defend the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman we are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our times."

The biggest challenge facing the Roman Catholic Church is remaining relevant in the 21st Century when the churches structure is based on the 13th Centruy.

"None of us can deny that the institution of marriage and family life are unraveling before our very eyes due to no-fault divorce, wide-spread cohabitation and promiscuous sexual activity"

None of which has anything in particular to do with same-sex marriage. In fact, by definition the problem of divorce is currently exclusive to the male-female relationships which Nienstedt prefers.

"The end game of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we support is... I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether.

Allowing more people to secure the rights of legal marriage is an effort to eliminate marriage? This "belief" of Nienstedt seems to defy logic, and could use some explanation.

The Catholic Church has some incredibly noble and thoughtful positions on a variety of issues facing our world today. Unfortunately its leaders often choose to amplify the dumbest ones.

This should be Exhibit A in the case for removal of the Archdiocese tax exemption, given the Archbishop's specific call for support of the amendment.

From http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=163392,00.html

In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

The letter might have been written five hundred years ago - just replace the word "homosexual" with 'heretic" and "reject" with "burn at the stake." Such progress the catholic church is making!

"...on your ordination day, you made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches."

The Church has been teaching us that it's ok to abuse children, promote hatred, and silence the minority.

Jesus teaches us something vastly different.

I think, as a Christian, I will follow Christ before the Church.

Not that I have any say. I'm just a girl, and incapable of holding any real role of power in the Church. Because the Church says so.

Not all Catholic clergy or the laity will be stifled.

“This man is leading us in the wrong direction,” on this issue, he [pastor Tegeder] said of Nienstedt. “We have to call it for what it is – it’s bullying behavior. It’s not the work of Jesus Christ.”

On the matter of obedience, he quoted from a book that he’s reading by Msgr. Dennis Murphy, A View from the Trenches: Ups and Downs of Today’s Parish Priest: “One dimension of this obedience that has become clearer in recent years is that there is more to this promise than a pledge or a commitment made only to a bishop. It encompasses obedient commitment to the church, and especially to the church understood as the people of the diocese within which the priest serves.”

“That says it all,” said Tegeder.

link: http://bit.ly/x0lBlt

Father Mike Tegeder is pastor of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington, at least for now.

The Archbiship's letter has so many holes in it that it is not the time to deconstruct.

Appalling. They just don't "get it." As someone else stated, the condition of marriages these days has nothing to do with gay marriage. I hardly think the institution of marriage will disappear anytime soon.

If anything, religious marriage might decline but secular marriages with the focus on the legal aspects of marriage may well continue as society's legal world is wrapped up in whether or not a person is married. That is, issues of health insurance, child custody, spousal benefits, and all that can be affected by whether the parties are married. The religious part of it carries no weight in court. That is why when a divorce occurs, the couple ends up in "Divorce Court" and not in "Divorce Church." It is the dissolution of a legally binding contract.

The churches have no dog in this fight. We are talking about secular marriage - just exactly the same as a straight couple going to a Justice of the Peace to get legally married. The JP wedding has -zero- to do with religion and everything to do with being legally married.

Why the churches do not "get" this just flabbergasts me. My opinion is the churches, especially the stodgy, old, dogmatic churches such as the Catholics, are clinging on just to survive. Their membership is down, no one wants to be a priest, and their coffers are being drained from all the sex abuse settlements. The kind of remind me of one of those old fraternal organizations like the Elks or the Moose Lodge - not so relevant these days and frankly, kind of passe.

And, quite right, if they continue down this path, sic the IRS on them. They both deserve each other.

Why is the state in the marriage business in the first place? Why not separate civil marriage, a contractual arrangement, from religious marriage?
Why should any religion be able define marriage for another religion or for an atheist or agnostic?

When you get "married" you are, in effect, entering into a legal contract with your spouse. Have people make their civil contract with each other, that is what a marriage certificate does. And then, if they want to have their civil contract blessed in their religious traditions, they can have whatever religious ceremony, or not, that they chose.

But please don't feed me this stuff about how if 2 men or 2 women enter into a marriage contract with each other that this somehow has an effect on my marriage of 35 years. It matters not a whit to me or to my spouse if they do so.

It is my opinion that no Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Iman, or any other religious authority should be able to say "by the power vested in me by the State of Minnesota". Only the State should be able to create the Marriage Contract. After all, in the end if things go south it is the State, not the Priest or Rabbi, that can legally dissolve that marriage (contract).

@James

Your IRS quote is incomplete. It would seem to disallow non-profit status for a lot of non-profits. Plenty of non-profits engage in lobbying. A click through to "measuring lobbying" gives:

The IRS considers a variety of factors,
including the time devoted (by both compensated
and volunteer workers) and the expenditures
devoted by the organization to the activity,
when determining whether the lobbying activity
is substantial.

churches are not subject to excise taxes
on excessive lobbying.

I don't think anyone could say the Church spends a majority or even a major part of its time lobbying. The same is true for non-profits like, for example, the Sierra Club, which certainly lobbies but does a lot of other stuff too.

As a painfully embarrassed and lapsing Catholic, I am in complete agreement with James Hamilton’s comments. Someone should be looking at the Church’s tax exempt status in light of their blatant lobbying efforts – on this and other issues.

@David Greene. Contributions to the Sierra Club are NOT tax deductible. On the basis of your argument, contributions to the Archdiocese should not be tax-deductible either.

The archbishop's "New Evangelization" program sounds a lot like a "Catholic Church Extinction" program. More power to him.

I still think it's rather odd for someone to be so strongly in favor of marriage to not be married and also to be forbidden to be married. I live in bizzaro world.

The Catholic Church doesn't even recognize the civil marriages of heterosexual couples. If you are not married in the Church then you are considered living in sin. Why would the Church then have any say in something that it doen't even recognize to begin with... We are no longer a theocracy. In the world but not of it - remember. These bishops need to go find their own mud puddle to play in and quit messin with our mudpies...

Every week, Catholic churchgoers are urged to donate more cash to help end poverty, hunger, illness, and homelessness. But they’re never told how many tens of millions of those dollars get laundered into anti-LGBT politics while children starve.

Now Archbishop Nienstedt is requiring his employees to lie to the public when asked about their own moral convictions.

It’s time for Catholic churchgoers to demand an independent public audit showing all dollars spent on anti-LGBT propaganda, lobbyists, campaigns, and politicians.

The Church has never disclosed these expenses to anyone.

The archbishop's letter to priests is a classic example of "the iron fist in the velvet glove." No man smart enough to be ordained a priest would now dare approach the archbishop with reservations about the church position on same sex marriage. And, the letter is all couched "in Christian Love!"

If this isn't a blatant example of lobbying in excess of the guidelines for tax exempt status I don't know what is.

Did I miss the edict that forces people to belong to or believe in the Catholic Church and its teachings or participate in its practices?

Why don't those who at the center of their own universe form their own church?

And I'm sure the state & federal AG have listed phone numbers.

Blind obedience

Archbishop Nienstadt is requiring caeca quaedam oboedientia in his letter. History is replete with examples of where that gets those that blindly follow those dictums.

Many of the Catholic "flock" have gone over or under the fence and abandoned the field full of thistles that is the Catholic Church in favor of sustenance that is more nutritious to body and soul. The shepherd spends too much time fencing in the sheep with platitudes - and too little time pruning the thistles that do nothing to improve the bad taste in the mouth of the flock.