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Collegeville priest’s speech against marriage amendment goes viral

Meet Father Bob Pierson, Minnesota’s newest viral video star. An openly gay priest in the monastic community at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Pierson last month told some 200 Catholics at an event in Edina that they can vote against a proposal to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriage.

“I believe this amendment violates an important principle in Catholic teaching, and that as Catholics, we can vote no,” Pierson said.

The event garnered virtually no attention from mainstream media, but a video of Pierson’s remarks has generated widespread interest on the Internet from websites and groups on both sides of the issue. The YouTube version, posted by the vote-no coalition Minnesotans United for All Families, has received more than 28,000 hits.

A transcript is available on Catholics for Marriage Equality’s blog.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in #2358, gays and lesbians ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’” Pierson said.

‘Amendment violates an important principle’

“It was in November 2005 that I was offended to learn the Vatican had released a document that stated that gay men cannot be priests because they are ‘seriously obstructed from properly relating to men and women,’” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I knew that I was gay when I was ordained. Did that mean that my 21 years of ministry was a mistake? My faith suggested that I could not in good conscience continue to remain silent, and I cannot remain silent today. I spoke up then, and I am speaking up now to say that I believe this amendment violates an important principle of Catholic teaching, and that as Catholics, we can vote no.”

Pierson even cited the Pope:

“A young theologian by the name of Joseph Ratzinger, whom many of you know now as Pope Benedict XVI, put it this way in 1967: ‘Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.’”

In October, Archbishop John Nienstedt told a gathering of priests he wanted “no open dissention” on the church’s position regarding the same-sex marriage ban, which several Minnesota archdioceses have spent more than $1 million to promote.

“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,” he said. “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.”

It’s unknown whether there have been repercussions for Pierson’s speech; he declined MinnPost’s request for an interview.

Archdiocese warning

The archdiocese has warned at least one active priest, St. Frances Cabrini Pastor Mike Tegeder, that his public opposition to the proposed amendment could have consequences.

“Nienstedt told Tegeder unless he desists in opposing the amendment that would define marriage as a union only between a man and woman he would strip the priest of his ‘faculties to exercise ministry’ and remove him from his ‘ministerial assignments,’” UPI reported in January.

The Edina speech is not the first time Pierson has spoken against a church position. In 2005, after the Vatican announced that gay men should be barred from entering the priesthood, he resigned his position as St. John’s’ chaplain and director of campus ministry in protest.

“Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign,” he said in an e-mail to administrators and students at St. John’s and the nearby College of St. Benedict, according to the website “Behind the Pine Curtain.”

Monastic community’s stance on homosexuality

Pierson remained a member of the monastic community at St. John’s, which shares the university’s campus but is a separate entity. The abbey publicized its accepting stance on homosexuality in 2005 and reaffirmed it in 2010:

“We believe that human sexual orientation, both heterosexual and homosexual, is blessed by God as part of the original blessing of creation. We reject any suggestion that God withholds his blessings from some parts of his creation,” the statement reads.

“We believe that each member of the community has a serious moral and spiritual responsibility to live chaste celibacy in a manner assuring that others in and outside the monastic community are not harmed by inappropriate behavior or relationships.”

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/13/2012 - 10:38 am.

    I empathize with Father Bob Pierson, who is forced by RCC leaders to be true to himself or be true to a dogma that he is increasingly at odds with.

    Yet that dogma, he must certainly feel, has very good elements to it that he wants to continue to promote. You know, care for the poor, etc.

    At what point should he just sever ties with the RCC, based on this one issue?

    Tough question to answer.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 11:03 am.

    28,000 hits is “Viral”?

    If you say so, Beth.

    Pierson’s speech is unfortunate, but given the scandals the church has endured due to the criminal actions of homosexual pederasts and the failed hierarchy that protected them, his letter of resignation in protest of the long overdue reckoning is beyond the pale.

    Given his confused past, it’s understandable how he easily finds the justification for continuing to accept the comfort and support of the church he has so thouroughly rejected, and continues to besmirch.

    • Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 07/13/2012 - 12:41 pm.

      Ms Hawkins is correct

      Mr Swift, in comparison to interest in video on Minnesota for Marriage’s site, interest in Father Pierson’s video is indeeed “viral.” A video posted at the same time by the group funded by the contributions of practicing Catholics like you and me has attracted a mere 2,174 viewers (just 7.76 of the interest shown in Fr Pierson’s presentation).

      The abuse of vulnerable young men and women by our “celibate” clergy and the subsequent cover-up by the hierarchy is indeed shameful. This sin is no way related to the attempt to enshrine limitations on civil marriage into Minnesota’s constitution and does not need to be raised by you in this conversation.

    • Submitted by Rachel Peterson on 07/13/2012 - 03:49 pm.

      Father Bob’s resignation

      You seem to be confused about the reasoning behind Father Bob’s resignation. Correct your mistake, or understand that confusing pedophilia and homosexuality is what’s truly “beyond the pale.”

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 05:46 pm.

        Confusion abounds

        I didn’t say pedophilia Rachel, because that’s not what was going on. It was pederasty.

        I’m thinking MinnPost should provide me a stipend for all the education I provide it’s leftist readership.

        • Submitted by Sarah CS on 07/14/2012 - 12:35 pm.

          Thank you…

          Thomas, thank you for your corrective, albeit mean-spirited, English lesson. Now the readers here know that you know a thing or two about proper usage.

          But Rachel’s overall point is an important one, and one should not let the issue of proper English get in the way of her making her point, which is that you cannot conflate homosexuality with sexual perversion. To do so reveals a prejudice against LGBT people, and it is offensive and hurtful.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/17/2012 - 02:37 pm.


            While it’s true that in the USA we cannot conflate homosexuality with per se crime, the overwhelming majority of the people on our planet would take exception with your conclusion regarding their right to decide what is perverse and what is not.

            Facts are not weighed by their capacity to hurt or offend; they are what they are.

            • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/17/2012 - 03:37 pm.

              And once again . . . .

              you are conflating facts with (your) opinion.

              It may be a fact that you can decide for yourself what constitutes “perverse”. But that decision on your part represents your *opinion*.

              That you, yourself, consider homosexuality to be a perversion does not make it so – other than in your own mind.

              That there are many, many people who do not share your opinion on this is a fact.

              And another fact is that many of those same people ARE offended by attempts to formalize opinions into policy and impose them on the population as a whole.

              You don’t like gay people? Or feel threatened by them? Fine. Then avoid them (although you probably know more of them than you realize).

              But the rest of us don’t feel threatened or have a problem with the issue of someone else’s sexual orientation, nor to we feel it is our place to tell ANY loving couple that they do not have the right to be married.

              No, Mr. Swift – you don’t get to use your opinions of “how things ought to be” to tell the rest of society how to live their lives. Not even with the (presumed) backing of the entire Catholic hierarchy behind you.

              • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/17/2012 - 04:15 pm.

                Now *thats* news!

                “you don’t get to use your opinions of “how things ought to be” to tell the rest of society how to live their lives”

                Really? So, because there are (too) many people, in whose opinion stealing, assault & etc. are a vital part of life, the laws that say our lives cannot include them are invalid?


                • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/18/2012 - 11:21 pm.

                  That old dodge again?

                  We weren’t talking about “stealing, assault & etc.”. We were talking about your desire to codify discrimination against the LGBT community into our state’s Constitution.

                  Unless, of course, you’re now claiming that all members of the LGBT community are guilty of “stealing, assault & etc.”. Which would be an entirely different (and disgusting) preposition altogether (and one that you’d better bet you’d be required to provide supporting documentation for.)

  3. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 07/13/2012 - 12:10 pm.

    Why do they stay

    Why do these priests who don’t believe in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church stay in it. It must be for the money. Such hypocrites.

    Martin Luther gave them the way 500 years ago. Be your own church and interpreter of the bible. And now there are 30,000 protestant denominations. Surely there is room for one more for “father” Pierson. Of course, he can’t call himself “father” if he becomes a member of some of those 30,000 denominations.

  4. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 07/13/2012 - 01:34 pm.

    Difference between conservatives and progressives

    It seems like the bedrock, underlying difference in many issues is what you should do if you love something, but disagree with parts of it.

    A progressive who truly loves their country/religion/family loves it enough to want stick with it and make it better.

    It seems like the conservative solution is ignore anything you don’t like, or get out. Love it or leave it, even to the point of enabling dysfunctional behavior.

    I’ll side with the people who actually love their religion/country/family enough to confront them and make them better.

    The conservatives can keep going along with their purity purges.

  5. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/13/2012 - 02:46 pm.

    But he is quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church

    That doesn’t sound like going against doctrine to me.

    If you look up the doctrine there is a larger context and while one might argue that the it would difficult to believe that married people would be chaste it is the sex act that is condemned not the condition of homosexuality which is covered in the quote above.

    It would seem however that the archdioceses and other people taking a position against the marriage amendment based on faith is inappropriately and in violation of their Catechism.

    Marriage is two things a civil contract and a sacrament. No one has even suggested that religious officials need to participate in the civil portion of the contract. The sacrament of marriage may be denied by the Catholic Church, Wicans, or Lutherans if it is against their beliefs.

    Perhaps the state should make that clear by requiring that all people be legally married by judges or retired judges. Then the can do what ever they want in the eyes of their religion after the civil ceremony.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/13/2012 - 03:37 pm.

      With all due respect, Jody

      That makes as much sense as Bill Gleason’s assertion that human beings procreate asexually.

      Really, the fact that apologists have to resort to such sillyness should give the thoughtful reader pause when considering the logic behind the pro-“gay marriage”argument.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/13/2012 - 07:43 pm.

        That is of course not what I said Mr. Swift

        I am surprised that MinnPost allows drive by shootings like this.

        But perhaps they believe that regular readers already know Mr. Swift’s MO and will simply ignore his distortions?

        For anyone who has not been following this matter and wishes further information, please see the comments on the MinnPost piece:

        Former priests against marriage amendment near 100 signatory mark

        And Mr. Swift I remind you that you have yet to provide a link to back up your claim that gay couples are deficient as parents. Please do this.

      • Submitted by Sarah CS on 07/14/2012 - 10:10 am.

        With respect, Thomas…

        Your response makes about as much sense as saying that the only, or even primary reason that two people get married is to procreate. Try telling that to my dad and his wife who were in their 70s when they married each other. They married for love and companionship, and because they love being together. They were well beyond bringing up babies when they got together.

        Everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love. Just as everyone should have the right to observe the religious and spiritual traditions that they hold dear in their hearts. Jody is right, churches and clergy are not obliged to offer sacraments that they believe go against the tenets of their faith. Civil marriage is a civil right and should not be up for popular vote.

      • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/14/2012 - 05:06 pm.

        I recall an instance where a man put ministering to sinners over religious orthodoxy, flaunting it in front of the religious establishment. Apparently it ended up with the guy being nailed to a crucifix.

        God has always had trouble with the ground personnel.

  6. Submitted by Jay McHue on 07/13/2012 - 03:25 pm.

    What ever happened to “separation of church and state?”

    Since when can a priest speak out about how people should vote on a state constitutional amendment? Can my conservative pastor who opposes the amendment speak to his congregation about voting “no” on the amendment?

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/15/2012 - 12:57 pm.

      “Since when can

      priest speak out about how people should vote on a state constitutional amendment?”

      With all due respect: How can you be unaware that this is EXACTLY what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have been doing in Minnesota?

    • Submitted by Sarah CS on 07/14/2012 - 10:21 am.

      Good question…

      …and I noticed that Father Pierson was very careful to state that this was his stance, and that Catholics “can vote no” on the amendment being sure that such a vote is not in conflict with their faith. He was not telling them what to do, or telling them how they SHOULD vote, he was telling them, according to his reading of Catholic teaching, what Catholics CAN do. He was challenging them to think critically about the issue.

      On the other hand, I can’t help but notice that the Catholic Church as an institution is very clear in telling their clergy and flock how they should believe and how they should vote on the marriage amendment. It would be nice if the leadership of the Catholic Church honored the separation of church and state, as well as respect the ability and the right of discernment of the members of the Catholic Church to make their own decision about how to believe and how to vote about about marriage.

  7. Submitted by Jay McHue on 07/13/2012 - 03:29 pm.

    28k hits is NOT a “viral video”

    It’s barely even a blip on the radar screen.

  8. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/14/2012 - 01:23 am.

    Yes Tom it was a modest proposal

    But it has a little more legs than your “asexual procreation” because the fact that there are two concepts that are being confused here.

    If marriage was only a sacrament why would you need a license from the state. The license is a civil contract that confers a variety of rights and obligations between the two parties and with respect to their contractual relationship with others.

    Perhaps we should indeed just change the name of the marriage license to partnership contract so that it wouldn’t be confused with the sacrament.

    As far as I am concerned the church has inappropriately overstepped it’s bounds in using parishioners money to hire professional lobbyists to lobby for a civil law.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/14/2012 - 05:04 pm.

    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.

  10. Submitted by James Murck on 07/15/2012 - 09:02 am.

    Calling Out the Cognitive Dissonance

    I was taught that if you weren’t married in the Church, you were living in sin. Therefore the Catholic Church doesn’t even recognize civil marriages of heterosexuals. Why then would the Church be so obsessed with a civil matter that they don’t even recognize as valid in the first place? They don’t recognize it but everyone else must recognize it the way they – don’t? The cognitive dissonance is mindboggling! They are rendering up to God that which is Caesar’s

    It is wrong theologically, pastorally and morally for any Christian to look to the civil laws of any land to confirm or affirm their moral view. We are called to exemplify Christ To the world, not to make the world exemplify Christ to us – which is impossible for us to do.

    Blessed John XXIII said that in our age we are called to Demonstrate the validity of the Christ’s teachings. If we are honest about what has happened within the Church concerning the horrific crimes of hiding/passing around/ paying off child molesting clerics perpetrated by these “authentic teachers” of our faith, we would have to say that we as a Church have utterly failed to heed Blessed John XXII’s advise proclaimed in front of all the cardinals, archbishops and bishops during his opening address of Vatican II which is the closest I can think of in my lifetime to a papal proclamation approaching EX CATHEDRA.

    With what our “authentic teachers” Have demonstrated, I am surprised that anyone listens to them at all right now about marriage or anything concerning morality. It’s all a bunch of sutain covered clanging bells…

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