At the Capitol, Nienstedt, other clergy underscore marriage-amendment support

MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
“This is a positive affirmation,” said Archbishop John Nienstedt. “This is not intended to be hurtful to anyone.”

Speaking on the south stairs of the state Capitol, Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis John Nienstedt and some three dozen Minnesota clergy Tuesday urged voters to approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage here.

“This is a positive affirmation,” said Nienstedt. “This is not intended to be hurtful to anyone.”

As the event was taking place, the campaign to defeat the proposed amendment began airing a TV ad featuring a Catholic, Republican couple explaining why they will vote against it. Savage residents Kim and John Canny attend Pax Christi church in Eden Prairie. Their views changed, they say in the spot, when a gay couple moved into their neighborhood.

Nienstedt has been one of the ballot question’s staunchest backers. In April of 2010, he penned an op-ed for the Star Tribune calling for a constitutional amendment. He followed up five months later by mailing a DVD to 400,000 Twin Cities Catholics urging them to vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and calling same-sex marriage a “dangerous risk to society.”

Directives to priests and parishes

A year ago, the archbishop told a private gathering of priests that he expected any who disagreed with the church’s position or actions to stay silent. And the archdiocese has directed parishes to read his statements on the election during Sunday services.

Many congregations are quietly failing to comply, however, and groups of Roman Catholics who are torn between their support for gay rights and their love of their church are meeting in Protestant churches to consider the issue.

Recently, the archbishop has adopted a more conciliatory tone. “Our brothers and sisters living with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God who must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” he wrote in his most recent letter.

The amendment, Nienstedt said at the Capitol rally, is intended to recognize marriage’s traditional definition, not discriminate.

Other clergy who shared the podium were more forceful.

Marriage ‘needs to be strengthened, not redefined’

“I’m here today because there are some who would turn this into an emotional argument over civil rights,” said Troy Dobbs, a pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. “This is a tremendous slight to those who have suffered true oppression.”

Marriage, Dobbs added, “needs to be strengthened, not redefined.”

Shiloh Temple International Ministries Bishop Richard D. Howell Jr. said his “standards are measured by the word of God, not by the politicians of the day.”

rev. jerry mcafee
MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
Rev. Jerry McAfee of Minneapolis’s New Salem Baptist church spoke in favor of the amendment.

Also speaking were the Rev. Jerry McAfee of Minneapolis’s New Salem Baptist church, Donald Fondow, president of the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Rev. Sergio Amezcua of Brooklyn Park Evangelical Free Church and others. Statements were read from several denominations whose leaders could not be present.

They were joined by several dozen supporters who periodically chimed in with calls of “amen,” or “yes,” and by a lone guitar-playing protester who sang from across the parking lot as the ministers spoke.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Nienstedt was escorted to a waiting car while most of the clergy and their guests headed into the Capitol for a private meeting.

‘We’re called by our faith to stand up’

A handful stayed behind to answer questions from reporters. Their advocacy, they said, is moral and spiritual, not political.

“We didn’t invent this fight,” said Erich Rutten, director of Campus Ministry at the University of St. Thomas. “We’re called by our faith to stand up in the public sphere.”

Right now, said the Rev. Jeff Evans, pastor at Christ Church Twin Cities in Minnetonka and a coordinator of the vote yes campaign’s religious activities, there is very little restriction on what clergy can say about the proposed amendment.

“If activist judges and rogue legislators have their way,” he added, “we could be in trouble teaching from the pulpit.”

One of the arguments being advanced by Minnesota for Marriage, the group promoting the amendment, to which the Minnesota Catholic Conference belongs, is that failure to pass the ban will result in churches being sanctioned if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Gay marriage is illegal in Minnesota. If that were to change, the law would affect civil marriages; churches could still decide who to unite in religious marriage.

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Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/19/2012 - 09:32 am.

    One statement that says it all…

    “Roman Catholics who are torn between their support for gay rights and their love of their church are meeting in Protestant churches to consider the issue.”

    With all due respect, perhaps these folks should consider making these meetings more permanent. For if they truly love the Catholic church, they will understand that their inability to embrace the most fundamental truth the church teaches leaves their continued attendance useless for anything other than undermining that which they claim to love.

    • Submitted by Zintis Inde on 09/19/2012 - 11:24 am.

      Most Fundamental?

      Heterosexual marriage is the “most fundamental truth” the Catholic church teaches? Huh. I might’ve gone with “holy communion” or “love your neighbor as yourself.” Talk about a selective reading of Scripture…

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/19/2012 - 12:38 pm.

        Zintis…

        Can you think of a bigger miracle than the birth of a child? Consider that, extrapolate from there and you’ll be on the right road.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/19/2012 - 03:28 pm.

          I would have thought . . .

          Matthew 22:37-40 were a little more “fundamental,” but that’s just me, failing to extrapolate.

        • Submitted by Sean Huntley on 09/20/2012 - 11:32 am.

          “Can you think of a bigger miracle than the birth of a child?”

          Seeing that there are almost 7 billion people on this planet I would say that there is absolutely NOTHING miraculous about the birth of a child.

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 09/24/2012 - 10:40 pm.

          So Mr. Swift

          A priest should be allowed to marry and enjoy the miracle.

  2. Submitted by Tom White on 09/19/2012 - 09:51 am.

    Religious Freedom

    As a lifelong Catholic, and a life-long believer in religious freedom, I have a real problem with this amendment. There are some Lutheran denominations that authorize and celebrate marriage between members of the same sex. If we pass an amendment that limits the religious freedom of those Lutheran denominations, doesn’t that open the door to passing amendments which limit other religious beliefs? Where do we stop? Do only Catholics have the right to freedom of their religious beliefs?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/19/2012 - 10:31 am.

      Here’s the problem…

      Too many people on both sides of this issue have failed to carefully consider the facts, ie:

      “If we pass an amendment that limits the religious freedom of those Lutheran denominations, doesn’t that open the door to passing amendments which limit other religious beliefs?”

      Tom, this amendment will not prevent any church from performing religious ceremonies in any way they wish. It is strictly limited to codifying the state’s civil recognition of marriage to that which it has been since the dawn of time.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/19/2012 - 04:17 pm.

        Since the dawn of time

        The traditional marriage was understood for centuries as making a woman’s “very being or legal existence . . . suspended during the marriage, or at least . . . incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband.” The common law regarded women as inferior to their husbands “and acting by his compulsion.” How has society suffered from changing that age-old understanding of marriage?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/19/2012 - 09:55 am.

    Much of this brouhaha

    …has been brought about by the raising of a straw man, and the subsequent efforts to “defend us” from that figure.

    Marriage predates Christianity by several millennia, so it has always, and likely always will in the future, have a legitimate civil aspect, no matter what the Catholic Church or any other church might have to say about it.

    “Marriage,” legally defined, is merely the recognition by the relevant government entities of a “permanent,” or at least the attempt at such. relationship between two people. Depending upon the biases and customs of the region, those two people might or might not be of the same or different sexes, might or might not be related, might or might not be of the same racial, ethnic, or religious affiliation, etc.

    For millennia, cousins and siblings routinely married in Egyptian royal families. For centuries, close cousins, at least, routinely married in Christian Europe. Love, affection, sexual behavior and preferences, weren’t really even deemed to be part of the arrangement. It had to do with property management, lines of succession to power, diplomatic relations with other countries, and numerous other civil concerns.

    Particularly since we already have a discriminatory law on the books, there doesn’t seem to me to be any real basis for this proposed amendment. To my knowledge, Catholics who don’t want to marry others of the same sex are not being forced to do so, nor is the Catholic Church, as far as I know, being forced to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Substitute Southern Baptist or Congregational or most any other Protestant religious group for “Catholic,” and the statement still stands. I’ve not seen any arguments yet that provide a reasonable basis for prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying, or – perhaps more to the point – that demonstrate same-sex marriage to be a credible threat to what’s commonly referred to as “traditional” marriage.

    If I were a lawyer, or was named Koch, and could therefore afford to hire an army of attorneys, I’d explore in a court of law the basis for what seems to me to be fairly blatant discrimination against a group or class of people based solely on their sexual preference – an area of life that those who like to call themselves “conservative” generally feel should not be part of the public arena. It strikes me as the antithesis of the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment.

  4. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 09/19/2012 - 10:24 am.

    Redefinition?

    When women were finally allowed to vote, suffrage was not a redefining of an instituion but merely a fair expansion of it.

    When the descendants of freed slaves were allowed to vote and own property, it was not a redefinition of citizenship, but merely a fair expansion of it.

    If one day Minnesotans choose to allow civil marriage to be an option for same sex couples, this will not be a redefinition of the institution of marriage, but merely a fair expansion of it.

    Voting No on this amendment does not change the definition of marriage, it merely continues the Minnesota civic and legal tradition of leaving mention of marriage out of our state constitution and keeping it in our law books where it belongs.

    Actually the amendment redefines marriage from an institution governed by civic law to one governed by constitutional law. Archbishop Nienstedt, Minnesota does not need YOUR redefinition of marriage.

  5. Submitted by mark wallek on 09/19/2012 - 10:27 am.

    Lack of genuine compassion.

    The church has ever been for what benefits the church, nothing more. They have policies in place that are meant to shepherd humanity in particular directions, even as the curia and the vatican bank engage in other nefarious activities. Compassion is something that the church fits into defined parameters, and it casts a cold eye on all that falls outside those narrow parameters. A position of exclusion on this and other issues demonstrates the hypocracy of claiming faith in an ALL INCLUSIVE deity.

  6. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 09/19/2012 - 10:34 am.

    hurtful

    Nienstedt says, “This is not intended to be hurtful to anyone.” All intentions aside (and Nienstedt is not being very explicit about his intentions), this amendment IS hurtful to a great many families in Minnesota – same-sex couples and their families, nuclear and extended. And it’s hurtful to the fabric of our communities as a whole. A slight to one is a slight to all. If Nienstedt is incapable of seeing that, he does not have the emotional intelligence and sensitivity to lead a community of faith in Minnesota or anywhere.

  7. Submitted by David Frenkel on 09/19/2012 - 11:27 am.

    Refocus energy

    I think the leadership of the Catholic Church should refocus its energy on real problems like children living in poverty and families that are torn apart for all the usual reasons. The majority of children in the US live in non-traditional, non-nuclear families. To pretend we live in an Ozzie and Harriet world of a perfect family is far from reality. A few years ago I was required to be on a jury for a couple of child abuse cases that tore apart several families. We have real social problems in the world that affect the most vulnerable in our society, our children.

  8. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 12:39 pm.

    “This is a positive affirmation,” said Nienstedt. “This is not intended to be hurtful to anyone.” – – – But it IS hurtful to thousands of Minnesotans, John. How can you NOT see that? Just like you don’t see child molesters in priests, John?

  9. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 12:42 pm.

    “The amendment, Nienstedt said at the Capitol rally, is intended to recognize marriage’s traditional definition, not discriminate.” – – – Funny. But you choose to “recognize marriage’s traditional definition” by discriminating against others. Cool. George Orwell would be proud.

  10. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 12:46 pm.

    ““I’m here today because there are some who would turn this into an emotional argument over civil rights,” said Troy Dobbs, a pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. “This is a tremendous slight to those who have suffered true oppression.” – – – Perhaps you need to console those parents whose gay teenagers have committed suicide from “fake oppression.” Can you believe someone would actually say that? Especially an African-American?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/19/2012 - 03:14 pm.

      Couple of problems for you to consider Stephen…

      Black Americans suffered because of the color of their skin, which is an immutable trait. To the extent that they suffer at all, homosexuals are suffering a judgement of *behavior*, which is subject to God’s gift to us all: Free will.

      That difference is clear to anyone that gives the issue any thought at all.

      Secondly, there is plenty of research that suggests the higher rates of suicide among homosexuals has nothing to do with “oppression”. For instance, if society’s judgement is the cause, why are large numbers of homosexuals committing suicide in Norway, which has completely normalized homosexuality?

      http://www.youth-suicide.com/gay-bisexual/news/norway-gay-lesbian-suicide.htm#background

      Too, it has been revealed, grudgingly, that many of the suicides that have been attributed to “anti-gay” environment in the Anoka-Hennepin school district had nothing to do with sexual preferences, but were in fact the result of other mental disturbances. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that is true for a lot of the cases you might attribute to “oppression”.

      • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 04:53 pm.

        While I would normally not respond to you, Mr. Swift, your assertations are a product of your mindset – extremely conservative. However, you are wrong on both accounts.

        You said – “homosexuals are suffering a judgement of *behavior*, which is subject to God’s gift to us all: Free will.” – – – all credible scientists, sociologists, psychiatrists and psychologist, along with their professional associations, have long refuted this notion. It’s time you do as well. Unless, as I suspect, you simply don’t believe in science, which I think might be totally possible. I hear Marcus Bachmann has an opening you may want to apply for.

        You said – the higher rates of suicide among homosexuals has nothing to do with “oppression”. – – – This is merely your right-wing rationalization. Simply Google “gay youth oppression and suicide” and click on scholarly papers and you will find more than a thousand papers written by peer-reviewed researchers that refudiate your weak and cowardly claim these are “mental disturbances.” Being bullied, different, outcasted and other mean and vicious actions by children to others can certainly cause “mental disturbances” and being gay and different is a primary reason for being “picked on.” The real problem is that parents, such as yourself, teach their children to hate those who are different and then turn a blind eye when their children abuse others, proclaiming – it’s normal and natural to “tease” at that age. It is not. Bullying is a learned behavior, one that actually is associated with free will.

        You are wrong on both accounts. But you’ll never see it. Have a happy life.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/20/2012 - 09:13 am.

        A couple of important things

        There are a couple of important things that you need to back up. You can’t simply make a claim to things like “Norway… has completely normalized homosexuality” and “…it has been revealed…that many suicides…attributed to ‘anti-gay’ environment in Anoka-Hennepin school district had nothing to do with sexual preferences, but were in fact the result of other mental disturbances” and expect that everyone will swallow it without question. And, since your argument relies completely on these, you need to back them up with reliable evidence.

  11. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 12:49 pm.

    “We didn’t invent this fight,” said Erich Rutten, director of Campus Ministry at the University of St. Thomas.” – – – Huh? Oh, that’s right, gays and lesbian citizens begged legislators to introduce this particularly hateful piece of legislation, I forgot.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/19/2012 - 12:50 pm.

    To paraphrase you David

    …people are not heeding the teachings of the church, so the church should just “deal with it”.

    Interesting take, but I see some problems with it right away.

    David, there are laws against murder, but there is someone killing someone else somewhere in America almost every minute. What’s the use of telling them to stop?

    Many, if not all of the “social problems” you allude to are the direct result of people ignoring the things the Catholic church teaches against. The church spends hundreds of millions every year helping people dig themselves out of poverty and hunger, but don’t most leftists believe that early intervention into the “root causes” are more effective? That’s certainly what I hear from them.

    Finally, the Catholic church isn’t going to ever bend to the whims of secular society; please trust me on that. Christ Himself promised there isn’t enough pressure available anywhere to breech the walls of His church. The Catholic church isn’t in the business of making people comfortable with their sinful ways, they are charged with teaching the word of God, and He doesn’t “do” compromise.

    Please take a moment to consider these things.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/20/2012 - 08:46 am.

      It would appear . . . .

      It would appear that you are conflating the lives of homosexuals with the idea of “sinful ways”.

      When you say “The Catholic church isn’t in the business of making people comfortable with their sinful ways” I interpret that as you saying that it is somehow sinful for a homosexual person to be homosexual. Like there is something inherently wrong with that.

      It explains a lot, of course.

      Would you care to elaborate?

  13. Submitted by Rich Crose on 09/19/2012 - 12:54 pm.

    1 Man + 1 Woman + 1 Government

    If the Catholic church doesn’t want to marry gay people, they don’t have to. But why get the government involved?

    This flies in the face of the Republican mantra of smaller government, less regulation.

    When does religious freedom trump individual freedom?

  14. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 09/19/2012 - 03:35 pm.

    Troy Dobbs of Grace Church

    I need to pop in here and note that while I did not ask Pastor Dobbs his race–he was not one of the clergy who fielded media questions after the formal remarks–he appeared white to me.

    • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 09/19/2012 - 04:59 pm.

      He is white….

      my mistake. I was thinking of what the Rev. Jerry McAfee (sp) said when I wrote that. To paraphrase McAfee, it was basically along the lines of – it made him sick to equate gay rights with civil rights because of what “his people” have suffered. No doubt about it, African Americans have suffered from discrimination. This does not lessen the discrimination suffered by others, including gays and lesbians. Thanks for catch.

  15. Submitted by Richard Molby on 09/20/2012 - 08:46 am.

    Wow

    Just the fact that these are religious leaders demanding that their beliefs be codified into law should send everyone to the Vote No camp. Church – State. Separate. Period.

  16. Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 09/20/2012 - 09:37 am.

    Thoughts

    Whatever else the church does that is good, however wonderful individual church members are, I now only associate the Catholic church with hate. The leadership has chosen positions of hate and has led its members who love the church to defend hate.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/26/2012 - 07:41 am.

      “I now only associate the Catholic church with hate.”

      Well, in that you’re certianly not alone Rachel. I don’t think I’ve met a leftist that doesn’t hate the Catholic church.

      Many people wiser than I have related the idea the living with such hatred festering is corrosive to us as people. While no one can cleanse you of hate but yourself, you might want to consider the harm it does you.

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