Catholics walk out of mass as anti-gay marriage letter from Archbishop Nienstedt is read

Nienstedt's letter prompted some Catholics to put up "Vote No" yard signs.
Nienstedt's letter prompted some Catholics to put up "Vote No" yard signs.

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Minnesota's marriage amendment has caused a rift in the local Catholic Church.

As you'd expect, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt is a staunch, longtime opponent of same sex-marriage, but many parishioners are not. And increasingly, gay marriage-tolerant Catholics are speaking out, church hierarchy be damned.

The latest instance of insubordination took place last Sunday, when Catholics at churches across the metro walked out of mass as an anti-gay marriage letter penned by the Archbishop was read.

From MinnPost:

On Monday, Michael Bayly, the director of Catholics for Marriage Equality, noticed a spike in requests for the group's lawn signs, which read, "Another Catholic Voting No."

Some of the people who stopped by his south Minneapolis office to pick them up told him people had walked out of their churches during the reading. A parishioner at the nearby Church of the Annunciation said half a dozen left her service.

The tone of Archbishop Nienstedt's letter is actually more tolerant than some of the past things he's had to say about gays, such as a 2007 ascension which said those "who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts... formally cooperate in a grave evil, and... are guilty of mortal sin."

From Nienstedt's letter:

[S]ome ask, "Why is a constitutional amendment necessary?" Well, the fact of the matter is that politicians and activists are working right now in Minnesota to redefine the institution of marriage from one that bonds a man and a woman to any children born from their sexual union into another that licenses the romantic preferences of same-sex adults...

[T]he reality is that marriage is not ours to redefine, just as another human life is not ours to take. God is both the author of life and the author of marriage. It is this most fundamental understanding of the natural order that animates who we are as Catholics. It is why we fight so ardently to defend every human life, from conception to natural death. It is why we fight for the dignity of the human person and vigorously seek preferential options for the poor and disadvantaged. It is also why we fight to defend God's plan for marriage, because his providence is as clear for what marriage is as it is for the dignity of each human life...

Finally, and importantly, while no one has the right to redefine marriage for all of society, as Catholics we are committed to defending the dignity of all people, including those with same-sex attraction.

We know that some who are seeking to redefine marriage experience same-sex attractions. Our brothers and sisters living with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God who must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.

Every sign of unjust discrimination in this regard must be avoided. People with same-sex attractions, like others in society, are productive citizens, community servants, good friends and our beloved family members.

At the same time, however, it is important to know that the effort to ensure that the definition of marriage remains as between one man and one woman does not take away anyone's existing rights or legal protections. As Catholics, we believe that all people should be able to visit loved ones in the hospital, pass on their property to whomever they choose, and have access to employment, housing and the basic necessities of life. Saying "yes" to God's plan for marriage will not change any of this.

But for some, Nienstedt's newfound tone doesn't go far enough. Last month, Father Bob Pierson, an openly gay priest in Collegeville, told 200 Catholics in Edina they should vote with their conscience, not the Archbishop, if they don't support the same-sex marriage ban.

The Catholic hierarchy still holds a significant amount of sway, though -- Catholics for Marriage Equality claim the Archdiocese asked Pierson to stay silent about the issue after his Edina speech made news. Consistent with that claim, the father recently declined a MinnPost interview request.

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