Silencing Discussion Is Not the Archbishop's Only Error

The Progressive Catholic Voice has published a letter from Archbishop John Nienstedt which orders priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of St. Paul to be silent if they disagree with the hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality.  In November of this year, Minnesotans will be voting in a referendum on whether they should adopt a constitutional amendment banning marriage between lesbian and gay couples.

Silencing discussion is a terrible option, and church officials should remove such a recourse from their possible responses to situations.  U.S. bishops should have learned a lesson from the sex abuse crisis that silence protects nobody and ultimately fails as a method to protect the church.  New Ways Ministry has  long called for more discussion and dialogue in the church on LGBT issues, including marriage equality.  We believe that through discussion and debate truth will be found and relationships strengthened.

Silencing his priests and deacons is what will be making headlines, but it is not the archbishop’s only error in this letter.  He also wrongfully speculates on the motivations of those who support marriage equality, and he does so in an illogical manner:

“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.”

First of all, he offers no evidence for such a claim, and it is difficult to imagine what such evidence might even be.  Such a claim is unfounded.  Why would the archbishop make such a claim if he is not willing to offer any evidence to support it?

More importantly, the claim is illogical.  Does he want us to believe that the people who are working and organizing to extend marriage rights to more people are actually really trying to end the institution that they are trying to extend?

Later in the letter, he states:

“. . . we must never vilify or caricaturize those who argue [in support of marriage equality]. . . “

Yet, isn’t that what he just did by speculating, with neither evidence nor logic, on the motives of those who oppose the constitutional ban?

One of the reasons that we need discussion, and not silence, on these issues is because without the free interchange of ideas, people become so solidified in their positions that they do not realize what they are saying sometimes, and they can often work against their own best ideals.

The folks at The Progressive Catholic Voice should be applauded for making this letter available to all.  You can read their full press release here and a shorter explanation introduces the archbishop’s speech here.  In noting why they decided to publish it, they offer an image and an ideal towards which we should tirelessly work:

“. . .we at The Progressive Catholic Voice believe it is important to model a way of being church that is open, honest, transparent and participatory.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful and careful response to a thoughtless and careless letter!

    When I read the letter from Abp Niendstedt, the phrase that immediately caught my eye is the one you quote: “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.” Essentially, he’s saying that those who support marriage for God’s LGBT children are, in fact, liars. He’s saying that they don’t want to be in relationships that are loving, committed, and supported by the social fabric of society.

    Reading further, it’s very evident that this letter was written by someone who seeks to control, who thinks he has a monopoly on truth, and abuses his institutional authority to compel blind obedience from men ordained as ministers of the Gospel. God save the Church!

  2. Chaplain Bill
    Chaplain Bill says:

    For us who are older and have weathered earlier post-Stonewall battles (including the horrors of AIDS), we can remember the accusation by the Roman Church and other fundamental groups that we were so sex-driven and promiscuous we could never settle down for meaningful relationships. We lived on one-night stands, quick pickups or, at best, serial short-term relationships (this week’s boy/girlfriend was next week’s memory) – or so we were told.

    Fast forward to today. Now with millions (yes, millions) supporting marriage equality, we are told that our secret intentions for marriage equality are to destroy the very institution. As my partner Patrick and I celebrate our 24th anniversary on Monday, we along with untold numbers of gay and lesbian couples are witness to the lie of the Archbishop.

    In the end, GLBT civil rights and marriage equality is “and idea whose times has come.” No amount of huffing and puffing, grandstanding, or demonizing will stop it. Hope lives.

  3. Susan Hillis
    Susan Hillis says:

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It makes you wonder how many other Archdioceses may have received such a letter.


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