Resigned and Retired Priests Strengthen Hope and Courage of Minnesota Catholics

Two stories should strengthen the hope and courage of Minnesota Catholics who are working to defeat the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw marriage equality which will be on the ballot there in November.

In the first instance, a group of resigned Catholic priests in the state have joined together to encourage Catholics to oppose the amendment, which is being supported by the state’s Catholic bishops. A Minnesota Public Radio report states:

Ed Flavahan

“As Minnesota voters prepare to go to the polls this fall, the Catholic Church has mounted a major effort to convince them to approve a constitutional amendment that would only allow marriage between men and women.

“But Catholics are not united behind the church’s official position, a point made clear today, when a group representing 80 former Catholic priests spoke out against the marriage amendment. They said the amendment violates Christian principles of love and justice.”

The Progressive Catholic Voice blog cites the group’s statement read at a press conference on May 17th:

“As former Catholic priests who collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church, we strongly oppose the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Free to express our opinions openly, we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their consciences and to resist discrimination against any of God’s children.

“We encourage Minnesotans to base their vote on principles of justice and love. the proposed amendment, in violation of those principles, would deprive an individual of his or her right to marry the person he or she loves. Therefore, as former priests, we encourage all Minnesotans to vote “NO” on the marriage amendment.”


Sensus Fidelium, the blog of Catholics for Marriage Equality–Minnesota, carries the text of the statement of one of those 80 priests, Ed Flavahan, which recounts his journey of how his own homophobia became eradicated through personal interaction with lesbian and gay people.

A CBS news report quoted Flavahan’s criticism of the large amount of money spent by the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to support the amendment:

“ ‘I was outraged to learn that the archdiocese spent $650,000 last year in 2011 to promote this divisive initiative, while its own Catholic Charities are being forced to curtail their good and necessary work,’ said Flahavan.

“St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese spokesperson Dennis McGrath disputed the claim that Catholic Charities donations had been cut. He said the amount of donations had increased in 2011.

“McGrath also said that the $650,000 spent to promote the initiative came from money accrued through interest from the Archdiocese’s holdings, not from donations.” quoted another resigned priest on how the amendment is damaging to all:

“John Estrem, a former rector at the Cathedral of St. Paul who went on to head Catholic Charities, said the Church he knows is about love and inclusion. ‘As a Catholic and former priest, I encourage all to vote no on this amendment,’ Estrem said. ‘Enshrining discrimination does not promote marriage. It simply diminishes us all.’ ”

Fr. John Brandes, Fr. Timothy Power, and Fr. Thomas Garvey

In addition to the statement of these 80 resigned priests, three retired priests–John Brandes, Tom Garvey, Tim Power–submitted a letter to the editor  to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune (which ultimately was not printed) which began”

“Catholics of Minnesota you have a choice! . . .There is not just one way for Catholics to vote in November.”

The letter encourages Catholics to defeat the amendment.  In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, they note the climate of fear among priests that has been propagated by St. Paul-Minneapolis’ Archbishop John Nienstedt:

“The men say they know many other priests — retirees and those in active priesthood — who support their position but are either too prudent or fearful to speak out.

“Last year, Archbishop Nienstedt sent a letter to all priests in the diocese calling the charge to defend traditional marriage ‘one of the greatest challenges of our times.’ He reminded them of the vow they took on their ordination day to promote and defend the church’s teachings and warned, ‘There ought not to be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly.’

“The three retired priests received the letter.

“In his 55 years of being a priest, Garvey said he can’t remember a similar warning.

” ‘That was a terrible thing, such an injustice to us to say you cannot disagree with me on this matter,’ he said. ‘And it’s just not true.’ “

Hope and courage are contagious and infectious.  The hope and courage that these resigned and retired priests have displayed will surely spread to the general Catholic population.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


0 replies
  1. cscsmirror
    cscsmirror says:

    It is sad, but significant, that the priests who are speaking out are resigned or retired. I’m certain there are many more priests, like the majority of lay Catholics, who either support marriage equality or are appalled at the bishops’ misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, Catholic power structures make it seriously difficult for priests who depend on episcopal approval for the livelihoods and accommodation, to speak up honestly.

    It’s not only sexual teaching that needs a major overhaul – it’s then entire system of financing, authority and control,

    • Gerald
      Gerald says:

      Sad isn’t it that what CSCSMIRROR wrties is true all over the country. . . if they want and need their salary and a place to live and work. . they are not free to say what they really think and feel. The Abp of StP-MN made it very clear. . . .disagree at your own peril by stangling them with the reminder of their vow/promise of reverence and obedience at Ordination.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. […] starting to emerge as a strong moral voice in support of marriage equality.  Earlier this year, 80 resigned priests made a statement in support of marriage equality.  This week, a group of 63 resigned priests in […]

  4. […] Catholic Voting No” for parishioners to display.  And 102 retired and resigned priests have signed statements urging Catholics to vote “no.”  (Because the ballot question in Minnesota is designed […]

  5. […] equality.  Yet, already, one priest in the Twin Cities has voiced his opposition.  Additionally, retired and resigned priests of his diocese  have done so, and a Benedictine priest at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, has urged Catholics to vote […]

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