Archbishop Peter Sartain of Washington enthusiastically supported the campaign to overturn the state’s new marriage equality law, sending out letters to all parishes, asking for help in the signature drive now under way. His own cathedral parish however, will not be participating. Showing more wisdom than the archbishop, the parish priest has recognized the divisiveness of the petition and the bitterness that participation could cause.
If the referendum campaign to block Washington state’s recently passed law authorizing same-sex marriage makes the state’s November ballot, it will not be with any official help of the Seattle archdiocese’s cathedral parish, despite Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain’s outspoken support of Referendum 74 and his call for parishioners to bolster its campaign.
In a short, two-paragraph email sent to St. James Cathedral parishioners April 11, pastor Fr. Michael G. Ryan wrote, “After discussing the matter with the members of the Cathedral’s pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish. Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community.”
The email noted the archbishop “has written a letter in which he has expressed his support for Referendum 74 and for the collecting of signatures in parishes,” but pointed out the archbishop had “wisely left it up to each pastor to decide whether to allow the collection of signatures in his own parish.” Ryan provided an Internet link to the archbishop’s letter.
Ryan told NCR on April 12 that had emailed parishioners because local media stories had been “appearing which made it look like the parishes were mandated to do the signature drive.”
“Sadly,” he said, “the archdiocese never put a word out” that parish participation in the signature drive was encouraged but optional.
In an email to NCR, he wrote, “I decided to take a preemptive strike by sending out my email (April 11) thinking that many of my parishioners would either boycott Mass this coming Sunday or that they would arrive in a white heat. The tone of my email was low-key and anything but inflammatory. I have received 115 responses to it — when none were required or even expected! — and fully 110 of them have been strongly supportive of my decision. And I mean strongly supportive!”
Ryan said he had heard that at least a handful of other parishes would not sponsor petition-gathering efforts.
- full report at National Catholic Reporter.
Other parishes have since joined the cathedral with similar decisions. From Seattle PI:
St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill, says it will not circulate ballot petitions on a referendum to repeal the state’s new same-sex marriage law, and that no petitions will be permitted anywhere on the church property. The pastor at St. Joseph, the Rev. John D. Whitney, S.J., warned two months ago that a Catholic bishops’ letter denouncing marriage equality “will bring great pain” among those “so often marginalized in our church.”
St. Mary’s Parish in the Central Area, and the new, growing Christ Our Hope parish in downtown Seattle, are the latest to decide petitions won’t be circulated on their premises.
That’s four, and counting:
- The cathedral parish of St James
- St Joseph, Capitol Hill
- St Mary’s Parish, Central Area
- Christ our Hope, downtown Seattle
Any more Catholic parishes, standing up for the Gospels?