Sister Grammick discusses why the faithful should be our allies
by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On Wednesday, August 22, about 60 local Catholics gathered at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral to hear from two longtime Catholic friends of the LGBT community, who are unequivocal supporters of marriage equality. Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry spoke on why Catholics should (and mostly do) support marriage equality and offered some historical perspective on the issue.
'We are committed to give a progressive Catholic witness on issues like marriage equality and others where we believe our hierarchy is out of touch,' said Betty, a local Catholic, introducing the two nationally renowned speakers.
'Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than any other denomination in the country,' said DeBernardo, 'while public opinion seems to reflect the opposite.'
Citing polls from the Public Religion Research Institute, DeBernardo said only 22% of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage and 71% are in favor of same-sex civil marriage. According to DeBernardo, the reason these numbers are surprising to many people is because the leadership of the Catholic Church is so outspokenly against marriage equality.
DeBernardo reported that about one-fourth of the Catholics he's spoken with say they regularly hear some sort of message about Gays and Lesbians in church, and two-thirds of that group say those messages are negative.
'That's what's causing that perception problem,' said DeBernardo. 'The people with the microphones are giving those negative messages, not the people in the pews.'
CATHOLICS WITH FACTS
Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry and member of the Sisters of Loretto, an order of nuns deeply concerned with social justice, gave an overview of the history of Christian-era marriage in relation to the church and society, in an effort to dispel myths and empower the audience to do the same in conversations with other Catholics.
She detailed how marriage evolved from a private affair between families, with no civil or religious significance.
'They [marriages] gradually became civil ceremonies, as civil arrangements were made to define the right and responsibilities that people had in marriage, like to manage property and inheritance,' said Gramick. 'But it grew from a private family affair.'
'In fact,' Gramick continued, 'Some early Christian writers said that the church should not be involved in the institution of marriage at all. 'Leave it to the state [they said], because it inevitably involves sexual intercourse, and that's a little dirty.'
But after the Roman Empire fell, according to Gramick, the church assumed more of a civil role. Naturally, marriage, which had grown into a state affair, then came under the purview of the church as well.
'It moved from the family, to the state, to the church,' said Gramick. 'This gradual assumption took a thousand years.'
Gramick then made an effort to dispel some other myths that opponents of same-sex marriage typically spread, such as the idea that churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages and that if they don't, they could be sued or lose their tax-exempt status.
'The bishops are saying a lot of things that are not true,' said Gramick.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
'So why do Catholics support marriage equality?' DeBernardo asked rhetorically. She said there are seven reasons, and what they all boil down to is that Catholics' support is 'not in spite of being Catholic, but because of being Catholic.'
The seven reasons she cited are:
1) What matters is love, not gender. Love is what makes a family. The quality of a relationship is what Catholics should call moral or immoral.
2) Not supporting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and the Catholic faith tells its adherents not to discriminate.
3) Catholics want to protect children. All children, regardless of what kind of family they live in, should have the same support and benefits.
4) Likewise, same-sex couples deserve equal protection, with the same societal and social rights of straight couples.
5) Marriage equality helps develop strong families and thus makes society stronger. The Catholic faith tells adherents that they should work for the common good of all people and the progressive development of society.
6) The church should not dictate public policy for all people.
7) Even if a Catholic disagrees with homosexuality, Catholics believe in equality and fairness for all.
SENATOR MURRAY THANKED
DeBernardo, who is New Ways Ministry's executive director, said he wanted to acknowledge a very special local Catholic in the audience that night - State Sen. Ed Murray, who, along with the state's Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, have made same-sex marriage a potential reality here in Washington.
DeBernardo said Murray was 'instrumental' in the fight to achieve marriage equality in the state, and that 'he is really the hero of this campaign.'
Murray received a standing ovation from everyone in the room.
'Were going to have to show them that enthusiasm in November and all the way through to November,' added DeBernardo after the applause died down.
'No human being has the whole truth. But we, as the faithful have a responsibility to shape our church,' said Gramick. 'In this particular issue the church depends on LGBT people and their allies. We need to speak out.'
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