Sunday, February 26, 2012

At Lenten Prayer Vigil , Catholics Pray and Express Disagreement with Archbishop's Priorities

Funding for efforts to support ‘marriage amendment’
should be redirected to help those in need, vigilers say

Close to 80 Catholics gathered in front of the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis on Sunday, February 26, for the first in a series of weekly Lenten vigils.

Vigilers want to see Archbishop Nienstedt redirect his energies and the financial resources of the Archdiocese away from the divisive ‘marriage amendment’ and toward actions that reflect Jesus' Gospel call to care for the poor and marginalized.

Last month the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops announced that it had spent $750,000 in 2011 on efforts to ensure the passage of the so-called ‘marriage amendment,’ an unnecessary constitutional ban on civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in Minnesota. This figure includes $650,000 from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and $50,000 each from the dioceses of New Ulm and Duluth. The conference has contributed $350,000 to Minnesota for Marriage, an umbrella pro-amendment group. Collectively, pro-amendment groups have raised over $1.2 million dollars to persuade voters to approve the ballot measure in November. In 2010, the Minnesota Catholic Conference spent over one million dollars producing a pro-marriage amendment DVD which was mailed to over 400,000 Catholic households across the state.

Organizers of the vigil note that the Catholic tradition understands Lent as a time of repentance, a time of ‘turning around’ and away from all that holds people back from fully experiencing God’s abundant love."It’s a time of reexamining our motivations, actions and priorities in the light of Jesus’ life of compassion, justice-making and inclusiveness," said Michael Bayly, executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, the group sponsoring the vigil.

"It is appropriate in Lent to offer prayers when we recognize, both within ourselves and others, that we often fall short in aligning our attitudes and actions with the example of Jesus," Bayly said. "As Catholics and people of good will we'll be gathering at the chancery each Sunday during Lent to bear public witness to the fact that we do not see anything of Jesus’ life and message in Archbishop Nienstedt’s support of the ‘marriage amendment’."

Organizers were heartened by Sunday's turnout and believe the number of vigilers will only increase. The vigil is scheduled to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Sunday during Lent (February 26, March 4, March 11, March 18, March 25 and April 1). The chancery is located opposite the Cathedral of St. Paul at 226 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

For Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's media release about the vigil, click here.

To sign the petition related to the vigil, click here.

To read and sign the Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality, click here.

Above right: One of the vigilers on Sunday was Ed Flahavan, a priest of the Archdiocese for 48 years before marrying six years ago.

Says Flahavan: "What I find particularly offensive and wrong – apart from the nonsensical purpose of the marriage amendment itself – is the fact that the Archbishop somehow last year found and spent $650,000 to embed in the State Constitution a law that would be divisive and hateful of good people, made by God just as they are, who want only to love, cherish and support each other till death. This, at a time when parishes and their schools are being merged and closed, when the gap between rich and poor is expanding and efforts at feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor by such agencies as Catholic Charities are being curtailed for shortage of money. I find it a scandal of major proportions. How much is the Archdiocese prepared to spend on this divisive issue this year?"

The vigil also provides an opportunity for Catholics to pray for Archbishop Nienstedt and the bishops of Minnesota – that they may ‘turn around’ this Lenten season and be open to the love and beauty embodied in same-sex relationships and families. Many who gathered Sunday prayed that the bishops may be open to the experiences and insights of the majority of U.S. Catholics who support civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Polls show that most of the country’s 75 million Catholics disagree with their bishops on gay rights. A Washington Post–ABC News poll last March found that 63 percent of Catholics believe same-sex marriage should be legal. When Catholics are assured that the issue is civil marriage “like you get at City Hall,” 71 percent of all Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a national poll by the Public Religion Research Institute also conducted last March. These figures show that Catholics are more supportive than the public at large, whose support for gay marriage, poll after poll shows, hovers just above the 50 percent mark.

Above: A participant in Sunday's first weekly Lenten vigil holds an icon of Sts Sergius and Bacchus.

Above: Jim Smith, parish inreach coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, thanks those who participated in Sunday's vigil.

Above: The vigil closed with the praying of the Prayer of St. Francis.

Images: Michael Bayly.


  1. The Anti- marriage amendment is a violation of respect for life, the dignity of all people. The allocation of $650,000 of church investments to discriminate against others is a serious sin. Once again the bishops abandon good judgment to feed their own prejudices. I would to see a petition to the Vatican to have our divisive Archbishop removed.

  2. FAt chance that maines bishops will be stop fighting gay marriage re-enactment. Particularly when the church and other bishops come up with outrageous statements like "gay marriage will mean the end of humanity (the pope) and gay marriage is maddess. (head of cath church in England

    they will just get hate groups like NOM, FRC, and AFA and the Unrepentant haters of the evangelical right wing - the people whose worst nightmare has come true - a black president - to do their dirty work re gay equality..

    BTW here's another horror show from the german pope...........

  3. I shoudl add my congratulations to all the catholics who stand up for marriage equality and full dignity for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    the best thing you can do re the church is to simply cut off every last cent of contributions to it.