Thursday, May 17, 2012

Resigned Priest Ed Flahavan: I Have Heard the Arguments for the Marriage Amendment and I Find Them Wanting, Prejudicial and Destructive

NOTE: Ed Flahavan of Resigned Priests for Marriage Equality delivered the following remarks at a media conference in Minneapolis on May 17, 2012. The group, representing 80 former priests, has issued a statement opposing the proposed "marriage amendment" to the Minnesota constitution.

Good morning. My name is Ed Flahavan and I live in St. Paul with my wife of seven years.

I was a priest of the Archdiocese for 48 years. For too many of those years I would have to characterize myself as homophobic. The very thought of gay sex, much less state-sanctioned same-sex civil marriage was disgusting and highly abhorrent to me.

But I grew up in a Catholic home that found racial prejudice repugnant and antithetical to the Christian Gospel. And so in the 1960's I naturally became active in the civil rights movement. I was assigned Associate Pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in St. Paul, a predominately African-American parish. Working as a priest there was a wonderful growth experience for me. I got to know personally many people who taught me the importance of breaking down prejudicial barriers of exclusion.

But I must say I was still homophobic.

A number of things changed that:

• I came to know personally very fine African American gay and lesbian people who were comfortable being who they were, and happy in their orientation.

• I became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, challenging presumed enhanced wisdom in elected leaders.

• I was assigned Executive Director of the Archdiocese's Office of Urban Affairs with a mandate to help the church become an agent of social change, particularly in matters affecting race, poverty and social welfare.

• I was subsequently assigned as pastor to St. Stephen's parish in Minneapolis, then fast becoming a welcoming home to gay and lesbian Catholics who desired nothing more than a Catholic community that would embrace them without judgment or condemnation.

• A wonderful thirty year old gay nephew of mine died of AIDS in the arms of his mother and former Marine Corps father, and I presided at his funeral liturgy.

• I was appointed to the Governor Perpich's Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Minnesotans and travelled the state taking testimony from civic leaders (“there is no problem here”) and closeted people (“I have to stay hidden if I am to continue living in this community”). We heard horror stories that shamed me for my now quickly evaporating homophobia.

• In short, I got to know gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people, good people, same-sex couples partnered for years raising children of their own or adopted, seeking only public acceptance and the civil rights married couples enjoy.

I was outraged that the Archdiocese spent $650,000 in 2011 to promote this divisive initiative when its own Catholic Charities, CommonBond Communities and inner city schools and parish initiatives are being forced to curtail their good and necessary work.

The net affect of all these experiences has turned me around. I have heard and weighed the arguments for voting to adopt the Marriage Amendment, and I find them wanting. And prejudicial. And destructive of our social fabric.

For the life of me, I cannot see how same-sex marriage is in any way a threat to my happy marriage. I strongly urge a "No" vote on the Marriage Amendment this fall.

Recommended Off-site Links:
80 Former Priests Oppose Marriage AmendmentThe Progressive Catholic Voice (May 17, 2012).
Some Minnesota Priests Split with Catholic Hierarchy Over Marriage Amendment – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio, May 17, 2012).
Conflicted Catholics: Consciences Wrestle with Church Actions on Marriage Amendment – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, April 18, 2012).
Catholics Engaged in Gay Marriage Battle – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio News, May 14, 2012).
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the "Marriage Amendment" – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, March 2, 2012).
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 17, 2011).

See also the previous Sensus Fidelium posts:
"This is the Living Word"
Catholics Sing Their Support for Marriage Equality
Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate

Image: Ed Flahavan at Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's series of Lenten vigils. (Photo: Michael Bayly)


  1. Why are you enraged. You absconded from the Archdiocese and your responsibility as a priest, you have nothing to say about what the Archdiocese spends their money on. You question them? Give me a break. Go picket on the Lake St. bridge with the rest of the apostates.

    1. I will pray for your soul Father Flahavan because you have abandoned your sacred vows and now live in sin. Father Flahavan you are leading many people to hell by standing up for gay rights and so called gay marriage. You have put modernism above the truths and teachings of the Church. Your sins and your reluctance to receive the most holy Eucharist worthily have caused you to resort to evil. I pray for your conversion back to the Catholic faith and that you make a full confession, for your sins and live out the remainder of your life in penitence for your terrible sins.

    2. Who knew God posted comments on the internet! I'm pretty sure he's the only one that's allowed to judge people and especially tell His people who is going to Hell or not. I believe that's what Ed is trying to portray to his community, is that it is not our place to judge others. I've always thought that to be religious and to truly love our God meant to love all of His children unconditionally. I pray for you "Anonymous" that you can get over your hatred for other people and learn someday to embrace all of God's children regardless of their choices and learn to not judge other people because they sin differently than you. May you find peace in your heart someday and truly love God the way he intended.

  2. Thanks were always an inspiration.

  3. I think everyone has a right to question what an organization spends its money on when the results of what it is spending its money on will affect *all* people in a jurisdiction, not just Catholics. If the Catholics want to spend $650K to promote a law that will affect only them, I don't care one whit. But when it starts tramping on the rights of yeah, I think everyone has a right to a voice. Ed, I admire your courage and sense. Change WILL come!

  4. The change of law entails civil rights for citizens. Bishops should keep their big noses out of civil matters. If they're so bold, why don't they stop the two-fers couples now get: sacramental matrimony and civil marriage? Because couples would come less to church than they are already not coming.
    I think +Nienstedt's celibacy is a threat to marriage!
    Chuck Murphy

  5. Are you kidding!! Money comes in from all over for all kinds of different reasons. It 's called free speech. I would like to know if Ed is collecting a retirement check from the Archdiocese. The thought of two men or two woman playing house and calling it marriage is really beyond the pale. I think God said "increase and multiply". How does that happen with same sex unions. It is unnatural.

  6. Ed, I woke up this morning thinking about you. My marvelous mother Pat Cassidy has been gone 25 years now and she has been so very much in my thoughts. Anyway you were on my mind so I did what comes naturally, I googled you!

    First and foremost, I am so very sorry about the loss of your marvelous nephew; I know what a devoted uncle you are.

    I can only say how very much I heartily agree with you about the Catholic church's ridiculous hate campaign. The Catholic church, as usual, is still in the dark ages when it comes to marriage and families.

    Keep up your efforts! I am so proud that I once knew you.

    Mary Johnson Normal, IL (good wife and proud mother of four 20-somethings and a good Unitarian BTW)