Colorado Catholic leaders plan no marriage campaign this election season

Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Members of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told the Colorado Independent that the Church will not be campaigning against gay marriage in the state this election season or looking to promote candidates that will fight against gay marriage in Washington.

“The Conference has no plans for the type of campaign you describe,” she wrote in an email. The Colorado Catholic Conference is the public policy and advocacy arm of the church here.

Phil Webb, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Denver archdiocese, said the Conference would be in charge of any such campaign. He said the issue remains “very important to Catholics.”

The Colorado Constitution already contains an amendment barring same-sex marriages but certainly members of the Colorado delegation in Washington will be asked to weigh in on the future of anti-gay marriage laws such as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Highly political Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput earlier this month told young Catholics that it was their religious obligation to engage on political issues like marriage and abortion.

“If we don’t become engaged on the question of the meaning of marriage and basic family relationships… if we just abandon the issue of marriage to those who want to change the definition of marriage, we undermine the lives of children but also undermine the basic foundation of our society,” he said. “It just– we’re going to see the consequences of that later on.”

Catholic organizations have been pouring millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage campaigns around the country. It’s unclear what amounts if any the Catholic Church in Colorado has sent to back the campaigns.

This year, the national Catholic group Knights of Columbus has channeled a million dollars spent in previous years on charitable programs like food banks and education to the National Organization for Marriage, which is fighting gay marriage in several states. The Knights gave NOM $1.4 million this year.

In Minnesota, Archbishop John Neinstedt has directed bishops to distribute more than a million DVDs across the state in the weeks before the November election to drum up votes for an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. The campaign there is titled “Preserving Marriage in Minnesota” and the DVD is called “One Man, One Woman – Marriage and the Common Good.” The full 14-minute video can be viewed at the Knights of Columbus website.

“It’s not partisan politics in any way. But you know, it’s kind of rallying the troops around this issue and pointing out to Catholics that this is an important issue in every election year,” Archbishop Nienstedt told members of the media. “We’re not a political force, but we are a religious force. So we think we should be part of the conversation.”

Gay rights advocate Monica Meyer, director of OutFront Minnesota, argued that, even if the DVDs each only cost $2, that’s more than $1.6 million the Catholic church is spending on the campaign. “How many meals could $1.6 million have provided?” she said.

Some Catholics have had enough of the spending.

“You’ve got this really interesting funnel of tax-free money coming from the Dioceses and the Council of Bishops and the Knights of Columbus directly to these campaigns,” Phil Attey, executive director of the newly launched organization Catholics for Equality, told the Minnesota Independent. He pointed to the fact that NOM has repeatedly fought court battles to keep its donor lists sealed in opposition to state laws meant to guard against excessive out-of-state campaign spending.

“Why are groups like NOM hiding where they’re getting their money? If it turns out to be a front group for the conservative side of the church, Catholics have the right to know because the majority of American Catholics– and we can show you heaps of polls– don’t support that [kind of spending].”

In August Webb wrote a critique for the Denver Archdiocese of the ruling that struck down anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California.

Contained at the heart [of the ruling] is a mistaken and dangerous claim that the marriage debate is primarily a religious squabble in which the state has no compelling interest other than to uphold state constitutional equal protection and non-discrimination statutes.

Although the Church has always understood that marriage is both a sacred union and natural institution, its natural meaning does not, and never has, originated from the state or Church. Marriage, from the beginning, exists naturally as the basic cell of society which protects and replenishes it with the next generation. Marriage attaches children to both a mother and father according to the child’s dignity. The societal stability this promotes is precisely why politicians and courts are obligated, not to redefine marriage or treat it as a religious question, but to protect and encourage it.

Proponents of same-sex marriage continue to decouple the meaning of marital love from its natural and divine purpose. As a result, the definitive expression of marital love, the sexual embrace, open to new life, is rendered sterile, devoid of natural meaning or expression. This, driven by Identity politics and judicial activism, must be resisted.

[ Image: Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput ]

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