Defense of Marriage meetings begin

MARLBOROUGH — Beginning an effort they hope will mobilize Catholics to contact their legislators in defense of marriage, Catholic lay people and clergy fanned out throughout the Archdiocese of Boston this week for a series of presentations on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The Catholic Defense of Marriage Information Meetings, designed to educate Catholics on the issue of same-sex marriage, were held in three or four different parishes each night this week.

Speaking to The Pilot last week, Kari Colella, coordinator of Marriage Ministries for the Archdiocese of Boston, said, “The hope is that these meetings will make the teachings of the Church, the importance of this issue and the information about what we can do regarding the protection of marriage more accessible to all Catholics.”

At the meetings, which will be held at each of the 22 vicariates throughout the archdiocese, three volunteers — one priest and two lay people — presented the various sides of the issue regarding the controversial Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Close to 400 parishioners attended the first evening’s meetings, which were held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Norwood, Immaculate Conception Church in Marlborough and Sacred Heart Church in Newton.

"We are here because we care very deeply about this very important issue," Father Michael Harrington, parochial vicar of St. Paul Church, Wellesley, and State Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, told nearly 100 people gathered at Immaculate Conception in Marlborough.

"I do not come here to pass a complete theological lecture to you," he continued. "I come to talk to you about what is at stake."

Father Harrington went on to describe how “four judges, appointed, not elected, seized the power of the Legislature.”

"We should be outraged," he declared. "Four appointed judges took away our constitutional rights in one swing vote."

"The voice of Catholics must be heard in the public realm," he continued.

Father Harrington stressed that marriage pre-dates modern religion. “Marriage did not originate from Church or state, but from God,” he stated.

He went on to explain that the issue of marriage is “an issue of human reason and natural law.”

"No society at any point in history has ever realized the union of two people of the same sex to be marriage," he said.

"This is not a church/state issue. This is an issue to return to common sense," underscored Father Harrington.

According to Father Harrington, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley has urged all Catholics to respond in three ways: “to pray, to educate themselves on the issue and to contact their legislators concerning the Feb. 11 vote.”

"This is an issue of the common good in the Commonwealth," he said.

Attorney Frances Hogan addressed the audience regarding the legal aspects of the Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) decision in the Goodridge case.

"Nothing in the state constitution suggests a right to homosexual marriage," she declared. She pointed out that there are currently 37 states which have passed legislation to ensure that marriage be held as the union between one man and one woman.

"The [SJC] found there was no rational basis as to why marriage is the union of one man and one woman," she said.

"This is a crisis about the future of marriage and who decides whether or not marriage will be redefined," underscored Hogan.

Hogan went on to explain that, if the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment is approved at the constitutional convention on Feb. 11, the amendment must be brought before the Legislature during next year’s session. Only if the amendment is approved in two consecutive legislative sessions will it be placed on the ballot to be voted on by citizens.

According to Hogan, the earliest the amendment can come to a popular vote is November 2006.

"That's really all we are asking here -- get the issue on the ballot and let the people of the Commonwealth decide," Hogan said.

If same-sex marriage is allowed in the Commonwealth, Hogan believes the repercussions will be “staggering.”

Citing one example, Hogan said that “dictionaries will have to be rewritten. The terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ will have to be replaced with non-gender terms such as ‘spouse.’”

All laws currently using the terminology of husband and wife will have to be amended, she added, which result in “judicial chaos.”

"When marriage is diluted, children will suffer," she continued, noting that several studies have indicated that children thrive when raised by a father and a mother living in the same household.

Concluding her address, Hogan quoted St. Paul, saying, “Do not conform yourselves to the spirit of the age.”

The final speaker of the evening was Maria Parker, associate director for public policy for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts. Parker urged all Catholics to contact their legislators and demand they vote for the amendment on Feb. 11.

Noting that Catholics make up 48 percent of the state’s population, Parker told the audience, “We are a force to contend with and legislators become quite nervous when they see Catholics mobilize.”

According to Parker, legislators “are succumbing to the pressure of the [same-sex] lobby,” even though homosexuals comprise only 1.4 percent of the state’s population.

Parker went on to list each legislator in the region, as well as their position on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"It makes no difference on the Feb. 11 vote if [legislators] are pro-homosexual. It is just a vote to bring this issue to the people."

"We have a right to [speak]. We have a right to think about it. We have a right to debate. And we have been denied that right because of a court's decision," she reiterated. "We need every single person to get involved."

Parker also strongly urged the crowd to participate in a pro-marriage rally at the Statehouse on Feb. 8, to “stand up for marriage.” She suggested that individual parishes send representatives to the rally.

Following the talks, members of the audience were encouraged to ask questions or share their comments on the issue.

"If Jesus saw some injustice, He didn't just sit there -- He got angry," commented Barbara Harrington, a parishioner from Immaculate Conception Church in Marlborough. "We have a right to get angry."

Bert Sellier, a parishioner from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury underscored the importance of getting involved. “We are the silent majority. If we don’t wake up, we’re going to lose,” he said.

Each parish in the archdiocese has been asked to send a least two representatives to the Defense of Marriage Information Meeting in their vicariate, in accord with the archbishop’s desire that each parish be involved in defending marriage. The representatives will then transmit what they have learned to their own parishes at Masses the following weekend. Meetings are scheduled in various regions of the archdiocese through Feb. 4.

Schedule of Catholic Defense of Marriage Meetings

Following are the dates, locations and speakers scheduled to address the regional Catholic Defense of Marriage Meetings. All meetings are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., last approximately one hour and are open to all interested Catholics.

Feb. 2

• St. Margaret, Burlington

Father Michael Harrington, Bill Hobbib, Maria Parker

• St. Patrick, Natick

Father Robert Oliver, Mary Ann Glendon, Gerald D’Avolio

• Gate of Heaven, South Boston

Father Paul McNellis, Dwight Duncan, Daniel Avila

Feb. 3

• St. John, Chelmsford

Father Romanus Cessario, Mary Ann Glendon, Daniel Avila

• Holy Rosary, Lawrence

Father Ronald Tacelli, Frances X. Hogan, Gerald D’Avolio

• St. Barbara, Woburn

Father Brian Mahoney, Bill Hobbib, Maria Parker

• St. Mary, Franklin

Father John Farren, Mary Kate Connolly, Chris Collins, SJ

Feb. 4

• St. John the Baptist, Peabody

Father Edward Riley, Henry and Marianne Luthin,

Gerald D’Avolio

• St. Helen, Norwell

Father Robert Congdon, Mary Kate Connolly, Daniel Avila

• St. Peter, Cambridge

Father Christopher Kirwan, Dwight Duncan, Maria Parker