A summer afternoon in Providence

On Sunday, July 18, I took the commuter rail from Boston to Providence for an afternoon rally. The National Organization for Marriage is conducting what it calls the Summer for Marriage Tour 2010, and landed at the foot of the Rhode Island Statehouse on a warm, breezy day to encourage citizens of that state to defend marriage as the union of one man, one woman. Over 200 people gathered under the trees of the Capitol's south lawn to hear speeches, get their marriage tour t-shirts, and prepare for an upcoming legislative battle in that state over the definition of marriage. The crowd reminded me of a church picnic gathering: Lots of families, kids running around, and smiling adults chatting. The idyllic feeling continued even as the first speakers delivered their remarks. Then a red-shirted army of chanting picketers suddenly emerged from around the western side of the statehouse and the time of white martyrdom began.

White martyrs are those who witness to truth and faith in ways short of dying. No one died at the marriage rally in Providence but the uninvited demonstrators' ensuing attempts to disrupt and silence were met with the power of quiet determination and the luminescence of common courage. Rhode Island defenders of marriage refused to be provoked and stood their ground with inspiring dignity.

The National Organization for Marriage has organized the rolling rally to reach 20 different cities during July and August, going from Maine to Minnesota and from Florida to Washington, D.C., stopping in locations where the marriage issue is a broiling political potato. The group's president, Brian Brown, is travelling the whole route with his wife Susan and six children in a brightly decorated RV, accompanied by a small crew in a van to help manage the trip's technicalities. Joining the Browns for the New England leg of the trip and speaking in Rhode Island was Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an expert on the economic aspects of family structure, and a surrogate doting grandmother for the Brown children.

Dr. Morse was at the podium when the insurgents approached. First, the sign carriers and noise makers crowded the listeners from behind. Then a few banner-waving protesters ran around to the front, screaming "bigots" and "haters." Dr. Morse kept her composure, finished her remarks, and was followed by Brian. That's when several menacing individuals stormed the podium and thrust their faces into Brian's, repeatedly shouting at him to shut up. Brian refused to get riled and continued his speech over the din. Before long our entire group was surrounded and the venomous cacophony continued. Many of the placards employed mockeries and vulgarities. The tension was stomach-squeezing.

When the capitol police, finally, started to intervene, I looked around me and saw the most remarkable thing. I did not see clenched fists, bulging eyes or reddening cheeks. I could not detect any sign of "fight or flight," anger or fear. I saw heads bowed and hands folded, or eyes raised and arms extended. A frail woman next to me, surely no veteran of political street theatre, had a look of what I can only describe as deep compassion. A man to my left spoke more in wonder than in any tone of disgust or contention, saying softly, "this is what hell must be like." The picnic had become an inferno, and yet the picnickers did not succumb to the burning.

Other speakers, locals representing Rhode Island, expressed in words what I witnessed around me. They talked of loving their challengers, of forgiving the offenders' transgressions against the freedom to gather without conceding that freedom, and of bearing witness to the truth without rancor or condescension. And they talked of the need to become active despite formidable opposition and to persevere despite the costs.

Brian closed out the rally by observing that the disruption of the peaceful gathering in Providence on a lazy summer afternoon was only a foretaste of what will occur if same-sex marriage is legalized. What transpired on the public sidewalks that day will be repeated in other public venues, such as the schools, the courts and the halls of the legislature. Proponents of tolerance cannot tolerate what they deem to be hatred and bigotry and the law will have to reflect that harsh judgment.

Readers living in Massachusetts can still hear the echoes of the debate in our own state. It is quiet now, but that outer calm only muffles an inner conflict. Decisions continue to be made behind-the-scenes to aid and abet the radical policy change imposed upon us by the Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Just one example: In a time of severe economic turmoil, the latest state budget paired sharp cuts in essential services for the poor and struggling with dramatic increases in funding for programs that affirm the same-sex lifestyle.

The Summer for Marriage Tour is a tale between two book covers, so to speak, with the front cover already embossed, and the back cover still being prepared as this article is being written. The opening cover was the ruling in early July by Boston Federal District Court Judge Joseph Tauro in two cases in which he ordered the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) to be struck down. The closing cover will be the soon-expected ruling by San Francisco Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8. Both DOMA and Proposition 8 define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Take a look at the webpage listing the marriage tour's itinerary to see where the next stops will be (www.marriagetour2010.com) and alert your relatives and friends in those areas about the need to show the same local support that Rhode Island's marriage defenders courageously exhibited under such trying circumstances.

Daniel Avila is the Associate Director for Policy and Research of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...