Notes From the Hill

The Massachusetts Legislature will meet in constitutional convention on July 12 and calls and emails to legislators in favor of a vote on marriage are needed. If no legislative vote is taken, or the marriage amendment, H. 4617, is defeated, then experts on both sides of the issue agree that the persecution of religious organizations and people of faith opposed to same-sex marriage will be certain to follow.

Con-Con Outlook

The question is whether a debate on H. 4617, proposing a new marriage amendment, will take place on July 12, later or at all. Procedurally, the legislature has until the end of the year to act, but the later a vote is delayed, the less likely a vote will be held.

Opponents are talking “out loud,” that is, in their own newspapers and blogs, about how to kill the amendment through parliamentary maneuvers. Bandied about are such tactics as orchestrating a con-con boycott, where legislators would prevent a quorum by walking out and refusing to return, thus forcing the con-con to shut down.

Article 6 of the state constitution requires all officeholders to take the following oath: “I, [name], do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God.” Article 48 of the same constitution requires the legislature to take “final action” on any citizen initiatives brought before it. That means each legislator, by virtue of his or her constitutional oath of office, should have, and should take, the opportunity to register a yes or no vote, directly approving or defeating the marriage amendment.

In 2002, legislators voted to adjourn and then-Senate President Thomas Birmingham gaveled the con-con to a close without taking up any amendments, including an earlier version of the marriage amendment. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled later that year that such a procedural vote was not the required “final action.”

That ruling clarified an issue that was unclear in 1990, when legislative leaders orchestrated a walk-out to avoid a vote on an initiative petition that would have constitutionalized an unlimited right to abortion.

Unfortunately, there is no legal remedy when legislators fail to vote. The oath of office and the duty to take final action are moral in nature. Legislators can’t be sued for failing to comply. The only way to get their compliance is by appealing to their conscience and activating their constituents. But even before that, supporters of the amendment must convince at least 50 legislators to agree, if given the chance, to vote for the amendment. Without the votes in hand, the moral case for a legislative vote becomes moot.

While one should never count on any vote until a roll call is recorded, both sides agree that, currently, the amendment has at least 50 votes. The pressure is intense to peal away supporters, so that could change. Grassroots efforts must prevent such change. But as long as that number is preserved, then the constitutional requirement for a roll call has meaning.

In 1982, the Supreme Judicial Court advised the Legislature that the 50 vote minimum was intended to ensure that initiative petitions had at least a “reasonable amount of public support, as reflected by the favorable votes of at least one fourth of the [200] legislators elected.” Moreover, in 1976, the high court referred to the initiative procedure as “the people’s process” that the legislature should not thwart. So far, the legislative support is there. And in record numbers, the people have petitioned for a vote. Thus, the law is on our side. The question is; are defenders of traditional marriage willing to do the work needed to take advantage?

The campaign for a vote on the amendment is directed through, (click on “communicate” link) which has a sophisticated online, but easy-to-use, system for contacting legislators, and their Web site includes sample bulletin announcements and other materials. All grassroots efforts are being coordinated by (617-795-2677) and Catholic Citizenship (617-755-7668).

Harsh persecution certain

Legal experts warn or admit, depending on whether they oppose or support same-sex marriage, that the legalization of same-sex marriage ultimately will require non-complying churches and people of faith to be punished harshly. Associated Press writer Richard Ostling reported on the findings of a December 2005 legal conference reaching that consensus in an article published the last weekend of May by The Boston Globe. The AP report, along with a May 2006 cover story on the conference in the Weekly Standard by Maggie Gallagher, and several of the conference papers can be accessed online at

The conference presenters, including ACLU and other gay rights advocates, agreed that the refusal to accept same-sex marriage will be treated as harshly as racial bigotry. The first warnings of things to come in Massachusetts, according to several presenters, have arisen already.

Catholic Charities agencies are being forced to choose between getting out of adoptions altogether or losing all their state funding and facing stiff fines, along with being branded as bigots and haters in the media, for upholding Church teaching. Parents who do not want their children indoctrinated in the public schools through lessons that promote same-sex marriage are being denied their right to be notified in advance, and are ostracized by school administrators and teachers. Moreover, people are losing their jobs, and businesses are being sued because they oppose same-sex marriage.

In all, the presenters identified an extraordinary range of situations where compliance with same-sex marriage will be enforced and religious liberty eliminated. The persecution will permeate almost every level of human interaction.

The stakes are clear. If legislators deny a vote on marriage, then those in Massachusetts who want to abide by Church teaching must expect to be persecuted and demonized, all without a say in the matter (persecution without representation?). In view of these circumstances, denying a vote on H. 4617, by whatever means, will be harshly unjust.


Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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, ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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, ...

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, ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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, ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...