Notes from the Hill

On July 12th, the Massachusetts Legislature recessed the Constitutional Convention without taking up H. 4617, a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The Senate and House met in joint session for four hours, getting through half the bills on the agenda before Senator Dianne Wilkerson (D-Boston) moved to recess until Nov. 9, two days after the general election. Her motion carried 100-91 (see vote tally at www.macathconf.org). Though the delay is disappointing and worrisome, several positives command attention. The marriage amendment is still alive, its supporters have framed the debate, we continue to have at least 50 legislators willing to move the amendment forward if given the cahance, the other side is on the defensive, and we have the opportunity to expand already strong grassroots efforts. Here are the details on what supporters of the amendment have gained and where we go from here. Supporters should start by writing their legislators in response to their votes on July 12 and ask that a vote be taken on Nov. 9 of this year.

What we have gained

It is easy to see all the hurdles we face. The legislative leadership and a majority of the members oppose sending the marriage amendment to the voters. Legislators on our side lack control of the parliamentary process. There is precedent for using parliamentary maneuvers to kill citizen petitions contrary to constitutional requirements. The opposing lobby is strong. The task of keeping the grassroots energized is gargantuan. We are tempted to think that no matter what we do, the odds of success in such a political environment are just too low. Seen in this light, the vote to delay might appear as just another precursor of a legislative ditching.

Here are the counterbalancing signals. The leadership could have “pulled a Birmingham” by orchestrating a motion to close down the convention for good on July 12 without taking a vote like then-Senate President Tom Birmingham accomplished a few years ago, but did not. The amendment is still alive.

This suggests that those opposing the amendment could not convince the leadership and enough legislators to engage in parliamentary trickery to kill the amendment by adjourning the convention now. In fact, 33 of the 91 legislators voting against the recess motion are either non-committal about or on record as opposing the amendment itself. Many legislators on both sides of the recess vote told the press that ultimately they wanted the direct opportunity to vote on the amendment. In addition, according to several media reports, Senate President Robert Travaglini has advised legislators that the amendment will be brought to a vote this year. For those hoping to kill the amendment by permanently avoiding such a vote, a delay was all they could muster. This signals that all your phone calls, letters and emails are having an impact.

Ed Saunders, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, told The Boston Globe after the recess, “The people need to turn their attention to their reps and senators to make sure the vote gets taken in November. It was a lengthy agenda [for the Constitutional Convention], and they got through half of the items. I was encouraged by the Senate president’s statement that there will be a vote. We have to wait for that opportunity.”

Those supporting the amendment have succeeded in framing the debate, making it more difficult for legislators to avoid taking a stand. The calls of the marriage coalition to “let the people vote” and for “no trickery” have been echoed in the editorial pages of The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Worcester Telegram, Springfield Republican, and several other daily newspapers, all of which have editorialized against ducking a vote. As the Globe editors put it, the state constitution requires legislators to vote on proposed amendments, and “scuttl[ing] the [marriage] amendment by ignoring the constitution’s own mandate and ducking a vote altogether … would be a mistake, and short-sighted. Legislators should not violate the constitution in order to protect it.”

This has put the opponents on the defensive. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Carisa Cunningham, spokesperson for Boston-based Gays and Lesbians Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), said that “Politically, it is very difficult to fight this very simple idea of ‘Let the people vote,’ which is the slogan the other side is marketing.” She complained that by characterizing the con-con debate as one for or against democracy, the amendment’s backers had staged a “strategic coup.”

Where we go from here — what you need to do

According to reports in Bay Windows, the Boston-based gay and lesbian newspaper, the opponents to H. 4617 could not get the leadership to agree to killing the amendment, and failed to secure a longer delay into December. The same reports indicated that the leadership told the opponents that they have until November to try to pry away some of the 50 supporters of the amendment. The possibility of erosion is worrisome, but the four-month delay gives supporters of the amendment the same opportunity to increase already strong grassroots efforts.

We need to continue to encourage those legislators who support sending the amendment to the people. Let them know how much you appreciate their courage. And we need to remind those who support same-sex marriage that the people are sovereign in a democracy, and deserve a vote. Do not assume that legislators who voted to recess are locked into denying a vote altogether. Thank the legislators who voted not to recess, even if they are on record as opposing the amendment.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (macathconf.org), working with VoteOnMarriage.org, the marriage amendment’s sponsor, along with Catholic Citizenship (Catholicvote.org), will keep everyone apprised of grassroots plans to be implemented during this period. If you have not already signed up for e-mail alerts from these groups, please do so in order to stay abreast of developments. The delay is agonizing, but the amendment is still alive, and we must take advantage of the support in the press and in the community for democracy and against trickery. If you have any questions, contact the staff at the Massachusetts Catholic Conference at 617-367-6060 or staff@macathconf.org.

<

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
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
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&rsquo;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 Vigan&ograve; about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

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 ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...