Theological thoughts on ongoing controversy

The archdiocesan DVD "Marriage in Minnesota" follows the social doctrine taught by the Catholic Church ("DVDs arrive to divided Catholics," Oct. 1). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2,419 teaches that: "Christian revelation promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living. The Church receives from the gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. ... She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom." And 2,420: "The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters, 'when the fundamental rights of the person or salvation of souls requires it' the church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good."

Thank you, Archbishop John Nienstedt, for being a vigilant shepherd of your flock. I also appreciate the gift by the anonymous donor who is at this time putting our souls ahead of the fulfillment of other social concerns that should obviously follow moral actions based on fundamental values.


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The controversy over Archbishop Nienstedt's DVD opposing same- sex marriage highlights two important points that are not often reported.

The first is that marriage is a religious institution, and its inclusion in state law is the last remnant of theocracy in our laws.

In my view, the language relating to marriage in state law violates, in spirit and perhaps in fact, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from passing any laws "respecting the establishment of religion." It definitely violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In the first instance, because marriage is a religious institution, it has no place in civil law any more than would laws relating to Christian baptism or Jewish bar mitzvahs. As an ordained clergyman, the law requires me to become an unwilling agent of the state, as I have to register my religious credentials with the state in order to perform legal marriages. Those individuals who profess no religious beliefs are forced by law to submit to a religious practice in order to obtain those rights and responsibilities afforded by the civil "marriage" contract.

In the second instance, the denial to gays and lesbians of the rights and obligations of civil law for those entering committed relationships based on religious objections is a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment's requirement that each state shall provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. The easiest way to correct this injustice and protect everyone's rights is to simply substitute the phrase "civil union'' for the word marriage in the law.

Those wishing legal recognition and protection of the law regarding their committed relationship could have it by signing a document of civil union. Those wishing the blessing of the church, synagogue or other religious institution on their relationship would be free to do so.


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I have watched the DVD sent out by the Minnesota Catholic bishops in favor of a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

The premise of the DVD is that same-sex couples and their committed relationships are a grave threat to marriage. To be clear, these bishops hold that sacramental Catholic marriage is in essence different from what is considered marriage by society. Nevertheless, the bishops claim they have a concern for marriage in the overall society.

What are the real threats to marriage? The Sept. 29 story "Economy is hitting hearts and wallets," about the effects of our current economy on marriage, said that "being broke and unemployed is not conducive to matrimony, young Americans are finding. In 2009, the number of young adults (25-34) who have never tied the knot surpassed those who had married for the first time since data collection began more than a century ago."

In every serious study, poverty is the top reason for marital breakdowns. It is very hard to make the case that a small percentage of the population who bond with members of their own sex and seek to live in a committed relationship could have anything but a positive effect on the general population's appreciation of stable, faithful, life-giving unions.

The very thoughtful letters to the editor about this subject reflect the fact that Catholics have very diverse opinions about this issue. The bishops themselves are not united on how to approach this new reality of gays and lesbians claiming a right to have their own families publicly recognized with corresponding rights and responsibilities.

Since arriving in Minnesota as a bishop in 2001, Nienstedt has had the constitutional amendment as a priority. In 2006, he promoted postcards, which as archbishop he has upgraded to DVDs. I do not believe any of our other bishops would have been on such a crusade. "Minnesota nice," if not prudence, would have prevailed. Ask them privately.

Just recently the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, the main author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and friend of the pope, publicly stated that the church needs to look differently at committed same-sex relationships. His fellow Austrian bishops concurred. These are thinking, serious church leaders. They listen.

The constitutional amendment being promoted by the archbishop does not allow even for civil unions, and it would limit current rights enjoyed by our gay and lesbian citizens. We as Catholics can have our own beliefs about marriage. But we must recognize that people of other faiths and of no faith have conscientious beliefs as well.

Most scandalous is that Archbishop Nienstedt has compromised his office with the use of anonymous money to fund this effort. The constitutional amendment is a very political issue. The impression is given that political funding is at work here.

PASTOR Michael Tegeder, Church of St. Edward, Bloomington