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Maine diocese will oppose 'gay marriage' ballot question
By Kevin J. Jones
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine.
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine.

.- While some media outlets have presented Bishop Richard Malone of Portland’s new pastoral letter on marriage as a sign the Catholic Church in Maine will not oppose a ballot measure to recognize “gay marriage” in the state, the diocese maintains that is not the case.

“There will be a ballot question committee, it will be established. We will work closely with that ballot question committee to promote the cause of defending marriage in November,” Brian Souchet, director of the Diocese of Portland’s Office for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, told CNA March 7.

“We still have a bully pulpit and the media’s still coming to us and we’re preaching the same message that we preached in 2009,” he added.

The 2009 ballot measure Question 1 passed by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. It overturned the Maine legislature’s law that legally recognized “same-sex marriages” in the state. Advocates of the unions have now secured enough signatures for a 2012 ballot referendum to recognize these unions.

On March 2, Bishop Malone released his new 22-page pastoral letter “Marriage:  Yesterday – Today – Always.”

But that effort is distinct from political questions, Souchet explained.

“The pastoral letter is catechesis, pure and simple. People don’t understand properly the significance of marriage in God’s design. We want to make sure they do.”

“Our diocese, like any other diocese, teaches. We teach all the time. The fact that there happens to be a referendum is a separate issue.”

The letter grew out of the bishop’s 2006 launch of an initiative to revamp pre-Cana wedding preparation programs. In 2008, he released new program guidelines under the title “Telling Anew the Story of Marriage.”

The need for the pastoral letter became especially evident after the 2009 referendum said Souchet, who dismissed attempts to portray the letter as “a political document wrapped up in catechesis.”

If there were no marriage referendum in 2012, the diocese would have released the same document “without the same scrutiny.”

He also rejected as “wishful thinking” the depiction of the letter as a step back from a referendum fight and criticized bloggers who implied that the diocese had “raised the white flag.”

There have been some changes in the diocese’s approach to the measure.

Bishop Malone has said that the diocese will not hold a second collection for the political ballot committee like it did in 2009. He also will not solicit funds from other Catholic bishops for the effort.

“For one reason, the money just really is not there,” Souchet said.

He invited Catholics and the general public to read the bishop’s pastoral letter.

In that letter, Bishop Malone said he intends to reflect upon the “greatness and the beauty of marriage” as an “original gift” of God’s creation, as a vocation, and as “the foundational institution of family and society.”

The letter is presented at the website www.beautyofmarriage.org.

Tags: Gay Marriage


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