Passing the Collection Plate Against Gay Marriage

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on November 30, 2009

Just more ammunition for the movement to tax churches that engage in political activities: Bishop Richard J. Malone of Maine contributed $553,608.27 to overturn a gay marriage law in his state, money he got from some 50 dioceses and archdioceses, not to mention individual bishops, throughout the country. That law went down on November 3, 53 to 47%.

According to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, Malone’s diocese donated $286,000 to Stand For Marriage Maine, the right-wing group that led the campaign to repeal gay marriage. He also raised an additional $86,000 from special collections at Masses during a weekend in September. Just how legal is passing the donation plate for a political cause at a religious service?

The rest of the half million dollars came from outside the state, every penny of which Malone personally solicited. The highest diocesan and archdiocesan donors include the following: Philadelphia and Phoenix to the tune of $50,000 each; Newark, New Jersey, St. Louis, Missouri and Youngstown, Ohio, $10,000 apiece; and Arlington, Virginia, Rockford, Illinois, Crookston, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, Pennslvania $5,000 each.

Individual bishops also contributed to the effort: In the $1,000 category were Richard Lennon of Cleveland and William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut. At the $500 level: Herbert Brevard of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jose Gomez of San Antonio, Texas and John LeVoir of New Ulm, Minnesota each gave $250.

The Knights of Columbus threw in $50,000.

The full list of donations from the “Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland” can be seen at http://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/public/entity_financial_transactions.asp?TYPE=BQC&ID=4528.

Donna Farrell, communications director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told the Catholic newspaper that her outfit “responds to various requests for donations which come from outside the diocese, in order to advance the mission of the church by promoting and defending the teaching of Christ.”

Explained Farrell, “Examples of contributions which have been made by the archdiocese for other purposes include those to feed the hungry and provide for the needy in mission countries, to assist victims of natural disasters; to support Catholic military chaplains and pastoral care for our men and women in uniform and to defend the dignity and sanctity of life from conception to natural death.”

The latter is accomplished by opposing abortion, not war or capital punishment.

The ironic thing is that even as Malone was raising all that dough, his diocese was hurting financially because of all of the money it’s had to shell out in priest sex scandal cases. You’d think that a diocese that is closing churches would be the last to raise half a million for anything other than keeping its own doors open.

Not to mention the fact that, considering its behavior in covering up those scandals, it should simply keep its trap shut when it comes to judging other people’s morality.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

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