Associated Press, Published December 15 2012
Some Minnesota Catholics lament divisionsST. PAUL – Minnesota’s Catholic bishops worked hard to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage – and lost. Now, some Catholics say the church needs to acknowledge the effort left divisions that haven’t healed.
They include Kathleen Nuccio of Cohasset, a cantor and choir member at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Rapids. She hosted fundraisers and ran phone banks to encourage Catholics to defeat the amendment but laments that she couldn’t make her voice heard within the church.
“There was no dialogue,” she said. “The only way people had to express themselves ... (was) by withdrawing donations, walking out of sermons – which happened – and leaving the church altogether. Many people still have not returned,” she told Minnesota Public Radio.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was the biggest Catholic contributor to the pro-amendment campaign, giving $650,000.
After the amendment failed, the Archdiocese issued a statement expressing disappointment, and Archbishop John Nienstedt published an opinion piece seeking common ground among Catholics.
Archdiocese spokesperson Jim Accurso disputed anecdotal reports that Catholics are staying away from Mass or giving less because of the fight.
“We’ve not noticed any decline in our Mass attendance or in our parish collections in the last two years,” he said. “In fact, our Catholic Services Appeal, which is our annual appeal, that’s tracking very closely to last year’s pace.”
But Nuccio’s priest, the Rev. Jerry Weiss, acknowledged the amendment was “somewhat divisive” in his parish, and said he’s still sensing repercussions.
“There’s just no doubt about it,” Weiss said. “Some people simply walked away from the church, and could not understand how we could possibly take a stand like we did, but other people would have been disappointed if had we not.”
Weiss said offerings are down, but it’s hard to know how much of that is because of the amendment. He estimates about 20 of the 1,000 families in his parish left over the church’s stand.
Nienstedt is launching a new initiative to re-engage Twin Cities Catholics. Those who attend Christmas Mass will receive the book “Rediscovering Catholicism.” And the church will soon launch a website, smartphone apps, a speakers series and parish book clubs. Accurso said it is part of a 2010 strategic plan unrelated to the amendment.
The Rev. Mike Tegeder, a Minneapolis priest, was among the few clergy who spoke out against the amendment.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that this has been very painful. I mean, the archbishop is engaged now in this Rediscovering Catholicism. Well, I think that’s putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “I think first we need to go back and say: ‘Hey, some people got hurt. We had a lot of casualties.’ Maybe they were unintended but there were casualties in this process.”
The priest published a letter in the Star Tribune after the election suggesting Nienstedt “prayerfully consider stepping down.” He received no response and Accurso declined to comment on the letter.
Tegeder said he’d like to see a public event where people could talk with the archbishop about how they’ve been affected.
“I think it would show that he has a heart, and I think a lot of people are wondering about that right now,” he said. “The silence speaks louder than anything and right now we have a lot of silence.”
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