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Catholic World News News Feature

Archbishop urges calm as gay marriages begin May 14, 2004

Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, in a statement released yesterday, appeared to anticipate violence by those opposed to the onset on Monday of gay marriages in Massachusetts.

The archbishop called on Catholics to avoid "anger against or vilification of people, especially our homosexual brothers and sisters." He said that the reality of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts filled him with "deep sadness," but that the Church remains committed to the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"The creation of a right to same-sex marriage in the end will not strengthen the institution of marriage within our society but only weaken it as marriage becomes only one lifestyle choice among many others," he added.

Still, the archbishop warned, while Catholics are not required to endorse every opinion or behavior, "charity must mark us as a people of God and inform our actions."

The prelate's comments came the day an open letter also calling for restraint from violence was released by a group of about 100 Catholics, including members of the Boston Priests Forum and some who had opposed the Church's stance on gay marriage. Some pro-marriage activists said on Thursday they resented the implication that they are prone to violence, and compared it to the implicit assumption that pro-life activists-- most of whom are peaceful and prayerful demonstrators-- are also implicitly susceptible to hateful action. One Boston Catholic supporter of traditional marriage said he took offense at being "smeared by my own side."

Those who oppose the Church's teachings on marriage welcomed the archbishop's statement. "I think it's terrific that Archbishop O'Malley added his voice to ... calls for calm," said Marianne Duddy, spokesman for the pro-homosexual group Dignity Boston. Some, however, criticized his continuing support for the truth as handed on by the Church. Rabbi Devon Lerner, co-director of Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, told the Boston Herald , "We're sad and disappointed that the Catholic hierarchy and O'Malley are continuing their attempts to impose their particular religious definition of marriage on others. Their truth is not the truth of many clergy in other faith traditions."

While Massachusetts cities and towns brace for violence protests, spurred on by the warnings of pro-gay marriage activists, leaders of groups opposing gay marriage said that any protests would continue to be peaceful, just as they have been all along in the Massachusetts debate over the issue.

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