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Seattle parishes refuse to collect signatures for marriage referendum

Catholic World News - April 13, 2012

An increasing number of Seattle parishes--including St. James Cathedral--are refusing to heed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain’s request to collect signatures for a referendum on the State of Washington’s recent redefinition of marriage. In February, Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, signed into law a bill that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington.

“Because we believe that this issue is critically important, we support Referendum 74 and have approved the gathering of signatures in our parishes over the next few months,” Archbishop Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo said in a recent letter. “Your pastors have received from us information regarding the signature drive, and we requested that they not collect signatures on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday. After Easter, signatures may be gathered on Referendum 74.”

“After much prayer and reflection, I have decided we will not collect signatures at the parish,” said Tricia Wittman-Todd, pastoral life coordinator of St. Mary’s Parish in Seattle. “St. Mary’s mission is ‘House of God, Home for Everyone.’ One of our highest values is inclusion and welcome. I fear that the collection of signatures would be hurtful and divisive to our parish. I am particularly concerned about our youth who may be questioning their own sexual identity and need our support at this time in their lives.”

St. Joseph parish, whose pastor is Father John Whitney, SJ, posted the following notice on its web site:

You may have heard about a petition drive concerning Referendum 74, which will be gathering signatures at a number of parishes in Seattle. Please be aware that Fr. Whitney has decided that no petitioning will be permitted anywhere on the campus of St. Joseph.

“While the archbishop has given his support to the effort, he has wisely left it up to each pastor to decide whether to allow the collection of signatures in his own parish,” said Father Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral. “After discussing the matter with the members of the cathedral's pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish. Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community.”

Father Ryan, who has served on the board of directors of the National Catholic Reporter, has been a leading opponent of the new translation of the Roman Missal that was introduced in parishes in the United States last November.

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Show 11 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 14, 2012 12:58 PM ET USA

    I know Archbishop Sartain. He needs your prayers for strength. It was tough enough at Joliet and Little Rock had a separate set of issues. Seattle is a snakepit; and it is a rare bishop indeed who'll be able to deal with it.

  • Posted by: sarsok8679 - Apr. 13, 2012 8:50 PM ET USA

    Headline: New crop of seminarians favor Catholic traditions.. and the Seattle diocese is not one of them..

  • Posted by: Skip - Apr. 13, 2012 5:08 PM ET USA

    Stunning, but not surprising. Operative word is "scandal." If the Cathedral is not on board, then who gives a damn? We don't need any more holy bishops, they are abundant. What today's Catholic Church in American needs is bishops with COURAGE! They are few and far between.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 13, 2012 4:21 PM ET USA

    Always irony... while you report the WSJ article on conservative seminarians, now the flip side is that Seattle is a scandal. Perhaps they enjoy Starbucks too much?

  • Posted by: Leferink557202 - Apr. 13, 2012 1:17 PM ET USA

    Having used to live in the Seattle Archdiocese, unfortunately this does not surprise me much, especially from the Cathedral and its pastor. Fr. Ryan has been a divisive, heterodox force in the Archdiocese for quite some time, and, especially after his outspoken opposition to the new translation of the Missal and refusal to promote core Catholic social issues (like pro-life and pro-marraige causes), he needs to be suspended. May God have mercy on him and us.

  • Posted by: mjarman7759049 - Apr. 13, 2012 12:26 PM ET USA

    "Non serviam." Does Lucifer collect royalties every time his line is used?

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Apr. 13, 2012 11:34 AM ET USA

    For years, we've been told that we mustn't risk schism within the Church by preaching Catholic doctrines that people didn't want to hear, and by insisting on adherence to the truth. We took that advice, mostly. But by doing so we only delayed schism and made its eventual outbreak more severe and damaging, as we see here. Archbishop Sartain needs to make the petition-signing permission mandatory, reassign any priests who refuse his orders, and sack most of their lay staff.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Apr. 13, 2012 9:14 AM ET USA

    Will Archbishop Sartain cave like Cardinal Wuerl or Cardinal Schonborn to the lavendar mafia both inside and outside his clerical ranks? I hope not.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Apr. 13, 2012 9:09 AM ET USA

    The Archbishop undermines the whole effort and his authority by leaving it up to local parishes to decide.Upholding the teaching on marriage via natural law and Catholic doctrine divisive in the community??? What kind of community is it at St. James Cathedral??

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 13, 2012 8:19 AM ET USA

    More evidence of reaping what was sown. If there was ever a time for fervent prayer, this is it. Class hatred is morphing into race hatred, which will soon manifest in Catholic hatred. As the bishops begin to align their policies with Catholic moral doctrine, we should expect large numbers of parishes to break away into splinter groups or to join the notorious dissenting parishes that found their own way in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Posted by: Saint Jimbob of the Apokalypse - Apr. 13, 2012 8:03 AM ET USA

    The work of a shepherd, undone by "pastoral ministry team"? Dang. If it isn't a soft bishop undercutting an orthodox pastor, it's dissident "ministry" folks undercutting a bishop. Good thing Divine Mercy Sunday is coming.

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