St. Mary’s parish at 20th and Weller has joined several other Catholic churches in the city that have pushed back after the Seattle Archdiocese urged parishes to gather signatures for Referendum 74, which would repeal the state’s redefinition of marriage. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain has encouraged parishes to hold drives to gather signatures for the petition, but leaders at several churches say doing so would hurt and divide their communities.
Slog reports that Tricia Wittmann-Todd, the pastoral life coordinator at St. Mary, sent the following letter to members of the parish:
Dear People of St Mary’s,
I am writing to share with you my decision regarding collection of signatures at St Mary’s for Referendum 74, to repeal the redefinition of marriage. This is a very sensitive issue, impacting people at the very core of our lives. Archbishop Sartain has sent a letter to all Catholics. I have attached the letter. He has given permission to parishes to collect signatures for the Referendum and encouraged us to do so. He has also expressed that each parish leader must decide how best to proceed, given the pastoral considerations within the parish. After much prayer and reflection, I have decided we will not collect signatures at the parish. I am certain you will find ample opportunity elsewhere to sign whatever petitions you choose.
This decision is based on two primary considerations. 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.
The second consideration is that as Catholics, each of us is asked to form our conscience and decide how to vote on this and other issues, ie tax policies, services to the poor, environmental laws, capital punishment, etc. We form our conscience through studying the Word of God in the Bible, listening carefully to the teachings of the church from our Tradition and the discernment of the Spirit within our own experience. Many of our parishioners have not had sufficient opportunity to form their consciences and those who have represent a wide variety of beliefs. Some believe the church should marry all committed couples, others that the state should marry all but not the church, others that the term “marriage” should be preserved for a man and a woman, while other relationships are “domestic partnerships”, and there are those who believe only heterosexuals should have partners. Our Archbishop is trying to help us in the process of conscience formation by articulating the reasons he believes we should support Referendum 74. I ask you to prayerfully read his letter, hearing all that is being said. In addition, read the Bible, particularly those passages cited by the church on marriage. (you can find these documents at the USCCB website.) Finally, pray and reflect on your own experience of marriage and listen to what God is telling you. Sometimes I think when God is speaking to us, we respond-“call the Bishop, I don’t have time to listen. “ But as Archbishop Sartain writes “The church calls everyone to holiness.”
I hope to have a gathering soon where we can learn more about how to form one’s conscience in general and particularly on the question of marriage. In this, as in all things, I pray we will treat one another with love and respect, building up our community of faith.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions with me.
Blessings on this Easter Season,