St. Mary’s defies Catholic Diocese’s call for anti-gay marriage petition gathering

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,


15 thoughts on “St. Mary’s defies Catholic Diocese’s call for anti-gay marriage petition gathering

  1. It is disheartening that this push back against the church’s ancient dogma is not a solid statement of support for same sex couples, but instead a move to protect the parish from local fall out by taking no position whatsoever.

    It is even more disheartening that in this day and age people still believe God exists and actually speaks to them.

    Apparently, we are still living in the dark ages where the Catholic church, now with its evangelical and backwoods partners, are actively working to oppress a whole segment of our supposedly free and equal population.

    At least this time it will be oppression by a democratic majority, which compared the church’s collaboration with the Nazis, is kind of an improvement except for the acting like Nazis part.

  2. Previous commenter: It seems in refusing Sartain’s edict, in focusing on welcoming everyone, in focusing on protecting rather than harming or ostracizing those young people still sorting out their sexuality, and in asking each person to reflect deeply and follow their own conscience rather than toe the party line, St. Mary’s leadership is acting exactly opposite of nazi-ish. As you have no respect for their right to hold beliefs (in God) which you consider archaic and ridiculous, it’s surprising that in the same stroke you would complain about what appears to me to be a great effort to respect and honor and welcome you and your beliefs. How sad for you. Bravo to St. Mary’s for standing up, encouraging inclusivity and sensitivity, and ultimately – individual thought and conscience.

  3. I dunno, Del. While I agree with you that St. Mary’s should be commended for doing what I also think is the right thing, I’d have to agree with abetterchristianthanchrist (?)–their reasons for doing so are not exactly a ringing endorsement of marriage equality. They seem more worried about losing parishioners (as well they should be) than being especially sympathetic to marriage equality supporters. But OTOH, we don’t really know how much heat they’ll get from the Archdiocese for taking even this position, or even how much internal dissent there was for this stance. We don’t know the context, so this could be a pretty big accomplishment. At least their position is respectful, even it it doesn’t seem enthusiastic.

  4. I didn’t say either church was losing parishioners. I said their statement declining to allow petitions seemed more based on concern that some of their parishioners would be alienated and leave, as opposed to doing it because they found it morally the right thing to do. At least that’s the impression the statement left me with. It also doesn’t mean I suggested either church was hurting for parishioners or students.

    As for “go visit some time”, thanks very much for the invitation, but I was raised Catholic. That’s not something I’d willingly engage in again.

  5. I loved what was said and how eloquently it was said. All of us should take the time to read and reflect deeply whether through prayer if that is for you or meditation or whatever ways you form decisions.

  6. I’m a born again agnostic and care little about the faiths of others, but at least St. Marys gives something back to the community. Most of the local CD churches are only interested in shearing their flock, while taking up space that could be put to better use by small businesses.

  7. I was at Mass at St. Ben’s on Sunday and nothing was said of signing anything.. GOOD!!

  8. The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of Christ Himself; if you reject them; you reject Him. Ignorance is no excuse; the teachings of the Church are in the Catechism. You need to have a Catholic Conscience to be a Catholic…


    “…Respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. “ ~ CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS

  9. So where is Martin Luther, King Henry the 8th and the rest when you need them. Satan is alive and well in Rome.

  10. Yes, exactly. I reject him, his lies, and the death and suffering he has brought to this world for 2000 years.

  11. Upon reflection on your comment it seems I do not respect a belief in a god. I cannot pretend otherwise.

    However, I do respect everyone’s right to believe and do as they wish so long as it does not hurt others.

    Opposing same sex marriage hurts others. It is majority oppression of a minority. I have a right others do not. That is wrong.

    Those who support Referendum 74 are just like Nazis. While St. Mary’s is busy reflecting and urging people to rely on faith, and prayer, good people are suffering. Standing by while others suffer is what is sad, and its called collaboration. My conscious cannot abide meditation on this matter, because the choice, for a free and equal society, seems clear.

  12. I’m not exactly a religious person, but I actually think you’ve got that a bit wrong. It’s the people who’ve over the last 2000 years taken an archaic book of fables written to be good advice for surviving in a long gone age and society and twisted the words they read there to suit their own purposes that have brought about all the death and suffering.

    It really amazes me that people can forthrightly say that the bible is the actual word of god and believe it, when it is very much common knowledge that it has not only been translated multiple times over multiple languages (read *lots* of ambiguity, *lots* of words whose meanings have morphed over the millenia and *lots* of mistranslations over time…. it’s like playing telephone), and then entirely re-written by King James (the version most people use today) to suit his own particular goals and beliefs…. To think that the original intentions of the story tellers are still all there is pretty ridiculous.

  13. Pingback: Seattle's Cathedral and 3 More Parishes Refuse Marriage Petitions | From Emmaus to Rome