Former Maine bishop says voting for gay marriage ‘unfaithful to Catholic doctrine’

Bishop Richard Malone and Suzanne Lafreniere of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland talk about the Bishop's pastoral letter concerning the nature of marriage at a press conference in Portland Friday, March 2, 2012.
Bishop Richard Malone and Suzanne Lafreniere of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland talk about the Bishop's pastoral letter concerning the nature of marriage at a press conference in Portland Friday, March 2, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 25, 2012, at 12:57 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2012, at 6:54 p.m.

The former Roman Catholic bishop of Maine said Thursday that any Catholic who votes in favor of a referendum to allow same-sex marriage “is unfaithful to Catholic doctrine.”

Bishop Richard J. Malone, now head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., issued the strongest public statement he has made this year about how Catholics should vote on Question 1 through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Even though he no longer is the bishop for Maine Catholics, Malone continues to act as the apostolic administrator for the diocese.

“A Catholic whose conscience has been properly formed by scripture and church teaching cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the church,” Malone said in the statement.

He urged Maine Catholics to “vote your faith on Nov. 6.”

Question 1 asks Maine voters if marriage licenses should be issued to same-sex couples.

Malone also said that the group Catholics for Marriage Equality did not speak for the church.

“Any Catholic who supports a redefinition of marriage — or so-called ‘same-sex marriage’ — is unfaithful to Catholic doctrine,” the bishop said. “The group calling itself ‘Catholics for Marriage Equality’ does not speak for the Catholic Church, any more than does ‘Catholics for a Free Choice’, another dissident group that promotes so-called ‘abortion rights.’ Faithful Catholics will give no credence to either.”

A spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality said he was not surprised by the bishop’s statement since Malone previously criticized the group in a diocesan magazine.

“Emotionally, I have to say I’m disappointed and embarrassed a little bit that he would put out a statement like this,” Frank O’Hara of Catholics for Marriage Equality said Thursday in a telephone interview. “In some respect, I think the bishop is overstepping the bounds of church teaching by telling Catholics how we should vote on an issue.”

O’Hara, 62, of Hallowell said he and other Catholics who support same-sex marriage will be voting their consciences on Election Day.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that ‘man must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience,’” O’Hara said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon by Catholics for Marriage Equality. “Bishops cannot ask Catholics to vote against their consciences. No council has ever given them the authority to dictate obedience in matters of politics and civil government.”

O’Hara agreed with Malone that Catholics for Marriage Equality does not speak for the Catholic church or every Catholic in Maine.

“We do, however, speak for an important group of Catholics, all of whom are part of the universal church,” he said. “In this perspective, the bishop does not speak for all Catholics either, at least insofar as politics and government are concerned.”

Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, is a Roman Catholic.

“The polls show a majority of Catholics support the freedom to marry and still consider themselves to be faithful Catholics,” he said. “I was brought up, like most Catholics, to vote my conscience with my faith informing it.”

Protect Marriage Maine, the campaign opposing Question 1, praised Malone’s statement.

“We commend Bishop Malone for his clear, uncompromising call for all Maine Catholics to reject same-sex marriage on Nov. 6,” Carroll Conley, co-chairman of the campaign said. “His remarks leave no doubt that any Catholic who supports the redefinition of marriage is unfaithful to church doctrine. This communication reflects the courage and character that has made Bishop Malone a stalwart, cultural warrior in the state for so many years.”

Diocese spokesman Dave Guthro clarified the implications of the bishop’s statement after an early report was posted at bangordailynews.com.

“The Diocese was surprised to learn of the interpretation that some readers held in response to the statement from Bishop Malone,” Guthro said. “It is important to realize that since the time of the apostles, a bishop holds the responsibility of teaching authoritatively to his diocese about the Catholic Faith.

“Conversely, groups such as Catholics for Marriage Equality and Catholics for Free Choice are expressing opinions, which is their right, but these groups do not speak on behalf of the church and are, in fact, purposely choosing to oppose the true teachings of the church,” he continued.
“However, even if individuals express opinions that are contrary to these true teachings, the church always holds her arms open in reconciliation.”

Malone issued his statement the same day Protect Marriage Maine sent out a press release announcing that the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, had donated $100,000 to the campaign.

“We appreciate this generous donation from the international offices of the Knights of Columbus, and we hope local Knights of Columbus and other Catholics will join us in defending traditional marriage, the Rev. Bob Emrich, chairman of Protect Marriage Maine said in the release. “I believe this gift will encourage many other Mainers to financially support our efforts to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Malone issued a statement late Thursday afternoon saying he did not request a donation from the international Knights of Columbus on behalf of Protect Marriage Maine.

“As I have stated, the Diocese is not contributing funds to the political effort attempting to stop the redefinition of marriage,” the bishop said. “I encourage members of the Catholic community to donate and am grateful for the Knights’ donation, but the diocese will continue its educational communication effort of explaining how marriage is the union of one man and one woman, the foundation of the family and the best place for children to be loved, cared for, educated and taught to be productive, creative, upright and responsible citizens.”

Mainers United for Marriage announced Thursday that a Machias couple who was featured in a campaign ad that ran during the Olympics will be in a second ad. Harlan and Dorothy Gardner, who have been married for 59 years, have a granddaughter who would like to legally marry her female partner, according to a press release.

“While our opponents continue to try to scare and mislead voters with their ads, we believe the best thing we can do is let real Mainers tell their stories about why marriage matters to them,” McTighe said in the press release. “As Harlan says in the first ad, this isn’t about politics, it’s about family, and how we, as people, treat one another.”

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story requires correction. Richard J. Malone is bishop of Buffalo, N.Y., not Albany.

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