Gays Protest Church Policy
Activists Say Catholic Bishops Do Not Have the Moral Authority to Question Same-Sex Marriage

Associated Press, carried in Cape Cod Times [Boston MA]
Downloaded June 2, 2003

BOSTON - Gay and lesbian activists walked out of Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross yesterday in protest of Massachusetts bishops reminding parishioners that the Catholic church opposes same-sex marriages.

The activists, who support same-sex marriage, say whether to allow gay and lesbian couples the legal benefits of marriage is a matter for the courts and the Legislature, not the church.

They have also said revelations about the Archdiocese of Boston shuttling sexually abusive priests from parish to parish have stripped the church of the moral authority to question gay marriage.

"The church has a mandate to work for social justice, and civil marriage that protects our families is very much a civil justice issue," said Jeffrey Morgan, 23, of Arlington. "The bishops are not interested in sending that message."

During the homily at Holy Cross, Monsignor William H. Roche asked parishioners to read the marriage statement in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and explained why the church opposes same-sex marriage.

In the statement, the four bishops of Massachusetts have called for action on same-sex marriage at a moment when the issue is pending in both the state's highest court and the Legislature.

The Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether the state Constitution allows same-sex marriage, while the Legislature is expected to consider a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman.

At the mention of the statement, about a dozen people, mostly men, stood up and faced the back of the church. Most of them then walked out of the church, with three men walking out at the end of the homily.

In his homily, Roche said that for the church "to affirm a change in the (marriage) law, is not a good thing," asking parishioners to talk to their lawmakers and support the traditional definition of marriage.

Roche said it is impossible for same-sex couples to fully experience marriage in the Catholic sense, but also said Catholics should not be hostile to homosexuals.

Two of the protesters who walked out, Carl Sciortino, 24, and his partner Mark Murphy, 25, both of Somerville, said same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and the church should not get involved. Both said they are practicing Catholics.

"I feel angry," Murphy said. "I have to turn my back to the altar. I shouldn't have to do that."

Roche later said he wasn't offended by the protest. But, while acknowledging any state law allowing gay marriage would be a civil matter, he said the church remains opposed, arguing that the only sanctified marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

"If any two adults could get married it would undo the basis of marriage," he said.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called the protest "a bigoted expression of contempt for the Catholic bishops and the Catholic faith."

Activists say marriage would give gay couples the right to claim any legal protection or benefit granted to married people, including the ability to demand job benefits given to married people.

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