Published Date Written by Craig LyonsThe former bishop of Maine's Catholic Diocese urged members of the church to vote "no" on the marriage equality referendum on Nov. 6.
Bishop Richard Malone, who is now overseeing the diocese in Buffalo, N.Y., told Catholic voters, in a statement released Thursday, to vote "no" on Question One as marriage equality goes against the teachings of the church. Catholic proponents of marriage equality discounted the bishop's statement saying that the statement was driven more by politics than the churches teachings.
"As Catholics, we do not scrutinize a candidate's positions or other issues within a vacuum, but within the context of an educated conscience formed through scripture and the teachings of the faith," Malone said in a statement. "For us, the sanctity of life from conception to natural death is non-negotiable; euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are never to be sanctioned; embryonic stem cell research and experimentation are considered nothing short of the taking of human life; marriage between a man and a woman must be valued and protected as the foundation of family and society; religious freedom must always be protected, and the care and nurturing of the poor is not simply a kind act, but a societal obligation."
"... 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. The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth of children, is a matter of established Catholic doctrine," Malone said in a statement. "Any Catholic who supports a redefinition of marriage — or so called 'same-sex marriage' — is unfaithful to Catholic doctrine."
Malone said that groups like Catholics for Marriage Equality and Catholics for a Free Choice do not represent the teachings of the church and that "faithful Catholics will give no credence to either."
Anne Underwood, a founding member of Maine Catholics for Marriage, said she was not surprised by Malone's statement given his past support of the anti-marriage equality efforts in Maine. She said the statement is a political move.
Underwood said the church only has teachings on the sacrament of marriage and not on secular or civil marriages. She said anything that's interpreted to address civil marriages is "purely political opinion." The marriage equality referendum in no way says the Catholic Church has to alter the sacrament of marriage at all, she said, but clearly states that no church can be required to go against its own doctrines.
The choice of supporting or opposing marriage equality is one that's based on the each Catholic's reading of the scriptures and their own conscience, said Underwood.
Catholics should form their own opinions on matters like marriage equality based on their own consciences more than abstract teachings, said Underwood, and after often influence by the lives of their friends and families.
Underwood said all people in a committed relationship should have the same fundamental rights and be treated with the same respect as couples that call themselves "husband" and "wife."