The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, although staunchly opposed to gay marriage, is declining to support an effort to gather signatures at Masses for a referendum that would bar out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts.
The controversy apparently began last weekend, when Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, at the annual Walk for Life event, signed a petition supporting the referendum. Then the organization supporting the referendum, MassResistance, wrote to parishes, citing O'Malley's support and asking priests to gather signatures. That prompted the following e-mail from the archdiocese to pastors:
"It is has come to our attention that you may be receiving a letter from the organization MassResistance, signed by Mr. Brian Camenker, concerning Cardinal Seán having signed a petition pertaining to Massachusetts' '1913 Law', which deals with out of state couples seeking to marry in the Commonwealth. The letter also solicits your help in gathering petition signatures at masses this coming weekend. Please know that the Archdiocese was not contacted about this letter prior to its having been mailed. Additionally the letter presumes to speak of Cardinal Seán's personal disposition and activities he would undertake as a private citizen. Neither the Archdiocese nor the Cardinal were consulted about these matters at any time. Further, the Archdiocese would not ask pastors or any other persons to gather petition signatures at masses. The Archdiocese's position concerning political matters is that materials shall not be distributed unless authorized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), or the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), or the Ordinary of the diocese. Regarding the Archdiocese of Boston, none of these has authorized the MassResistance mailing."
The proposed referendum to reinstate the so-called 1913 law, which had been interpreted as barring most out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying here, has been controversial even among opponents of same-sex marriage. The Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the leading opponents of same-sex marriage, has declined to support the referendum, saying:
"Massachusetts Family Institute is not participating in the referendum effort to reinstate the so-called 1913 Law because there is no winning on this issue. By the time the measure reaches the ballot in 2010, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of out-of-state same-sex couples already will have married in Massachusetts. More importantly, even if the referendum effort were successful at the ballot in 2010, this Governor and legislature--bent on exporting the same-sex marriage experiment--could easily pass another repeal in 2011."
But the cardinal's decision to sign the petition and then bar parishes from collecting signatures is drawing criticism from some conservatives. Over at "The Lady in the Pew,'' blogger Kelly Clark has an e-mail alert from MassResistance saying the development is "truly unbelievable. It's as if the world is turning upside-down."
(Photo above, by David L. Ryan/Globe staff, shows Gov. Deval Patrick signing the repeal of the 1913 law on July 31.)