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Continuing its push to preserve traditional marriage, the Archdiocese of Boston has scheduled 22 “Catholic Defense of Marriage Information Meetings,” one in each of the vicariates of the archdiocese, set to begin on Jan. 26.(click here for list of meetings)
According to Kari Colella, coordinator of Marriage Ministries for the Archdiocese of Boston, “The hope is that these meetings will make the teachings of the Church, the importance of this issue and the information about what we can do regarding the protection of marriage more accessible to all Catholics.”
Colella went on to explain that the meetings will serve a threefold purpose: first, members of the clergy will explain the Church’s position on same-sex marriage. Second, lay Catholics — most of whom are lawyers — will lay out what has occurred on Beacon Hill since the Supreme Judicial Court’s controversial ruling in the Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health case. Finally, members of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, will provide information on how to contact individual legislators to urge them to vote in favor of the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment. A vote on the amendment is scheduled to be held Feb. 11.
These meetings are the result of Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley’s wish that every parish in the archdiocese be involved in defending traditional marriage. According to Colella, the archbishop wanted “all Catholics to be well-informed before the Feb. 11 vote.”
"Archbishop Seán has been instrumental in leading the way for Catholics to become involved in the protection of marriage. His leadership has been a great source of inspiration for those of us who have been working on these meetings," she asserted.
The meetings are open to all Catholics, but each parish is requested to send at least two representatives to their regional session, explained Colella. These representatives will, in turn, speak at all of the Masses in their home parishes the following weekend, thereby transmitting the information to each parish in the archdiocese.
Colella hopes that these meetings will “mobilize” Catholics to action. “Our ultimate hope is that these meetings inspire many Catholics to be actively involved in protecting marriage,” she stated.
"I think there's a great deal of confusion about the issue of same-sex marriage," said Harvard Law School Professor MaryAnn Glendon, who will be speaking at some of the parish meetings. Glendon believes the meetings will help answer the questions and doubts that many Catholics have regarding the teaching of the Church on same-sex marriage.
"Legislators have been deluged with calls in favor of same-sex marriage, but only a trickle of calls have come from people who are in favor of allowing their voices to be heard in the democratic process," she said.
"An issue as important as the redefinition of marriage ought to be publicized, deliberated and voted on," she continued. "This should be important even if someone is uncertain or unconcerned over same-sex marriage."
Glendon fears that if same-sex marriage is not challenged, and the “public legal definition” of marriage in the state of Massachusetts is forever changed, the implications will be far-reaching.
"If that is what the state is going to say is marriage, then anyone who stands for traditional marriage will be labeled an ignorant, a homophobe and a bigot," she postulated. "This will be what is taught to our children and grandchildren."
In order to combat what she fears will be an irreversible harm, Glendon has offered to speak at as many of these informational meetings as she can.
"This is so important. And I am willing to attend one, if not two, of these meetings every night," she said.
Like Colella, Glendon hopes that these meetings will move Catholics to act.
"The Church teaches us that we have a responsibility to get involved," explained Father Robert Oliver, special assistant to the Moderator of the Curia, who is also helping coordinate these meetings.
"As an archdiocese, civil action is rooted in Catholic doctrine. We aren't doing this just because we want to, we are defending marriage because as Church that is what we are called to do," he stressed.
Father Oliver underscored the importance of these meetings. “This is quite an initiative,” he said, “but it is a cause that is absolutely worth fighting for.”
As of press time, the clergy scheduled to speak at the informational meetings were:
Msgr. Cornelius McRae
Father Robert Congdon
Father Michael Harrington
Father Brian Mahoney
Father Mark O'Connell
Father Robert Oliver
Father Edward Riley
Father John Farren, OP, Rector of St. John's Seminary
Father Romanus Cessario, OP
Father Paul McNellis, SJ
Father Ronald Tacelli, SJ
The following laypeople were also scheduled to make presentations at the meetings:
Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor, Harvard University
Dwight Duncan, Southern New England School of Law
Thomas C. Kohler, Boston College Law School
Frances X. Hogan, attorney
Mary Kate Connolly, attorney
Henry Luthin, attorney
Marianne Luthin, director of Pro-Life Ministries, Archdiocese of Boston
Bill Hobbib, Software Industry Executive
Kevin Ryan, Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University
Marilyn Ryan, editor of "Why I Am Still Catholic"
Gerald D'Avolio, Massachusetts Catholic Conference
Daniel Avila, Massachusetts Catholic Conference
Maria Parker, Massachusetts Catholic Conference