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With only one week left before the much-anticipated constitutional convention, those leading the fight in defense of traditional marriage say their efforts have begun to pay off.
"There is definitely a growing concern for this issue among many Catholics throughout the state," commented Gerald D'Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts.
According to D’Avolio the MCC has “heard from numerous legislators who tell us they’ve had an outpouring of letters and phone calls from concerned Catholics wishing to make their voices heard.”
D’Avolio credits much of this public concern to the many-faceted approach the MCC has taken over the past month, beginning with a 1 million-piece mailing sent to nearly all Catholic households in Massachusetts.
The four-page mailing, titled “Marriage in Massachusetts: Crisis and Challenge,” was intended to educate and encourage Catholics to defend traditional marriage.
"This historic endeavor reflects the seriousness with which we take the need for legislators to give initial approval to the marriage amendment on Feb. 11," said Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman at a Jan.16 press conference to unveil the publication.
"The people should have the right to vote on restoring the definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman," he continued.
The mailer’s release was followed by a series of rallies, coordinated by Mass Voices for Traditional Marriage, a grassroots organization in support of marriage headed by Laurie Letourneau. Over 2,000 people attended the Jan. 25 rallies, held simultaneously in Springfield, Fall River and Worcester.
The rallies are “having an impact,” Letourneau said following the Worcester rally. “I’m getting a lot better response from legislators; so they are listening” to what marriage supporters are doing.
Just one day after the rallies, the MCC, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Boston, launched a series of Catholic Defense of Marriage Information Meetings in each of the 22 vicariates of the archdiocese. At each of these meetings, one priest and two lay people explained various aspects of the Goodridge decision and suggested specific ways to become involved in defending marriage.
Each parish was asked to send at least two representatives to the session in their region. These representatives, in turn, were to speak at all of the Masses in their home parishes the following weekend.
"The numbers of people at these meetings has been very encouraging," commented Kari Colella, coordinator of Marriage Ministries for the Archdiocese of Boston. "Many of the people attending are very well-educated and also very eager to get involved and help in whatever way they can."
One such representative was Brian Carney, a parishioner from St. Joseph in Kingston. Carney said he attended the meeting at Holy Family Church in Duxbury “more out of curiosity than anything else.”
"This meeting made me realize that people really do need to get involved even if they think there are already other people who are involved," he told The Pilot. "This issue is not only important from a Catholic perspective, it's important even from a democracy standpoint. The Supreme Judicial Court has taken democracy away from us."
Realizing he was the only person from his parish to attend the meeting, Carney volunteered to transmit the information to his parish the following weekend. According to Carney, the message was received with thunderous applause.
"I think everyone was aware of the problem, but few people knew what they could do about it," he said, adding that the information given at the meeting was "invaluable."
"This is the first time I have ever seen this kind of effort on one issue," stated former ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn, president of Your Catholic Voice, a Catholic political advocacy group. "Archbishop Se·n O'Malley and all the Massachusetts Catholic bishops are providing us with extraordinary leadership. Now we need to give political support to the Church and its leaders."
Flynn, together with Your Catholic Voice, is coordinating a rally at the Statehouse on Feb. 8 as a way of “demonstrating to the Legislature that we are in support of our Catholic faith, of our Catholic teachings and of traditional marriage.” Speakers scheduled to attend include former Massachusetts attorney general Robert Quinn and Archbishop O’Malley.
"We are looking forward to a well-attended rally," D'Avolio said. "We have also been pleased with the participation of the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic organizations who are helping us to get people to the rally."
"This is a long overdue, necessary, needed rally,” stressed Flynn.
Recalling words spoken to him when he was U. S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Flynn said, “Pope John Paul II often said, ‘A good Catholic is an informed Catholic.’”
"This has become true here in Massachusetts," he mused.