South Boston Catholics take action for marriage

Catholics in South Boston have taken the call to defend marriage to heart, starting a grassroots organization focused on curbing the establishment of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The group, which calls itself South Boston Catholic Citizens (SBCC), aims to educate South Boston residents on the marriage issue and to rally support for traditional marriage.

Peter Murphy, a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in South Boston, began the group with his pastor, Father Richard E. Cannon, the day after the Nov. 18 Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Group members hail from every Catholic parish in South Boston, said Murphy, SBCC president.

The organization was formed around a number of goals including working together with the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC) on political issues, contacting and thanking politicians who abide by the Church’s principles and lobbying lawmakers who do not act in accordance with the Church’s teachings. The SBCC also aspires to keep Catholic voters up-to-date on the moral views of candidates and politicians.

Since the SJC decision, the group has been meeting weekly at St. Vincent de Paul Parish to discuss ways to mobilize Catholics to contact their legislators. Murphy described a Jan. 29 meeting held with state Sen. Jack Hart, D-Boston, as one of their “most emotional” meetings.

The meeting was organized to present the group’s “anxieties and concerns” about the passage of same-sex marriage and to explain to the senator why the SJC’s ruling should not stand, Murphy said. He said that Hart listened and explained to the approximately 75 people in attendance that he was against same-sex marriage, but was “on the fence” regarding domestic partnerships. According to Murphy, Hart said he would vote against a constitutional amendment if it included language barring civil unions.

The meeting became heated at times, said SBCC member Mary Fagan, as people grew frustrated with Hart’s reluctance to outright ban same-sex unions. She said that Hart’s reelection is at stake with group members and Catholics in general if he does not vote in favor of traditional marriage.

"He's going to be held responsible," Fagan said. "These people are not going to forget this issue. We are not going to have a short memory."

Those in attendance at the meeting made it clear that they take this issue very seriously and they will not waver, Fagan stated. In her opinion, Hart did not realize the extent of the opposition in his district against same-sex marriage.

"It was a very interesting, stimulating meeting," Fagan stated. "I think he left in a huff after he understood everybody's clear convictions and the very good information people had."

According to Fagan, he told attendees that he has been receiving far more calls in favor of same-sex marriage than against it. However, Fagan said SBCC has spent the last two weeks collecting signatures of South Boston residents who oppose same-sex marriage. Fagan said they presented a list of over 1,800 names to Hart at the meeting and plan to hand-deliver the signatures to Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, D-Boston, Speaker of the House Thomas M. Finneran, D-Boston, and South Boston legislators.

Members of the SBCC are angered that so many politicians are balking from taking a clear stance on this issue, Fagan explained.

"It is just astounding to think that political people would place political ambitions above any other thing, especially such a basic core value of humanity," Fagan said. Politicians "are stepping aside from their duty, and we see that very clearly."

Members of SBCC said they will continue to rally South Boston Catholics to become more active in this and other political issue that affect the principles of the Catholic faith.

"I think people have been lulled into not realizing that they have to think like a politician," they have to write and make calls to lawmakers, she said. "We have to get our neighbors to realize this from a political angle and we have to fight this."