SEATTLE, Washington, April 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Several Catholic parishes in Seattle are refusing to participate in an effort to oppose same sex “marriage” legislation, despite the local bishop’s support for the campaign.
A bill legalizing homosexual “marriage” was passed by the Washington State legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Catholic Governor Christine Gregoire. Opponents are attempting to gather the 120,000 signatures necessary for a referendum, so that the state’s citizens will have a chance to vote on the legislation this November.
In a letter sent to parishes throughout the Archdiocese, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain authorized churches to gather signatures for the referendum, and reiterated his support for the measure. The archbishop has been an active opponent of gay “marriage” in Washington State, and testified against it before a State Senate Committee earlier this year.
At least three Catholic churches in the diocese are refusing to get on board, however, including St. James Cathedral, the seat of the archdiocese.
In an interview with King 5 News, St. James pastor Fr. Michael Ryan said that “nobody knows a community better than a pastor,” adding that St. James’ had “a lot of gay and lesbian people” and “many people who have great support and understanding for them.”
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An email attributed to Fr. Ryan was also published on the blog of a Seattle newspaper by gay blogger Dominic Holden. According to Holden, the email was sent to St. James parishioners to explain why the parish would not be participating in the signature drive.
“After discussing the matter with the members of the Cathedral’s pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish. Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community,” reads the email.
Fr. Ryan notes in the email that the archbishop had left participation in the effort up to the discretion of individual pastors, and calls some media reports “misleading” in this regard.
Holden also published the full text of a letter addressed to parishioners at St. Mary’s in Seattle from Tricia Wittmann-Todd, the Church’s “pastoral life coordinator.”
Wittman-Todd says that she has decided against involving the parish in the signature drive “after much prayer and reflection.” She cites, as one of the “primary considerations” behind her decision, the fact that “inclusion and welcome” are one of the parish’s “highest values.”
“I fear that the collection of signatures would be hurtful and divisive to our parish. I am particularly concerned about our youth who may be questioning their own sexual identity and need our support at this time in their lives,” she writes.
She also claims that the need for Catholics to form their own consciences is another reason for not participating, adding: “Many of our parishioners have not had sufficient opportunity to form their consciences and those who have represent a wide variety of beliefs.”
A third parish, St. Joseph’s in Seattle, announced in a statement on the parish website that the pastor, Jesuit priest Fr. John Whitney, “has decided that no petitioning will be permitted anywhere on the campus of St. Joseph.”
Holden also claims to have been told that St. Catherine, St. Patrick, St. Therese, and Christ Our Hope are not participating.
LifeSiteNews was not able to reach Greg Magnoni, the spokesperson for the Seattle Archdiocese, but Magnoni told ABC News that the “vast majority” of the diocese’s 170 parishes are participating in collecting signatures.
“I am confident that we will collect enough valid signatures to place it on the ballot,” he said.