Doth protest too much?

Is protesting outside a place of worship an acceptable way to express yourself?

I've been considering this question today after reading the news of a group in Chicago marched in front of Holy Name Cathedral over protesters the weekend to make Cardinal Francis George aware that they disapprove of his campaign against same-sex civil union legislation in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that about 60 people marched in front of the cathedral in between Masses, holding rainbow flags and signs of support for gay and lesbian Catholics. They were met by counter demonstrators with signs opposing same-sex marriage. In a statement, Cardinal George, the former president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, acknowledged the emotional intensity on both sides of the issue, but said that the demonstrations were inappropriate:

“No matter the issue, Catholics should be able to worship in peace, without fear of harassment,” he continued. “An open display of prejudice against the Catholic Church because of resentment of Church teachings prejudices civil discourse in our society.”


Would it would be reasonable for gay rights activists to claim the inverse, that the bishops' involvement in civil marriage debates is a display of prejudice by the church against a group of people in civil society? If so, is a protest in front of the Cardinal's church legitimate?

These types of protests aren't limited to progressive or liberal causes.

Each year in Washington, DC, the Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle attracts several Supreme Court justices and other government officials, who are greeted by loud and graphic anti-abortion protesters. In this case, the individuals are protesting to gain the attention of worshipers and not church leaders, but the situation is similar: protesters gather to offer their voice to a heated societal debate.

There are certain laws designed to prevent the disruption of religious services, but the types of protests described above don't seem to violate them. So assuming that they are legally protected expressions of speech, are they appropriate? If church leaders involve themselves in emotionally charged political and social issues, is this a valid response by ordinary people? Perhaps these protests are like meeting someone in person whom you have criticized behind the protective shield of a computer screen, now standing in front of you, a bit too close for comfort? There are no easy answers to these questions, but Cardinal George is correct: people are entitled to worship where they want, when they want, without fear of intimidation or harassment. But what is less clear is if church leaders can release powerful statements and lead massive campaigns for and against certain issues without expecting this sort of display.

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Crystal Watson
7 years 11 months ago

Yes, it's not nice, but churches are public places, not private places like homes.  I  read something once that described how really upsetting it is for women going to health clinics which have protestors in front of them - scary.  I guess the whole point of protesting is to make people feel uncomfortable enough to consider whatever issue is at stake. 
7 years 11 months ago

Michael is biased in his presentation of the issue: he presents the homosexual community political action as neutral while, on the other side, presents Catholics as engaged in aggression.

The redefinintion of marriage affects all of society and we all have a stake in such a drastic change; Catholics are as neutral in lobby against such changes as homosexuals are in lobbying for it. 

One only needs to look at the defunding of Catholic Charities in DC or the closing of Catholic adoption centers in Boston to understand the high stakes for those insititutions that oppose these political currents of imposed "tolerance."

Would the blog author think it OK for Catholics to rally outside of homosexual-affiliated churches or community meetings to oppose their political agenda?  To single them out in a similar manner?

Of course not.  What the difference is in this action in Chicago?

Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
Wow-you guys at AMERICA are really asking for it with this post!!

I don't see a whiff of the bias in Michael's piece to which Brett refers.  And, yes, protests is perfectly fine and quite American. If parshioners can't deal with people picketing then they need to toughen up a bit.

I was just re-reading Martin Luther King, jr. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail":"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
7 years 11 months ago
Please don't start with the bad civil rights anologies - it is insulting to the horrors of that period and the legacy of the leaders.  There are civil rights for gay people in all corners of society, as there should be - but changing the defintion of marriage (as one man and one woman) is not a civil right, it is a political agenda. 

We have gone over this a million times - racisim was an question of being or ontology and homosexuality is an issue of action or morality.  Apples and oranges. 
7 years 11 months ago
"There is a real difference between the sexual relationships of two men or two women and the sexual relationships based on the complementarity of man and woman who assure the future of … family," George said. "Quite apart from the morality of it, it's apples and oranges. It's not the same. Somehow the law should respect that difference."
Kang Dole
7 years 11 months ago
Can we start a  In All Things Drinking game?

Every time Maria Bird quotes that John Hardon dude, take a shot.

Every time Brett Joyce posts twice in a row, take two shots.

Every time Constantine is evoked, take a shot

Every time an argument is repeated, take a shot

Every 20th post, take a shot

Every 50th post, take two shots, etc., etc., etc....
7 years 11 months ago
It is is rexhausting.
7 years 11 months ago
I didn't post twice in a row - Vince was in there somewhere.

In any case, are you trying to say something about us Irish Catholics and drinking, Abe?  Pulling a Bloomberg on us ;)
Kang Dole
7 years 11 months ago
I'll drink, you type.
7 years 11 months ago
Welcome to the family, Abe ;)
7 years 11 months ago
Sorry, Abe. We don't mean to drive you to the drink...
Crystal Watson
7 years 11 months ago
Catholics protest in front of  lots of places, from military bases to abortion clinics  -  why should a church be exempt?
Liam Richardson
7 years 11 months ago
The Society of Friends has a clue: silent but present witness can be very effective. That would be presence, not harrassment. And it would be very civil.
Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
Brett's claim that "marriage is not a civil right" is just plain wrong: by legal tradition and court rulings marriage has long been a civil right (e.g., LOVING V. VIRGINIA [1967]).

MLK again:

"[W]e who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

Crystal's right: protests are supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.
7 years 11 months ago
Protest away, it's a free country.  This is an opportunity for the church to educate its parishes about why we believe what we believe. 

With thousands of years of marriage behind it; the dangers of homosexual "sex;" the emptiness of a homosexual lifestyle; the failure of no-fault divorce (another social change spawned by sexual promiscuity packaged as "freedom") and its de-valuing of marriage and resulting 40%+ out-of-wedlock divorce rate; there's plenty of social arguments that the church can make, in addition to its theological basis. 

Time to talk about the realities of HIV/AIDS (not just as the wrath of God, but as a sexual disease spread predominately between men penetrating one another); the indoctrination of innocent sexually confused children into this destructive lifestyle through school programs; the lack of evidence of a genetic cause of homosexuality; the destruction of Catholic charitable work in jurisdictions in which homosexual "marriage" has been legalized; the priest sexual abuse crisis in which 80% of the victims were male, etc....

Prop 8 in California was passed because the people were educated, byt the Mormons, about the realities of homosexual marriage and its impacts on children and society. 

Kang Dole
7 years 11 months ago
New rule: whenever anyone spouts some baseless nonsense about the homosexual lifestyle or "agenda," shotgun a beer.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 11 months ago

The Church has absolute authority on matters of faith and morals, and acts appropriately when it speaks up to defend marriage.

If you don't believe that, then query what else about your faith you don't believe or accept.

Therefore, in this particular case, it is not the Bishops (or the Church) who are inserting themselves in what you have decided to call "political and social issues" (these are matters of faith and morals). 

Rather, it is the government and politicians who have inserted themselves in matters of faith and morals.

Is this not clear to Catholics?

What am I missing? 

(And please don't talk about civil unions not being a sacrament like marriage and thus the Church should stay out of it.  Please.  That's even worse, using state force to attempt to legitimize immorality.)
7 years 11 months ago
Still another example of division and how blogdom brings out the worst in  people in conversing.
7 years 11 months ago
Robert, just because you don't agree with a particular argument or position (esp. the well presented posts by Mr. Lake or Mr. Brooks) does not mean that it is "hateful."

This is an important social issue and calling such discussions hateful or divisive is simply a way to stifle speach.  It is a tactic similar to the protesters in Chicago who want to restrict the speech/conscious of Catholics in the public sphere - ironically, in the name of "tolerance."

Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
It's all very clear to Pete but, when it comes to weighing in on societal institutions, the Church does not have a firm, unchanging position, e.g., slavery.

Governments should get out of the business of overseeing the institution of marriage. Instead, they should provide clear guidelines for cdertifying domestic partnerships. Let religions figure out what constitutes marriage. 
Marie Rehbein
7 years 11 months ago
It seems that it is likely to do one's cause a disservice if one behaves in an offensive way in order to assert the righteousness of one's cause.  What is protesting in front of Catholic Churches because of the Church's position relative to gay marriage meant to accomplish?  It's a form of revenge at best.  That's why it is offensive.

(Abe, you had me laughing out loud.) 
Rick Fueyo
7 years 11 months ago
Arguing that this is about "defending" the family or "redefining" marriage is simply semantics. Those are attempted neutral sounding justifications for this approving of homosexuals in trying to maintain a societal second class status. That may be understandable on a human level; change has come quick.  But it is not justifiable on a moral level.

Some years hence, and not too many, we will experience embarrassment and shame at the way we treated our fellow citizens, attempting to marginalize them.

The Church is wrong on this issue as a matter of moral justice.
PJ Johnston
7 years 11 months ago
Jesus didn't protest outside places of worship, he protested inside them.  Not only was he present, he was loud and even physically disruptive, overturning tables and driving out animals (and possibly people) with a whip of cords.  The historians say this incident is probably why he got crucified, as it was the most politically disruptive act of his ministry.

In other words, the Church is fortunate it's dealing with ACT-UP and other groups informed by the American tradition of non-violent political protest rather than Jesus.

In Christ there is neither male nor female.
Anne Chapman
7 years 11 months ago
Michael Brooks,  you wrote "...about the realities of homosexual marriage and its impacts on children and society.  ."

Can you explain what the impact of homosexual marriage is on marriage and society?  Opponents to gay civil marriage make this statement frequently - however, they never explain it - just state it.

david power
7 years 11 months ago

You have to hand it to me I was right about the wonderful sense of humour. I agree with Michael that it is an opportunity for the Church to teach.
 Of course if the Cardinal sincerely is worried that it will affect the spiritual life of believers then I am with him, if he just wants the quite life then I am with the protesters.
Homosexuality is the future elephant in the Catholic room. 
In the time of Augustine there was a lot worse than this and throughout the history of the Church. The Truth will not change ,if it is part of God's plan then He will make it clear in time.If ,as I suspect, it is not then that too will become clearer.
I note too that after a brief Hiatus we may be back to the twice-weekly gay updating. 
1% I tell you.      
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
When there is an execution in the state of Florida, we stand in silence in front of our local cathedral.  Many of us say the rosary.  The executions are at 6 pm, so we stand from 5:45 to 6:15pm.  When he is in town, the Bishop joins us.

The complaints come from the people who are leaving the 5:30pm Mass and must walk or drive by us. 


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