Dioceses major contributors to repeal same-sex marriage

by Chuck Colbert

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Catholics for Marriage Equality at the Holiday Inn, Portland, Maine on election night. (Chuck Colbert photo)

Gathering money from 50 U.S. dioceses, the Portland, Maine, diocese contributed more than $550,000 to the campaign to rejected Maine's law extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples, according to financial records filed with the state agency that tracks political contributions.

In the Nov. 3 referendum, Maine voters rejected 53 to 47 percent the same-sex marriage law.

Supporters and opponents of the law spent more than $7 million, according to the Portland Press Herald.

During the summer, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland sent an appeal to other Catholic bishops seeking contributions to defeat the law that the state legislature passed and the governor signed in May.

According to financial records filed with Maine's campaign finance watchdog, the Portland diocese donated nearly $286,000 to Stand For Marriage Maine, which was seeking to repeal the same-sex law. Malone had ordered a second collection be taken up at Masses one September weekend which netted $86,000.

After Portland, Maine, the largest diocesan contributors were the Philadelphia archdiocese and Phoenix diocese, each giving $50,000. The sees of Newark, N.J., St. Louis, Mo., and Youngstown, Ohio, each contributed $10,000. The Diocesan Assistance Fund of Providence, R.I., gave $10,000.00.

Contributing $5,000 were the dioceses of Arlington, Va., Rockford, Ill., Crookston, Minn., and Pittsburgh, Pa. The Roman Catholic Foundation in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Inc. donated $2,500.

Contributing $2,000 were the diocese of Portland, Ore., Jefferson City, Mo., Savannah, Ga., and the archdiocese of New Orleans.

The Columbus, Ohio, diocese gave $1,500. Contributing $1,000 were the archdioceses of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartford, Hartford, Conn., and Atlanta, Ga., and the dioceses of Fort Worth, Texas, Green Bay, Wis., Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Baton Rouge, La., Colorado Springs, Colo., Gary, Ind., Parma, Ohio, Erie, Pa., Joliet, Ill., Grand Island, Nebr., and the Diocesan Center for Family Life, Jacksonville, Fla.

Contributing $500 were the dioceses of Biloxi, Miss., Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., Metuchen, N.J., Scranton, Pa., Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Winona, Minn., Yakima, Wash., LaCrosse, Wis., and Rockville Centre, N.Y.

The Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn gave $300. The dioceses of Wilmington, Del., and Las Cruces, N.M., gave $200 each. The San Angelo, Texas, diocese gave $150.

The financial report says the bishop of Fall River, Mass., donated $5,000; the archbishop of Mobile, Ala., gave $2,000, and the bishops of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., Louisville, Ky., and Springfield, Mass., each donated $1,000.

Individual bishops were named in the financial report. Giving $1,000 were Richard Lennon of Cleveland, Ohio, and William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. Giving $500 were Herbert Brevard of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne, Ind. Giving $250 were Jose Gomez of San Antonio, Texas, and John LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn. Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., gave $200.

Private institutions or individuals contributing to the Stand for Marriage organization through the Portland diocese were Maine businessman Robert S. Nanovic, $10,000; the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas, $10,000; and the Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, $50,000.

All figures are from the state's Governmental Ethics & Election Practices financial transaction listing.

NCR telephoned and e-mailed nearly a dozen chancery offices to ask about contributions to the Maine referendum. Two responded: Philadelphia and Providence, R.I. The St. Louis archdiocese issued a statement to local media, explaining the contribution. A spokesperson for the Cleveland diocese declined to respond.

Donna Farrell, communications director for the Philadelphia archdiocese said in a statement that Malone had requested donations to assist with education and to help people understand the timeless teaching of the church that marriage is between one man and one woman.

“As part of the universal church, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia responds to various requests for donations which come from outside the diocese, in order to advance the mission of the church by promoting and defending the teaching of Christ,” Farrell said.

“Examples of contributions which have been made by the archdiocese for other purposes include those to feed the hungry and provide for the needy in mission countries, to assist victims of natural disasters; to support Catholic military chaplains and pastoral care for our men and women in uniform and to defend the dignity and sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

"The archdiocese responds to such particular requests in addition to its ongoing commitment to provide tuition assistance for Catholic education, to sustain struggling parishes and to ensure that the Gospel message is known and realized.”

Michael Guilfoyle, communications director for the Providence diocese, said, “The donation was an expression of clear support by the Diocese of Providence for the effort to defend the Sacrament of Marriage in Maine. Certainly, the proximity of Maine affects the situation here in Rhode Island.”

“The Diocesan Emergency Assistance Fund is a charitable program over which the bishop has discretion and is funded by anonymous donors," he added.

The St. Louis archdiocese issued a media release that said:

“In June of this year, Archbishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine sent a letter to all U.S. bishops asking for financial support for issues the church considers to be moral issues. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson approved a donation for $10,000, which was charged to the special needs fund. This fund has traditionally been the archbishop’s for discretionary spending, not for formal operations, and is funded by private gifts. These funds were already available when Archbishop Carlson arrived in St. Louis. Archbishops of St. Louis have made donations in the past to help other dioceses around the world for various causes ranging from disaster relief, to pro-life issues.”

A group based in Portland, Maine, called Catholics' Statement of Conscience gave $2,960 to the campaign in favor of Maine's law extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

Maine's election financing report is available online: http://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/public/entity_financial_transactions.asp?TYPE=BQC&ID=4528

[Chuck Colbert is a freelance writer living in Cambrige, Mass.]

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