Churches Diminishing as Church Leaders Fight Culture Wars?
Maybe. Bishop Malone has given the green light to diocesan involvement with the Courage Ministry, a program that treats homosexuality as if it were a disease such as alcoholism. Both Bishop Malone and the chaplain appointed to run the group, Rev. Kevin Martin told The Kennebec Journal that “the support group is being established in Maine because people here have asked for the church’s assistance.” A Maine Catholic is left wondering where the funding for this program will come from?
It is worth repeating that the Maine marriage equality law did not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. And yet even though his diocese was exempt from performing LGBT marriages, Bishop Malone — with strong outside support from the Knights of Columbus — went to war. In doing so, they combated the rights of not only the dissenting faithful, but also non-Catholics. As the Church complains about the Obama administration’s supposed violation of religious freedom in the controversy over requiring contraception coverage in insurance programs, hierarchy clearly did not follow the Golden Rule when the shoe was on the other foot.
Yet when Bishop Malone is at odds with culture war allies, like much of the Catholic Right, he lowers the volume. For instance, when Maine’s ultra-conservative governor, Paul LePage, decimated social safety net programs, Bishop Malone limited his protestations to a complaint published on the diocesan web site. This was in stark contrast to the $553,000 Malone spent to defeat marriage equality.
The Catholic Church in Maine is suffering from a self-inflicted wound. Congregants are being driven away, parishes are closing and spiritual needs are being ignored. What is going on in New England reminds me of what my old pastor would complain about: culture war priests go off to fight some political battle at the expense of the poor who need assistance;