Lutheran Lectures Catholic on Marriage
The former presiding bishop of the Evangelical [sic] Lutheran Church in America, Herbert Chilstrom, takes the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minneapolis to task for having the unmitigated gall to support a political measure that Chilstrom does not. He writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
I recognize your authority in formulating positions for your own flock in Minnesota. That is one thing. But for you and others to campaign for an amendment that imposes your stance on all citizens in Minnesota, including other Christians, believers of other faith groups and nonbelievers, is overstepping your bounds.
Only liberal Protestants are allowed to do that.
History is our teacher.
Eight hundred years ago, Pope Innocent III presided over church and state in most of what is now Western Europe. He left no room for dissent. Non-Catholics, including Jews, Muslims and nonbelievers, were even required to wear clothing that distinguished them from the church’s faithful.
Which has to do with the referenda how?
The genius of America is that we separate church from state. As we say in our Pledge of Allegiance, we are committed to our flag “and to the republic for which it stands.” As any dictionary will tell us, a republic is “a nation in which citizens elect representatives to manage the government.” By placing the marriage amendment on the November ballot, our legislators in St. Paul have ducked their responsibility. They have already enacted a statute that forbids same-gender marriage. Attempting to embed it in the Constitution is simply wrong.
It’s wrong, I’m sure, because it is much harder to overturn a constitutional amendment than a statute. It’s amusing to see Chilstrom go all republican. Can anyone doubt that if the referenda proposed amending the Minnesota Constitution to enshrine a right to gay marriage that he would be 100% behind it?
By word and action, you leave the impression that there is little room for dissent in your church. Yet many of us recall that Raymond Lucker, your predecessor as bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, challenged your church to begin thinking about the need for married men and, yes, even women, to be ordained as priests. He clearly understood that one could be a good Roman Catholic and still be open to change.
Why Chilstrom thinks that it’s appropriate for him to stick his nose into internal Catholic affairs (such as determining who may dissent and on what issues) is anybody’s guess, though of course liberal Protestants have a track record for busy-bodiness that is second to none. I’m also not sure what it has to do with a referenda on a public policy question, but maybe Chilstrom is suggesting that the archbishop of Minneapolis is unauthorized to state the church’s teaching on a given moral issue.
In our ELCA, we engage a wide spectrum of clergy and laity in developing statements to guide us in our thinking about complex social issues. When those statements reach our national assembly, they require a two-thirds vote for approval. But no one’s conscience is bound by those statements. Dissent is fostered and welcomed.
Which may be why the ELCA is a declining, spiritually impoverished, intellectually bankrupt organization that takes its responsibility to lobby for Democratic Party policy positions more seriously than it takes spreading or teaching the gospel—because it thinks that truth is up for democratic vote. On the other hand, what difference should it make to the Catholic archbishop what they do in the ELCA. Chilstrom is clearly one of those people who is constitutionally incapable of seeing things from a perspective other than his own, and so assumes that he has the right to tell the Catholic Church how it should do things.
This raises the question: If there were a call from Roman Catholic members in Minnesota to vote on an issue of significance, would you allow for such a vote? And if a simple majority voted in favor, would you accept that vote as final? It’s clear that such a vote would not even be permitted in your church.
He makes it sound like this is a bad thing. He also makes it sound as if there is something illegitimate about this. Is he really so dense that he doesn’t understand that they do things differently in Rome than they do in the ELCA?
Why then have you worked so hard and spent so much of your church’s resources to bring this issue to a vote in Minnesota, where the vast majority of us are not even members of your church?
So not only can he not tell the difference between Catholicism and liberal Lutheranism, he can’t tell the difference between Catholicism and the state of Minnesota, where all citizens—not just liberal Protestants—may participate in the political process and advocate anything they please.
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