MINNEAPOLIS — John Nienstedt, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul, has urged church priests to form committees to help pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
In a letter sent to parishes on Oct. 4, Nienstedt wrote, “It is imperative that we marshal our resources to educate the faithful about the church’s teachings on these matters, and to vigorously organize and support a grass-roots effort to get out the vote to support the passage of this amendment.”
The Archbishop’s letter also directs priests to “appoint a captain or co-chairs to lead a special parish ad hoc committee to spearhead this effort.”
The Catholic Church’s leadership have said that they are taking this “unique” and unusual step because they see the amendment as one of the most important issues the Catholics in Minnesota face in the next election cycle.
Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, said the state’s other bishops are expected to send out similar letters, “if they haven’t already done so.”
“We believe it [marriage] is a vital social institution, and it’s under attack in the courts, the Legislature and the culture,” Adkins said. “And it would have profound consequences if marriage is in fact redefined. That’s why we’re putting extraordinary resources toward making sure this marriage amendment gets passed.”
At least one pastor, Rev. Mike Tegeder of both St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri churches in Minneapolis, called the effort “imprudent” and “divisive.”
Religion and politics expert John Green said he’s never heard of U.S. Catholic leaders encouraging clergy to form special committees at churches to mobilize Catholics to vote on particular issues.
The strategy mirrors a similar one used by conservative Christians in California to pass Proposition 8 and end marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Last year, Nienstedt mailed 800,000 Catholic households a DVD defending marriage as between one man and one woman.