what the Church should really be focusing its attention on
December 10, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

ReturnTheDVD.org "Dear Archbishop Nienstedt, We write to you as a small group of faithful Catholics. This letter, however, represents the voices of thousands of families who were as disheartened as we were by the DVD Preserving Marriage in Minnesota..."

Group to return more than 2,000 gay marriage DVDs to Catholic archdiocese.

ReturnTheDVD.org is a self-described "small group of faithful Catholics" in Minnesota who believe that the Catholic church has been putting too much time and resources (over $1 million) in distributing DVDs against legalization of gay marriage - a very political cause which they believe could have been much better used:

First, the message in the DVD conflicts with core Christian values of love, compassion, tolerance, and respect. Jesus’ essential teaching is “love one another.” As part of our Catholic social teachings, the United States Conference of Bishops states, “The measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

...

Second, this DVD threatens the well-being of gay and lesbian people, particularly vulnerable young people. It hurts them and all who are connected to them. You claim the DVD does not carry an anti-gay message. That is not how it feels to gay people and those who care about them. The manner in which the DVD targets this group of God’s children contributes to dehumanizing and depersonalizing them. It subtly endorses bullying and blatantly endorses bigotry.

...

Third, the cost and timing of this DVD disturbs us. Distributing 400,000 DVDs on the single subject of same-sex marriage shortly before a political election reflects misguided priorities, and strays from the essential teachings of Christ. We ask, “Where, instead, are the DVDs on the bigger issues of loving and caring for your neighbor? Where is the DVD explaining the negative impact current U.S. economic policies have on the poor, not just here, but around the world?” We would like to add that even if you did choose to produce a DVD on these issues, we would be opposed to releasing it shortly before an election where it would so obviously be politically motivated.


Returning 3,000 DVDs out of 400,000 doesn't sound like much, but it still gives me hope. Talk about "It Gets Better"...
posted by jillithd (31 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
When religious groups start trying to push for legislation that affects people who don't even subscribe to their views, they have crossed a line. I strongly feel that crossing that line should necessitate giving up tax-free status. You either get to skip out on taxes, or you participate in politics. Not both.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:16 AM on December 10, 2010 [43 favorites]


We understand this money was donated. The Church, however, should never accept and agree to use donated money to disseminate partisan political messages, especially ones that hurt and divide the Church. The fact that the donor insists on remaining anonymous shows that the political nature of the donation would be exposed if the church was transparent about the source of the money.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:27 AM on December 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


The fact that the donor insists on remaining anonymous shows that the political nature of the donation would be exposed if the church was transparent about the source of the money.

Ok I'm all in line with the overall message and point here, but this is a terrible assumption. People make anonymous donations for all kinds of reasons, such as they don't want their neighbors knowing how much money they have or they do this things out of humility, not pride and feel that having their names associated with it is prideful.
posted by spicynuts at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd give more props to these people if their message was, "I can no longer participate in an organization with institutionalized sexism, bigotry, and homophobia. Instead I will be sending my offerings directly to a homeless shelter, after school programs, and a donkey sanctuary."

But I can applaud the changing from within as well, so it's probably my non-religious bias showing through.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:42 AM on December 10, 2010


Returning 3,000 DVDs out of 400,000 doesn't sound like much, but it still gives me hope. Talk about "It Gets Better".

I'd wager that a large proportion of those remaining DVD's went straight to a trash bin and that most of them remain unwatched.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Once long ago the nation of England faced a moralizing church that was telling the king himself who he could to marry. In addition there was quite an economic crisis underway. The combined looming succession crisis owing to the lack of a male heir and the economic calamity allowed King Henry VIII to kick the popes sorry ass to the curb, take his lands and marry anyone he wanted to.

Now today America faces a similar catastrophe. Not only is our military readiness hindered by the ridiculous DADT policy, our economy is in shambles. Yet we face an intransigent Papacy unwilling to accede to our demands for greater leadership from women and acceptance of gays. Well Rome this is your warning.
posted by humanfont at 7:51 AM on December 10, 2010


Once long ago the nation of England faced a moralizing church that was telling the king himself who he could to marry. In addition there was quite an economic crisis underway. The combined looming succession crisis owing to the lack of a male heir and the economic calamity allowed King Henry VIII to kick the popes sorry ass to the curb, take his lands and marry anyone he wanted to.

Now today America faces a similar catastrophe. Not only is our military readiness hindered by the ridiculous DADT policy, our economy is in shambles. Yet we face an intransigent Papacy unwilling to accede to our demands for greater leadership from women and acceptance of gays. Well Rome this is your warning.


So... we should raid and burn monasteries, and declare Barack Obama head of the Church of America?
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2010 [17 favorites]


People make anonymous donations for all kinds of reasons, such as they don't want their neighbors knowing how much money they have or they do this things out of humility, not pride and feel that having their names associated with it is prideful.

All of which might be true if we were talking about donations to the church building fund or a mission fund or some care-for-the-poor programs.

But what we're actually talking about is a donation specifically for the purpose of oppressing homosexuals. There are two basic reasons you would keep that anonymous. One is if at some level you get that this is a shameful thing to do and want to be protected from the social consequences of your donation. The other is if the revelation of your identity would in some way detract from the message of oppression you're trying to send to the Catholic laity, such as by revealing that you're a well-known Republican political actor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 AM on December 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


this is a terrible assumption.

It would be a terrible assumption - people do make anonymous donations all the time, for many reasons - if the donation were earmarked for something other than DVDs regarding a political issue that were distributed right before an election. Then it goes from being a terrible assumption to being the most reasonable explanation.


Besides, in light of what we're discussing, there is no explanation that isn't in some way terrible.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:08 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not so sure that Henry VIII has any moral superiority over the Catholic church. He was quite the ass-hole if I recall.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:10 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd wager that a large proportion of those remaining DVD's went straight to a trash bin and that most of them remain unwatched.

Yeah, aside from the politics, the waste of resources is (again) the double shame here.

Some background from a Minnesota Catholic high school paper ... and the op-ed they pulled from the paper.

Recently, the Archbishop used money donated by an anonymous source to denounce same-sex marriage. That's right: a major religious leader used non-Church money from a questionable source to publicly condemn your right to express your love in a public and binding manner.

Yeah, that's about it.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


caution live frogs: "You either get to skip out on taxes, or you participate in politics. Not both."

But nonprofits can should, and do speak out about political issues that directly impact their missions. This is an extremely important of the nonprofit's role in the community. When government leaders pretend to care about homelessness while actually running policies that harm and endanger homeless people (cough Gavin Newsom cough), it's up to nonprofits to promote alternative policies that actually help the homeless. A lot of government leaders don't understand that about nonprofits and are always trying to threaten us, but the law is on our side on this one.

I'm not saying that the Catholic church's mission is as noble. I'm saying I don't know how to pull their nonprofit status without giving up a major part of how nonprofits work.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:26 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


All of which might be true if we were talking about donations to the church building fund or a mission fund or some care-for-the-poor programs.

I read the whole thing and must have missed that (I'm a bit jet lagged). So it says that a single donor gave money specifically for the creation of this DVD with this message? I need to go back and re-read.
posted by spicynuts at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2010


Besides, in light of what we're discussing, there is no explanation that isn't in some way terrible.

Exactly, "in light of what we're discussing". The whole issue of the anonymity is really not what people are upset about. They're upset with the campaign, because they think its wrong, not because of the anonymity itself.

This post is incredibly one sided (and editorializes). Which, even if you agree with the "Return The DVD" people, makes it rather less useful for understanding the issue than it could be otherwise.

For instance, here's Archbishop Nienstedt's April Star Tribune op/ed on gay marriage in MN.

Here's a set of questions and answers from the Archdiocesan communications director about the campaign.

I can't preview this link, but it appears you can watch the video here and in following Youtube snippets.

On the side agains the Archbishop, artist Lucinda Naylor protested the action by the Archdiocese and planned art in protest and, as a result, lost her position as aritist in residence at St. Mary's Basillica.

Student activists at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict were denied Communion after they wore buttons and sashes expressing their disagreement with Church teaching on homosexual relationships.

The Return the DVD web site asks:
Why did the Minnesota Bishops choose same-sex marriage as the central issue to educate Catholics about now? Shouldn't we spend at least as much (or more) time and energy educating Catholics about the plight of the poor in our area?
But in fact, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis alone spends 2% of its $36 million dollar annual budget on "advocacy" according to its web site or about $720,000. This is just one Catholic organization in a state with many Catholic organizations.
posted by Jahaza at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2010


The fact that the donor insists on remaining anonymous shows that the political nature of the donation would be exposed if the church was transparent about the source of the money.

Isn't this a two-way street? The "About Us" page of the Return the DVD web site says only this about who they are:
We are simply a group of mostly suburban, mostly middle aged, married Catholics, who are concerned about the priorities of the leaders in the Catholic Church in Minnesota. We believe their action, distributing 400,000 DVDs on the single subject of same-sex marriage shortly before the upcoming election, reflects misguided priorities and strays from the essential teachings of Christ.
The domain is registered anonymously. According to their logic, this exposes the political nature of their organization.
posted by Jahaza at 8:57 AM on December 10, 2010


So... we should raid and burn monasteries, and declare Barack Obama head of the Church of America?

Meh that's so 2008.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:03 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


On re-read I still don't say where it specifies how the donation was made. Can someone point me in the right direction?
posted by spicynuts at 9:08 AM on December 10, 2010


It doesn't say specifically, but it seemed implied quite firmly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on December 10, 2010


From the parochial school newspaper linked above:

"The DVD was funded by an anonymous donor and not by the Catholic Church, and the Knights of Columbus are credited for support in the video itself. Funding came from “an anonymous donor, which is nothing new. Everyone has to find what they are going to give to, they have to find what is important to them,” said Laird.

“The last part of the DVD came from the Knights of Columbus in New Jersey who work to strengthen understanding of life issues and marriage so there was no cost; we just added the [segment with the] Archbishop,” said Laird."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2010


But nonprofits can should, and do speak out about political issues that directly impact their missions. This is an extremely important of the nonprofit's role in the community. When government leaders pretend to care about homelessness while actually running policies that harm and endanger homeless people (cough Gavin Newsom cough), it's up to nonprofits to promote alternative policies that actually help the homeless. A lot of government leaders don't understand that about nonprofits and are always trying to threaten us, but the law is on our side on this one.

Actually, there are nearly 30 different kinds of 501(c) tax-exempt non-profit status designations, and only ONE of them (based on my paltry research) seems to have a No Political Action stipulation attached to it -- 501(c)3, which is set aside specifically for churches and charities.

The example you use, about homeless shelters, would probably fall better under the 501(c)4 designation, which is for social welfare organizations and civic leagues.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 AM on December 10, 2010


The domain is registered anonymously. According to their logic, this exposes the political nature of their organization.

Look, you do not get to fetishize hierarchy and then protest when the laity hide behind anonymity to avoid persecution by said hierarchy. This is so obviously not a parallel situation that my mind boggles at the extent to which you are being disingenuous. Seriously?
posted by joe lisboa at 9:53 AM on December 10, 2010


Thanks Joe, I always find ad hominem arguments about how I'm dishonest persuasive in getting me to change my opinion about something.

The point is not that I think they're wrong to stay anonymous, I don't. It's that I think they're hypocritical to stay largely anonymous while claiming that the only reason the donor to the campaign may have wanted to remain anonymous is because of the "political nature of the donation".
posted by Jahaza at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2010


Thanks Joe, I always find ad hominem arguments about how I'm dishonest persuasive in getting me to change my opinion about something.

What is there to change? The Church has spoken so you accept that homosexuality is disordered and homosexual practice is sinful. There is no debate to have here. Stop bending over backwards to justify this nonsense. If you do not get that there is a massive power imbalance here (say, between, these Minnesota laity and, oh, THE VATICAN) then I apologize: you are not being disingenuous, you are being ridiculous.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:14 AM on December 10, 2010


I'm betting that the initials of the mystery donor are LDS.
90 percent of the money spent in California to promote Prop 8 came from the Mormons. They are the deep pocket of the anti gay marriage movement.
posted by charlesminus at 10:26 AM on December 10, 2010


I'm betting that the initials of the mystery donor are LDS.

I'm with you on that.

BTW -- I highly recommend the documentary, 8: The Mormon Proposition, now on DVD (trailer). It shows how the LDS worked hard to 'keep in the background' and basically 'buy' allies, especially the Catholic Church, funneling money to them to finance media campaigns, etc. The Mormons were also behind the formation and funding of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

New York Times:
"The film dives angrily into the fray. It uncovers the classified church documents and the largely concealed money trail of Mormon contributions that paid for a high-powered campaign to pass Proposition 8. The Mormon involvement, the film persuasively argues, tilted the vote toward passage, by 52 percent to 48 percent, in its final weeks.

That involvement was concealed under the facade of a coalition with Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians called the National Organization for Marriage. Mormons raised an estimated $22 million for the cause. In the final week of the campaign, the film says, $3 million came from Utah. The money financed a sophisticated media barrage that involved blogs, Twitter and YouTube videos, as well as scary (and, according to the movie, misleading) television ads, and an aggressive door-to-door campaign whose foot soldiers were instructed on how not to appear Mormon."
posted by ericb at 10:46 AM on December 10, 2010


hippybear: " Actually, there are nearly 30 different kinds of 501(c) tax-exempt non-profit status designations, and only ONE of them (based on my paltry research) seems to have a No Political Action stipulation attached to it -- 501(c)3, which is set aside specifically for churches and charities. "

C4s can endorse candidates and lots of other things that C3s can't do. But what I'm talking about is speaking on political issues that directly impact the nonprofit's charter, and C3s can and should do that.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2010


C4 donations aren't tax deductible, though.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on December 10, 2010


> Once long ago the nation of England faced a moralizing church that was telling the king himself who he could to marry

C'mon, 1977 wasn't that long ago ...
posted by scruss at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2010


This perfectly illustrates that Church and State seem to be more closely linked these days than the Church and God.
posted by empatterson at 1:29 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish these people were active when I was getting bombarded by all those free AOL disks.
posted by klarck at 11:25 PM on December 10, 2010


Me thinks they (the Catholic hierarchy) doth protest too much.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:05 AM on December 11, 2010


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