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Catholics host ‘Manhattan Declaration’ seminar, but ‘No Longer Silent’ protests Saturday

Posted by on October 11, 2010 – 9:42 pm

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is playing host this weekend for folks who believe  “The Manhattan Declaration:  A Call of Christian Conscience,” developed last year, gives clarity to all that they stand for, stubbornly traditional and orthodox as it is.  The 4,700-word document is a conservative Christian blueprint for “the case for traditional marriage, the sanctity of life and religious liberty,” they say.  About 400 will take part in an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica, with a legislative seminar to follow.

But the events will be met outside by hundreds of uninvited guests  to protest what the Manhattan Declaration declares, especially its language about gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and questioning.   The group No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice, which adopted its own “Phoenix Declaration” more than six years ago calling for faith communities to be open and inclusive to GLBTQ people, is leading the public witness to raise objection to the Manhattan Declaration and the seminar’s convenors.

The Manhattan Declaration is said to now have 471,852 signatures, including 53 Catholic bishops besides Olmsted, who was one of the first signers.  The signers include the major voices in the American Christian right, including Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy; Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council;  and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

The Catholic Sun quotes Olmsted, “The Manhattan Declaration marks the beginning of an important coalition between Catholics, Evangelicals and Orthodox Christians.  It focuses on the three key issues we face in America: the human dignity of each person from conception until natural death, defense of the institution of marriage and religious freedom.”

Olmsted insists that the three issues are “all being attacked by forces within popular culture and large segments of the secular media . The seminar will help us understand better the culture war in which we are engaged and prepare us each to do our part to stand up for the Gospel of Christ in our day.”

The No Longer Silent group’s declaration from 2004 has six main bullet points. These are two of them:

— We recognize GLBT persons have painfully suffered long enough from social inequality, from religious rhetoric and political leaders. We are tired of appalling, hurting, and violent actions toward GLBT persons. This violence must stop. Let us clear the air and move ahead to begin the healing process for the wounded souls who are victims of this tragic and violent abuse.

— We celebrate the courage of all people who have refused to let the voice of intolerance and violence speak for Christianity. The determination of these people

Retired Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Vernon Meyer, who was recently excommunicated by Olmsted for his participation in the ordination of a female priest in an independent Catholic church, plans to be at the demonstration.  Now a United Church of Christ pastor in Sun Lakes, Meyer notes, “Discrimination is still discrimination. A church can say they support family values, but when those values pervert the Gospel’s acceptance of people for who God has made them to be, then its ‘values’ become the source of hate and violence.”   Meyer and others are heard on YouTube discussing Saturday’s event:

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What is so objectionable in the Manhattan Declaration?  This is an excerpt:

“We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to ‘a more excellent way.’ As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.”

Nine Catholic priests had signed the Phoenix Declaration, but Olmsted ordered them to remove their names. All but one complied.  The Rev. Andre Boulanger, a retired priest, was subsequently excommunicated by Olmsted but he continued to keep his name on it and wrote an open letter to explain his position.

The demonstration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday Oct. 16 outside the Diocese, 400 E. Monroe St., Phoenix.

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