Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Missing: Episcopal Bling

Proving yet again that just staying home and bidding for pontificalia on eBay won't cut it for the common criminal, Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield is out a ring and a pectoral cross -- the items were stolen from his residence early yesterday:
McDonnell was uninjured, and did not notice the objects missing until he woke up yesterday morning, said Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the Springfield diocese.

According to police reports, McDonnell noticed the theft when he went to get dressed to go to work yesterday morning....

McDonnell was awakened at about 3 a.m. when the burglary alarm at the bishop's residence sounded, she said. Police arrived and checked out the house and found everything in order, she said.

Dupont said police responded immediately when the alarm sounded without being called. The system is programmed to automatically trigger an alert at police headquarters, roughly two blocks away, he said.

Police found no signs of a break-in, and the bishop returned to sleep, not realizing he had been burglarized until about four hours later, Dupont said.

Taken were two watches, a ring and a pectoral cross, a type of crucifix suspended on a long chain that the bishop wears around his neck during formal ceremonies. It signifies his rank within the church....

Dupont said the monetary value of the items is probably not very high. The sentimental value, however, is very high.

One of the watches was given to McDonnell by his parents, and the pectoral cross was fashioned out of a crucifix that he was first given when he was anointed as a priest, Dupont said.

Dupont said the bishop is not angry, saying the church "is all about forgiveness."
In other hierarchic news from Massachusetts, in a letter sent to members of its General Court, the commonwealth's bishops have urged a constitutional convention that begins tomorrow to send voters a referendum on banning same-sex marriage.

We, the Roman Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts, again urge you to vote on the Marriage Amendment without further delay, thus fulfilling your constitutional duty, and to vote "yes" to place the measure on the statewide ballot.

Marriage is a fundamental social institution. Its definition and meaning are critical concerns for all in society. Because it involves issues of utmost social importance, extending far beyond questions strictly legal, the marriage debate should not be reserved only to lawyers and lawmakers. Every citizen has a stake in the outcome because every citizen has a stake in the well-being of the family.

The people of Massachusetts have been asked to accept a new definition of marriage -- without any input into the discussion. Society's determination of whether to accept the new definition will be short-circuited if the people's right to a voice in the matter is abrogated. True fairness involves letting the people vote on the Marriage Amendment to define exactly what constitutes marriage.

To argue that rights should not be voted on overlooks what happened in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health at the request of attorneys allied with those now making the argument. In effect seven unelected justices of the Supreme Judicial Court were asked to "vote on rights" by hearing a claim for same-sex marriage that implicated the rights of children.

Four of the seven justices voted to favor adult interests over children's rights. The one-vote majority redefined marriage as the joining of "two adults," thus ignoring that children do best when raised by mother and father united in marriage. By judicially redefining marriage in a way that is indifferent to the absence of mother or father, children's rights were voted on and taken away.

Certain issues transcend the courtroom, and the meaning of marriage in relation to the well-being of children is one of them. On June 14, at the Constitutional Convention, we respectfully request that you give the people the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The people should determine for themselves whether adult interests truly outweigh children's rights as voted in Goodridge, or instead whether traditional marriage, uniting man and woman, best serves the common good because it puts the rights of children first.

...legislators in the Catholic-heavy state, however, aren't so sure about that -- but the margin is said to be close.
Despite the lobbying, the SouthCoast delegation, which is nearly unanimous in its opposition to the amendment or placing the issue on the statewide ballot, was apparently not swayed by the bishops' argument.

"I respect the fact that they're advocating on behalf of their position," said Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, whose South End district has a heavy Catholic majority. "On this position, I respectfully disagree with them."

In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state in the union to legalize gay marriage, and is still the only state that allows gays to marry.

Rep. Cabral has consistently voted against placing the gay marriage question on the statewide ballot, despite a citizen petition with signatures of more than 100,000 people. That ballot question would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"I believe this would be placing in the constitution language that would discriminate against a certain group," Rep. Cabral said. "The issue goes beyond which religion you might belong to."

Rep. William Straus, D-Mattapoisett, said while he is respectful of the bishops' position, he has not changed his mind, either.

"Many thoughtful people of many different faiths have different views on this issue," he said, noting that he will vote against placing the measure on the ballot.

Rep. Robert Koczera, D-New Bedford, said the language of the amendment contains "discriminatory language" and that he will not support it. "Without a provision for civil unions, the language is discriminatory and that's why I'm not supporting it," he said.

The letter also urges lawmakers to "fulfill your constitutional duty" to place the issue on the ballot.

Rep. Straus said the constitution gives the Legislature the decision of whether something belongs on the ballot or not. "It's still our call to make," he said.

In order for the amendment to be placed on the ballot, it requires the approval of 50 lawmakers. Rep. Straus and Rep. Koczera each said the vote could be very close.

"I think it's within three or four votes either way," Rep. Straus said. "I think many are thinking long and hard about what they want to do."