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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

9/30/09

September 30

THE TWO SIDES OF CATHOLICISM

Lynne Williams is running for Maine governor as a Green Independent

Lynne Williams, Mt Desert Islander - I was raised in an Irish Catholic family in New York City, and spent twelve years in Catholic schools. I had my son baptized, and he also received his sacrament of Holy Communion. I even taught Sunday school to little kids. I've attended luncheons for Catholic lawyers and even gone to some Red Masses in Portland, where the Catholic bar and judiciary gather. I took five years of Latin and participated in the Latin mass prior to Vatican II in 1960.

I was always drawn to the social justice elements of Catholicism, at the same time as I was repelled by its rabid anti-choice rhetoric, which was grounded in hypocrisy. To this day I greatly respect the internal moral consistency of conservative Justice John Noonan, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who challenged the bishop of San Francisco to require his priests to spend as much time speaking against capital punishment as they spend speaking against choice. At the same time, that same diocese was welcoming and supporting of gay and lesbian congregants, and provided a lifeline for many of those congregants who were living with AIDS.

However, the schizoid nature of the church is becoming overwhelmingly apparent in Maine as we move along towards a November vote on Proposition One, the repeal of marriage equality. On one hand is the social justice work that many parishes engage in, including food banks, support of the homeless and literacy programs. On the other hand is the mean-spirited resistance to marriage equality. . . . However, a closer look at the church's support suggests a much more sinister motive, a motive focused on shoring up the reputation of an institution that has been hit hard in recent years, particularly by the priest abuse scandals, which the Diocese of Portland was late to acknowledge.

Yet the diocese is risking a lot of good will in underwriting the Yes on One campaign. First, while it is passing the collection basket at Sunday masses throughout the state, asking for contributions for the "Yes on One" campaign, the diocese is simultaneously closing parishes that have for generations of Mainers been a religious home. More troubling than such closures, however, is the fact that the church is putting its non-profit status at risk by not only politicizing the pulpit but also deploying congregants' donations for political purposes.

In the early 1500s, German priest Martin Luther mounted a campaign against the Catholic Church's secular practices, most notably the selling of indulgences, by which Catholics could "buy" a better post-death situation. Pope Leo responded by stating, "whoever says that the Church of Rome may not do what it is actually doing in the manner of indulgences is a heretic." Luther stood up to this threat, as well as to subsequent threats from Rome - hence the birth of the Reformation.

The Diocese of Portland would be well advised to review Martin Luther's successful resistance to being told what to do by the Rome. Rather than supporting Rome's order to Luther that he "cease and desist," Germans overwhelmingly supported the priest's challenges to Rome's practices. Pope Leo died without muzzling Luther, due to the German people's embrace of Luther's call for reform.

Pope Leo never responded to Luther by citing scripture - there was no scripture to cite in support of the selling of indulgences. Rather, Luther argued - successfully - that the Church, on the matter of indulgences, was a political power not a spiritual one and, like any other political campaign, the Church was engaging in spurious arguments, fear mongering and lies. In the end, the German people rejected the Church's arguments and sided with Luther.

I call on the good voters of Maine to do likewise - reject the unfounded arguments of the Catholic Church against marriage equality. The 16th century German people rejected the arguments of the Catholic Church and embraced Luther, the truth teller. We must do likewise, by rejecting the lies and embracing the truth - that support of marriage equality is the moral position.

I could end this by passing along the following Latin phrase to the Diocese of Portland – "Equalitas pro omnibus," which translates as "Equality for all." However, I feel the more appropriate phrase is the title of a song written by my friend Ethan Miller – "Wait 'til Jesus gets his hands on you."

POLITICS MEETS FAMILY ON WESTPORT ISLAND

Wiscasset Newspaper - Westport Island First Selectman George Richardson - often criticized by residents - but repeatedly elected for 15 years – was criticized Monday by his relatives. The criticism was leveled against him by his niece, Teresa Dunlop, who spoke on behalf of her mother, Deirdre Dunlop, Richardson's sister, who did not attend the weekly meeting. Richardson and his two sons, Gary and Chuck, were accused of abuse of power. Teresa Dunlop, representing her mother, asked that her uncle, Selectman Richardson, recuse himself from [not take part in] the discussion and leave the building before making her presentation.

Richardson asked why. She indicated that her mother was issuing a complaint against the town for failing to enforce the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, and that she would be addressing the other two selectmen, Ross Norton, and Gerry Bodmer. Norton and Bodmer agreed that Richardson should not have to leave the building or recuse himself unless a vote was to be taken.

Teresa Dunlop read the six page letter her mother sent to the Department of Environmental Protection outlining what she considered significant irregularities, that included difficulty she said she had in obtaining information. The letter indicated that the CEO was given false or incorrect and misleading information in order to obtain a permit. . .

After the letter was read, George Richardson asked his son, Chuck, if he had anything to say about it.

"I am here as an observer only," he said.

"I perhaps shouldn't say this, George Richardson said. "If my mother was alive, she would be upset with all of you, and I mean all of you."

The selectmen took no action on the letter, nor did they respond to any of Dunlop's concerns. . .

"This sounds more like a family issue. I am not sure it is a matter for the selectmen," Bodmer said.

THE MAINE STREAM

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Maine has the second largest moose population in the U.S. Here are the top states for moose:

Alaska: 150,0000
Maine: 60,000
Idaho: 15,000
Wyoming: 7700
Minnesota: 7600
New Hampshire: 4600
Vermont: 4000
Michigan: 1000

Morning Sentinel - Maine had the nation's second-highest percentage of households receiving food stamp benefits during 2008, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Across the state, 14 percent of households received benefits, according to the 2008 American Community Survey. Nationally, the figure was 9 percent. Both rates were up from 2007, when the percentage was 12 percent in Maine and 8 nationally.

A new poll finds the attempt to repeal the state's gay marriage law going down 50-41.

WHAT'S HAPPENING

The Maine Women's Lobby and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will join with other women in opposition to TABOR II at a press conference in Portland's Monument Square on Thursday, October 1, at 10:30 am. Speakers include Sarah Standiford, Kristi Hargrove, and others.

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