nienstedtWow. Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt (Remember him? The one who turned the Catholic Mass and that church’s holiest sacrament into a weapon with which to bludgeon LGBT people?) does NOT want dissent within the clerical ranks when it comes to same-sex marriage.

In a dictatorial move, Nienstedt essentially told the priests of his diocese that when it came to the Minnesota Catholic church’s campaign to pass a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, they had two choices: help out or shut up.

It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead. The gravity of this struggle, and the radical consequences of inaction propels me to place a solemn charge upon you all — on your ordination day, you made a promise to promote and defend all that the Church teaches. I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not be open dissension on this issue. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publicly. If anyone believes in conscience that he cannot cooperate, I want him to contact me directly and I will plan to respond personally.

Writing for the American Independent, crack reporter Andy Birkey revealed yesterday that Nienstedt’s authoritarian remarks were delivered in a private speech to priests last October. Just to make sure his message reached every priest under his jurisdiction, the archbishop later sent the text of that speech to all priests who were unable to attend. (According to Birkey, Nienstedt’s remarks are only coming to light now because someone within the church leaked the speech to a group called the Progressive Catholic Voice, who released it to the media.) In the same address, Birkey reports that Nienstedt also spoke about sending teams consisting of “a priest and a married couple” into Catholic schools to discuss marriage discrimination with schoolchildren.

Minnesota Catholics: if you put money into the collection plate on Sundays, this is what you’re supporting. Yes, Nienstedt’s bigotry is out of step with the vast majority of Catholics. Yes, the Catholic church provides important services to poor and disadvantaged people. But there are dozens if not hundreds of charitable organizations providing the same services as the Catholic church without the spiritual bullying. When you donate to your local parish instead of these other charities, though, you give tacit approval to Nienstedt’s reprehensible persecution of your LGBT family members, friends, neighbors, and congregants.

Money talks. Assuming that the Catholic church will change its position on marriage equality or even ease up on its anti-gay attacks without significant incentive to do so is the height of folly.

Intimidating priests whose consciences might compel them to take a position on Minnesota’s marriage amendment different from that of the institutional church. Sending teams of adults into Catholic schools to teach children that only some of them will be worthy of marriage when they grow up. Ordering priests to organize grassroots political committees in their parishes for the express purpose of drumming up support for marriage discrimination. Producing and shipping DVDs attacking same-sex couples and families to every Catholic household in the state. Composing a prayer for divine help in the quest to write a divisive and discriminatory religious teaching into the civil constitution, then tying that prayer to the central act of unity in the Catholic tradition.

I can’t think of a more repulsive distortion of everything that a church is supposed to represent, and I couldn’t imagine supporting it with my hard-earned nickels and dimes. Minnesota Catholics, do you want this on your conscience?