Seattle Priests Refuse to Circulate Marriage Referendum Petitions
As many as seven Roman Catholic priests are reportedly refusing to circulate petitions in their parishes in support of a likely ballot measure that would overturn Washington’s newly enacted marriage equality law.
The Rev. Michael Ryan of St. James Cathedral on Seattle’s First Hill, the most prominent of these priests, sent an email to parishioners last week explaining his position against Referendum 74.
"Archbishop [J. Peter] Sartain has written a letter in which he has expressed his support for Referendum 74 and for the collecting of signatures in parishes," he wrote. "Media reports regarding this are somewhat misleading. While the archbishop has given his support to the effort, he has wisely left it up to each pastor to decide whether to allow the collection of signatures in his own parish."
Ryan further explained his position.
"After discussing the matter with the members of the cathedral’s pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish," he said. "Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community."
The Archdiocese of Seattle confirmed that Ryan sent the email, but stressed that his decision was not, as it might appear, a challenge to instructions from Sartain to circulate the petitions.
"Archbishop Sartain has left the decision regarding collection of signatures for Referendum 74 to the discretion of each pastor," archdiocese spokesperson Greg Magnoni told EDGE.
Other church sources who spoke on background explained that Sartain had sent private instructions to parish priests, allowing them to opt out of the Referendum 74 petition drive. His public statement on the issue, however, seemed to be a wholehearted endorsement of the petitions.
At St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill, the Rev. John Whitney posted a notice on the congregation’s website.