November 14, 2000
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 5:46 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of national religious leaders rejected same-sex marriage in a first-of-its-kind "Christian Declaration on Marriage" issued Tuesday at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fall conference.
The declaration calls for "a stronger commitment to this holy union" and "practical ministries and influence for reversing the course of our culture." The declaration defines marriage as "a holy union of one man and one woman."
Earlier Tuesday, about 200 protesters blasted the Catholic Church’s stance on gay rights, demanding that the church stop "spiritual violence" against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members. About 100 protesters were arrested after they blocked the entrance to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The shrine stands next to the Catholic University of America in Northeast Washington.
The bishops’ meeting comes as the Roman Catholic church closes out its celebration of Jubilee 2000, the church’s marking of the new millennium.
The marriage declaration was signed by Bishop Anthony O’Connell of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and Bishop Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
At a press conference announcing the declaration, neither Mannoia nor Land offered any specifics on how it would be implemented. The declaration said high divorce rates, a rise in cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births, as well as a "diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying, especially among young people," adversely affects society.
"Therefore, as church leaders, we recognize an unprecedented need and responsibility to help couples begin, build, and sustain better marriages, and to restore those threatened by divorce," the declaration said.
Earlier Tuesday, about 200 gay rights advocates quietly protested in a light rain at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Many marchers made the sign of the Cross as they walked in front of the shrine. Others held signs bearing the names of bishops whom they had "adopted," by writing letters urging them to reconsider the church’s stance on homosexuality.
"We know we are God’s children, and we know we are loved by God," said protester Mark Rumpler, 36, of San Francisco. "We want a place at the table."
Among the arrested was the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, 76, a former pastor of Riverside Church in New York. From a wheelchair, Coffin said the Catholic church refuses to be forward-thinking in its approach to homosexual church members.
"The Catholic bishops are steering the car by what they see in the rearview mirror," he said.
Police arrested about 100 protesters after they blocked entry to the shrine from a main thoroughfare. Other protesters cheered as they were led away in plastic handcuffs.
The protest was sponsored by three advocacy groups for gay and bisexual churchgoers: Soulforce, Dignity/USA and Equal Partners in Faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered." It adds, "Under no circumstances can they be approved."
The Catechism also says the inclination toward homosexuality constitutes "a trial" for most gays, adding that they "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."