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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Catholics for Marriage Equality's Barbara Guzzo
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Catholics for Marriage Equality's Barbara Guzzo

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Barbara Guzzo, one of the founders of Catholics for Marriage Equality, says she is upholding the best traditions of her Catholic faith, even as she speaks out against her archbishop's decision to support the petition drive against marriage equality.

'I don't think I'm a heretic,' she told Seattle Gay News in a recent interview. 'I think I'm on the side of the gospel. I don't think anything I'm saying goes against the principles of the Catholic faith.

'I'm very clear on what the gospels say - it's a message of love, forgiveness, understanding, inclusiveness.'

Catholics for Marriage Equality was formed, Guzzo says, 'because we disagree with the bishops. We want to do all we can to see that civil marriage is a civil right for all citizens.'

'I believe the bishops have a right to say who can get married within the church,' she is quick to add, 'but we're talking about civil marriage. They shouldn't impose their views on civil society.'

Guzzo says that she has found many Catholics who disagree with their bishops on the issue of same-sex marriage.

'People are very troubled by [the bishops' position],' she says. 'I don't know what they will do. A lot are speaking to their pastors and that's a very good way to start.'

Guzzo believes that the six Seattle parishes that have refused to circulate Referendum 74 petitions in spite of Archbishop Sartain's endorsement of the petition drive show the breadth of lay opposition to the archbishop's views.

And Guzzo finds this right in line with her Catholic beliefs.

'In Catholic teaching we're supposed to form our own conscience - all Catholics decide moral issues based on conscience. Vatican II taught this. Just because the bishops have said this [about marriage equality], doesn't mean it's the view of the church.

'What I believe is important for those of us who are Catholics to remember - especially when we disagree with our church's bishops,' she says, 'is that as Catholics we believe and are taught that we are the Church.

'And the good news is that we are now finally becoming an adult church, a church of adults capable of thinking for ourselves and following the primacy of our conscience, and becoming less afraid to speak out and to take action in the face of what we perceive as actions that speak against the Gospels.

'So, when you ask me if I am speaking out as a Catholic, this is part of why I am doing so.'

Asked if she thought public opinion could force the church's bishops to change, Guzzo said, flatly, 'No.'

'The pope is very much a believer in tradition,' she explained. 'The church is steeped in tradition, the pope is steeped in tradition.

'The bishops are in a very hard place. They know what the pope wants.

'Bishop Hunthausen kind of got nailed for speaking out,' she added, referring to liberal Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who was disciplined and ultimately forced to retire by Pope John Paul II.

Many Catholics have left the church exactly because of such heavy-handed tactics by Rome. Guzzo was asked if she ever thought she would be better off outside the church.

'I ask myself that,' she admits. 'I was born and raised Catholic, I'm Catholic in my bones. My children have bowed out, but I haven't.'

Guzzo says she sees huge contradictions between the church's generally progressive values and its vehement opposition to marriage equality.

'I'm very proud of Catholic teaching on social justice - on workers' rights, immigration, the death penalty - and those are gospel values. In that way the church is ahead of society,' she tells SGN.

'On sexuality, they are so bound by the past! They're not paying attention to how the spirit works in this time, and they have put themselves on the side of social injustice.

'I was so disappointed,' she continues, 'in this past legislative session. There were so many issues where [the legislature] chipped away at the safety net, which goes against gospel teachings. And the bishop was not there. He was only there to testify against marriage.'

Guzzo tells SGN she is optimistic about the campaign to approve the new marriage equality law.

'So much money has been poured into this from the outside - from NOM. They think, 'well we won in so many states,' and they want to win here. I hope we turn the tide.'

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