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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
Catholic priest declines to circulate R-74 petition, gets standing ovation
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Catholic priest declines to circulate R-74 petition, gets standing ovation

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

When Father Tim Clark told his congregation at Sunday Mass that he would not allow Referendum 74 petitions to be circulated at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, they gave him a standing ovation.

The Wedgwood church became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive approved by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

'I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishioners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,' Clark said in an e-mail to the Seattle PI's Joel Connelly.

'The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish. I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause - the 'sensus fidelium' - of the people. He needs to listen to this 'voice.' That is my prayer.'

'Sensus fidelium,' or 'sense of the faithful' in English, refers to the truth of church doctrines recognized - or sensed - by the collective body of church members. According to the official catechism of the Catholic Church, lay people have an equal role with the clergy in identifying true doctrines and carrying out the work of the church.

Other parishes that have declined to participate in the petition drive include St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Mary's Church, St. Patrick Church, and Christ Our Hope Church.

Clark said he had immediate doubts about Archbishop Sartain's approach when he read the archbishop's letter endorsing the Referendum 74 petition drive.

'When I first read the archbishop's letter I was troubled by the content and his intentions,' Clark wrote. 'In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way.

'What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive. To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive, and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community in Wedgwood.

'I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.'

In a remarkable post on the parish website, Clark hearkened back to the reforming Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council he convened to modernize the church.

Quoting a passage from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, passed by Vatican II, Clark added, 'When you hold the words of this document next to the strategy behind Referendum 74, the dissonance is obvious, jarring.'

In this post, Clark denied he was taking a political stand, and defended the church's teaching on the sacrament of marriage.

'By this stance, I am not making a statement for gay marriage as some have assumed. That's beside the point,' Clark wrote. 'The Church's understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage is an invaluable gift. I see that lived out time and again in married couples within this parish and this helps deepen my own espousal to Christ.

'But,' he added, 'as a Church we would do well to espouse John XXIII's approach by looking to what unites rather than what divides at this juncture. Recently, the Church's image has suffered immensely due to our own sins and lack of transparency.

'So, the strategy being taken toward this rather complex issue is unfortunate since it is viewed by many as divisive and hurtful. Just read the e-mails sent me this past week! There are more viable ways to strengthen marriage; to foster the good of others.'

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