It's in the news, so it's time we get some things straight.
The letter entitled BILL 185: THE STAKES ARE VERY HIGH was not written by Archbishop Apuron nor was it distributed by him.
However, the fiasco which followed the publication and distribution of the letter is a Class A example of exactly what we are shouting to Rome about 5 years later: Archbishop Apuron is NOT in charge and he doesn't know what he's doing!
The letter, which was more of an opinion paper, was written by a priest who has no position at all in the Archdiocese of Agana. He was and still is a professor at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, a corporation separate from the Archdiocese of Agana, and an entity most of the Catholics on Guam have come to regard with deep suspicion.
The opinion-piece was written at the height of the debate over the legalization of same-sex unions back in 2009. In fact, the author of the paper had sent it to me for my thoughts, and because I thought it was simply an opinion piece, I did not object to what he had to say. It was an opinion - his opinion. I did not know that it was going to be printed and copied and distributed to the senators at a meeting with the clergy.
After a few weeks of directly engaging the bill's primary sponsor, Senator B.J. Cruz, I soon saw that Senator Cruz appeared to be more interested in picking a fight with the Catholic Church (or maybe just Archbishop Apuron) than he was about advancing a same-sex agenda.
At that point I personally met with the Archbishop and his advisors and recommended that they simply have an adult meeting with a few members of the clergy and the senators. The idea was to simply and clearly lay out the positions of both sides and have an intelligent discussion on the matter.
(In case you're wondering why I could walk right in to the chancery and make such recommendations, at that time, I was in the good graces of the chancery especially after having helped win the passage of significant anti-abortion legislation: a ban on partial-birth abortions.)
The meeting was called. And it ended in disaster.
Instead of an adult discussion, the unsigned opinion paper was distributed to the senators. The result: END OF MEETING, followed by an explosion in the media that cast Archbishop Apuron as calling for the beheading of homosexuals, a falsity that continues to this day and was resurrected today by Phill Leon Guerrero on his show on K57 this afternoon.
If you read the letter, you will see that the author was describing what Islam believes and does and was NOT saying that that is what the Catholic Church believes and does, nor was he recommending that the Church do so. Any intelligent being can see this, but then that doesn't fit the narrative of those who seek to advance an agenda wherein the agenda is easier to advance by vilifying the Catholic Church, the usual punching bag for the lazy Left. (Of course, since most of these guys like their heads left on their necks, they would never speak out against Islam.)
The opinion piece may have had a place in an intellectual forum but it had no place at the meeting with the senators and its distribution provided Senator Cruz all the ammo he needed to blast away at the Catholic Church as the "Great Satan".
Personally I believe Senator Cruz wanted this to happen because it was the easy thing to do. Making someone or something the villain is always easier than rationally and intelligently promoting one's position.
Sadly, the Archbishop, by NOT knowing what he was doing and by allowing others to do things in his name (WHICH IS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM STILL!), played right into the hands of Senator-let's-take-the-path-of-least-resistance-Cruz.
The next myth I want to deconstruct is that the Catholic Church opposed the bill. Would that that were so! There were three reasons for this myth:
- I was the most visible challenger to the bill and people saw me as a representative of the Church (I was not but I'll get to that.)
- The second most visible person who opposed the bill was Deacon Tenorio and he was seen as speaking for the Church ( he was not).
- The Archbishop released a couple of official statements from the pulpit and published them in the U Matuna, the Catholic paper.
First, before I deconstruct these myths, understand that Senator Cruz' modus operandi was to keep the focus on the "evil" Church. He needed to do this because his bill was so poorly written that even if it had passed it would have done nothing more than leave the couple $30 poorer (the cost of the license) and nothing else. This was so because the bill eliminated the legal/judicial equivalent of the solemnization of the union. Thus there was only a license to form the union, but no process to actually do so. Crazy.
(Plus, as the debate wore on, it became increasingly evident that Senator Cruz had some personal angst he wanted to assuage: he said that he had been molested by a priest when he was a teen. But we don't need to deal with that here.)
Myth 1: My presence was somehow a Catholic presence. False. I knew early on what Senator Cruz was trying to do so I purposely gave him nothing to come after. I kept all my arguments secular simply because there was no need to use arguments from scripture or the church when the bill itself was mortally flawed and destined for death.
As proof, you can read the testimony I read at the public hearing here. You can also look it up on the Guam Legislature website. However, this fact doesn't fit the narrative either - the narrative that I am some sort of rabid Catholic and Cruz's Exhibit A of a homophobe. Promoting this stereotype became even more necessary as I dismantled his bill over the next few months in the press and even in a Rotary Club debate with Attorney Bill Pesch. You can read my notes from the debate here.
Myth 2: Deacon Tenorio represented the Church. He did not. Deacon Tenorio spoke on his own, and sadly, did not serve the church well, not because of what he said, but because of how he interrupted the townhall meetings with his usual emotional outbursts. Be it known that at a clergy meeting, members of the clergy got up and spoke against Deacon Tenorio's tactics and the Deacon was asked not to continue. So NO. Deacon Tenorio did NOT speak for the church. Got that?
Myth 3: The Archbishop spoke out against the bill. Uh, so what. He has to. That's his job description. However, he spoke out against it in the exact place he is authorized to speak out against it: the pulpit of Catholic churches. Duh! Popular paraphrases of what he said populate the internet, one being that whoever voted for the bill would be condemned. Barf. So typical of the intellectually lazy and dishonest. Here's what he actually said:
"If this law passes, I really give up," said the Archbishop. "I cannot go. I mentioned even in the pastoral letter, that my soul is in peril if I remain silent. You cannot remain silent, your soul will also be in peril. God will condemn us."
I agree, it's poorly said. But he is not saying that you will condemned if you are a homosexual. He is not saying you will be condemned if you support the bill. He is saying we all, including him, will be condemned if we remain silent.
Since only God knows the heart, only God can condemn, so the Archbishop was wrong to state that God will condemn us in an absolutely technical sense, but not wrong in a more general sense since we bring condemnation upon ourselves by what we "fail to do".
I have some more things to say about Church teaching on the matter, but let me continue with Myth 3.
Given the counter-productive public outbursts of a certain deacon at the townhall meetings, the ineffective chancery statements, and my almost zero standing as only a lone citizen, I approached the Archbishop and his advisors and asked him to find some well-respected Catholics, particularly those in the legal field, who would be willing to calmly engage the debate in behalf of the church.
A list of possible candidates was made and a week was given for the search.
At the next meeting, I was excited and hopeful. I was tired of lil' ol' me, with no background in any of this, having to, day after day, go up against big bad former Chief Justice of the Guam Supreme Court now Senator Benjamin F. Cruz. I thought now "B.J. is gonna get it! We got some bad _ss lawyer dudes in our church and they're gonna take him apart. End of story. And I can go back to my life."
Major fail. Not one. Not one. Not a single one. Not a single Catholic attorney or major Catholic figure in the community (at least of those who were on the list) wanted to take this on in a public forum. So much for the Catholic Church opposing the bill. Nope. It would have to be lil' ol' me. True, there were a few of what we called "symposiums", where I organized some talks at the parishes, but there was no one willing to go into the media and fight it out...except me, of course. (I also know that there were a few who worked behind the scenes.)
So NO, the Catholic Church if it did oppose the bill at all, its opposition, at least in public, was a MAJOR FAIL.
So now let me tell you who REALLY opposed the bill and how just one phone call to K57 put the bill away immediately and for good.
Not long after the bill was introduced, the president of the GovGuam retirement fund had sent the Legislature a resolution opposing the bill on the grounds that it would or could break the retirement fund. The reason was simple. There were no actuarial tables for the retirement fund managers to calculate the cost of providing benefits to same-sex partners.
I didn't know that there was such a resolution, but for months I had been urging the press to inquire with the retirement fund managers on how the legalization of same-sex unions would affect the retirement fund since it would create a whole new class of dependents for which there was no data.
Finally, one day it happened. I heard Ray Gibson engage Joe T. San Agustin (president of the retirement fund) on the air about the very issue I had been shouting about for months. That's when I learned that Mr. San Agustin had sent the resolution to the Legislature about the possible impact of this whole new class of dependents.
Senator Cruz got on the air with them and a shouting match ensued (Ray do you still have that recording?) I was driving down Route 10 just past FD when I heard it, and I laughed and laughed and laughed till I cried. I had spent nine solid months of my life trying to stand up against this giant. I had been painted as a homophobe. I had been maligned and unfriended. I had lost sleep, money, business, and most of all precious time. And here it was, all over in a matter of minutes.
Senator Cruz knew that once the people got a clue as to how his bill might affect their retirement...that it was over. And so it was. Within days the bill was withdrawn.
It's late so I'll get to what I really want to say later. Good night.