Tulsa bishop emphasizes Church's respect for persons but opposition to redefining marriage
The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice says it strives to “eliminate bias, bigotry and racism in our state by promoting respect and understanding among all races, religions and cultures.”
For the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that mission has gone too far.
The diocese resigned its membership in the OCCJ because of the organization’s involvement the Tulsa Pride parade, which Tulsa World billed as the “longest-running gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender festival in Oklahoma.”
“To march in such a parade seems to us to be a deliberate and full-throttled expression of support for the so-called gay agenda, a central component of which is same-sex marriage,” Msgr. Patrick Gaalaas of the diocese wrote to the organization June 6. “Unless a clear statement can be made by OCCJ that its participation does not imply support for same-sex marriage or be seen to condone sexual acts outside of marriage, we have no option but to withdraw from membership.”
Tulsa Bishop Edward Slattery said the OCCJ’s involvement in the Tulsa Pride parade left him and the diocese little choice.
“If we were not to do anything, we would either be saying it’s not that important of an issue or that we don’t agree with the Church directive,” Bishop Slattery told Tulsa World. “We hope no one misunderstands. We respect every single human being.” But, he said, “The Catholic Church has made a very strong statement on the definition of marriage. … No one can redefine marriage except God.”
The OCCJ said it was “very disappointed” over the diocese’s withdrawl, “especially after many decades of working together to combat anti-Catholic bigotry.”
The organization is an offshoot of the former National Conference for Christians and Jews, which was founded to fight anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic prejudice.
“OCCJ is evolving – from its traditional roots as an interfaith dialogue group to a more modern voice for equality, inclusion, tolerance and social justice,” said its statement about the diocese’s withdrawl. “In our work, there is an important distinction between promoting respect and understanding among religions – and promoting or endorsing the beliefs of specific religions.
Tulsa World quoted OCCJ Board of Directors Chairman Russ Florence saying the OCCJ has no position on same-sex "marriage."
“We don’t endorse specific religions or lifestyles,” he said. “What we do endorse is respect and understanding for all people.”