LEWISTON — Don't be surprised if you see people passing notes in church this Sunday.
Bishop Richard Malone, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, asked parishes to pass a second collection plate during services this weekend to help raise funds for the group seeking to repeal the recently passed marriage law that reaffirms religious freedom but allows the state to recognize same-sex civil marriages.
Local Catholics have voiced their opposition to the move in letters to the editor recently printed in the Sun Journal, and a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality announced Friday it is encouraging Catholics to place notes in opposition of the repeal effort into the plate as it is passed.
"I think there are so many Catholics out there who don't agree with the church's position, and I didn't want them to feel alone," said Janice David of Farmington, a Catholic.
David attends Mass nearly every weekend and looks to the church for guidance, but said she disagrees with its opposition to the new marriage law.
"Personally, the decision of the church on this issue is an embarrassment to me. I just don't think it reflects reality in terms of the information that's available to us now in this day and age about sexuality and homosexuality, specifically," she said.
Gayle Johnson, an Auburn Catholic, said the bishop has the right to make the rules within the Catholic Church, but not for all Maine residents.
"It's really important to know there is still a strong, faithful community that likes being Catholic and respects the bishop, but is very disappointed in his decision to fight this political battle," she said in an interview Friday. "I think it's really sad and goes against the social justice teachings of the church."
Christopher Rioux, a Catholic from Lewiston, said the church is well within its rights to help repeal the law.
"If the Catholic Church had the power to veto the law, that would be a problem, but we're just Americans like anybody else, so we certainly have the right to express our beliefs, to organize, to raise money and see what we can do about it," he said.
Rioux said those who don't believe in the Catholic teachings aren't Catholics, by definition.
"If you want to be Catholic, it means you believe what the Catholic Church believes; otherwise you call yourself something else or you join another church," he said.
Rioux said if some people want to write notes of opposition instead of making donations this weekend, they should.
"They don't seem to understand the nature of the church if they think that they can have a Democratic opposition to faith or morals and that somehow that's going to make a difference. It doesn't change reality," he said.
But Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, a Catholic who voted in support of the law, said it's time for Catholics to speak up.
"People in the church should have a voice," she said.
Craven said she struggled with the decision of how to cast her vote this spring and lost the support of some constituents because of it.
"These aren't hateful or bad people; these are good people that do a lot of good things, so I am sad that I've lost their support from my one vote. But in my heart, I just had to do what I felt was right," she said.
Craven is still a practicing Catholic, but said she sometimes feels confused by the church's teachings.
"Our priests preach from the altar gorgeous and beautiful words that are inclusive and that are non-judgmental and charitable, and then in the next breath they are excluding people and hurting people and families," she said. "So I feel torn, and I feel that the mission is somehow lost."
Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese, said she has heard that some people are unhappy with the bishop's decision for a second plate to be passed, but maintained that it's an important issue for the church.
"There are those who think this is a good opportunity to give to the cause that they believe in, and then there are those who think that this is a very difficult time to be raising money when the churches are having such a hard time in other areas. They are kind of mixing the closure of churches with this issue, and we see it as two very different issues," she said.