LEWISTON — In the face of recent firings at the Trinity Catholic School and the plans for closing two Catholic parishes in Lewiston, both due to declining revenue, the revelation that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland had spent $100,000 on efforts to repeal the recently passed same-sex marriage law took some Catholics by surprise.

“I saw that $100,000 figure in the paper and it was very demoralizing,” said David Webbert, an Augusta lawyer, who for years attended Auburn’s St. Philip’s Church with his family and now occasionally attends in Winthrop.

But Marc Mutty, a leader of the group seeking to repeal the law who is on leave from his work at the diocese, said parishioners should know the donated funds were not taken from the collection plate.

“The money is dedicated revenues that were provided by a donor for causes such as these and money from the collection basket or any of those types of things would never be used,” he said.

Mutty said he only had limited details regarding the origins of the donation.

“It’s my understanding the money was left to the Portland diocese for defending church dogma or policy, that sort of thing. It wasn’t specific to this particular issue. Our application to this issue was our choice, but it fell within the general parameters of the donor’s request,” he said.

Maine Catholics have a variety of opinions when it comes to same-sex marriage and the church’s role in the repeal effort, Mutty said.

“It’s a mixed bag, no question,” he said. “We are looking to spend a fair amount of time in the months to come educating Catholics about this fundamental teaching of the church and societal implications.”

For Webbert, who stopped attending St. Philip’s regularly in part because of the pedophilia scandals, the church’s position regarding same-sex marriage just doesn’t make sense.

“The Catholic Church is right on a lot of important social justice issues but they are very wrong on that one,” said Webbert, who testified in favor of the new law at the legislative public hearing earlier this year. “These teachings just don’t hold up to intellectual thought. The key point is that the relationship is not defined by the gender of the people but it’s defined by whether they love each other or not.”

Webbert said his family still contributes to the international Catholic charities work, in part because he knows it doesn’t go to fight issues like same-sex marriage.

Mutty said he understands why people get upset when they see that the diocese spent money on this issue, regardless of where the money actually came from.

“There’s no question that some would say that it’s a shame we have to spend this kind of money on this kind of issue when we should be spending it on the poor or those kinds of things,” he said.

Many Catholics, however, are supportive of the church’s efforts.

Peter Bolduc of Lewiston said he’s actually sorry to agree with the diocese for once. Bolduc is a school board member at the Trinity Catholic Church currently circulating his own petition asking the diocese to give more power to his board over school decisions.

“The code or formula in which I have been raised definitely includes a man and a woman in the union and I am fully supportive of that; I don’t see any other way that nature’s great cycle continues or works,” he said. “Is it a good use of money compared to all the other battles that the church has to fight? I think it’s one of the last bastions.”

Mutty agreed.

“We believe it is a fundamental issue that speaks to the good of society and the best interests of society and once it is lost, it is lost forever,” he said.

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