In the recent pro-life victory on partial-birth abortion, graphic images illustrating its barbaric reality were arguably one of the decisive factors in its ban. Ultrasound views of the fetus juxtaposed with images of mutilated and discarded aborted babies are involuntarily burned into subconscious memory, changing hearts and minds. Christian activists see the lengths to which pro-abortion groups and the mainstream media go to censor this harsh reality from the view of the public; both sides know that when the average citizen witnesses the horrific images behind the fuzzy rhetoric of “choice,” they come to oppose abortion.

Now some Christian activists are attempting to apply similar methods in the battle to protect marriage. A current grass-roots effort illustrates the uphill battle facing them, with opposition coming from unexpected quarters. As reported by the Associated Press, the Rev. John Nesbella of Prince of Peace parish in Northern Cambria, Pa., has organized the “Catholic Crusade to Defend Marriage and the Family.” Working quietly with approximately 50 lay Catholics, Father Nesbella has distributed several thousand educational packets in a half dozen parishes of the rural western Pennsylvania diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Consisting primarily of promotional flyers asking Catholics to support the effort and pre-printed letters and envelopes addressed to U.S. representatives and President Bush urging their support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, the effort has caused a firestorm of controversy over a pamphlet included in the packets.

“Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do,” a seven-page pamphlet by Paul Cameron, Ph.D., a psychologist who chairs the Family Research Institute in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a frank clinical discussion of the diseases and disorders attendant to homosexual behavior. In the current cultural debate over the legalization of homosexual marriage, such data obviously must be readily available, widely disseminated and seriously studied.

As the mainstream media has successfully censored most attempts to publicize the graphic reality of abortion, likewise Dr. Cameron’s research has been harshly criticized and the data he provides censored from public view. Unfortunately in this case, Father Nesbella’s own diocese is doing the censorship. On Nov. 24, the diocese sent him a letter ordering him to cease distribution of the pamphlets. Citing possible risk to the diocese’s tax-exempt status, the letter also states:

“It also invites legal action against you, the parish, the diocese and the bishop for various prohibited action that you are bordering upon, such as discrimination, pornography or defamation. These could be construed when the message is too negative, or too graphic.”

A subsequent memo to all diocesan clergy stated, “When the support of our clergy and laity is needed, our representatives will inform you about what appropriate action is called for … pastors are cautioned to wait for information from the Chancery or check with Chancery officials before calling upon the faithful to support or oppose any particular piece of legislation that deals with this issue.”

After witnessing the diocesan appraisal of his research, Dr. Cameron’s Family Research Institute issued a terse response.

“Health officials are always proclaiming the need for explicit and detailed information about homosexual activity,” said Cameron, “but when scientific facts reveal its very real dangers, then gay-rights supporters do whatever is necessary to repress it.”

“The pamphlet is nothing more or less than a summary of scientific studies, thoroughly documented,” Cameron said. “Facts don’t discriminate. The material – which concentrates on diseases that proceed from homosexual behavior – is anything but pornographic. And it is absurd to suggest that you can defame homosexuals as a class, particularly when you are quoting scientific authorities.”

The evangelical American Family Association of Pennsylvania also weighed in on the controversy. In a faxed statement to Bishop Adamec, the group expressed concern about the bishop’s apparent lack of support for the efforts of Father Nesbella. The statement also requested that the bishop remove the “cease and desist” order.

“This situation is totally bewildering. In July we applauded the Vatican’s statement strongly opposing same-sex marriage and we hope that all in the Catholic Church would agree on the wisdom of the pope’s document,” said Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

“Homosexual activists are following the plan laid out in the 1989 book “After the Ball,” which directed them to divert Americans’ attention away from homosexual sex acts. The idea is to gain the nation’s approval by pulling the victim card and claiming theirs is a civil-rights issue. This is in the hopes that we will not concentrate on the unnatural sex acts that are part of their lifestyle,” Gramley asserted. “To be compassionate is to be honest about the dangers of any lifestyle. Father Nesbella is showing compassion by working to preserve marriage as between one man and one woman. He knows that legalization of same-sex marriage is not for the common good of our society.”

Obviously, homosexual activists comprehend that when presented with a frank discussion of the lethal medical realities behind the fuzzy rhetoric of “gay marriage,” the public will support the Federal Marriage Amendment and oppose further special rights for same-sex couples. Fortunately, while poorly informed church officials can gag clergy, lay Christians who have learned the lessons of years of pro-life trial and error are free to apply similar tactics in the fight to preserve marriage.

Lay Catholic ministries in a dozen other states have already begun efforts to spread the “Catholic Crusade to Defend Marriage and the Family.” They grasp the enormity and import of this battle, and do not fear expected opposition to distribution of “Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do” pamphlets or other similar resources.

Brian J. Kopp, DPM, is vice president of the Catholic Family Association of America, officer of the board of the Polycarp Research Institute, a member of the Catholic Media Coalition, and freelance Catholic writer.

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