Who We Love: Rev. Tim Clark

The Catholic priest rejects a Washington State appeal to ban same-sex marriage

The parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake gave their pastor - the Rev. Tim Clark - a standing ovation for not supporting the repeal of same-sex marriage (courtesy of Our Lady of the Lake)

Rev. Tim Clark may be miles away from Philly, but his message is being heard loud and clear. As Washington State’s political and religious leaders push for a referendum that would repeal same-sex marriage this month, Clark took a very different approach.

“I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made not to gather signatures in support of this referendum,” the priest wrote in an email, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Even though Clark’s own church leaders  – including the archbishop – have endorsed Referendum 74, an anti-gay proposal that would strip same-sex couples of marriage rights, Miller proposed that his congregation join other Catholic churches in the state (six to date) in rejecting the anti-gay initiative.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain asked all Catholics in Washington to support Referendum 74 in a letter recently, which set off a fire storm as more parishioners actually support same-sex nuptials in the Northwestern state (the law passed in favor of it just this year). Opponents of marriage equality, however, need to gather more than 120,000 valid voter signatures by June 6 to block the state’s new same-sex marriage law from taking effect and put the issue on November’s ballot – again.

“When I first read the archbishop’s letter I was troubled by the content and his intentions,” Clark told the news. “In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way. What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive. To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community. …I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.”

At a time when priests usually make headlines for crimes, sex abuse allegations and scandal – we need not look very far within our backyards for just that – it’s refreshing to see a Catholic leader compassionately and bravely stand up for basic human rights. Perhaps if more religious leaders adopted the compassion that Rev. Clark has shown in Washington, we would all be in a much better place (and in the pews).