Is it the policy of the editors of The Westerly Sun to slander and defame a local clergyman in order to advance their pro-gay marriage agenda? One would think so, given the content of this past Sunday’s front-page article concerning the Supreme Court’s decisions of June 26. For those who missed it, here’s the line to which I am referring: “Chris Irwin, a Westerly resident who earlier this year had filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (since withdrawn) against St. Pius X Church of Westerly alleging Rev. Raymond N. Suriani’s lobbying from the pulpit was a violation of the church’s tax-exempt status …”
What was the relevance of mentioning this complaint (which was withdrawn because it was baseless!), other than to attack me personally and undermine my credibility as a religious leader in this community?
This is a perfect example of yellow journalism at its worst. First of all, as The Sun originally reported it, the complaint to the IRS focused on me, not my parishioners. Saying that the complaint was “against St. Pius X Church” wrongly implies their direct involvement. Secondly, the line accuses me of “lobbying from the pulpit” — which I have never done. On the Sunday in question, I simply encouraged my parishioners to make their positions on the issue of gay marriage known to Sen. Dennis Algiere. I did not tell them what to say to the Senator. I merely told them that we have the civic and moral responsibility to let our leaders know where we stand on issues like this, because they are elected to represent us, and to serve us.
I did that because, as far as I know, we still have a right to free speech here in the United States of America.
The Sun has also said in past articles that I made this appeal to my parishioners during a homily. On that point they have also been wrong! I made my appeal at the end of Mass during my announcements. It was NOT the topic of my preaching that day.
Before I close, let me express my personal reaction to last Wednesday’s decisions. Someone from The Sun called me for a comment on the matter last Thursday afternoon, but I did not have the time to get back to the writer. I was preparing myself to go to Long Island to officiate at the marriage of a former altar server of mine — and, to be perfectly honest, my presence at his wedding rehearsal was much more important to me than giving a comment to The Sun.
But I will do so now. My personal response to these decisions is as follows: Marriage is — and always will be — between one man and one woman. Nothing the President or the Supreme Court or The Westerly Sun says can ever change that timeless truth. The Court was wrong in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, it was wrong in the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 — and it was wrong last Wednesday.
This, of course, should not surprise us because the justices of the Supreme Court (like the editors of The Westerly Sun) are not infallible.
And that’s why I pray for both groups every day.
The Rev. Raymond Suriani is pastor of St. Pius X Church in Westerly.