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For gay Catholic, marriage video shown at Mass was 'vile'

To the devout Catholic, it seemed sacrilegious: a video shown at the end of Mass that he felt ridiculed his rights and disparaged the lives of countless other Americans.

So when the eight-minute antigay marriage video ended yesterday at the St. John the Evangelist Church in Canton, Chuck Colbert stood up and told the congregation: "I'm a gay Catholic man, I'm engaged to be married, and I will be married on May 20 in Cambridge. I mean you no harm."

On the day before state lawmakers were scheduled to continue considering a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriage, some parishioners spoke out against him, and ushers asked him to leave. Church officials called the police.

"The law is that there is no disrupting a worship service," said the Rev. Michael Doyle, the church's pastor, who noted that the video was distributed by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, an advocacy arm of the Catholic church that has lobbied lawmakers against gay marriage. "Mass isn't a time for people to voice their opinions about what they agree with or disagree with."

For Colbert, 48, speaking out was a matter of conscience. The Cambridge freelance writer, reached at home by phone yesterday, said he went to Canton after a friend told him about the video.

"It was the most contemptuous, vile, slanderous piece of political propaganda that I have ever seen in a Roman Catholic church," he said, adding that the video suggested that wedded gay couples would take away benefits from the poor and elderly. "What they said was so scandalous, I felt out of the gospel values I hold dear, I had to bear witness to the truth of my own life." Similar sentiments were expressed yesterday at Old South Church in Copley Square, where clergy from area churches and synagogues met for an interfaith service titled, "Praying for Freedom, Confronting Oppression, Celebrating Justice."

At the 9 a.m. Mass at St. John's in Canton, the presiding priest, Father Hal Obayashi, delivered a sermon about adultery and then showed the video, which he introduced by discussing how Christians should be tolerant of others but not avoid speaking the truth, Doyle said. Later in the day, after Colbert left the church on his own, Doyle said it was not a typical part of Mass to show a politically oriented video. But, he added, "These are extraordinary times."

David Abel can be reached at

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