BALTIMORE, November 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The archbishop of Baltimore has publicly rebuked one of priests who told his congregation that he is in favor of same-sex “marriage” and that he sees a future in which the Roman Catholic Church could recognize “the total, exclusive and permanent union of gay and lesbian couples as part of the sacrament of matrimony.”
Maryland voters are voting today on a referendum on same sex “marriage.”
Rev. Richard T. Lawrence of Baltimore’s St. Vincent de Paul Church began last Sunday’s homily by reading a letter to the faithful from Archbishop William E. Lori in which the archbishop explained the importance of supporting traditional marriage when they go to the ballot boxes on Nov. 6.
“Each one of us – as Catholics and faithful citizens – must show up on election day and do our part by voting against Question 6,” the archbishop wrote, referring to the referendum seeking to add same-sex couples to the definition of marriage.
Archbishop Lori pointed out that voters face “the momentous choice of whether to maintain marriage as the union of one man and one woman in Maryland, or to irrevocably dismantle our state’s legal recognition of the most basic unit of our society – the family unit of mother, father and child.”
The archbishop also noted that same-sex couples already have many of the same benefits and protections as married couples, including medical decision-making and hospital visitation rights, exemption from inheritance and real estate tax laws, and government health benefits.
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“Recognizing this fact, do not be fooled in thinking it is necessary to redefine marriage for all of society simply to provide other couples [with] benefits,” the archbishop said, adding a warning that, “We cannot underestimate the long-term consequences that redefining marriage would have on children, on the family, and on the religious freedoms of individuals and institutions who continue to hold fast to our deeply held beliefs about marriage.”
In his homily, Rev. Lawrence followed the archbishop’s letter by stating that, “The archbishop’s thoughts on this question are powerful, and will be persuasive in conscience to many.”
He then expressed his personal views in support of same-sex “marriage” by pointing out what he believes is an inconsistency in church teaching and practice with regard to some couples’ inability to have children not being an impediment to sacramental marriage.
The church has always “been willing to marry couples in the church even though their ages suggest strongly that the procreation and education of children is no longer a possibility,” Lawrence said.
“Could we not then say that their [a homosexual couple’s] devotion to and support of each other ... could be recognized by the church as a valid sacrament of God’s unrelenting faithfulness to us just as much as the union of an elderly straight couple?” he asked. “Neither will procreate children, but both can be sacraments of God’s faithfulness in the living out of their commitment to each other.”
“I personally believe,” Rev. Lawrence said, “that this is a possible line of future development in theology and perhaps eventually even in church teaching. And if this is even a possibility, could we not judge that civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples ought to be allowed by the state at this time?”
He concluded by saying that civil law should be allowed to “progress” even though Church law could not, “at least not yet.”
“Personally, I believe that it can and that it should,” he said. “So there you have it. The official teaching of the church and my personal reflections.”
Archbishop Lori responded to Rev. Lawrence’s homily by issuing a statement on “The Teaching Role of Priests.”
“Preaching the word of God,” the archbishop said, “requires subordination of personal views to the word of God as taught by the Catholic Church. This was my promise when I became a priest, as it is the promise of every priest at his ordination.
“No bishop, priest or deacon has the right to use the pulpit to advance his personal opinions. The pulpit is the place where the living word of God, as it comes to us through the teachings of the Church, is to be proclaimed and taught.
“May all priests, including myself, be mindful of their obligation to preach the Gospel even when it is unpopular with prevailing culture,” Archbishop Lori concluded.
Attempts to reach an official at the diocesan communications office for comment on whether Rev. Lawrence would be sanctioned for his dissent from Church teaching were unsuccessful.
Archbishop William E. Lori
320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201