Florida bishop urges ‘patience and humility’ with end of same-sex marriage ban

A day after a fellow Florida prelate warned church employees not to publicly support the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Bishop Robert Lynch called Catholics to respond to the state’s new reality with “patience and humility.”

In an op-ed column for the Tampa Bay Times, Lynch, bishop of the St. Petersburg diocese, reiterated the church’s teaching of marriage -- that it is a sacramental, indissoluble relationship between man and woman open to procreation -- and commended any dialogue reaffirming that view and its respect within society.

At the same time, he referenced Pope Francis and the recent discussions at Extraordinary Synod on the family, saying he also recognizes “that the reality of the family today, in all its complexities, presents the church with pastoral challenges as the church strives to accept people in the specific circumstances of their lives and support and encourage them in their search for God and their desire to be members of the church.

“Therefore, I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society,” Lynch said.

A day earlier, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski reiterated in a memo to church employees that expressions of support of same-sex marriage could cost them their jobs.  

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"Whatever the role in which you serve within the Archdiocese, you publicly represent the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese in everything you do and say," he said.

In his column, Lynch acknowledged that changing societal definitions and understanding of marriage could cause some confusion, but encouraged the church to respond “with patience and humility” as it works “to discover what the spirit is saying and … to discern what pastoral response faithful to church teachings and marked by respect and sensitivity might be appropriate for same-sex couples, even as God’s creative designs for and the church’s sacramental understanding of marriage are affirmed.”

Same-sex marriage became legal in Florida Monday after a stay expired on a U.S. district judge’s August ruling that the state’s previous voter-approved ban was unconstitutional. The Sunshine State became the 36th state, in addition to Washington D.C., to permit same-sex marriage, and the 19th in the past 13 months.

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Monday expressing disappointment in the judicial decision, and warned that a redefinition of marriage “will have far-reaching consequences in society.”

“Such a change advances the notion that marriage is only about the affective gratification of consenting adults. Such a redefinition of marriage does nothing to safeguard a child’s right to a mother and father and to be raised in a stable family where his or her development and well-being is served to the greatest extent possible,” the statement read.

The conference stated the traditional marriage structure -- “the lifeblood of family” -- must be preserved for the sake of the family, and that it looked forward to the pope’s leadership later this year at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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