Maryland Priest Counters Archbishop’s Letter With Support For Marriage Equality

Father Richard T. Lawrence

As many Catholic leaders have done, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori required all parish priests to read a letter from him this past Sunday denouncing marriage equality and encouraging parishioners to vote no on Maryland’s Question 6. When Father Richard T. Lawrence read the letter this past weekend at Baltimore’s St. Vincent de Paul church, he then added his own thoughts, breaking from Lori and the Vatican to suggest that voting for marriage equality may be the Catholic thing to do.

According to BuzzFeed, the response was swift. Lori asked that Lawrence’s homily be removed from the church’s website, though no other punitive action has been taken. Here are some excerpts from Lawrence’s remarks as reported in the Catholic Reporter:

LAWRENCE: I will continue to stand in genuine awe of all those couples — straight, gay and lesbian — hose day-to-day, year-to-year, and decade-to-decade faithfulness to each other is to me a sacrament, a believable embodied sign, of the absolute faithfulness of God to us all. […]

While the federal courts respect the rights of churches not to hire anyone for a ministerial position whose marriage does not comply with the laws of that church, we do hire and pay spousal benefits, such as medical insurance, for employees whose marriages are not valid in the eyes of church law. It seems to me, therefore, that even if we do not believe that gay marriage ever could or should be allowed in the church, we could live with a provision that allows civil marriage of gay and lesbian couples. Personally, however, I would go farther than that. […]

Could we not then say that their 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? Neither will procreate children, but both can be sacraments of God’s faithfulness in the living out of their commitment to each other.

Lawrence said he will not perform same-sex marriages, but he will continue to attend the weddings of gays and lesbians “whom I love and support.” He encouraged his parishioners to rethink Lori’s suggested vote:

But could not civil law be allowed to progress where church law cannot go, at least not yet? Personally, I believe that it can and that it should. So there you have it: the official teaching of the church and my personal reflections.

The St. Vincent parishioners responded with a standing ovation.