Florida Bishops Speak Out About State's Same-sex Ruling

Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski

A day after a federal judge's Jan. 5 ruling struck down the state's ban of same-sex marriage, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski sent a letter to archdiocesan employees stressing that they need to "understand the church's position" on this issue.

Along with the letter, which he said he wrote because of "recent decisions by courts in Florida," the archbishop attached a statement issued by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops that expressed disappointment with the court's redefinition of marriage saying it "will have implications not yet fully understood."

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The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee overturning a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage made Florida the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Wenski reminded employees that they "publicly represent the Catholic Church and the archdiocese" in everything they do and say. He also quoted the archdiocesan employee handbook which points out that "certain conduct, inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, could lead to disciplinary action, including termination, even if it occurs outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee."

The handbook also states, as pointed out in the archbishop's letter, that "employees should exercise discretion when posting on social media sites, and not that online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors may subject an employee to disciplinary action or termination."

In a Jan. 6 column in the Tampa Bay Times, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg said he wanted to add his voice to "discussion regarding the challenges we in the Catholic Church face as we strive to preserve the traditional sacramental understanding of marriage even as the law now accommodates couples of the same sex."

He pointed out that the church upholds marriage "as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation" and said that understanding is "rooted not only in the church's long-standing theological understanding of married life, but in the church's understanding of Christian anthropology."

The bishop also noted that "together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome" that today's families present the church with pastoral challenges particularly "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."

He said he did not wish to contribute 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."

Bishop Lynch also pointed out that "with patience and humility, our church must continuously strive" to discern a "pastoral response faithful to church teaching and marked by respect and sensitivity" to same-sex couples.

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