Another bishop, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, has commented on the legalization of same-gender marriage in Florida, but this time he is seeking to calm the fear and hysteria fomented by the state’s other Catholic leaders.
In a piece for the Tampa Bay Times, Bishop Lynch begins with the expected language about the bishops’ view on marriage and encourages opponents of marriage equality to defend their views in dialogue with others. Less routine is what follows in the column’s second half, in which Lynch expresses some awareness of the contributions of same-gender couples to church and society. Invoking Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family, he writes:
“I also recognize 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.
“In the midst of changing societal definitions and understandings of marriage, there may no doubt be some confusion. However, with patience and humility, our church must continuously strive to discover what the spirit is saying and respond to the Synod Fathers’ suggestion to discern what pastoral response faithful to church teaching 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.”
You can read the bishop’s column in full by clicking here. Its substance, as well as Lynch’s tone, is markedly different from the Florida Catholic Conference’s statement and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s reaction. Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday that Wenski’s letter about the legalization of same-gender marriage intimidated church workers by warning them against publicly supporting LGBT rights anywhere and at any time.
Bishop Lynch has a relatively positive record on LGBT issues, stating previously that the Diocese of St. Petersburg wanted to welcome LGBT people. Lynch called the 2014 Synod on the Family “an important moment of honesty and collegiality.” He was one of only a handful of U.S. bishops who released diocesan survey results leading up to the October meeting in Rome. Writing on his blog about the results, Lynch said he desired to hear more from Catholics “who have fallen away” and wrote about LGBT issues:
“I have made it known that I will not tolerate any discrimination or anything which smacks of the punitive to children of same-sex couples. I think all representatives of the Church’s many ministries can be kinder, gentler, more welcoming and less judgmental of those who find our praxis and preaching on marriage and family life to be at odds with their experiences…”
Bishop Lynch’s approach to marriage equality maintains his convictions while respectfully acknowledging that LGBT rights are civil law and that church leaders must respond accordingly as pastors.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry