In light of the judicial decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Florida as of Tuesday, I wish to lend an additional voice to the 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.
The Catholic Church upholds marriage, one of our seven sacraments, as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation. Such a view is rooted not only in the church's long-standing theological understanding of married life, but in the church's understanding of Christian anthropology as well, which views the conjugal and complementary relationship between a man and a woman as part of God's providential design whereby human beings are able to be co-creators of life with God.
Therefore, any dialogue which reaffirms such a view of marriage and which seeks to ensure that such a view continues to be respected and enabled to serve and edify both the church and the wider society is to be commended and supported.
However, together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome, 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.
Bishop Robert N. Lynch leads the Diocese of St. Petersburg, which includes the 432,000 Catholics in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.