Recently, Bishop Robert N. Lynch, of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, wrote an op. ed. piece for the Tampa Bay Times that seemed to tacitly endorse the concept of a state defined same-sex “marriage”. He was contacted by the Sunbeam Times for an interview and declined to discuss the matter. He also declined to answer questions to be posed by email on the matter. His comments are causing concern among many Catholics. To attempt to gain clarity on his comments and to address what seem to be contradictions to standard church teaching, an open letter to Bishop Lynch is published here and available for download here: (Bishop lynch open letter on same sex marriage_v2). This author prays for a public response.
A question from the Open letter on Same-sex “marriage” to Bishop Robert Lynch:
“Are you perhaps saying that the same-sex couple can be holy and loving if they abstain from homosexual activity between each other as called on by the Catechism?”
Those interested in sending comments or questions to the Bishop can do so at: Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, PO Box 40200, St. Petersburg, FL 33743.
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch
Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg
February 23, 2015
It is with humility and respect that I write a letter of deep concern to you to be shared with the public. This open letter relates to your recent public statements regarding creation of a government-defined same-sex “marriage”. (I write this openly since you have specifically declined to meet with me to discuss this matter or answer these questions in writing.) In your statements[i], published in the Tampa Bay Times on January 7, 2015, you were right to point out that there may “no doubt be confusion” relating to the understanding of changing societal definitions of marriage by Catholics. In that spirit, I write to ask you to clarify some matters and help this faithful member of the Catholic laity clear up confusion created by this matter and by your public discussion of this matter.
To clear up any confusion I will offer some questions that I hope you will answer in public, in the same way in which you have made public your thoughts on the matter of so-called same-sex “marriage” created by the government. My questions will refer back to the document that has been defined by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as the basis of Catholic doctrine, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). His Holiness, Saint Pope John Paul II, described the Catechism as an “authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith” and as a “sure norm for teaching the faith,” as well as a “sure and authentic reference text” for preparing local catechisms (cf. Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, no. 4).”
In your statement on the government creation of a definition of same-sex “marriage” you rightfully pointed out proper Church teachings on Marriage. You pointed to the Church’s view of “marriage as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation” and that it is “part of God’s Providential design”. Yet you very pointedly proclaim you actively seek to avoid supporting the notion 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 the church and the wider society”. You then point out that “changing societal definitions and understandings of marriage” may create “confusion” and that our church must patiently and humbly “strive to discover what the spirit is saying”. You state that the church must “discern what pastoral response faithful to church teaching….might be appropriate for same-sex couples”.
It is in the spirit of your own call for discovery to clear up the confusion that I pose some questions to you. I hope you will make it part of your pastoral role to help me and other lay Catholics discover what the spirt is saying on this matter. Especially in this great Diocese of St. Petersburg.
1. Can you please advise what voices are saying that “same-sex couples are incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and are thus incapable of contributing to the edification of the church and the wider society”? Are those voices in the Catholic Church? If so, what is the basis of these statements?
2. Can you please advise what sort of “relationships” you are referring to that same-sex couples may be capable of sharing that are marked by “love and holiness”? Are you referring to the relationships each member of the same-sex couple may have outside their couple with other individuals? That would certainly be a holy and loving relationship we are all called to have as humans and faithful catholic. Or, rather, are you referring to the sexual relationship between the same-sex couple?
3. If the “relationship” between two members of a same sex couple is “loving”, is that enough to make it “holy”? How do you define a “holy” relationship? Is it enough for mankind in their temporal and physical reality to create their own definition of “love”? Would it not be more “holy” for man to defer to a definition of love created by God? How does defining a same-sex relationship as “loving” comport with what the Catechism says about Love here?
“1766 “To love is to will the good of another.” All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved. Passions “are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.” (1704)”
“1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.”
Can you explain how the vice of homosexuality can be considered a morally “good” Love given what the Catechism teaches about passions, feelings, love and morality?
4. Do you still agree with the Catechetical description of homosexuality as disordered” and a sin?
“2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.“
If homosexuality is a sin and “disordered” than can never, under any circumstance be approved, how can a Catholic reconcile that with your view that a “loving” same-sex relationship may be able to add to “the edification of the church and the wider society”? If, as the Catechism teaches that “disordered passions” are taken up by an “evil will” and perverts these passions into “vices”, how can you so strongly indicate that same-sex relationships marked by sexual intercourse can contribute to the “edification of both the church and the wider society”?
5. Do you believe that Homosexuality, as a willful act in full knowledge of the sin, constitutes a mortal sin? If so, are you concerned with the souls of those gravely sinning on earth and the consequences for them when judged after death?
“1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves…To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.””
6. Are you perhaps saying that the same-sex couple can be holy and loving if they abstain from homosexual activity between each other as called on by the Catechism?
“2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
7. So, based on the catechism cited above, are you calling homosexuals to chastity? If so, will you do it in public and from the pulpit? Will you ask your Priests and Deacons to do so in their homilies? Surely if you are discussing the matter of government created definition of “same-sex marriage” in public, would it not be appropriate for you also to call for chaste relationships among homosexuals just as robustly and in the parishes where faithful Catholics worship?
8.Your statements appear to support standard of a man-defined “love” as the only necessary ingredient to make a relationship “holy”. If that is the case, can those in the following relationships (among consenting adults – not children) be defined as “holy” if they self-profess “love”: A) Incestuous relationships among adults. B) Adulterous relationships. C) sexual relationships and “marriages” among multiple adult partners? If those in the incestuous, adulterous or multi-partner relationships (or “marriages”) and those who support them proclaim “love”, is that enough to conclude they can contribute “to the edification of the church and the wider society”?
9. Do you think it is possible to reconcile your statements with those of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (excerpted below) which unequivocally rejected any state-based definition of marriage that is not between one man and one woman?
“How society understands marriage has great public significance. Because of this, redefining civil “marriage” to include two persons of the same sex 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.”
“For the benefit of society and the common good, the conjugal understanding of marriage between a husband and a wife and complementarity of a father and mother must be preserved so that the family can be a school of love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, mutual respect, patience and humility in the midst of a world darkened by selfishness and conflict.”
Clearly the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has publicly stated that there is a threat to society from so-called same-sex marriage, yet your statement implies you reject voices that call it a “threat”. They indicate that only true marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable and capable of “contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society” (to use your words).
Your statements have left this Catholic concerned and confused, and I hope you will clarify them. I further pray that you will take the loving action of calling all homosexuals to celibacy as called for in our church and to do so publicly, using the same sort of imprimatur and exposure as was done with your recent statement on the subject. We cannot, as a church, mislead homosexuals into thinking that their continued sin is acceptable or part of a “loving and holy” relationship. They must be lovingly told, as all of us sinners are, that sin separates them from God and encouraged to reject sin and turn toward God to ensure their salvation and avoid the alternative. His Holiness, Pope Francis made a grave implication when he recently said with regard to homosexuality “who am I to judge?”. A judgment will come and our church should work to aid all sinners to face that judgment with the greatest purity possible.
Asking Your Excellency’s blessing, I am,
David McKalip, M.D.
[i]Church needs patience, humility in light of same-sex marriage By Bishop Robert N. Lynch, special to the Tampa Bay Times, BISHOP ROBERT N. LYNCH
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.