On Sunday, October 28 in Baltimore, Md., Rev. Richard T. Lawrence of St. Vincent de Paul Church took to his pulpit and did something unprecedented for a Roman Catholic priest. He gave a reasoned, logical and passionate defense of same-sex marriage. He did so knowing that on Election Day nine days later, his state would be voting on that very issue. That vote in Maryland and a separate one in Maine ultimately both went in favor of marriage equality.
In his homily that Sunday, Father Lawrence began by reading a letter from Baltimore’s Archbishop William E. Lori instructing the congregation, “Each one of us — as Catholics and faithful citizens — must show up on Election Day and do our part by voting against Question 6 (the Civil Marriage Protection Act).”
In response, Father Lawrence told those at St. Vincent de Paul:
“… 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, but we do hire and pay spousal benefits, such as medical insurance, for employees whose marriages are not valid in the eyes of canon law… It seems to me, therefore, that one might easily judge 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… we could come to recognize the total, exclusive, permanent, interpersonal commitment of gay and lesbian couples as a part of the sacrament of matrimony.”
While available on YouTube, the video of Father Lawrence’s homily from October 28 is conspicuously missing from the church’s website. Speaking by phone with a member of the church staff today, I asked about that and was told, “I apologize, but I’m not free to comment on it.”
I’m not the only one who has been asking. Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday, “I inquired about what had happened, but the pastor declined to comment and I haven’t heard back from St. Vincent’s. I assume Lawrence’s superiors might have had something to do with the removal of the video.”
Watch Father Lawrence’s brave and important remarks.