Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

A Case for Defrocking: Preaching in Support of Same-Sex Marriage

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 30, 2012

It was very sad to see the news that a long-time Catholic pastor in Baltimore took the occasion of his bishop’s condemnation of same-sex marriage to preach vigorously in favor of it. Fr. Richard Lawrence of St. Vincent de Paul Church in the Diocese of Baltimore not only publicly defied Archbishop William Lori but actually asserted that Catholic doctrine can and should be developed to include same-sex matrimony.

The mind boggles not only at the directness of this defiance but at the absurdity of its alleged theological justification. Anyone who understands the Catholic doctrine of marriage knows that no such “development” could possibly be authentic. Consider these fundamentals:

  1. The doctrine of marriage is rooted in the social and familial nature of the human person, by which one man and one woman make a deep and exclusive commitment to each other in order to become two in one flesh so that they might bear children and nurture them in a stable environment of life and love;
  2. It is also rooted in the way in which God created us, in that through their union male and female persons more perfectly mirror the God in whose image each is made;
  3. The Sacrament of Matrimony is closed to those who are incapable of performing the marital act, which actually provides the consummation of the sacrament;
  4. Since a pair of same-sex persons can neither perform the marital act nor procreate, even if they are perfectly healthy, the very idea of same-sex marriage is both contrary to nature and contrary to the Divine plan;
  5. The Sacrament of Matrimony, by joining the couple in this fruitful intimacy, provides a powerful means for them to grow in holiness and attain salvation in a marital vocation which has been given to them by God, a vocation which cannot by its very nature be given to persons of the same sex.
  6. This sacrament serves further as a type or figure of the fruitful relationship of Christ and his spouse, the Church.

So the mind boggles at Fr. Lawrence’s theology, but the mind does not boggle at the standing ovation he received from those attending the Mass at which he preached his defiance. Overall, most Catholics who attend Mass regularly understand that same-sex marriage is contrary to both right reason and Divine law, but where the tendentious ministry of a bad pastor goes unchecked for an extended period of time, that parish becomes a haven for “Catholics” who have lost much of their faith but still wish to be part of a religious community (very likely primarily to feel spiritually validated). A Modernist pastor gradually cements a following as sound parishioners go elsewhere, and the unsound are drawn like iron filings to a magnet. In a similar way, it will take several years of hard and very courageous work for a new pastor to come into this kind of situation and turn things around.

Note that there have been plenty of secularized and heretical Modernist priests who have served in various positions in the Church in the United States over the past fifty years, but their number has been in steep decline since younger “JPII” priests have emerged, older men have left the ministry, the American Church has begun to rely more heavily on missionaries from abroad, and the authentic work of renewal has begun. Nonetheless, I will be very interested to see whether Archbishop Lori moves promptly to discipline Fr. Lawrence. If, as I have frequently argued in the recent past, our hierarchy is gradually getting significantly healthier, we would be very right to hope some action will be taken—and very right to be disappointed if it is not.

These things often take some time to work themselves out, but let me be frank here: What Fr. Richard T. Lawrence has done merits his prompt removal from ministry in the Diocese of Baltimore. I recommend prayer for Archbishop Lori, Fr. Lawrence and his parishioners. I also recommend that you stay tuned.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Oct. 30, 2012 9:40 PM ET USA

    Fr. Lawrence is free to say anything he wants if he first resigns from the church. The definition of being in communion would not include such beliefs.

  • Posted by: Leferink557202 - Oct. 30, 2012 6:18 PM ET USA

    I'm looking at the parish's website, and there are some rather sad but expected groups/items on it: "Women in Ministry," a group that openly supports women's ordination; their mission statement referring to God as "Mother and Father;" various "justice & service" items without the mention of the right to life; and pictures and descriptions of serious liturgical abnormalities and quirks. At first I thought it was just a rogue priest; now I see that it's an entire parish that needs help.