With friends like these…

A Catholic friend on facebook sympathetically links to this story about the dissenting homily given by Fr. Richard T. Lawrence, pastor of Baltimore’s St. Vincent de Paul church, after reading aloud a letter asking Catholics to vote against Maryland’s “Question 6,” the Civil Marriage Protection Act. The letter was from Fr. Lawrence’s own  Archbishop, William Lori, which urged Catholics to vote in accordance with natural marriage on Tuesday. (Oddly, the National Catholic Reporter quotes from but does not link to Lori’s letter, and St. Vincent de Paul’s website does not link to Fr. Lawrence’s homily.) Fr. Lawrence opines:

I will continue to stand in genuine awe of all those couples — straight, gay and lesbian — whose day-to-day, year-to-year, and decade-to-decade faithfulness to each other is to me a sacrament, a believable embodied sign, of the absolute faithfulness of God to us all.

Fr. Lawrence & Archbishop Lori

A sacrament is not just “a believable embodied sign,” it is an outward sign signifying an inward reality. The outward sign of Baptism is water washing over our skin, cleansing it, and the inward reality is that the action really does cleanse our souls of sin. The outward sign of the Holy Eucharist is the partaking of bread and wine which sustains our bodies, and the inward reality is that only the accidents of bread and wine remain and we are really partaking of the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ which sustains our souls.

The outward sign of a same-sex union certainly does not correspond with the inward reality. Yes, God’s relationship with us is one of faithfulness but it is also one of fecundity, something which a same-sex union biologically lacks by nature. Fr. Lawrence presumably would consider natural marriage and same-sex unions to be equal to my relationship with my old high school buddies who, decade-to-decade, have remained faithful friends.

Turning to decisions at Vatican II (1962-65), Lawrence said an eventual change in church teaching was possible, “and we could come to recognize the total, exclusive and permanent union of gay and lesbian couples as part of the sacrament of matrimony.”

Ah, Vatican II: the go-to reference to support any sort of dissent. Few of your hearers or readers will have read all the documents, and if you don’t specify which actual document you are using to bolster your dissent, all the better!

The church has always “been willing to marry couples in the church even though their ages suggest strongly that the procreation and education of children is no longer a possibility,” Lawrence said.
“Could we not then say that their devotion to and support of each other … could be recognized by the church as a valid sacrament of God’s unrelenting faithfulness to us just as much as the union of an elderly straight couple?” he asked. “Neither will procreate children, but both can be sacraments of God’s faithfulness in the living out of their commitment to each other.”

Any middle-schooler instructed in the theology of the body would be able to point out the flaw in Fr. Lawrence’s reasoning. The bodies of an elderly straight couple are still naturally complementary to each other; if God wished he could bless such a couple with a child, as he did with Abraham and Sarah.

Lawrence stressed such was not the teaching of the church, but said, “I personally believe that this is a possible line of future development in theology and perhaps eventually even in church teaching. And if this is even a possibility, could we not judge that civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples ought to be allowed by the state at this time?”

It is doubtful that a faulty understanding of the nature of man and woman represents a possibility that the church could change its teaching on the sacrament of marriage. Do pastors have the right to teach their flocks anything they want as long as the pastor himself can contort logic into a presumed “theological possibility?” Don’t the laity deserve to be taught the truth? It is also possible, by his reasoning, that the church could allow communion to non-Catholics in non-extraordinary circumstances because their digestive systems are just like ours, and many of them express belief in the Real Presence, as understood by their own denominations.

Catholics have enough of an uphill battle in the fight for natural marriage against well-funded LGBT groups, an oppressively secular and sexually confused culture, and undercatechized parishioners; it doesn’t help that a few of our own pastors willfully dissent from the successors to the apostles and distort Church teaching on the sacraments.

P.S. It’s difficult to say whether Fr. Lawrence is influencing his flock or they are influencing him, but “The St. Vincent parishioners gave Lawrence a standing ovation.”

P.P.S. St. Vincent’s “Our Pastor” site is pretty revealing about Fr. Lawrence:

He can be pretty opinionated and challenging in his homilies, but he doesn’t insist or even expect that everyone will agree with him: he encourages people to learn and think for themselves.

Um, aren’t you supposed to be teaching people about the faith? Do shepherds let the sheep fend for themselves?

He has been active in social justice ministries all his life, starting with the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s and the Peace movement in the 70’s, and is today one of the leaders in the Inclusive Housing movement.

It’s hard not to be predisposed to presuming that a dissenting priest is “active in social justice;” those terms don’t seem to mean much in modern Church life other than an alignment with typically politically leftist movements. A priest who undermines his bishop’s teaching in front of his own flock and refers to himself as “active in social justice ministries” risks propagating the belief in the laity that care of the poor and marginalized is more important than being in union with one’s bishop and the clear teaching of the Church.



  • afrommi

    If you are Catholic, have had a Catholic education which is universal and it gives all a conscience which answers the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the same way Jesus answer by His actions and speech, then there is no other way for you to vote but Democratic and for Obama. Analyzing what Romney offers, “reducing federal spending by sending programs for the poor to the states as an OPTION”, you will find out that action alone will increase state taxes in those states that will adopt those programs. Forcing most state to be selfish and not adopt them.

    While the egoist wealthy (not all, just those who think they owe nothing to anyone) will move to those states which do not adopt those programs in order to avoid paying more state taxes. Those who cannot afford to move, namely the working poor and middle class will be over burden with taxes to cover for those programs. It will not be only unjust and unfair but immoral.

    I pray to God, the Almighty Being in the heavens, the One to whom we owe so much, to guide those with a good heart, and who try to imitate Jesus, to vote Democratic. We have a free will and we can be egoist, and think only of profit, and expenses but we also can use that free will for the good of all. I don’t consider my self poor, and I know I will not starve if I pay more taxes, but I know that the wealthy will not starve either if they pay more. Let the burden of caring for the poor fall in all of us, not just the residents of states that adopt those programs.

    • Shawn

      So Jesus would support abortion and gay marriage? Please cite sources. Also, remember that the Democrats wanted to remove God from the party platform.

      • MARA

        Shawn, site your sources where Jesus didn’t support a woman’s right of choice. Site your sources where Jesus promoted forced births. Site your sources where Jesus mentioned anything about gay marriage. Use bible passages only and not Catholic interpretations, for as we all know, Catholic interpretations can’t be proven to be any more accurate than any other interpretations. While you’re at it, show where Jesus said the use of contraceptives is a sin.

        • Ann

          I know that you are not an atheist and that you know the Truth but reject it. You are spreading lies from the Father of all lies. You twist and confuse all arguments and spout nonsense. You are being used by the evil one whether you know it or not. May God have mercy on your soul.
          I will pray to Our Lady for you and for the protection of those whom you attempt to lead astray.

          Hail Mary, full of grace……

          • Mara

            You’re accurate when you say I’m not an atheist. I believe in the human race and the grand order of the universe, which is ethical. I don’t know the truth but do my best to perceive it and experience it. I twist nothing but do offer anyone the opportunity to experience another perspective. I believe we are driven by two things; our body urges (the devil) and our ideology (God.) I wish you all the best and I offer you my friendship whether you accept it or not. We’re all part of the human family.

  • DrPC

    A standing ovation? Really? The only standing I would be doing would be to walk out the door and wipe the dust from my feet. The Catholic Church in America is in a sorry state and needs a thorough housecleaning to rid itself of the dissenters (aka Protestants). Fortunately, I am in a parish that is orthodox and faithful. Praise the Lord!

    • Paul

      That’s what most Catholics do if their priest uses mass to say our laws should discriminate against gay people.

      • Curious

        Our priest preaches God’s Word with that homosexual acts, same sex marriage, and abortion are WRONG and AGAINST God’s Authority and LAWS EVERY Sunday. Our church is PACKED! Our pews are full, our chairs in the aisles are full, the additional chairs in the back of church are FULL, and people are standing. Our parishioners are thirsty for TRUTH, God’s Word, not the pick and choose nonsense you come up with as you disreguard our LORD’S Word. Our Parish is very blessed. Our priest writes his Homily with the Holy Spirit in our Perpetual Adoration Chapel in the presence of God. He has told us that he will preach what God has written. It may NOT sit comfortable with some, but the Holy Spirit is speaking through him, and it is ALL GOD”S WORD. I will pray for you Paul. I am praying for your conversion to God over yourself and your own “beliefs” over His. I pray for you as I pray for my own daily conversion to God. Avoiding Satan and his pull is a daily struggle for all of us, and I will include you in my prayers. God bless

  • MARA

    Fr. Lawrence, thank-you for reminding all of us that we have a right and an obligation to question authority rather than following blindly. Thankfully, many who have chosen to follow the Catholic faith have recognized that the authoritative stance against the use of contraceptives and women’s and gay rights are wrong. These are the true Catholics; those who recognize that the power of the Church lies not with its hidden hierarchy but rather with its lay people, just as the power in America lies with its people and not with its government. Always, always question leaders who say they are the authority and who say their authority comes from God because that can never be proven. Perhaps someday the next Pope will be determined by the vote of the lay people and not by a small group of clergy who are not in touch with the people or even with reality.

    • Briana

      If the Church is a democracy, you can say such a thing. But it’s not. As Tim said, “Do shepherds let the sheep fend for themselves?” If they do, we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.

      • MARA

        Theocracies embrace false authority over its people supposedly in the name of their god. Theocracies exist only because the people haven’t revolted against them or gone their own way. The founding fathers revolted against theocracies and created the greatest country in the world. Theocracies are dangerous because they don’t allow dissent or discussion. Simply look at the posts on this site, all based in theocratic philosophy,

        • Briana

          The United States is a COUNTRY, though. It’s not a Church. By the way, if you were really all about questioning authority, you would be questioning the authority of Father Lawrence, who dissents from Church teaching that has been held for the past 2000+ years (and it’s been held for a damn good reason!) A person’s conscience wasn’t meant to be an egotistical extension of one’s self; or else we would all be our own gods. So don’t say that you’re all about questioning authority, because that’s bullshit.

          • MARA

            The human conscience is the Jesus within us. Human beings didn’t have a conscience in the time of Moses so we needed rules back then to guide us. Our conscience, through the process of evolution, came into existence around the time of the birth of Jesus. Coincidence? I think not. Our conscience is our guide. It’s our connection to the natural ethics and justice of the universe. Jesus was a rebel. He revolted against the theocracies of His time and so must we. By following our conscience rather than blindly following is the way we revolt against theocracies, whose very nature is anti-freedom of thought.

          • Briana

            And if your “freedom of thought” leads you to believe lies, then I suppose that’s not a very good thing, is it?

          • MARA

            Freedom of thought is everything regardless of where it leads. Without freedom of thought we are no more than animals. It occurs to me that a theocracy such as the Catholic hierarchy created many hundreds of years ago to control the masses is the exact opposite of freedom of religion. WOW!

          • Briana

            And again, the Church is NOT A NATION! So once more, your argument crumbles. And by the way, doesn’t Jesus teach us that the Truth will set us free? The Truth and not our truth as we make it up to be?

          • MARA

            Briana, so what is your truth that leads you not to be free?

          • Briana

            I make an effort to follow the Church’s definition of the truth. So I’m not shackled to your bullshit lies that innocent unborn lives are disposable, that artificial birth control has NOT been responsible for this sewer of a hook-up culture that we reside in, that the Church is a democracy, that truth is relative, and any other fucked-ip definition of the truth that you want to throw at us.

          • Briana

            *fucked-up* pardon me.

          • Ed Thanot

            Briana, please don’t use that impure language, which is especially unbecoming when employed by a woman. That doesn’t help our cause.

          • MARA

            You’re pardoned. I never get upset with misspellings. And I consider the phrase you used as completely acceptable because it’s honest. I appreciate honesty.

          • Ann S.

            Dear Briana, Let’s fight the untruths uttered by Rich, Mara, Common Cause, Raging Catholic, Greg, I Follow Hate, Buford Jr., Annette, et. al. But let’s never use language that is disrespectful of marital love. We can–and must–do better!

          • Briana

            Yes mam. Anger is one of my vices I am trying to curb.

          • Briana

            Yes mam.

          • MARA

            No, you’re shackled to your own religions’ beliefs refusing to look beyond them to determine whether or not they are actually true.

          • Curious

            You are shackled to your bondage of sin. We are called to live Holy lives in order for eternal life with our Father. Your life of sin will lead you to hell. Please consider giving up the bondage of sin that you tether yourself to for earthly pleasures that DO NOT PLEASE GOD. It is NEVER too last, and we will join together to pray for your conversion. We follow God’s Divine Word, not Mara’s less than divine words. It is easy to do. Attend Mass, read and meditate on Scripture, and pray for openess to ACCEPT our Father’s Word over our own wants, pride and beliefs. God bless.

          • Mara

            Curious, and I shall wish for your awakening. Peace.

          • hartow

            ‘…human conscience is the Jesus within us?’ Oh my, oh my. I’ll pray for your conversion.

          • MARA

            hartow, no need. Jesus is always with me through my conscience.

        • Julie T.

          Atheist Troll, we who are the Catholic Vote community cordially invite you to Go. Away. We know you as “Mara”, we know you as “Rich”, we know you “Greg”, we know you as “Annette”, etc. We know your sole aim is make this Web site so unpleasant *authentic* Catholics will avoid it. You are wrong. We will see to it that, one way or another, you are left without a way to deposit your garbage.

          • MARA

            Julie T. you may want to believe that I’m all those people but I’m not. There are others who don’t blindly follow all the Catholic teachings, including millions of Catholics who use contraceptives and millions who believe in women’s right of choice. And yes, they followed their conscience and found that many Catholic teachings are unethical and unjustifiable.

          • Briana

            That doesn’t make them right, though.

          • Dar Sanders

            Briana, you are right. The concept of “conscience” is one of the most misunderstood around today. Many of your comments in this post have been most helpful.

          • MARA

            Briana, and it doesn’t make them wrong simply because it goes against your religions’ beliefs. It simply makes them owners of their own choices, which always raises self-esteem.

          • Ann

            Dear Mara,

            Are you Catholic? If so, you have been very poorly educated in the Faith of the Church. I say this not to be unkind but to be honest to you. I am glad you posed today since your comments indicate that you do not believe in the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium). Nor do you have a proper understanding of conscience.

            You do not get to say who is Catholic and who is not. And you do not get to say what or how the Church is structured. There is a hierarchy in the Church and there always has been. It was structured that way by Jesus himself.

            Conscience must be well formed and to be well formed it must be in union with the teachings of the Church. In matters of faith and morals the Church is not wrong. Even if you don’t understand it or fully agree with it, you are bound to follow it and work to come to understanding. We are called to bring our wills into line with the teachings of the Church. It is not blind as you are free to continue to question and work toward understanding. Even the saints obeyed when they didn’t understand. It is not wrong to obey the Church to do right.

            You have rejected core teachings of the Church. Do you realize that you have separated yourself from the Church? It is apparent that you are very angry and for that I am sorry. I will pray that you will reconcile yourself to the Church. Your salvation depends on it.

            This priest has done a terrible thing leading his flock away from the Church. He has put his and all of their souls in jeopardy.

          • MARA

            Ann, all I can say is that I feel bad for you.

          • Ann Roth


            You are a very sad and angry person and I will continue to pray for you.

            Once again the closer we get to the truth, the more intense the hatred from those who oppose the Church. And that would be you. You have been hateful and I respond only to encourage others not to back down when confronted by evil lies. I do not care what you think of me.

            Mara is such a pretty name. It is a variation of Mary. May our Mother Mary pray for you. I will offer a Rosary for you.

          • Julie T.

            Mara, you are NOT a Catholic. You are a schismatic dissident and a dishonest one at that. Call yourself what you really are and then use your time more productively by finding a church that conforms to your demands.

          • MARA

            Julie T. I never said I was a Catholic. When Jesus said “I will make you the fisher of men, the correct spelling was actually “fissure,” because Jesus was a schismatic. He represented the struggle within all human beings: body urges v ideology. I’m not Jesus. What have I been dishonest about?

          • Ann Roth

            Their conscience led them to sin. Conscience is not feelings or opinions. It is God’s truth written on the human heart. Abortion and contraception are the result of wanting the freedom to behave like animals with no limits, not restraint, no responsibilities other than physical feelings.

          • Curious

            There were MANY pharasees and people that did NOT follow God’s word and Jesus warned them of what would happen to them if they did not follow TRUTH, God’s Word. He said it would be better to have a stone tied around your neck and thrown into the oceans than to not follow God and lead others away from God. The gates of hell are eternal. We are praying for you. And by the way, EVERYONE NEEDS PRAYERS!
            God bless

  • BufordJr.

    If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
    2 Chron 7:14

  • Julie T.

    *Why* are dissident priests allowed to retain their priestly faculties? Don’t the bishops understand the faithful *will stand with them* when they carry out their *duty* and remove unfaithful priests? I liken this situation—which has been allowed to continue for far too long—to the era leading up to the Reformation. Everyone *knew* reform was desperately needed, but they failed to apply the pressure to make it happen. Only the destructive Reformation brought the Counter-Reformation. As my grandparents might have said, “That’s a day late and a dollar short.” How can we have a New Evangelization if the bishops do not exercise their duty to protect the Truth? Everyone from our truly wonderful Pope Benedict XVI to the bishop of the smallest diocese need to deal firmly with this situation NOW and everywhere or risk another era of heresy and schism taking hold. THAT is exactly what the apostate dissidents are hoping for—inaction until they carry the day.

    • Julie T.

      I just followed Tim’s link to the National Catholic Reporter’s story and read both the story and the comments that followed. I experienced the low point of my day with that. I wish *every bishop* were required to read the comments posted there by alleged Catholics. Perhaps they might be shaken enough to realize the barbarians are no longer at the gate—they are inside the *keep*—and they, the bishops must act NOW.

    • LVR

      based on the standing ovation that this priest received, I’m pretty sure the faithful will stand with him – on the right side of history.

      • Curious

        You wrote, ” I’m pretty sure the faithful will stand with’ him’.” (Notice NO capital “H”) Well you are right. These people are faithful to him, a dissent priest that does not follow the WORD of God. They DO NOT follow Him (God), but they follow him (dissent priest). We will pray for this dissent priest and his followers. God bless

  • http://twitter.com/allen1006 Gail Allen



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