With Florida basking in the glow of a historical day in which same-sex couples were granted the right to be married, two opposing views have emerged from the state's Roman Catholic leadership.
In one corner, we get the archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, sending out a letter threatening to fire any employee who shows public support for marriage equality. In the other, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, writing an op-ed piece for the Tampa Bay Times calling for Catholics to have more compassion for same-sex couples looking for marriage equality.
When news broke that same-sex couples are able to legally wed in Florida, the archdiocese came out strong, releasing a statement condemning the court's decision to lift Florida's ban on same-sex marriage.
The statement, released the day before the stay on same-sex marriage expired, reads as one would expect from a religion that has long opposed homosexuality.
"The conjugal nature of a marriage between a man and a woman has provided for millennia the basis for norms of marital exclusivity and permanence that made possible stable families necessary for human flourishing," part of the statement reads.
The statement goes on to say that "redefining civil 'marriage' to include two persons of the same sex will have far-reaching consequences in society." And that "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."
The following day, Archbishop Wenski sent out his letter warning his staff that they could lose their jobs if they decide to express any kind of support for same-sex marriage on social media outlets.
"Whatever the role in which you serve within the Archdiocese, you publicly represent the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese in everything you do and say," the letter reads. "Therefore, it is important that you understand the Church's position and are well informed."
Wenski went on to quote the Archdiocese Employee Handbook in his warning, saying "certain conduct, inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, could lead to disciplinary action, including termination, even if it occurs outside the normal working day."
But then there's Bishop Lynch who, though also toeing the company line that homosexuality is bad, urged for a more compassionate outlook from fellow Catholics in his Tampa Bay Times op-ed.
Lynch goes on to say that the Catholic view on homosexuality remains steadfast. But he also references Pope Francis, who has been preaching an era of acceptance, grace, and understanding.
"Together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome," Lynch writes, "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."
He then calls for compassion in a paragraph that completely contrasts Wenski's stance:
"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."
The opposing views have not been lost on LGBT advocates, such as the Human Rights Campaign, and which portion of the Catholic Church the they stand with.
"These contradictory narratives cause a bit of whiplash for Catholic Floridians," said Lisneth Melendez Rivera, the Human Rights Campaign foundation director of Latin and Catholic Initiatives in a statement sent out Tuesday. "In Miami, Catholics are told they can't even publicly congratulate their LGBT loved ones celebrating marriages today. Yet across the state in St. Petersburg, the Church's message is one of compassion celebrating the love and value of same-sex couples. I can tell you it wouldn't take long for me to decide which of these church leaders' sermons I'd prefer to hear."
It may be, given the popularity of the same-sex marriage victory this week, that Wenki's stance might be drowned out, given not only the pope's stance on acceptance but also given the fact that even local churches have gotten in on the same-sex marriage bandwagon.
Churches across the state have been packed as they have hosted same-sex couples' tying the knot starting Tuesday.
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