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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 9, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 02
Dueling Florida bishops: One threatens to fire equality supporters, another says Gay marriage not a threat
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Dueling Florida bishops: One threatens to fire equality supporters, another says Gay marriage not a threat

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

As Gay and Lesbian couples marry in all of Florida's 67 counties, two of the state's most prominent Roman Catholic bishops have issued contradictory statements on same-sex marriage.

The Archbishop of Miami has warned its employees that if they support marriage equality in any way and at any time, they risk losing their jobs, but the Bishop of St. Petersburg says that the church should not see Gay and Lesbian couples as a threat.

In a January 5 letter from Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Miami church employees were warned that '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 and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the Archdiocese.'

Wenski's letter also warned employees that even Tweets and Facebook posts - presumably including congratulations to Gay and Lesbian friends on their weddings - would be subject to scrutiny by church officials.

'Employees should exercise discretion when posting on social media sites, and note that online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors may subject an employee to disciplinary action or termination,' it read.

The Archdiocese of Miami includes 118 parishes and missions across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties and 1.3 million parishioners. It operates 73 elementary and high schools, two hospitals, two seminaries, nine health care centers, and three senior living centers. Its two colleges, St. Thomas University and Barry University, have a combined enrollment of over 13,000 students and more than 1,000 faculty and staff.

As would be expected, Wenski was critical of court rulings that overturned Florida's ban on Gay and Lesbian marriages.

'[B]y imposing a new definition of marriage on the people of Florida, the courts are changing what marriage means for everybody,' he told NBC TV 6.

Same-sex couples began marrying across the state just after midnight on January 6, when U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle's ruling took effect in all 67 counties.

Wenski's letter stands in stark contrast to a statement by Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg.

'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,' Lynch wrote in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.

'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.'

The diocese of St. Petersburg oversees 90 parishes and missions serving 400,000 Catholics, and runs six high schools and 27 elementary schools.

'These contradictory narratives cause a bit of whiplash for Catholic Floridians,' HRC said through a spokesperson.

'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.'

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