Father Lawrence
Baltimore Catholic Priest Takes Risk, Backs Marriage Equality

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com November 02 2012 8:10 PM ET

A Roman Catholic priest in Baltimore has defied the church’s hierarchy by sharing his support for marriage equality with his congregation.

At services last weekend, Father Richard T. Lawrence, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church, first read parishioners Baltimore archbishop William Lori’s letter urging them to vote against Question 6, which would affirm the marriage equality law passed by the Maryland legislature. But he followed that with his own thoughts on the subject, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“It seems to me … 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,” said Lawrence, who has been active in many social justice causes. “Personally, however, I would go farther than that.” He praised the devotion of many same-sex couples and said he could envision the church recognizing their marriages at some point.

“I personally believe that this is a possible line of future development in theology and perhaps eventually even in church teaching,” he said. “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?”

Lawrence’s statements were a hit with parishioners, who gave him a standing ovation, notes the Reporter, and he subsequently posted the text on the parish’s website. However, Archbishop Lori was not pleased, and he asked Lawrence to remove the statements from the site, reports BuzzFeed. Lawrence did so.

“We knew there would be repercussions,” Chris McCullough, pastoral associate at St. Vincent de Paul, told BuzzFeed, adding, “I think it’s gracious that there wasn’t further punitive action taken.” He said Lawrence made the comments because he wanted to emphasize that “there are other opinions” on the topic.

Marylanders will vote on Question 6 Tuesday.