New York Roman Catholic archbishop Timothy Dolan (pictured), a staunch opponent of marriage equality, has issued a decree prohibiting participation by clergy and church employees in same-sex marriages and forbidding the use of not only churches but other Catholic-affiliated facilities for such unions.
The wide-ranging directive, issued last month, reads in part: "No member of the clergy (priest or deacon) incardinated in the Archdiocese of New York, or any person while acting as an employee of the church, may participate in the civil solemnization or celebration of a same-sex marriage, which includes but is not limited to providing services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privilege for such event. Ecclesiastical solemnization or celebration of same-sex marriages is expressly forbidden by Canon law.
"No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health, or charitable institutions or benevolent orders, or any place dedicated, consecrated, or used for Catholic worship may be used for the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages." Violators may be subject to church sanctions, adds Dolan, who campaigned aggressively but unsuccessfully against the marriage equality legislation approved by New York State in June.
The church's opposition to same-sex marriage is well known, but some elements of Dolan's decree are surprising, according to ThinkProgress blogger Zack Ford. He writes, "The property restrictions in Dolan's decree are troubling, particularly given he specifically cites educational and health institutions. This would mean that a bed-ridden patient in a Catholic hospital would not be permitted to marry his partner on the property. It's not clear from the decree, but this could conceivably extend to any and all recognition of same-sex unions, which would create severe complications for couples who might be accessing healthcare or charitable services that are provided by the Church."
The archdiocese covers the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, plus Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties in the southern part of New York State.