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Some reactions to Bp. Lynch’s ‘Locker Room’ essay

October 25, 2014

Defenders of right reason and doctrinal coherence must often, these days, upon reading the latest column in support of, say, holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics or ecclesial recognition of the gay life-style, engage in ‘comprehensional self-checks’ along the lines of “Did so-and-so really say that? Can that possibly mean what it seems clearly to have said?” But, to an extent that has never been required of one before, Bp. Robert Lynch’s (St. Petersburg FL) “Locker Room” essay on the Synod of Bishops and the future of the Church demands that readers repeatedly stop and make sure that they are not eisegetically ascribing to a Catholic bishop positions that no informed Catholic can defend.

For those willing to wade through Lynch’s juvenile sports-theme prose, to overlook his more startling characterizations of the synod (“it was collegiality exercised in its most pristine form”) or its procedures (“transparency has never been more apparent” {huh?}), and forgive his digs at the Church herself (“which until now has thought that the best form of governance is secret governance”), I offer the following.

Lynch writes: “I cannot, we cannot promise [gays and lesbians] that we will ever be likely to recognize the nature of their unions as sacramental…”

I must ask: does a sentence like that show any regard for what its words mean?

Of the myriad of “unions” between human beings—spousal, parental, friendships, co-workers, religious groupings, political factions, educational, artistic, economic, military, conspiratorial, criminal, and so on—only one union, namely, that between husband and wife, is regarded by the Church as (potentially) a sacrament. Only one. Knowing, therefore, that no other human union besides marriage could be a sacrament, Lynch must be talking about ‘same-sex marriage’ and, albeit regretfully, predicting that the label “sacrament” will be withheld from it.

But, setting aside Lynch’s inadvertence to the fact that, even among human unions that are indisputably marriage, only some of them (namely, those between two baptized spouses) are “sacramental”, the bishop seems not to know, first, that no sacrament of matrimony can exist unless that union is first, by natural law, a marriage (and that the Church teaches with infallible certainty that marriage can exist only between a man and a woman), and second, that Christ raised marriage (and only marriage) to the level of a sacrament we call Matrimony. Put another way, a same-sex union cannot be a marriage under natural law, so it cannot be the sacrament of Matrimony under Church law. To hold as even possible that same-sex unions could… maybe… might… one day be reckoned a true marriage and, from there, that they could… maybe… might… eventually be recognized as sacraments, defies both right reason and doctrinal coherence.

I have read several times Lynch’s line wistfully closing the door on recognizing the sacramentality of same-sex unions as if such recognition were simply a bridge too far (that is, not impossible in itself, but only impossible for us now with the means at our disposal) and I cannot read it as other than reflecting a complete unawareness of the absolute necessity of marriage under natural law to anything that would be sacramental Matrimony by the will of Christ.

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