- Title: POPE-USA/GAY MARRIAGE Same sex relationships pose new challenges for the Church
- Date: 14th September 2015
- Summary: CLOSE UP OF COMPUTER SCREEN
- Embargoed: 29th September 2015 13:00
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVACN7Q257PLREQU782VWKBU1NZL
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- Story Text: The United States Supreme Court ruled in June that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement. As night fell, the White House was lit in rainbow colors -- a symbol of gay pride -- to mark the high court's decision.
The ruling, the culmination of a long legal fight by gay rights advocates, follows steady gains in public approval in recent years for same-sex marriage.
While the landmark Supreme Court decision is viewed as a victory by many, Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic who held lay ministerial positions at his Long Island parish, says his fight for equal rights is still ongoing.
Coppola attended Mass at St. Anthony's, a Jesuit apostolate in Oceanside, New York, on a regularly basis with his partner, David Crespo. At this church, Coppola held several volunteer lay ministerial positions, serving as a catechist, a lector and as a Eucharistic minister who visited the sick and infirm members of the parish who could not attend church services.
But when the couple married in New York in October 2012 -- the ceremony was attended by many of the parish -- and returned from honeymoon the following January, Coppola got news that he was removed from all of his positions in the Church. He discovered that an anonymous letter was sent to Rockville Center diocese bishop William Murphy, complaining about his sexuality and his involvement in the parish.
"People are now not being removed from the church because they are gay. They are being removed from the church because they are getting married to a same-sex partner," said Coppola, who now works as a board member of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, an AIDS service organization.
"And as far as asking me or saying within the catechism that I am called to chastity, I will not because I don't believe that anybody should be denied intimacy and or love," he added.
Still, Coppola will be among countless LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) Catholics in the United States and around the world who are awaiting the papal visit eagerly.
In Philadelphia, Francis will attend a summit on families and is expected to reflect upon how the Church approaches the issue of same-sex marriage.
"I think he is also going to talk about people who are marginalized. That is one of the Pope's big themes. People who feel left out, people who are not part of the central group. And he is very much interested in speaking with poor people. He is speaking to people who are divorced, single parents, and I think homosexual people," he said.
Recently, as part of the Church's celebration of the Jubilee Year, which occurs every 25 years, Francis authorized all priests to use their personal discretion in forgiving the sins of women who have had abortions, a measure that was widely regarded by observers of the Church as Francis' latest move towards a more open and inclusive church. In Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur automatic excommunication, and forgiveness of the sin, previously, could only be granted by the bishop of a diocese.
While Francis' decision on abortion rattled some corners of the Church, a similar seismic shift is not expected imminently on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Marriage, in Church teaching, is reserved to male and female couples and restricted from same-sex couples because, according to centuries of tradition, it is an earthly sacrament that reflects the love of God. But, as well -- and here is the sticking point -- the purpose of marriage, according to the Church, is for the procreation of children.
The world is changing, not least in the area of social norms. Same-sex marriage is increasingly accepted, even in places where it was regarded suspiciously only a couple of decades ago. The Roman Catholic Church may be moving against the tide of popular culture, but that is a zone in which the Church has often found itself throughout 2,000 years of history.
"Marriage is a public statement of behavior and lifestyle, and that is something that we cannot recognize. We have an understanding what marriage is, and we can't recognize anything other than that. We can't recognize polygamy, we also cannot recognize same sex marriage. So we are welcoming to people, but we stand firm on our principles on what marriage is," Mechmann said.
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