US prelate suggests priests don’t sign marriage certificates

An American archbishop has suggested Catholic priests protest against same-sex marriage laws by refusing to sign any civil marriage certificates.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia urged the US bishops to consider this in response to what he called the “new marriage regime” of same-sex civil marriage.

In a lecture in New York on October 20, Archbishop Chaput said he wasn’t necessarily endorsing that move yet, the Religion News Service reported.

But “in the spirit of candour encouraged by Pope Francis”, he said the American bishops should “discuss and consider it as a real course of action”.

By long-standing practice, US Catholic priests act as agents of the state when signing a couple’s marriage certificate.

“It’s hard to see how a priest or bishop could, in good conscience, sign a marriage certificate that merely identifies ‘Spouse A’ and `Spouse B,’ ” Archbishop Chaput said.

“Refusing to conduct civil marriages now, as a matter of principled resistance, has vastly more witness value than being kicked out of the marriage business later by the government, which is a likely bet,” he said.

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court decided not to review state appeals against gay marriage.

Archbishop Chaput said this was a “tipping point” that confirmed that traditional believers are now a minority in society and on the defensive.

More than 30 US states now allow same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Chaput also expressed concerns about “confusion” coming out of the synod on the family.

“I was very disturbed by what happened” at the synod, Archbishop Chaput said.

“I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”

Archbishop Chaput said the final synod report was an improvement on a preliminary report.

But he was still concerned that it did not go far enough in clearly restating Church teachings on marriage and homosexuality.

Archbishop Chaput is expected to host Pope Francis in Philadelphia next September for a World Meeting of Families.


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