'Principled Resistance' to Gay Marriage: Refusal to Sign Civil Marriage Licenses

By Lauretta Brown | October 30, 2014 | 2:55 PM EDT

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Catholic priests could “refuse to conduct civil marriages now as a matter of principled resistance” to gay marriage, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said last week.

“A friend recently suggested that the Church should get out of the civil marriage business altogether,” Chaput related in his October 20th First Things Erasmus Lecture in New York.

“In a way it makes sense. 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. That’s happening now," he said.

“This dramatizes in a concrete way the fact that we face some very hard choices in a new marriage regime,” Chaput stated.

“By long-standing U.S. practice, a Catholic priest, like any licensed clergy, acts as an agent of the state when signing a couple’s marriage certificate,” the National Catholic Reporter notes.

“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 - or so the reasoning goes,” the Philadelphia prelate added.

However. the archbishop added that “having said that, I don’t necessarily agree with this approach, but in a spirit of candor encouraged by Pope Francis, I hope our nation’s bishops will see the need to discuss and consider it as a real course of action, as a possibility.

“As for marriage and the family, I think we’d be foolish to assume that the gay marriage debate is over even though many believe we’ve lost it at least for now," Chaput said. “The struggle is not over. The issue now becomes how aggressive gay issue activists will be in punishing and discriminating against those with traditional views.”

Chaput also speculated on possible retribution against those who oppose gay “marriage.”

“Taxes can easily include denying licensure and accreditation, revoking tax exemptions, imposing liability under public accommodation statutes and employment anti-discrimination acts, closing access to government contracts and grants and other such acts,” he warned.

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