The following appeared December 13 on

Regardless of the state marriage referendum, Catholic churches in the archdiocese of Seattle may not participate in any same-sex “marriage” or recognize them in any way – including solemnizing such unions, allowing their facilities to conduct the ceremony or its reception, or providing marital counseling to homosexual couples.

Following Washington state’s legalization of same-sex “marriage,” and marijuana, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain has issued a “policy refresher” to explain how the new laws will affect Catholic parishes in his archdiocese.

The archbishop wrote that he was “disappointed that so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children.”

“Since marriage is regulated by both civil and canon law,” he wrote, “clerics must always keep in mind the demands of both law systems.  Now that any two persons regardless of gender are permitted to enter marriage as defined in the state of Washington, the law of the Catholic Church diverges from civil law.”

“This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society,” he wrote.

The refresher clarified archdiocesan policy on same-sex unions, based on canon law:

No priest or deacon or lay minister may officiate at a same-sex “marriage.”
No church facility or school facility may be offered for such an event, even if it is to be witnessed by a non-Catholic minister or civil official.
No church facility or school facility may be used for a reception after such an event.
No church ministers, ordained or lay, may offer “wedding preparation” for such couples.

The refresher also addressed the civil aspects of the law.  The archbishop reassured priests and deacons that they are not required by the new state law to solemnize same-sex marriages. “Priests and deacons are immune from any civil liability in this regard,” it states.

The refresher further clarified that non-recognition of same-sex “marriage” must extend beyond just refusing to participate in the ceremony.

Priests and deacons, it said, should not provide any religious-based services to same-sex partners that are designed for married couples or engaged couples, such as relationship counseling, courses, retreats, or workshops.

The refresher reiterated the legality of Catholic churches’ and schools’ refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, or any services related to same-sex “marriage,” stating that churches are immune from any civil liability, and that state and local governments “cannot retaliate.”

Two men or two women, “even if permitted to celebrate a civil marriage, are not qualified by canon law to enter marriage,” stated the archbishop.

The document also addressed the legalization of marijuana in Washington state.

“Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and it is still unclear how this new state law will be treated by federal authorities,” Abp. Sartain wrote. “Until new policy is promulgated, marijuana, like alcohol, will be prohibited on parish property. The only exception to this policy pertains to alcohol at official pastor-approved parish events at which alcoholic beverages are served.”

According to Abp. Sartain, he issued the refresher because so many local pastors and church leaders had raised questions about the requirements of the new law. The refresher addressed those questions from the perspective of civil and canon law.

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