In response to a judge’s ruling that makes same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania, the Bishop of Pittsburgh has given his blessing for clergy to sign civil-marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

In a diocesan letter announcing his decision, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey McConnell stressed that clergy must remain faithful to the text of the Episcopal Church’s trial rite for same-sex couples and not make substitutes.

The bishop both welcomes civil benefits for same-sex couples and reiterates his concerns about the church’s rite for blessing them:

While it is true that the provisional Rite does not confer sacramental marriage, the civil rights once denied same-sex couples and now bestowed under the law are monumental: access to health and pension benefits, rights to make medical decisions on one another’s behalf, to bequeath and inherit property without penalty, and many others that serve to create significant social and human goods and help them establish secure and loving households for themselves and their families. This is not only a blessing for them but for our whole community.

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Even as I am happy for these civil benefits, I reiterate the reservations I have previously expressed concerning both the sacramental intention and the theology of the Rite itself. I hope in the coming months to join with you in a deeper exploration of classical teaching on Christian marriage, particularly in light of the various challenges to it currently being raised in the culture and in the Church.

The full text of Bishop McConnell’s letter is available on the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s website.

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