Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl says that despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, it cannot change the traditional understanding of marriage as defined by Scripture.
"The law of the land is the law of the land," said Wuerl in a WTOP report. "We certainly follow what the law says. That doesn't mean we change the Word of God. That doesn't mean we change the Scriptures, or the church's millennia-long tradition of what marriage is."
Wuerl's comments comes after a June 26 statement released by the Archdiocese of Washington which said that in light of the Supreme Court ruling, local churches in the diocese will have to make "moral evaluations" on how they will respond when there is a conflict between religious tradition and civil law.
"Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a truth that predates courts and constitutions. ... Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court changes none of this. The Court deals with civil law not revealed truth or religious faith," said the statement.
"The Court's opinion rightly affirms the freedom of religious organizations to continue to express and teach the truth of marriage. Nonetheless, the Court's ruling has the potential to create circumstances in which the Church's teaching and practices may be perceived to conflict with civil law. As such situations arise, the local Church will have to undertake a moral evaluation to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the manner in which it will respond to this conflict," the statement ended.
In a telephone interview Tuesday seeking to clarify Wuerl's comments, however, Archdiocese of Washington spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, bluntly declared that the church will not perform same-sex marriages.
"The law of the land might now affirm that marriage in civil law may include two persons of the same sex but that's not the church's understanding," said Noguchi.
When asked to explain the Archdiocese's statement that local churches will be allowed to choose how they will respond if same-sex couples make requests of the church to get married, Noguchi said she could not speculate on that question.
In a July 4 post on his blog, Seek First The Kingdom, Weurl noted that "The Church does not require others to believe or live by her teaching. But we do ask for and insist on the freedom to present and publically demonstrate our faith in our personal lives and in our Catholic schools and other faith-based institutions."
As a consequence, he explained, the church should not be required to support behavior that goes against its identity.
"In our pluralistic society, we must be free to protect our Catholic mission and identity. In accordance with religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment, Catholic organizations should be free to operate by the tenets of the Catholic faith, should not be forced to accept the government's moral views, and should not be required to provide a platform for persons who oppose in both word and action the mission of the Church," he added.