Father Patrick Henry Reardon's note to his flock at All Saints Orthodox Church was short and simple -- yet a sign of how complicated life is becoming for traditional religious believers.
"Because the State of Illinois, through its legislature and governor's office, has now re-defined marriage, marriage licenses issued by agencies of the State of Illinois will no longer be required (or signed) for weddings here at All Saints in Chicago," he wrote, in the parish newsletter.
The key words were "or signed." The veteran priest was convinced that he faced a collision between an ancient sacrament and new political realities that define a civil contract. Reardon said he wasn't trying to "put my people in a tough spot," but to note that believers now face complications when they get married -- period.
The question priests must ask, when signing marriage licenses, is "whether or not you're acting on behalf of the state when you perform that rite. It's clear as hell to me that this is what a priest is doing," said Reardon, reached by telephone.
"Lay people don't face the sacramental question like a priest. They are trying to obtain the same civil contract and benefits as anyone else and they have to get that from the state. It's two different moral questions."
This is a timely question, as the U.S. Supreme Court nears a crossroads on same-sex marriage.