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Will the UK courts and the ECHR really nullify the Government’s intention not to permit gay marriage in church? If so, what will the Soho Masses crowd do then?

More to the point, what will our bishops do to prevent them?

By on Wednesday, 25 April 2012

According to Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, the government’s insistence that the Churches would not be allowed to carry out religious marriages for gay couples is worthless. Two judgements by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and a British a Court of Appeal ruling in 2010 establish that the Government would be acting illegally if it allowed civil gay marriages without “permitting” them on religious premises too.

This, he says, means that if the Coalition Government presses ahead with its plans to redefine marriage to include gay couples the Catholic Church could face prosecution under equality legislation for acting in accordance with its teachings. The Court of Appeal judgement he is referring to here is that against the registrar Lillian Ladele, who in 2009 took Islington Council to court for refusing her the right not to officiate at same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. The judges decided that her Christian view of marriage “was not a core part of her religion”. Thus, says Mr Addison, “Churches which perform heterosexual marriages will have to be willing to perform same-sex marriages and they will have no legal grounds to resist since the courts have determined that the ‘orthodox Christian view of marriage’ is not a ‘core’ part of Christian belief.”

Well, I am not a lawyer, but I need to know a bit more about all this before being entirely convinced. The government says it won’t “permit” gay marriages in Church: Mr Addison says that various legal judgements have already made that intention non-operative: in other words, we would be in fact “permitted” to enact gay “marriages”: but does that actually mean that we would be obliged to do so? After all, we are presumably already legally “permitted” to marry divorcees in church, just as a number of Anglican clergymen have already done. There is by English law no distinction between Anglican clergy and ours: but I have yet to hear of anyone going to law against a Catholic priest for refusing to marry a couple one or both of whom are already married.

Would it be different over gay so-called marriages? It wouldn’t of course be, in canon law, a real marriage. A civil marriage would have to be carried out in any case: and what happened in church would be a simple mockery, no marriage at all. Can the law really force us to carry out something we ourselves define as non-existent?

As I say, though I speak in ignorance, I’m not yet convinced that we would be in danger from the law. But could we be in another kind of danger, the danger that already exists from the enemy within? Just think of all those gay activists who attend the Soho Masse—which are, don’t forget, permitted by the archdiocese of Westminster. Some of them, I believe, are already united in the “civil unions” which are so warmly spoken of by the archbishop of that jurisdiction. Suppose one of these couples persuades a priest known to have little regard for the laws and teachings of the Church (they do, I am told, exist) to perform such a ceremony: a civil ceremony would take place; the couple would then repair to the church premises of the priest in question, who would celebrate for them a nuptial mass, incorporating the marriage liturgy of the Catholic Church. They would certainly make sure that the media were in attendance: this would be a great propaganda occasion for their cause. There would be front page stories, with photographs. It would be a great blow struck, before the gaze of the disbelieving world, against the Magisterium of the Church, by disloyal Catholics who would doubtless be jubilant in their moment of triumph.

What would the archbishop then actually do? He would issue, no doubt, a disapproving statement. But how disapproving? Would he declare the ceremony just performed to be absolutely null and utterly void? Would he excommunicate the priest who had performed it, or at least suspend him? What would he do?

If the gay marriage legislation actually ends up on the statute book, and Mr Addison is right, if, that is, such a “marriage” could indeed take place with the support of the UK courts and the ECHR, unless the archbishop makes it absolutely plain that by acting in this way any priest involved would be putting an end to his priestly ministry, sooner or later it will happen. But will he? We don’t yet know that he won’t: but what can we be sure of?. We need to know.

Meanwhile, we have to carry on with the fight to prevent this devil’s law ever being enacted in the first place. Mr Cameron sometimes wavers in the face of public opinion: maybe it could happen in this case too. The Coalition for Marriage’s online petition against it is already one of the most massive ever mounted. It is currently edging towards the half million mark. As I write, it stands at 466, 101; next Monday marks the petition’s first ten weeks, and the Coalition are keen to get the total up to half a million by then. So if you haven’t yet voted, do it now.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    “…so many modern Catholic priests and Bishops are homosexuals…”

    It was ever thus. I think, however, that there will be far fewer in years to come. For young gay Catholic men, psychologically and spiritually terrorized over their natural sexuality by unenlightened religious teaching, the priesthood used to be one way of copping out of being gay, albeit one which tended ultimately to complicate the dilemma rather than solving it. I honestly can’t see many young gays today allowing themselves to get trapped into that. Thank God.

  • Benedict Carter

    What do YOU think about the validity of the “Gay Masses”, Guggi? Got an opinion?

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    A Mass is a Mass. Either it is validly celebrated or it’s not. I know of no theological principle on which the sexual orientation or even the sexual activity, if any, of either the celebrant or the worshippers would affect its validity. After all, even Masses celebrated by paedophile or pederast priests are still valid, aren’t they? And even a murderer can validly celebrate Mass, can’t he, as long as he is validly ordained?

  • Benedict Carter

    Agreed. But I wasn’t writing about the state of the priest involved. If the Bidding Prayers to be seen on youtube are anything to go by, it would be interesting to know if the Canon has been messed with as well – which may well make these Masses invalid. 

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    I have never been to one of those Masses, as I live in the north of England, so I have no idea whether the Canon has been messed with. I would have thought it unlikely.

  • Benedict Carter

    Fair enough!

  • Benedict Carter

    Your stance on Catholic moral teaching is at least honestly presented. You reject it. A lot of that on these pages.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Yes, I do indeed, as you say, reject it. I did at one time accept it and tried to live by it, to a great extent successfully, but eventually realised that it was abusive and decided that I wasn’t going to let it do me any further damage. If more gay Catholic men had rejected it, I have no doubt that we would today have far fewer gay priests and bishops – which is what you would prefer, isn’t it?

  • Benedict Carter

    Of course homosexuals are welcome in the Church – the same as for every other human being. 

    But not in the priesthood. At all. 

  • Parasum

    What happens if the law fails to put him in prison ? It’s a bit difficult to have a re-run of the “penal times”, however weak-&-watery the persecution, if the persecutors aren’t obliging enough to persecute.

    In the bad old days, it was customary to wait until persecutors got to work before complaining how horrible they were. I know we have “quickie” canonisations – but is the pace of life so fast that we have can have complains of persecution before the persecution ?

  • Parasum

    “I think Pope Benedict recognises this, because under the “Ratzinger
    formula” Rome should be prepared, in the event of reunion, not to insist
    on retaining all the developments in the primacy since 1054.”

    ## How is that justifiable though ?

    Given certain premises, it can be justified. But they are not premises that the CC has used, or can.

    If assent to Papal infallibility (say), is not to be required of the EOs, how can assent to it be required of any Catholic in the Roman Rite, or any other ? Such a notion implies that the Holy Spirit is either a deceiver, or two-headed, or possibly a complete fantasy. It makes shipwreck of anything that resembles Catholicism.

  • Gavin Wheeler

    “The Court of Appeal judgement he is referring to here is that against
    the registrar Lillian Ladele, who in 2009 took Islington Council to
    court for refusing her the right not to officiate at same-sex civil
    partnership ceremonies.”

    I thought Ms Ladele was in fact only required to act as registrar in civil partnerships which involved no ceremonies. So civil
    partnership ceremonies were in fact one thing she was definitely not required to officiate over.

    I can’t see that christian faith requires you not to register same-sex couples, but being forced to hold a religious ceremony to bless one would be a much clearer breach of religious freedom.

  • james brown

    Remember the sacraments and Marriage is  for ,   A  Man and Woman to be   joined  together in Holy  Matrimony . . foresaking all others   till death us do part .    it was  not intended   for gays and lesbians to advertise themselves  as  a married couple.   never was  and never will be . so mr prime minister .  just get it right for once  .  this is  Gods Law  and law of the  Holy Catholic Church  , not a law to be changed  by    parliament .  so live together  those of you of same sex  but leave the church out of it   and don’t try and   make the law to suit your sexual needs   ..2 men cant  produce children the way God   intended s   neither can 2 woman   produce  likewise . so just leave the laws  as they are 

  • buckle

    I was in a seminary 35 years ago and I don’t recall homosexuals claiming that they were terrorised. Quite the reverse, the system indulged them and the authorities were reluctant to confront their behaviour. I agree that there are perhaps less gays presenting as candidates but I am out of touch with current patterns.

  • polycarped

    Even though I agree with most of the points made in the (albeit digressive) sub-discussion below this (regarding hopes for East-West unity) and certain criticisms of the failure of many of our RC Bishops to uphold orthodoxy and stand up and be counted, I’m afraid your overall take on Russia and Ukraine is either incredibly naive and/or intentionally simplistic! Although there may be some positive trends emerging on the couple of select issues you mention, Russian and Ukrainian societies today are being strangled by disgustingly corrupt governments who exploit and oppress their populations no-end. Their leaders are little different to their pre independence predecessors in the way they behave. I continue to work in (and have many friends in) both countries and have done for nigh-on 20 years. Just ask some ordinary people (meaning those who deeply and genuinely practice their faith and place it above national allegiances and who are not scared to speak honestly) what they think about the current state of life in the the countries in which they live. My point being that I think a more measured assessment might be appropriate!

  • Nesbyth

    That’s a BRILLIANT description of Stephen Fry! Thankyou Charles Martel.

  • Nesbyth

    That’s a sweeping statement and generalisation which I do not believe is as common as you infer. If straight couples engage in Sodomy, that’s a massive deviation/perversion and thankfully, not something most straight people experience (I hope).. but gays do it because they do not have the other option…..

  • Isabel Wood

    Straight people definitely have anal sex, straight men even, sorry to inform you of this. Also, are you aware that lesbians exist?

  • Nesbyth

    Of course I’m aware that Lesbians exist! But what’s that to do with Sodomy? They don’t have the equipment, nor, I would have thought, the need….

    But there are weird perversions out there which is presumably why places like Ann Summers does well.

    BUT the need to go there is not for natural sex…i.e not as nature intends it.

  • Isabel Wood

    Nothing! Sorry, I thought the OP was using sodomy to refer to all homosexual sex, and was reminding you all that there are a fair number of gays out there who don’t go in for it. But it turns out you just don’t think lesbians count/don’t have any issues with them. Which I suppose is nice…

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Neil Addison either  doesn’t know  what he’s talking about, or is deliberately spreading misinformation.

    I wonder which?