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Catholic priests are right to express fears over Government marriage plans

Equality legislation will certainly undermine the Government’s supposed guarantee

By on Friday, 18 January 2013

'Love is Love' Gay Marriage Contest Ceremony - New York

I just read this quote from the Caelum et Terra blog: “It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendour of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.” Abraham Joshua Heschel, “God in search of Man: a Philosophy of Judaism.”

There is a lot of truth in this. It is too easy to blame “modern society” for the collapse of religious belief in this country. We should look in the mirror and ask ourselves the question “If I were arrested today for being a Christian, what proofs would be found to convict me?”

Tim Stanley said much the same thing in his article, “Christians need to find some old-time zeal” in the Telegraph on Wednesday. After describing the de-Christianisation within Britain today, he concludes: “In our new consumer-driven, postmodern order, Christians have to compete with people pushing other religions or no religion at all. We no longer enjoy a privileged status in the popular imagination. And while it’s easy to blame politicians and courts for this, responsibility ultimately lies with the true believers. The only thing that will renew British Christianity is to drop all the lazy presumptions that Britain is basically Christian, and start again from scratch.”

“To start again from scratch”: I think we are only just beginning to wake up to this truth.

One thing in Stanley’s article I disagree with: when he comments, “Although the Government insists that no church will be compelled to carry out gay marriages, more than 1000 Catholic priests wrote a letter to this newspaper last week protesting that equalities legislation makes a nonsense of this guarantee and that attempts to legalise gay marriage amount to a renewal of historic persecution against Catholics. I, too, am a Catholic – and the idea that the wedding of Adam and Steve can be likened to Cromwell’s rampage across Ireland strikes me as hysterical. But it reflects a wider panic among religious conservatives – the fear that a metropolitan political establishment is conspiring against us.”

I demur for several reasons: equality legislation will certainly undermine the Government’s supposed “guarantee.” Even if the Church wins in the courts when future cases are brought against her, there will be a long, slow war of attrition against those of all faiths and none who believe marriage can only be between a man and a woman. For instance, the Government has said that teachers must continue to uphold marriage: but if the word “marriage” is redefined they will be breaking the law if they don’t uphold the new definition; they won’t be able to uphold the old understanding and the new one at the same time.

Stanley describes the letter of the 1000 priests – including eight bishops and four abbots – as “hysterical.” I would rather describe it as good sense and right judgement. Are the more than 600,000 signatories to the Coalition for Marriage petition (C4M) also “hysterical”? Perhaps the letter reflects justified forebodings at such a fundamental change to the natural order of relationships and is not about “panic” or “fear” or “religious conservatism”. “Marriage” should never have been used as a political issue in this way and it is not “conservative” for Christians and others to champion it. These 1000 priests are not zealots and religious extremists; they are decent, God-fearing men, alongside all the other people who signed the C4M document, who rightly see that there will be far-reaching implications to a change of definition which will, in the course of time, amount to a form of persecution.

You don’t have to refer to Cromwell to realise that persecution need not be bloody or violent; it can simply be quiet, boring, relentless and implacable, fought through the courts and leaving mental and emotional stress and pain in its wake. That is what opponents of a re-definition of marriage will face if the Government forces through this legislation and I am not remotely “hysterical” in pointing this out. So far only individuals have been challenged, such as Christian B+B owners, a Christian registrar, a Christian marriage counsellor, a Christian psychotherapist. If the definition of marriage is changed by law, the whole of society, whether married or unmarried, priest or lay person, will be affected by it.

But to return to Stanley’s main point: there is no use being aggrieved or wringing one’s hands over this approaching confrontation. Those who want to defend marriage must indeed start again from scratch: acknowledge our own lukewarm support for marriage in the past; our tacit acceptance of a widespread contraceptive mentality; our tolerance of cohabitation as an acceptable alternative; and our placid illusion that the comfortable Christian status quo would last forever.

  • AndreaGregorio

    Readers of this column should balance its perspectives by reading the following:

  • AndreaGregorio

    Also, the figure of 600,000 referred to above is less than one per cent of the British population and the people who constitute it are, statistically, self-selecting.  The result is a figure which has no force whatsover as part of the ongoing argument against equal marriage…..

  • AndreaGregorio

    CF: the other piece of Smith’s hilarious postcard exercise…….

    “What a waste of money given the price of stamps these days! Has Smith not learned anything from the similar exercise by O’Brien in Scotland? Only a small fraction of the postcards sent out were returned to the Executive. The Church has every right to make Her Voice known among the other voices in our Society. This, however, is a direct interference in British politics and it is being done because the bishops have been instructed to do it by a terrifed Vatican.

    Such exercises will not stop the success of this Bill which has the support of the majority of Parliament and of the British people. The Church’s failure will do nothing more than damage Her Authority and standing. All across the civilised world equal marriage is being implemented, State by State in the USA (let’s wait for the Supreme Court decision which will represent another victory against prejudice), with the project complete in Spain and Portugal, in all of the Nordic Countries, in South Africa, in Argentina and soon in Uruguay and all of Brazil. Franch will legislate in a matter of months and we will have equal marriage here in the UK very soon via, if necessary, the exercise of the Parliament Act.

    The response to the Government consultation reportedly resulted in 600,000 objections of one form or another – this is less than one per cent of the population of this country. Likewise, the anti-gay march in Paris,. which resulted in some 350,000 people on the streets (these are the police statistics – accurate as estimated via aerial survey) – approximately 0.25% of the French population. Smith is a not a statistician, but surely he is able to interpret such numbers and what they indicate about societal attitudes and how these have changed in accordance with the times.

    Moral theology cannot be set in aspic even though it may be comfortable to think so – false certainty is no certainty at all. Moral theologians have a responsibility – intellectual and ethical – to take advances in science into account. They have not done so in the case of same sex attarction and relationships. The Vatican contains more gay men per square metre than anywhere else on God’s Earth, but they time and time again punish in other people what they hate in themselves: self-harm by proxy. This is not moral theology but rather psychopathology.  It will die the death it deserves – incrementally and, Deo Gratias, surely.

  • AndreaGregorio
  • shieldsheafson

    In today’s increasingly secular society, the threat to religious freedom comes not at the point of a sword, but from imposed values at odds with the truth that there is a Creator who has given us certain inalienable rights that government is supposed to secure, not supplant.  

    Religious believers are being confronted by lawmakers, bureaucrats, regulators, human rights commissions, and others demanding that they submit to so-called neutral laws of general applicability that venerate such concepts as toleration, non-discrimination, and choice.

    These modern arbiters of twenty-first century enlightenment don’t mind if you don’t want to comply.  But there’s a catch:  You won’t be able to earn a living in your chosen profession.  Today’s barbarians seek not to end the free exercise of religion with a single knock-out blow, but rather to strangle it, gradually.

    We are all at risk in a world where the government believes that outside the four walls of a church building – religious freedoms don’t apply; churches, religious organizations, non-profit and for-profit businesses, health-care providers, and anyone.  In a world where such people and organizations are relegated to second-class status, or told to find a different line of work, or find signs on public facilities that says religion not welcome here, we have entered an era not of tolerance, but intolerance.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

    The present situation directly threatens freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in modern society. To me there seem to be three roots to it:
    a. legislation intended to create ‘greater participation’ which in practice means that single issue groups (‘communities’) can impose their will first on the legislature and later on society as a whole.
    b. the impact this has had on equality legislation by enabling particular groups to demand ‘equal rights’ even when these infringe on moral beliefs. Equal rights originally meant political and economic opportunity.
    c. Some aspects of social welfare legislation and the idea that it must be applied without opt-outs or exceptions. Thus ‘Health and Safety’  and equality 
    concerns can be used to impose restrictions and  requirements arising from the individual political attitudes of the administrator concerned or the single issue pressure group  behind it.

    Thus for example the blanket application of social welfare legislation to churches
    (e.g. obligations to create special entrances for wheel-chair users )
    look admirable and benign but they turn out to be an insidious means through which a
    secular value system can colonize and overwhelm traditional
    denominations in Christianity and impose a legally-privileged set of 
    overriding secular beliefs. The real aim seems to be to create a pliant form of neo- or pseudo-Christianity subordinate to the politicians’ agenda.

    Gay marriage is only one front in an ever-widening confrontation between those with a traditional concept of the sacred and politicians and administrators who, like revolutionaries at all times, regard their operational imperatives as having absolute truth and authority.

    The Cranmer Blog has a
    good entry on a recent legislative piece of sleigh of hand preventing
    Anglican clergy belonging to far right-wing parties, i.e. possibly UKIP,…Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Church of England gets powers to tackle ‘far right’ clergy

    The process is not going to end unless Christians pick their ground carefully and fight together. At the very least they need to realise that short term one off-attacks on religious freedom are opportunistic and from now on are likely to happen frequently — and that politicians who claim to be Christians may be among the worst enemies of the Church in practical terms for it is from them that the most damaging attacks will come.  

    There are some chinks in the armour of the ‘reformers’ :-
     (a) like all revolutionaries, they have thrown away the idea of constitutionalism.
     (2) By working towards uniformity and equality, the ‘reformers’ are actually attack valid conceptions of pluralism needed in a democracy. These might be new debating points which Catholics could use in addressing  non-Catholic audiences.

    Meanwhile  the Holy See’s response to the European Court’s decisions against the human rights of UK Christians is one of the best things that has been said on these issues. All Catholics should read it and think about it.

  • teigitur

    How many signed the pro-redefinition of marriage petition?

  • Patricius

     Try the Rosary

  • Kevin

    Another good article. The more Catholics think this way the better – for our own social well-being rather than the conversion of liberals who do not want to be converted and are in fact our enemies.

    As far as national politics is concerned, we should also demand that liberals expound their morality from scratch.

    At the moment, liberals rely on Christianity having done all the work on social morality and only chip away at the bits they do not like. This helps them achieve their goals without shocking the public into resisting them. The overall effect, however, is cumulative.

  • Stephen

    “Catholic priests are right to express fears over Government marriage plans” – that is a massive understatement!

    The Bible singles out only four sins that CRY OUT TO GOD for vengeance.  One of them is the sin of Sodom – HOMOSEXUALITY (and its hideous offspring so-called sodomite/lesbian marriage)–sins that have become “fashionable” in our sad times.  

    It’s very difficult for our contraception, abortion, fornication, violence, and divorce drenched culture to see how contrary to nature homosexuality is.   It is precisely in such situations that Divine Revelation is so very useful, for we cannot trust our feelings when they run counter to reality.  Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man but to GOD ALONE.  So we must cast off cultural preconceptions and secular indoctrination and examine God’s word and our conscience to ensure complete obedience to God’s will, commandments, and divine inspirations on this point. 

    Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me.” (Gn 18:20-21) The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of homosexual activity. So far gone were they in this vice that the men of the town would not even accept heterosexual license with Lot’s daughters, both virgins, as a means of sating their lust (Gn 19:8-9).

    “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not seemly” (that is, those things which are defiled and disgusting). Romans 1:27-28.

    “But these men, as irrational beasts, naturally tending to the snare and to destruction, blaspheming those things which they know not, shall perish in their corruption,” 2 Pet 2:12

    “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:” (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their vile and filthy lifestyles). 2 Peter 2:4-8 

    Sodomites, lesbians, bisexuals, and surgically sex-changed peoples I invite you to pray the beautiful Rosary of the Blessed Virgin:  Please turn away from your sins and turn to Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is your peace, love, and fulfillment–obey His commandments.  

    “Open thou my eyes: and I will consider the wondrous things of thy law.” Psalm 119:18

  • OldMeena

    “…Divine Revelation is so very useful”

    But of no use at all to those who believe there is no such thing.

  • OldMeena

    [politicians/administrators who]  “….regard their operational imperatives as HAVING ABSOLUTE TRUTH AND AUTHORITY.” (my capitals, for emphasis)

    Just as you regard yours.

  • OldMeena

    “…imposed values at odds with the truth”

    YOU may think your beliefs are “the truth”  -  but many others don’t.

    Therein lies your whole problem, but you, and others, seem blind to it.

  • OldMeena

    “…obligations to create special entrances for wheel-chair users  
    look admirable and benign but they turn out to be an insidious means through which a secular value system can colonize and overwhelm traditional denominations in Christianity…” 

    Grecian wooden wheelchairs, hollow and packed with “insidious means”?

  • Deacon_Augustine

    You need help from an exorcist.

  • teigitur


  • teigitur


  • teigitur


  • teigitur

    ……and your point is?

  • Yorkshire Catholic

     No, it is not a simple tit for tat. It is a question of who is invading the beliefs and practices of whom. Catholics and Christians generally these days of course believe that their doctrines and teachings are true, but they do not inflict these by force on others in modern Western societies (except with regard to a few fundamental matters such as “thou shalt not kill” which they take to include abortion though much of modern society does not.) The politicians and administrators I refer to are much more invasive: they are  trying to deny individual Catholics such things as the right to wear crosses, or the right to hold  and teach their immemorial doctrines on sin, and the ‘secularisers’ have generally acted to discourage, obscure, or confuse traditional Christian beliefs. Listen to the BBC particularly the dreadful ‘Sunday’ programme.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

     And Meena, I would regard your [and similar] time-wasting intrusions into Catholic Herald forums as another example of rude secularist intrusions. I bother to reply to you because even if you do not realise it (I suspect you do) your visits here may be signs of the Holy Spirit stirring uncomfortably somewhere in depths of your being. But if I was the Editor, I would be inclined to ban you. What is that impels you to come here and make feeble but nasty comments about the internal discussions of a community to which you do not belong? Presumably it is the desire to undermine our faith.

  • Polly

    Yaaaawwnnn! Same old same old…

  • Brendan O’ Leary

    I’ve just had a reply from one of Mr. Cameron’s civil servants . It’s already started – ” There’s none so blind as those who cannot see. ” – or won’t see.  Marana tha !

  • Polly

    Troll, troll, troll…

  • JabbaPapa

    None, as usual

  • Polly

    OK, why can’t I, as a ramrod-straight person, have the right to a Civil Partnership arrangement with, say, anyone?

    The answer is: Civil Partnerships are for same-sex couples ONLY!

    Fine. Point made. Reason clear. Move on.

    So why can’t the gay community and their brown-nosed UK Government supporters accept that MARRIAGE IS FOR ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN?!

    If we, as ramrod-straight human beings, can willingly accept that black cannot be white, that to put a lipstick on a donkey still makes the poor animal a donkey, that a square peg cannot be put into a round hole unless you take a hacksaw to the corners, that cricket cannot be turned into hopscotch…

    Leave. Marriage. ALONE!

  • Polly

    You need help. Full stop.

  • Backatyou

    YOU may think your beliefs are “the truth”  -  but many others don’t.

    Therein lies your whole problem, but you, and others, seem blind to it.

  • liquafruta

    I may be very stupid but I still can’t see what effect equal marriage rights will have on the Catholic Church. Francis, you do not need to enter into such an arrangement as it is voluntary and no Catholic priest will ever be obliged to undertake such a ceremony. Logically it should be an event of no consequence to anyone seeking to defend the values of marriage in the Church. Isn’t the 50% divorce rate much more of a threat to the institution of marriage and consequently more deserving of the postcards and the 1000 priests’ letter or am I wrong in this too? Sensible answers only please as I can’t see myself submitting to an exorcist as has been recommended by some of the uncharitable souls on here to poor OldMeena who has a right to be heard with courtesy as have we all.    

  • Tridentinus

     Replying to someone like this is like climbing the North Face of the Eiger in trainers.

  • Paul

    liquafruta,  what you say here is indeed very stupid.  If God gave us ‘equal marriage rights’ we would all have been born with two sets of reproductive organs and the ability to choose between them as alternatives.

    But he didn’t.  The problem with redefining marriage to include same sex arrangements is that it pollutes the concept of marriage so far that the term no longer has a meaning at all.  Why should I admit to being ‘married’ if the term has the meaning you want it to have.  I would be ashamed of my life.

    And what became of the linguistic principle of ‘meaning = usage’ that the PM used to explain so eloquently before he got elected.  

  • DeadMensa

    No, the matter is truth, as revealed in the natural world … and, what to my wandering eyes should appear but that this same natural world is created. Add to it that God is the one who created it. God, a.k.a. I am that I am; the uncreated author of life did make us male and female. And it is required that one man and one woman be joined to co-create a child. Children, born or unborn, have souls. Souls, my dear friend, are the sole propriety of that creator who am, a.k.a. God. This is that truth to what is spoken.

    You can be so as to be spiritual without “archaic religious” ritual, but that still does not rob you of your soul. It may put your soul in peril of an ill fate rather than the glorious relationship with your Creator to which you were made. And made in God’s image.

  • Nesbyth

    You make an excellent point here.

  • JabbaPapa

    Isn’t the 50% divorce rate much more of a threat to the institution of marriage


    The redefinition of the word “marriage” itself is the true threat to the institution.

    But you’re confusing the societal with the religious issues — the Catholic Church is defending the existing societal arrangements as a good in themselves.

    From a Catholic point of view, a “gay marriage” law would immediately institute two separate forms of “marriage”, only one of which (the properly heterosexual marriage, whether religious or performed in countries having no such “gay marriage” laws) Catholics will be able to accept as constituting marriage as such.

    The problem is one of Church versus State, and this Government is responsible for creating a totally unnecessary and completely divisive social and ideological conflict between Briton and Briton. It is bad governance and it is bad politics.

  • JabbaPapa

    I asked her quid est veritas ? the other day —

    — no answer from her, unsurprisingly.

  • Nesbyth

    Actually, the number of people on the French March pretty much topped 1 million. The press were told to reduce the numbers (of course) but when all three marches met at the Champ de Mars by the Tour Eiffel,  a space which holds 800,000, not everyone could fit because the number exceeded the space so people overflowed.
    I was there.
    And the march was much more to do with the confusion for children of homosexual couples who are being produced by artificial insemination or surrogate pregnancies but who will never know their true biological lineage.
    And what happens when these children grow up and ask for that right?
    There was a woman on a radio programme about 2 months ago who was a “test tube baby” and when she wanted to find out who her natural parents were, was denied that “right” and told she should be grateful for being alive!
    Preposterous. She had no rights.
     And neither will the children produced artificially to please gay couples. Probably one half of the couple will  be the natural parent but the second natural parent will be unknown which is unjust to the child on both moral and medical grounds.

  • Nesbyth

    And I just did! Please read my comment further back which I put in a few minutes ago to AndreaGregorio.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

     Thanks. As far as I can see a follow-up post by me to Meena, saying that her own posts specifically seemed to be a case of invading a community which she rejects and trying to undermine Catholic beliefs and asking why was she taking part in this discussion…has vanished. Was it deleted? Am I not allowed to say this on the Catholic Herald’s webpage?

  • Nesbyth

    Your comment is still up on my computer which I’ve switched off and on again to check. It’s not been deleated…and you are allowed to make the comment you did on this website. It was a very good one and well-thought out which is what I admired.

  • la catholic state

    If they do succeed in redefining marriage to include same-sex couples and whatever else takes their fancy…..maybe we should do a little redefining ourselves….and call marriage between one man and one woman united by God for life as Holy Matrimony….and ditch the word marriage for good….since it apparently now means something else.

    Just as one morning we awoke to find that Muslims were now redefined as a race……then so Christians too must be a race.  It’s hard to keep up with all these new word changes.  I wonder have they included them in the Oxford dictionary yet!

  • liquafruta

    So it is about you being ashamed and one has to wonder why?.

  • liquafruta

    But if it doesn’t directly affect you why the need to be so exercised about it? And I still think the postcards would be better sent on the subject of divorce.That is still a matter of Church versus State – and for that matter HV and the freely available contraceptives in this country or have the Hierarchy and your good self given up on that one? Pax

  • Tridentinus

     Well said!

  • Tridentinus

     What is Truth?

  • JabbaPapa

    So you don’t worry at all that children in future are to be indoctrinated with notions that are directly and irreconcilably opposed to Catholic teaching ?

  • liquafruta

    If they are at Catholic schools or have parents who wish to teach them what the Church teaches then I don’t see the problem I’m afraid.

  • JabbaPapa

    So the future of Catholicism is ghettoisation ??!!

    You seem to be blithely unaware of what’s truly at stake here …


    The reality is that most Catholics, fortunately,  are not that bothered about gay marriage and find the hysterical comments of the bishops laughable….. 

  • Nesbyth

    Further information in this article about the French March last w/e with the views of French homosexuals who were marching AGAINST gay marriage.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

     That is extraordinary because, however much I trawl through this blog and I have done so many times today, I cannot find the second of two immediately adjacent posts, the first one being ‘tit for tat.” The second being the original comment on the invasive Meena. Most odd.

    While we are off topics for a moment, does anyone know how to edit a posting once it has gone up? I write too fast and reread too little in the excitement of posting. It would be nice to be able to repair the errors and omissions.