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Stand up for marriage, bishop urges faithful

By on Thursday, 17 February 2011

Bishop Mark Davies has reminded worshippers that marriage is a part of the ‘plan written into our hearts by God’ (Mazur/

Bishop Mark Davies has reminded worshippers that marriage is a part of the ‘plan written into our hearts by God’ (Mazur/

Catholics must find the courage to “stand up” and defend the institution of marriage, one of the youngest bishops of England and Wales has said.

Fear is preventing many couples from committing to each other in marriage, according to Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury.

Society has become so badly hit by family breakdown that many young people are now afraid to enter into lifelong and exclusive unions with each other, he said in a homily last weekend.

He also said their preference for “partnerships” – which, he said, were neither lasting nor open to the procreation and education of children – was reflected in the reticence of politicians to speak out in defence of marriage.

He said marriage was not “a mere lifestyle choice or social convention but the plan written into our hearts by God”, adding that Catholics had a duty to bear witness to the Church’s teaching on marriage in their lives.

Bishop Davies, who became Bishop of Shrewsbury in October, also praised Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary and a Catholic, for finding the courage to speak out in defence of the institution.

“Awkward as it might be I want to speak of the importance of standing up as witnesses to marriage,” the bishop told a congregation gathered for the Diocesan Celebration of Marriage in St Columba’s church, Chester.

“It is heartening to hear a senior politician this week urge politicians of all parties to speak up for marriage at a time when we’re told almost half of children in our country are not being born in homes founded on the stability of marriage,” he said.

“Yet, despite all the benefits which marriage offers for the well-being of children and society, that our leaders in public life might be reluctant to speak up for marriage tells us something of the state we are in.

“And so we need to remind ourselves of what the Second Vatican Council taught half a century ago, which stands for us today: ‘The wellbeing of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of marriage and family life’.”

He continued: “We have to confess that the situation within the Catholic community often differs little from these disturbing patterns within society as a whole. The good news of marriage has not always been heard or received even amongst us. The substitution of ‘partnerships’ which are not from their foundation faithful, lasting or open to the procreation and education can never replace the plan of God himself.”

Bishop Davies then quoted the conciliar document Gaudium et Spes to emphasise that “God himself is the author of marriage” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to stress that most men and women have a vocation to marriage. Finally, he reminded worshippers that the Catholic Church believed that Jesus Christ himself had elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.

Bishop Davies said: “Today I wish to thank each of you for not only speaking up for marriage but standing up as witnesses to marriage. For it is often fear which holds couples back from making those promises: ‘For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part’.

“In this we don’t set out to condemn but to offer hope in the way St Francis de Sales memorably described: people will always respond more to a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.
“Today you are that spoonful of honey, that hope for the Church and society represented in your own lives, never without difficulties or human frailties, but witnessing to a love which is faithful, lasting and open to the gift of life and family.”

Aged just 51, the Manchester-born bishop is the youngest of all of the bishops of England and Wales. Formerly a priest of the Salford diocese, he served as private secretary to the then Bishop Patrick Kelly before becoming vicar general.

In February last year he was ordained coadjutor Bishop of Shrewsbury with right to succeed Bishop Brian Noble when he retired in the autumn.

Bishop Davies’s homily on marriage came at the conclusion of National Marriage Week and just days after Mr Duncan Smith gave a speech in which he described marriage as a “fundamental” institution, criticising fellow politicians who over the years had “frowned” at its mention.

The Minister said that although successive Governments had shied away from “proper discussion” about marriage the tide was turning with the “role of marriage in family life and the importance of stable families” becoming an “important topic”.
He said it was an “absurd and damaging assumption” to suggest that to support marriage meant stigmatising those in irregular situations.

“Support for our most basic and successful institution does not mean that you cannot be sympathetic to and supportive of families where one parent is left with the difficult responsibility of bringing up the children”, Mr Duncan Smith said.

“Fashionably dismissed or taken for granted, the commitment of two people to put selfish interest to one side for the sake of each other and the children they raise is simply the very best of us as human beings.”

  • Phil99

    I can’t help but feel extremely dissapointed at the fact that Bishop Mark ignores the savage cuts that Ian Duncan Smith and his government colleagues are going ahead with which are affecting the poorest people in our society. As a minister of Work and Pensions he is actively destroying lives… But this can be ignored because he gives a ‘thumbs up’ to marriage?

  • Anonymous

    Your argument is non-sequitor.

    Why can’t one give him a thumbs up for protecting marriage?

  • Ratbag

    Way to go, Bishop Mark! You’ll be wearing a red hat sooner than you think!

  • Anonymous

    This is not the case, because Ian Duncan Smith is being a hypocrite. Thousands of job-losses across the country will occur because of his government’s polices, of which he subscribes to.

    What could be more dangerous to a marriage or the happiness of a family than the loss of the breadwinners job?

    He is also punishing families and children, in terms of their lives and future prospects with cuts to education services, closure of libraries and cuts in housing.

    If Mr. Smith made his thoughts known on marriage, whilst actually protecting the jobs of married couples and the vital services provided for families then his point would have validity.
    Actions truly speak louder then words, and what this government is telling us is, that the only families that are valuable to us; and the only marriages that are worth supporting are the better off ones.

  • Phil99

    Deary me…

  • Phil99

    So we can give a ‘thumbs up’ to Hitler for signing the Concordat with the Church in 1933 despite him ordering the murders of millions of Jews? No I didn’t think so…

  • louella

    If the money isn’t there…..the money isn’t there. You can’t magic it into being! And the greatest social security for anyone is a large loving family! Stop always depending on your lords and masters! Depend on your families instead.

  • Phil99

    Oh the money is there alright, it’s just in the wrong hands and distributed wrongly. A loving family is of course lovely and ideal but it’s not a firm social security if there is no family income.

    On a separate issue, I do hope as a Church that we are not going back to a time when people’s whose marriages did break down (for a vast number of reasons) felt unwelcomed and uncomfortable in our Church.

  • louella

    So how did humanity survive for soooooo long without social security then?! They had families….which we don’t have so much today! Cos secularists prefer their governments to look after them. That’s immature.

    Marriages have to be worked at……and society must support that instead of supporting breakups. It’s called growing up and taking responsiblity as an adult.

  • Chris

    Did you say ‘Dreary me …’?

  • Ratbag

    I think so, Chris. He’s missed out his ‘r’s…

  • Anonymous

    ….If you want to subscribe to that convenient fallacy. Why do I get the feeling that you would object to public spending regardless of public finances? This is obviously ideological for you.

    To say there is ‘no money left’ is a gross oversimplication and is political spin rather than eccomonic information. Almost all developed Western countries have relied on a deficit during the 20th century, it is a perfectly normal course of action. Britain’s deficit is around a quater higher than countries like France’s; and many times during the 20th century the deficit has been higher as a percentage of GDP.

    Financial mismanagement did not occur under the last government as is often though to be the case. Our deficit was the lowest in the G8 before the market crash. We had to bail out the banks to stop total financial collapse; responsible if unfortunate action. Therefore who is most responsible for the deficit? The bankers. The debt is a direct result of their bad practice.

  • louella

    Actually…..we have an ageing population……the most unproductive type of society there is. So no…..we are not going to be financial whizzkids ever with an aging population. So don’t expect a rich glorious future……That’s the way God designed it.

  • Anonymous

    The subject at hand is marriage. The debate over the Holocaust and the Concordate is something I’ve dealt with before and find it baseless.

    Great job attempting to set up a straw man.

  • Anonymous

    odd then that it follows, and is supported by Catholic social teaching – and was helped to be introduced my the Church itself?