Archbishop says otherwise the charity could lose his patronage and no longer be called 'Catholic'

The Archbishop of Westminster has warned Marriage Care that it must conform to Catholic teaching after it emerged that the charity is offering marriage preparation services to same-sex couples.

The charity, which receives money from the Catholic Church, states: “Our counselling service is open to and welcomes everybody over the age of 16, married or not, straight or not.” It also offers marriage preparation and “welcome all couples considering a committed relationship such as marriage”.

Chief executive Terry Prendergast has previously said that the group offers “focused marriage preparation” for same-sex couples.

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But, the Catholic Church is opposed to same-sex marriage and Archbishop Vincent Nichols earlier this year issued a letter opposing plans to change its definition of marriage.

A spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of Marriage Care, said his role was exercised “solely on the basis that the charitable objects… are to provide relationship counselling, marriage preparation and relationship education services to ‘promote and support marriage and family life in accordance with the Church’s vision of marriage as a vocation of life and love’.”

He added: “It is the legal and fiduciary responsibility of the directors of the company to ensure that the charitable objects of Catholic Marriage Care Limited are observed and fulfilled. The provision of services in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church is also a requirement for Catholic Marriage Care Limited to maintain its continued use of the title Catholic within its designation and to retain the patronage of one of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.”

The charity, which was started as a marriage counseling service for Catholic couples, now receives almost £500,000 a year from the state, accounting for the majority of its income, with its website stating that it has a “broadly Christian ethos, by which we mean that we acknowledge the value and uniqueness of every human being regardless of gender, age, race, creed or sexual orientation”. It received more than £63,000 from the Catholic Church last year.

It is currently the second largest marriage counselling service in England and Wales. Mr Prendergast has previously said that children are not harmed by being raised by same-sex parents.

As The Catholic Herald went to press he was unavailable for comment.

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