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Archbishops: It is not too late to stop this shambolic Bill

By and on Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Left, Archbishop Smith; centre, Archbishop Nichols (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Left, Archbishop Smith; centre, Archbishop Nichols (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Church in England and Wales has criticised Government plans to push ahead with same-sex marriage next year, after the Culture Secretary announced a timetable for the historic change.

In a statement released on Tuesday Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark said: “The Government has chosen to ignore the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to stay, and we are told legislation to change the definition of marriage will now come to Parliament.”

The bishops were responding after Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced Government proposals for the Bill, which allows same-sex civil and religious marriages for religious groups that choose to conduct them, which is expected to be introduced in January, with the first gay weddings likely in early 2014. The Methodist Church of Great Britain, as well as Quakers and Unitarians, are expected to conduct gay weddings, although the Church of England would be banned from holding such weddings, with Catholic churches, synagogues and mosques having “watertight” protections, according to Miss Miller.

The archbishops said: “We strongly oppose such a Bill. Furthermore, the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic. There was no electoral mandate in any manifesto; no mention in the Queen’s speech; no serious or thorough consultation through a Green or White Paper, and a constant shifting of policy before even the Government response to the consultation was published today.

“We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. It is not too late to stop this Bill.”

Speaking ahead of the publication of the proposals, Prime Minister David Cameron said churches would not be coerced into holding weddings for homosexuals.

He said: “I’m in favour of gay marriage because I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.

“But let me be absolutely, 100 per cent clear – if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage, it will not – it absolutely must not – be forced to hold it. That is absolutely clear in the legislation,” Mr Cameron added.

The Government has been saying it would push for same-sex marriage in civil offices and hotels, but including churches widens the scope of the legislation. The proposals to re-define marriage have been opposed by the Catholic and Anglican churches and by Jewish, Sikh and Muslim leaders.

The Catholic Church has consistently argued that the Government is not able to offer guarantees of religious freedom because such legislation is susceptible to amendments in Parliament and to challenges under equality laws in the European Court of Human Rights.

A spokesman for the bishops’ conference said: “They’re positioning it as an issue of religious freedom, but the secondary issue is what is taught in school. What’s taught in the classroom is not protected. In sex education and citizen classes will it become compulsory for Catholic teachers to say there is equivalence between same-sex marriage? The goalposts shift all the time. The guarantees we’ll take with a pinch of salt.”

The Coalition for Marriage called the Government proposals a “sham”. Campaign director Colin Hart said: “The decision to ignore a petition of half a million people is disgraceful and undemocratic and goes against assurances from civil servants that all submissions would be treated equally and fairly.”

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth spoke of the “catastrophic consequences”, saying that the Prime Minister was “luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered”.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury called it “a tragic moment for British society with serious implications for religious freedom”. Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell, in a letter to Mr Cameron, wrote: “You vacillate, ambivalent about the role you wish to perform – the disciple of David or Nero. With such a contradiction between your statements and actions, on what basis can you expect anyone – Christians in particular – to trust or respect you?”

Catholic lawyer Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said the legal changes would have a significant impact on the Church of England.

“A marriage of the Church of England is automatically a lawful marriage. In all other religious services they register separately. If they’re allowing same-sex marriage, I don’t know how legally an organisation registered to do marriage can refuse to do so.”

He said it is likely the Catholic Church would move towards the system it has on the continent, where the civil marriage is performed separately before the church blessing.

“The Catholic Church could remove itself from marriages. That is one of the reasons why there hasn’t been a problem. The real problem will be the Church of England. Any safeguards will not be relied upon in the long term.”

The Labour Party has announced it will hold a free vote on the issue. Eight Labour MPs have confirmed they will oppose the change, among them Catholics Joe Benton, Jim Dobbin, Paul Murphy and Stephen Pound.

  • Tridentinus

    You simply do not understand what this debate is all about.

  • Sweetjae

    So Mr. Gulliver, what is the root of Christianity? Killing babies in the womb? Sexual pleasures without end and consequence? Terminating the elderly and handicapped? Tell us of this root.

  • L.England

    Marriage  is  not  for  ATTEMPTED redefinition.  We  use  our  language  in  so  far  as  it  is  generally  logical  and  familiar.  Some  jumped – up  heir  to  Blair  sCam  donkey – licker,  soon  to  be  booted  into  historical  irrelevance  can  say  what  he  likes  but  we  all  know  the  meaning  of  the  word  ‘Marriage’.

  • L.England

                                      I  don’t  know  about  about  being  prious  but  we  try  our  best  to  be  pious.  We  have  yet  to  learn  to  ‘preech ?’  Perhaps  you  would  train  us ?

                                     Too  Rightwing ?  Well  most  people  are  sick  and  tired  of  the  post  ’1923  Comintern  diktats  of  anti  Western  Gentile,  but  especially,  anti  Christian  Frankfurt  malicious,  avaricious  nonsense. 

                                     That  applies  to,  from  personal  knowledge,  most  Jews,  besides.  If  we  had  to  endure  Fascism,  we  prefer  that  of  the  Right.  This  is  because  it  lacks  the  meglomaniacal  lunatic  greed  of  the  World – grabbing  Leftist  (Inter) Nazis.

                                     Enough  for  now.  Check  your  grammar,  spelling  and  anger.  It  will  benefit  you

  • polycarped

    Too little and, I fear, too late. Where have these dear Archbishops been over the past year or so since most of us have been viewing and discussing this as an urgent problem? 

  • Joe Zammit

    Par.2210 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church runs:

    “The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society
    entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen
    marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty “to
    acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster
    them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DXBSLIWDHLSL2SLVZYRINOSTGY Mchicha

    These Clerics first need to find their Cassocks.

  • Mtturner

    With respect Rkm624, There is no law at present to prevent couples of any description from forming what would hopefully become a loving partnership. The law fully takes this into account and accordingly facilitates legal recognition and equality by the provision of civil partnerships. Marriage is something else. It can only be between man and women. If gay people want
    to avail themselves of  Marriage,  then they are seeking equality unreasonably for it is not attainable. There are however very few that are actually seeking it, including most gays.  Civil partnerships in the UK are
    equivellent to less than 1/5th of 1% of the population. Do you really think it is needed. ?  Is it worth tearing apart our churche for this. ?

  • Mtturner

    Oh dear, Rkm624. ( Motoring ) The law states that the speed limit within our towns is a max of 30 MPH. Some people prefer to go slower, some faster ( with potential penalty ) Suddenly the law changes and anyone can now exceed the 30 limit if they choose, how long before the level of people exceeding 30 mph makes driving dangerous ? The argument should be obvious to you. Up with gays, down with gay marriage.

  • Mtturner

    Well done.

    A very sound analogy.


  • Rondre

    Oh dear Mtturner, you still don’t get it do you. Thick!

  • Mtturner

    Well Done

    You may well be correct there. It is not often that legislation is reversed, however I guarantee you that I for one will be seeking it. In fact I already have proposals to form a substantial lobby to fight for a reversal should the government proceed with their folly.
    In the meantime contact the PM directly on Contact No 10, He is getting rattled over this issue and needs a little more pushing, Only weeks left. Make your statement. I will not accept homosexual marriage regardless of legislation.

  • Mtturner

    Well Said Sir.

    And they are prepared to try and convince us that Marriage will not be devalued by this foolish legislation. It needs to be stopped in its tracks.

  • Mtturner

    Sadly, you are correct on your stats, Joyfully however, you are not correct in your statement generally. Religion has a very profound place in our communities. Things don’t change so quickly because of a generation ( Its just a nano second in the greater picture)  Faith is still the most powerful emotion known to man. It is also essential, providing ” Hope ” to billions,  a building block for global communities. Here today, gone tommorow, politicians will never surpass or halt it.

  • Mtturner

    Now,Now, don’t get silly, your too bright for that, and it doesn’t really serve any purpose. does it ?

  • Mtturner

    We are moving into an era which is uncharted territory for western nations, It is not beyond reality that we will have thousands starving in the streets within a decade. How many people adopting your attitude will not be making the cries for help, or will you simply be ignoring them. The Church will still be there.

  • L.England

    Thank  you  for  your  concern.  Presumably,  you  meant  to  say;  ‘Now,  now – ‘  and  ‘ – you’re  too  bright – ‘ ?   However, 
    ‘You  are  too  bright’  is  preferable.

  • Max

    Archbishop Nichols you have remained silent over the Liverpool death pathway . Please step down . People are being murdered in hospitals in care homes and in hospices .One of the ten commandments is being broken YOU MUST KNOW THIS. and you are speaking out against gay marriage this is  more important  to you than peoples  lives  We need a strong leader in this country which is becoming less and less Christian day by day .Why are you not speaking out about  involuntary euthanasia ?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    You will have no choice but to accept gay marriage – it will be law.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Its not going to be stopped – a majority of the population now favour it….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Gay people are also ordinary decent people.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    It isn’t tearing apart the churches – the churches are tearing themselves apart and have only themselves to blame.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Oh dear or dear, what a nutter – the most recent COMRES poll shows 60% of the population of this country now favour equal marriage.

  • Nicola

    “Marriage is a simple act: two people, a man and a woman pledging to live together for the remainder of their lives and to co-operate with God’s invitation to “increase and multiply” through a sexual relationship. This fundamental definition of marriage has existed from time immemorial until the present day.”
    Just about every anthropologist would disagree with you here.  As would any good Bible scholar – the Israelites were a polygynous society, not a monogamous one, though most men couldn’t afford to keep multiple wives.  “Traditional” monogamous marriage as you define it is a relatively recent invention, and far from the norm in human history.