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Same-sex marriage will put Catholics under ‘intolerable moral pressures’, says bishop

By on Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bishop Philip Egan (Photo: Mazur)

Bishop Philip Egan (Photo: Mazur)

The legalisation of gay marriage will place Catholic professionals under “intolerable moral pressures”, the Bishop of Portsmouth has said.

Following the vote on Tuesday night, where a majority of 225 MPs voted in favour of the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Bishop Philip Egan said: “Just as the Church has been forced to abandon its adoption services, so too Catholics who work in the medical profession and in social services are going to find themselves under intolerable moral pressures. These pressures will also arguably be felt throughout our Catholic schools, by teachers, staff and parents.”

The bishop expressed his disappointment at the “Orwellian manner” in which Parliament had approached the issue of gay marriage. He said: “It is now clear that the Catholic view of Matrimony will in future differ markedly from what society will call marriage. One possible consequence of this is that the Church will be forced to withdraw from the civil registration of marriages.”

On behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith said that debate was not about equality as proponents of the Bill argued.

He said: “The Church opposes the Government’s Bill to re-define marriage. Despite claims by supporters of the Bill that the central issue is one of equality, the Bill actually seeks to re-define marriage and will have consequences for society at large.”

He continued: “It became clear during today’s debate in the House of Commons that the government has not thought through a number of profound problems in the Bill raised by members of Parliament during the debate. It will be extremely important that the many concerns we and others have expressed will be fully and carefully considered during the next stages of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.”

Among the MPs who supported the bill were Catholic parliamentarians including Iain Duncan Smith and Daniel Kawczynski.

Catholic MPs who opposed the bill included Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, former minister Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, and Jim Dobbin, MP for Heywood and Middleton and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group.

Sarah Teather was one of only four Liberal Democrats who voted against the bill. Following the vote, the former Coalition minister said: “I have found this a difficult decision because of my work previously on gay rights issues, and my judgment is finely balanced.

“I recognise that others may reflect deeply on these issues and come to a different view, in good faith.

“But it is my view that where the extra protections offered to same-sex couples are marginal, and where the potential negatives to society over a period of time may be more considerable, I am unable to support the Bill.”

David Cameron did not contribute to the debate on gay marriage but voted in favour of the bill when the vote was called.

The Prime Minister said that the vote was an “important step forward”, and Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition, described it as a “proud day”.

Bishop Egan’s warnings about the Bill’s implications for religious liberty follow suggestions that Michael Gove, Education Secretary, is secretly concerned about the legislation’s impact on Catholic schools.

Although publicly Mr Gove has insisted that he has full confidence in the legislation and the “quadruple lock” which will ensure churches are not forced to conduct same-sex ceremonies, other sources suggest that the Secretary of State holds private reservations.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live this week, Geoffrey Vero, Mr Gove’s constituency chair, said: “Although Michael says in the Mail today that he has total confidence in the legislation, well that’s not what he told me only a week ago when I met him in Parliament.”

He later continued: “When we discussed the matter there is no doubt that any legislation we pass in Parliament may well be overturned by the European courts and therefore we don’t have total confidence in that. And also, as regards the church, that although they talk about the quadruple lock, we don’t have total confidence that that is going to stand the test of time.”

The statement issued by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth:

Naturally, I am very disappointed that Parliament wishes, in an Orwellian manner, to redefine the concept of marriage for England and Wales. The proposed change will have catastrophic consequences for marriage as an institution, for family life in Britain, and for all human relationships, not least among our young.

Over the last few weeks, the Catholic community has campaigned vigorously to bring about a change of mind and heart on this matter. Yet we also recognise that despite this and despite the objections of the vast majority of ordinary people in this country, shewn by the huge numbers who have written to their MPs and signed petitions, Mr. Cameron seems determined to ensure that the will of a minority prevails.

It is now clear that the Catholic view of Matrimony will in future differ markedly from what society will call marriage. One possible consequence of this is that the Church will be forced to withdraw from the civil registration of marriages, as in some European countries, where couples fulfil the civil requirements in the Town Hall before heading to church for Matrimony.

Moreover, just as the Church has been forced to abandon its adoption services, so too Catholics who work in the medical profession and in social services are going to find themselves under intolerable moral pressures. These pressures will also arguably be felt throughout our Catholic schools, by teachers, staff and parents.

The comment by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark:

The Catholic Church continues to support marriage understood by society for centuries as the significant and unique lifelong commitment between a man and a woman for their mutual well-being and open to the procreation and education of children. Marriage is rooted in the complementarity of man and woman. For these reasons the Church opposes the Government’s Bill to re-define marriage. Despite claims by supporters of the Bill that the central issue is one of equality, the Bill actually seeks to re-define marriage and will have consequences for society at large.

It became clear during today’s debate in the House of Commons that the government has not thought through a number of profound problems in the Bill raised by members of Parliament during the debate. It will be extremely important that the many concerns we and others have expressed will be fully and carefully considered during the next stages of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

  • Sweetjae

    You have this bias against the Church? Are you even a Catholic? The bias and denial without substantial facts is pretty obvious and thus consider yourself as certified brainwashed.

  • Sweetjae

    You agree then that the Catholic priests are hold to higher moral standards than Protestant ministers, do you know why?

  • Deacon_Augustine

    Oi – hands off Bishop Egan!  He’s a good’un and we want to keep him around for a while, thank you!  OTOH if the Pope decided to make Portsmouth the cardinalatial see, I guess that would be a passable compromise. ;)

  • Michael Seraph

    Sorry, but gay people have been put under “intolerable moral pressure” for, oh, hundreds of years — including being burnt alive, hung, imprisoned, and rejected by Church and family.

    So, I don’t feel tons of compassion.  Isn’t that why Catholics are confirmed?  To be strong in their convictions even when it is unpopular?

  • timothy canezaro

    Yea but catholic christians have never been persecuted, mocked or religiously profiled over the last two thousand years? You don’t have compassion towards us? Well good for you. As Catholics, and seeing how every g/l/b/t person ever born was from the union of a man and woman and because they are our brothers and sisters and friends and relatives, we love them for who they are.
    Attacking Marriage and Family, uh well yea that is a whole another thing. Radically redefing Marriage and Family through secular governments and politicians is an attempt to re-do what the Creator has already done and intended for Humanity.

  • timothy canezaro

    The KKK hates Catholics and we have stood up to their hatred for alongt time perhaps most famously when US catholics helped Mexicans Cristeros when the Secular socialist regime in mexico outlawed and type of religion in favor of government being the highest authority. Your comment demonstrates a lack of learning and is offensive to catholics anywhere around the world.

  • Anselm

    Everybody who enlists to the “civil” (!) partnership SLIPPERY Facard is G-O-I-N-G-T-O-H-E-L-L

  • JessicaHof

    Yes I am. Do you have any other questions phil and the 135 puppets?

  • mally el

    You only tried.

  • mally el

    We are prepared to protect what has hwlped society for so long. Only one relationship, nanely marriage, has sustained society for so long.  You are ignorant of the fact that God does exist

  • mally el

    Not really. States do not have to get involved with marriage. Only a man and woman can consumate a marriage.Two people of the same gender cannot a marriage make.

  • JabbaPapa

    Timothy, please tell me about these million-or-so Catholic nuns who like to call themselves “Brides of Christ”, and think themselves “married to God”, then tell me how the marriage of a million virgins to a deity isn’t a radical redefinition of traditional marriage.

    That’s rather impertinent — quite apart from the inherently slanderous nature of your comment, you are confusing metaphors and symbols with reality.

  • JabbaPapa

    the Catholic Church hates gays in the same way the KKK hate blacks

    Simply typing out gratuitous slander and lies does not cause them to become true.

    And you wonder why you’re all so reviled?!

    It’s because bigotry and hatred need to be focused on a target.

    The truth, in fact, is that YOU hate the Catholic Church “in the same way the KKK hate blacks”.

    (one can in fact see from your Disqus posting history that you have a habit of posting anti-Christian propaganda in Christian discussion forums — this is easily understood as being a form of deeply motivated religious hatred and intolerance on your part)

  • JabbaPapa

    Hallo Mr. Quisling — good job promoting the sexual propaganda of the US !!!

  • David

    Fr Giorgio Miles writes that “We have been far too polite and reserved as our voice has been silenced by those who…”

    I couldn’t agree more. This obsession with sex on behalf of aggressive homosexual pressure groups, tremendously influential in the media very wealthy, in politics, in the media, in Hollywood, will tear down our society, just as in the Roman Empire.

    I just love the expression “Orwellian” in Bishop Eagan’s wonderful lette addressed to the politicians.


    Many, many faithful catholics, who cannot make their voices heard in the same way, have been waiting for this unmistaken and strong, courageous support for marriage.

    “Thank God, now is not the time to be a mediocre catholic”, the pope said, during WWII. Pope Pius the XII, I believe…(?) 

    Reading Bishop Eagan’s letter and the comments above by the pope, I can breath in fresh air again, than God.

  • scary goat

     Hey, Jonathan, come back!  You don’t need to leave, and you don’t have to answer my question.  My fault….yes, I suppose it could open you up to some….well….criticism.  Which is sort of what I intended….but I meant constructive criticism.  You have worked hard at understanding our views, and I noted respectfully that you have an open mind and are prepared to challenge your own pre-conceived ideas.  I wasn’t trying to put you in a position to get “ripped to pieces”….I was hoping to put you in a position where your views could be challenged in the spirit of “fraternal correction”.  Maybe that wasn’t the best way to go.  Anyway, yes, I think we do consider you as a sort of friend….you have been very different from some of the anti, trolling types we get on here, and you are welcome to stay. 

    Come on!  Come back and join another thread. :-)

  • BadTigz

    And yet, it moves.

  • liquafruta

    That makes it all right then I suppose. We have only heard the tip of the iceberg in all this.

  • Disillusioned.

    If you don’t agree with gay marriage….don’t marry a gay.
    Honestly it’s with views such as these I am ashamed to have been tarnished with the ‘Catholic’ label for so long in my life. Concentrate on other issues in the world which mean life or death….world poverty, spread of disease etc. I don’t think you realise how much intolerance you are contributing to.

  • timothy canezaro

    Marriage and Family are under attack. But, Catholics aren’t afraid to speak out on these attacks to radically redfine Marriage away from any recognizable natural meaning. Why not just lose the word Marriage all together and call everyone’s a Civil Union and then those that belong to a church that views Matrimony as something Sacred and a necessary building block of a Natural Family can be Religiously Married in a way pleasing to the Creator involving two people of opposing and complimentary gender.. What makes it natural….well that is how our species continues to survive. Every single gay/lesbian/bi/transgender person ever born was born from the Union of a man and woman and we love them completely as our brothers and sisters, friends or relatives.
    Praying People need to pray for end end to the attacks on the Sanctity of Life by killing the Innocent unborn in their mother’s wombs and the current attacks on Marriage & Family happening in many places around the world.

  • timothy canezaro

    Exactly, Catholics aren’t the ones pushing gay/lesbian/bi/transgender marriage to the forfront of the political agenda over poverty, senseless killings, unemployment & lack of jobs. That’s the politicians. As people of faith, we have to speak out against an unrelenting campaign aimed at radically redefining Marriage & Family by the media, politicians looking to do something to be remembered by, and g/l/b/t marriage activists.
    We are proud of our Catholic leaders for speaking out against these attacks and for everyday catholics that pray the rosary to add Family and Marriage to their prayer for Life.

  • timothy canezaro

    Exactly Mally. Can’t usurp something in Marriage that is Sacred and radically redefine it as if any politicians is imbued with such power, and still call it Marriage. Civil Unions should be what the state calls all unions as Marriage is something done before the Creator by two people of opposing but complimentary gender.

  • JabbaPapa

    Life or death …

    … as you are undoubtedly aware, all human life is the product of human heterosexuality.

  • DragonbearEssex

    At last… a reasoned view. Well said.

  • DragonbearEssex

    Do you think that God whispers only in the ears of heterosexual Catholics?

  • DragonbearEssex

    Agreed. A perfect solution to end this mindless bickering and pain

  • DragonbearEssex

    Your world will not end, nobody’s will. 

  • DragonbearEssex

    The separation of civil and sacrament is key here. There are some voices of reason in this thread. If the Catholic church withdraws from civil marriage and offers only the sacrament of holy matrimony – as many other European countries do, it will show an understanding and love for all; it will prove its statesmanship and position of authority.

  • jacinta

    Bishop Egan needs to replace Cardinal Vincent Nichols as cardinal in England, the sooner the better. Evil flourishes when good men do nothing. When are our priests going to get back to preaching Catholic Doctrine ie no contraception ( some contraception works by making the the womb hostile to the fertilised egg, henceforth an early abortion).,no sex outside marriage and  only for hetrosexuals, no abortion, no euthansia, no pornography. They need the courage to speak the truth and defend the Catholic Church whatever the cost, instead of “wishy washy sermons” due to fear.
    I have also noted in a bulletin that Amnesty International were invited into Clifton Cathedra, Bristol at Christmas time for parishioners to sign “greeting Cards” not Christmas cards! for prisoners of conscience. Why are these pro-abortion groups allowed into the Church. I don’t know if they collected money, this would have
    been under false pretences.
    This demonstrates we need a true leader, by the way is Vincent Nichols a catholic?
    God bless,
    Persevere to the end,

  • Monoculturalism

    Yes, the Catechism is resolute and unambiguous on this issue:

    “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”
    They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the
    gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
    complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”There are no circumstances, then, under which Catholics should approve of homosexual acts (and of course, supporting the legal normalisation of civil partnerships and ‘gay marriage’ is a clear cut approval of homosexual acts). The call for “respect, compassion and sensitivty” is not a call for us to approve of homosexuality. The bishops are quite right to oppose these legal unions and to promote the call to chastity instead, which is codified in the Catechism and is not at all disrespectful, incompassionate or insensitive towards people with same-sex attractions.

  • Brendan Greally

    If I dont agree then dont marry a gay…and I would add…. the force of law will ensure that the radical liberals get hold of my children and groom them into homosexuality as normal… and they WILL take my taxes and use it to persecute, prosecute and reeducate MY community. You have no idea how much intolerance you are promoting. 

  • Brendan Greally

    Michael Clarke, that is just so simplistic! There is no such thing in practice as separation. Think about it. I am a teacher…. I am FORCED to indoctrinate my class according to  the states once radical position on gay supremacy. Now that goes AGAINST my conscience… and therefore does violence to me and my community and of course my children. I always held the principle that the traditional family was sovereign and the state were there to serve the family. Now it is the radical highly aggressive sexualised  liberal intellectuals that are in total command. We are living in a liberal dictatorship which constantly evolves and impinges on freedoms that emanate from the natural laws. 

  • Cipresseto

    The article is about same-sex merriage.
    The real scary thing is that the secular wordl says that the traditional merriage and gay-merriage are the same thing.
    That is not the case. The traditional merriage brings New Live.
    So the only sollution would be to sepparate those two institutions, one old and one brandnew.
    Put both institutions in sepparate laws, that will not influence each other ever!.

  • Edward stewardsonn

    Undue panic – how on earth are catholics in the medical professin going to be compromised? Do they have pangs of conscience at dealing with those catholics who have married invalidly outside of the church? With couples living together outside of marriage? Come on Egan get a grip!

  • Parasum

    “Such complacency is dangerous.”

    ## No complacency is involved. The problem of chronology is a pseudo-problem because the chronology is not a device to show what was done or in what order; it’s a device of a different kind. The author of that part of Genesis is interested in time, because he is interested in the Sabbath, the giving of the Law, & Israel’s cult. The timing  of the work of creation is the first stage in a larger scheme which takes in the ages & generations in Genesis & Exodus, & culminates in the giving of the Torah, the appointing if the priesthood, & the fashioning of the furnishings required for Israel to worship its god.   

    The chronology in this passage is an imaginary chronology, not a means of dating events that actually occurred. That would be absurd, for it would lead to the conclusion that God worked a 144-hour week, then had a nap for 24 hours. The chronology as such is a fiction – its purpose is theological, not chronological. It is no more a record of what happened, or when, than is the (very detailed) chronology in “The Lord of the Rings”. Which no-one mistakes for a record of historical fact. So far…

    This kind of thinking wasn’t confined to Israel – Egyptian history begins with the reign of Osiris on earth, before his fellow-god & brother Seth murders him, & – to cut a long story short – Osiris ends as god-king of the Netherworld & (equally important) as father of Horus. The Pharaoh, being Horus on earth, was the son of Osiris: that was fundamental to the Pharaoh’s theological legitimacy as ruler, and to Egyptian kingship theology; legitimacy as Horus meant stability. Mesopotamian kings rule for tens of thousands of years before the Flood; after that, the reigns slowly shorten to a century or so, & then to perfectly normal spans: just as in Genesis. So the fact that something is given a date,  & place in a sequence of events, is no evidence that the “something” is an historical event in the way that (say) the invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1 A. D. 1939 is an historical event. It is a great mistake to expect the ancients to think about “history” – a word with many meanings – as we do. We can’t impose our expectations on their writings; that leads to confusion w/o end.

    The creation is not a real historical event, and the chronology is a fiction to express the theology of the author that is essential to the  meaning of that part of Genesis. The theology has a fictitious chronology as its vehicle, because the chronology has a theological purpose. It is a very sophisticated passage, as is the “plotting” & structure of the entire book. But the chronology is not a record of the sequence of events; to take it as that, is to miss almost all the meaning; which is deplorable.

    There is a lot of excuse for this misunderstanding; it is part of a larger misunderstanding of the purpose of the creation-narrative; this Jewish creation-myth is (in part) a counter to the polytheistic creation-myths of Mesopotamia & Egypt. These myths, but for a few shreds, were unknown to the post-Biblical interpreters. They remained unknown until about 150 years ago.

    “Creationism” is a word is applied to different ideas: this does not promote clarity & understanding. It can refer to a theory in RC theology about the transmission of original sin; or to one of several theories, some more naive than others, about the creation of all things.

    Sorry about the length.

  • Per

    I’ve never understood catholic concern for the so called same sex marriages.

    Civil or within the from us separated brethren.

    It simply isn’t a sacramental action, can never be one due to the requisits of the sacrament.

    It is a concubinate, matter closed, only the Holy Virgin can intercede. 

  • Deesis

    If I recall correctly St Thomas More put the case what if parliament should vote that God be not God. The reply was it had not the competence.Parliament has no authority in this matter and it is the duty of every Catholic indeed every citizen to ignore this. One practical way is to avoid any association with actively homosexual people. We should not attend any meal, accept any invitation to go to any event in which they are present. The problem is the head says one thing but through complicity many have said the opposite. No reasons should be given, nothing said that can be used against us. A refusal in silence to go along with this. Refuse accomodation, refuse to be complicit. St Thomas More used silence. His actions spoke loudly.
    How many of us have shut our mouths and even not acted on what our eyes have seen in our families and at work. I personally made a decison years ago to never ever have “gay” friends. NEVER.
    It is an addiction like any drug that involves lies, deceipts and more lies that creat justifying fictions. Parliament has just caved into it. The British Parlament has made many errors and this is just another one of them.

  • Parasum

    “It is all well and good to say the above, but you must tell it to the creationists who conflate science with Scripture.”

    ## Well said. Unfortunately, there is no way to show they are wrong. To believe in a six-day creation is inextricable from believing in Christ: both are in the Bible, the Bible is is inerrant & inspired by God, God does not lie, the Bible asserts both as facts – so to deny the creation took six days, is to call God a liar, or the Bible uninspired, and is tantamount to denying Christ (who, for the record, never questioned the six-day creation chronology; but implicitly affirmed it).

    That is the thinking. To deny the literal truth of Gen.1 amounts in practice to rejecting God, Christ, the Gospel, & the Bible. Catholics already think like this about the gift of faith; so it very natural that some of them should apply the same wholesale thinking to the creation narrative in Gen.1. This is why the talking donkey of Balaam is so important – the Bible asserts it, so God asserts it, so it is to be believed. If the Bible had asserted that St Paul had had three heads, that might also have to have been believed. If the ground for belief is that God, by “uttering” the Bible, asserts as inerrantly true all its assertions, then such an assertion would have to be taken either as a mystery, or as a figure of speech, or it would need to be believed as it stood.   

    And the six-day creation narrative has the enormous advantage over more sophisticated explanations of seeming to be self-evidently the most natural & most simple explanation, therefore the true one. Other explanations are apt to give the impression of being needlessly complicated and “too clever by half”.

    This “conflation” is set to continue for a long time to come :(

  • Parasum

     So why are you evading ? You’re proving my point by the arguments you bring against it.

  • Parasum

    “No Christian denomination disputes that man is inherently evil”

    ## The CC does, vigorously. 

  • Maccabeus

    Are you joking? The Catholic Church has always held, quite rightly, that man is inherently sinful and inclined to sin as a result of the fall. Sin is a manifestation of evil. Please, do not tell me that you are reading ‘inherently’ as ‘totally’ evil?? If so you have completely misunderstood the Catholic Church’s position, held throughout 2000 years of preaching, from Ignatius to Augustine to Aquinas to Loyola etc. etc. to the present day. The Catholic Church does not believe man is ‘totally’ evil – no denomination does – but it does believe, as all denominations do, that every man and woman is born with an inherent inclination to evil, to commit sin, an expression of man’s fallen, corrupt amd sinful nature. If you have not understood this you have not understood the very basis of Christianity as a Faith.

  • JabbaPapa

    other societies

    The Church is not a “society”.

    It is the worship of God.

  • Kevin Beach

    I don’t see it as the drama it has been portrayed to be.

    We live in a mainly secular country. The nation’s morals are taken from the times, not from any religion. The Catholic Church is held in contempt by many people, with some justification in view of the gross sins that a few of its clergy have committed against youngsters and the attempts of some in the Apostolic Succession to cover them up.

    It is a time to retrench and rebuild, but the process will be very long. In the meantime, British society will get on with its own affairs as it sees best. We will not exert much influence by preaching, protesting and campaigning. Instead, we need to re-create the Church as a living, loving body of Christ’s followers. We will be judged by our deeds, not by our words.

    There will now be a gap between the civil concept of marriage and the Church’s view of it. The way forward for the time being is clear. As in France, everybody who wants to be married according to the civil law will go through a civil “ceremony”. Those who wish to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony will then arrange to do so in church. If the Church is sensible, it will insist on there being a civil ceremony first, to avoid any risk of the law’s not recognising a marriage that the Church considers valid.

  • Tomvenour

    As the ex pope might have said: Das macht uns nur noch starker (sorry can’t find the umlaut).

  • Tomvenour

    We pray in different ways. Saying the rosary is one way only, not for me.