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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.

  • scary goat

     Jonathan, while I generally appreciate your very thoughtful approach to understanding things, I really find it difficult to understand how someone who calls himself Christian, and clearly takes the time to think things through with an open mind, can have such clear support towards gay marriage.  I know the sort of arguments people like Tina Beattie use….and I’m not greatly impressed because as a Catholic she should know better.  From a Catholic perspective she is teaching and spreading heresy.  Your situation as a (non-Catholic) Christian is a bit different.  You have been here asking many questions, trying to understand our views it would seem.  My turn to ask.  How do you justify supporting gay marriage as a Christian? How does that work??

  • scary goat

     Hmmmm…..dunno….I’ll think about that.

  • scary goat

     Have you been asleep?

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Secularism may not have banished Christ…..but it sure took Him down a peg or 2….and put Him on the same level as all other founders of religions. 

    I could never be happy about that.

  • scary goat

     “…. couples of the same sex are called to marriage by God in the same way that heterosexual couples are”Jonathan!  Really???? How on earth can that be?

  • Nicola

    If it bothers Catholics so much that their views on marriage are out of step with the rest of UK law and society, why haven’t they been complaining about the fact that divorced people can legally remarry?  The Catholic church doesn’t consider their marriages valid either.  Why is this so different?

  • JabbaPapa

    TROLL

  • Nicola

    Well said.  What the state defines as marriage and what the Church defines as marriage have always been different.  This doesn’t change anything for Catholics.

  • midnightblue

    The vote on Tuesday was a setback, but only to be expected. 175 MP’s plus maybe 40 abstentions is about 1/3 of the Commons, probably more representative of the fraction of our population who understand Christianity as it relates to marriage and family. The fact is that the gay lobby have so far fought a skilful if simplistic campaign based on ‘equality’ and discrimination, without ever being required to defend their logic.

    Gradually Catholics and others are slowly shifting the focus of the debate to ‘family’. This is vital. I have no doubt that the real purpose of the gay activists is to increase the number of orphan and removed children being brought up by same sex couples. They see this as true equality. I see it as treating children like commodities.

    When presenting the case for traditional family I am grateful to the Bishops for their well argued briefing document and especially the Bertrand Russell quote which opens a rational discussion with the gay lobby, deflecting as it does the dismissive assumption on the part of gay activists that all Catholics are religious ‘bigots’ and obliging them to at least listen.

    Given that Christians in this debate are in a minority of 2 to 1 it seems to me that we need to be clear on the anthropological basics of marriage in order to gain the support of agnostics and atheists. The simple fact is that prehistoric societies conceived the concept of lifelong man woman contractual exclusive sexual commitment in order to assign ownership and responsibility for children who kept appearing unannounced after partying to much at full moon. In other words to prevent social and economic anarchy. At this level and with a 34% divorce rate even the most ardent atheist or humanist can appreciate the ‘sanctity’ of marriage as it contributes to the common good.

    The gay activists would have us abandon this principle in favour of a model of procreation and parenthood based on whether you (or the taxpayer) can afford in vitro fertilisation and surrogate motherhood, producing a generation of children who do not know where they come from, who may not experience a mother’s breast and who are little less than commodities. And with vastly reduced chances of finding Jesus.

  • Sweetjae

    Yes we the Catholic Church has the highest moral standard of any institution, civil or religious. The Church is the highest and biggest charitable institution SECOND TO NONE by observing a principle higher than any, “LOVE thy neighbor as yourself”.

    The problem is as with any human organization, being faithful to their beliefs of holiness and purity.

  • Maccabeus

    No Christian denomination disputes that man is inherently evil, only the
    degree to which he is inherently evil. There are those who hold that his evil
    is grave but does not entirely override his remaining potential for goodness;
    and there are those who hold that man’s evil is so radical that his remaining
    goodness is incapable of establishing any kind of meaningful relationship with
    God. Of course we are talking about spiritual and moral good and evil here as
    measured against God’s holy and perfect standard – not everyday acts of
    goodness such as providing food for one’s children, helping someone cross the
    road etc.etc. which all men and women are capable of. In all denominations,
    however, regardless of the degree of inherent evil, the evil is regarded as sufficiently
    heinous and God-hating that it effectively prevents man from saving himself by
    establishing a true and righteous relationship with God. Hence the need for a
    Saviour, to save man from his hopeless plight, a plight that leaves him doomed
    to damnation. This is the very raison d’etre of Christianity: Christ’s
    atonement on the Cross for man’s inherent evil, radiating grace from the
    sacrifice of his body such that man, or at least some men, can find it in
    themselves to repent and enter the household of faith. It is the tragedy of all
    denominations that in recent decades they have played down the ‘bad news’ of
    the bible i.e. man’s hopeless and damned status without Christ, and hence have
    rendered the Good News nugatory. In effect, the  denominations have
    offered a lifejacket to people who they depict as merely paddling on the beach.
    Not surprisingly, people are  uninterested and the message fails to hit
    home. In the past all denominations were much more brutally honest and faithful
    in presenting the Gospel. They offered a lifejacket to people they accurately
    and honestly depicted as adrift on the ocean, unable to swim (i.e. unable to
    save themselves), or at best only able to tread water, and hence inevitably
    fated to drown and be lost forever. Now that second kind of lifejacket, in
    those desperate circumstances, was Good News indeed. And those desperate
    circumstances, with the life of man hanging by a thread, was and is a faithful
    reflection of how the bible depicts man’s fallen state. His only hope lies in
    his Saviour, Jesus Christ, because in and of himself he is lost. Unfortunately,
    in attempting to appease modern man, in trying to tone down the ‘scandalous’
    message of the bible, a message that has always offended man’s pride, enraging
    him (hence the inevitability of persecution suffered by those who deliver this
    message), Christianity has failed to inform man of his true and appalling
    spiritual condition. It has failed to carry out its Great Commission: to preach
    the Gospel, neither adding nor subtracting a word, to this generation of men
    and women, alerting them to the true nature of their desperate plight:
    damnation in hell if they do not repent and mend their ways. And no figure in
    the Bible, no prophet, is more graphic and ruthless in starkly and bluntly
    telling man that he is doomed to eternal hellfire if he does not repent than
    Jesus Christ. The notion of Jesus as some sort of peace-loving pacifist is
    rankly unbiblical and unchristian. It is Jesus himself who warns us of our
    desperate plight. And it is Christianity’s mission to faithfully repeat that
    message down the ages. Over the last 5 decades Christianity has failed to carry
    out that scandalous and ever-unpopular but absolutely vital mission for
    mankind.

  • Maccabeus

    No Christian denomination disputes that man is inherently evil, only the
    degree to which he is inherently evil. There are those who hold that his evil
    is grave but does not entirely override his remaining potential for goodness;
    and there are those who hold that man’s evil is so radical that his remaining
    goodness is incapable of establishing any kind of meaningful relationship with
    God. Of course we are talking about spiritual and moral good and evil here as
    measured against God’s holy and perfect standard – not everyday acts of
    goodness such as providing food for one’s children, helping someone cross the
    road etc.etc. which all men and women are capable of. In all denominations,
    however, regardless of the degree of inherent evil, the evil is regarded as sufficiently
    heinous and God-hating that it effectively prevents man from saving himself by
    establishing a true and righteous relationship with God. Hence the need for a
    Saviour, to save man from his hopeless plight, a plight that leaves him doomed
    to damnation. This is the very raison d’etre of Christianity: Christ’s
    atonement on the Cross for man’s inherent evil, radiating grace from the
    sacrifice of his body such that man, or at least some men, can find it in
    themselves to repent and enter the household of faith. It is the tragedy of all
    denominations that in recent decades they have played down the ‘bad news’ of
    the bible i.e. man’s hopeless and damned status without Christ, and hence have
    rendered the Good News nugatory. In effect, the  denominations have
    offered a lifejacket to people who they depict as merely paddling on the beach.
    Not surprisingly, people are  uninterested and the message fails to hit
    home. In the past all denominations were much more brutally honest and faithful
    in presenting the Gospel. They offered a lifejacket to people they accurately
    and honestly depicted as adrift on the ocean, unable to swim (i.e. unable to
    save themselves), or at best only able to tread water, and hence inevitably
    fated to drown and be lost forever. Now that second kind of lifejacket, in
    those desperate circumstances, was Good News indeed. And those desperate
    circumstances, with the life of man hanging by a thread, was and is a faithful
    reflection of how the bible depicts man’s fallen state. His only hope lies in
    his Saviour, Jesus Christ, because in and of himself he is lost. Unfortunatley,
    in attempting to appease modern man, in trying to tone down the ‘scandalous’
    message of the bible, a message that has always offended man’s pride, enraging
    him (hence the inevitability of persecution suffered by those who deliver this
    message), Christianity has failed to inform man of his true and appalling
    spiritual condition. It has failed to carry out its Great Commission: to preach
    the Gospel, neither adding nor subtracting a word, to this generation of men
    and women, alerting them to the true nature of their desperate plight:
    damnation in hell if they do not repent and mend their ways. And no figure in
    the Bible, no prophet, is more graphic and ruthless in starkly and bluntly
    telling man that he is doomed to eternal hellfire if he does not repent than
    Jesus Christ. The notion of Jesus as some sort of peace-loving pacifist is
    rankly unbiblical and unchristian. It is Jesus himself who warns us of our
    desperate plight. And it is Christianity’s mission to faithfully repeat that
    message down the ages. Over the last 5 decades Christianity has failed to carry
    out that scandalous and ever-unpopular but absolutely vital mission for
    mankind.

  • Sweetjae

    While I agree with you but you missed the crucial point that is, IT IS NOT the monopoly of the Catholic Church to have committed sexual abuse and evasion. In fact the School System is the highest in all counts but why it’s just a footnote in any media? I think you have the common sense to answer that.

  • Sweetjae

    I strongly disagree with you….your position is suicidal, you are the one who apostatized by claiming infallible interpretation of Scripture and Tradition, are you a Sedevacantist?

  • Sweetjae

    I think Parasum belongs to some quasi-ultratrad catholic cult or sect.

  • Mark

     The church’s enemies thrive through secrecy; someone must expose who they are exactly and take away their anonymity. I myself don’t know who the people from the top that have been doing this are but I notice its world wide.

  • Sweetjae

    Your assertion that anyone who sided with the Pope have impeccability or popolatry issues is just a disguise by yourself as the alternative magisterium.

  • Arch

    In my pity for a “gay” family member, I attended the union ceremony which I now regret.
    In doing so, it was my intention to support the hurting individual in his quest for happiness.
    I was wrong. May God forgive me because I am appalled at  the concept of homo ‘marriage,”
    which never can really exist except in the minds of ill people.

  • Jonathan

    I’ll try to have a proper go at this. I do understand how baffling it can be, and I’m trying hard to understand (I mean properly understand) “other views”.

    About to alight a train, but will try properly over the weekend.

  • Timotheos

    Let’s stop using the NEWSPEAK of God’s enemies. The term “same-sex marriage” is not just illogical, like square circles, it’s downright repulsive and sinful. It attacks (i) the beautiful, sacrosanct contract between man and woman, and (ii) the mystical marriage between God and His Church of which this sacrament is a type.

  • timothy canezaro

    Pray Marriage and Family survive the attacks happening in the UK, France, U.S, Peru, Costa Rica, and the Phillipines. That and the attacks on the Sanctity of Life and the killing or the unborn in their mother’s wombs.

  • jacinta

    Thank you,
    the reason why the Catholic Curch is so attacked it is because it the true religion, Our Lord himself said that “On this rock, I will build  MY church and the gates of the underworld would never prevail against it”. Even when Our Lord went into villages, the demons knew who he was! You don’t kick a dead dog do you! It is nice to know we are on the winning side, remember  St. John Bosco’s vision of the church being attacked on all sides but emerged victorious.
    PRAY THE ROSARY EVERY DAY, IT DEFEATS HELL
    God bless,
    Jacinta.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.quadling Richard Alan Quadling

    Can one of the loony tunes please explain how two people who love each other and them getting married has fcuk all to do with them? Considering one of the founding reasons for the CofE was to allow for one fat bastard to re-marry, it seems HIGHLY judgemental for them to comment on anyone’s happiness.

    Oh. And to answer “Mark”‘s comment about anonymity. I’m a humanist, and more importantly, an anti-theist. I don’t worship the supernatural. I don’t judge consenting adults sexual behaviour. I DO support the right of two people to marry and to gain all the benefits of declaring their love and union that some people on our society all ready have. I believe in equality.
    I do not hide! We do not hide! We don’t need to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/musu.foo Musu Foo

    Your church was against mixed racial marriages, they were against arranged marriages becoming invalid, and you church is now against the gays…look at the statistics of how many people support gay marriage you’ve already lost the battle and the war. 

    Why don’t you go focus on something your religion is supposed to — oh I don’t know, helping starving children, poor people on the street, all the sick in Africa (then again, your church punched itself in the face yet again with what they did over there recently)  maybe?? 

  • scary goat

     Ok, given it some thought, and I’m no politician I admit, but I still prefer the idea of our own party.  I mean how do you go about Christianising an existing party?  And what if they don’t want to?  And how Christian can you get by that route?  I know it would take time, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I would prefer something that we actually have control of rather than something vaguely Christian in tone.  All the existing parties have some agenda or another that is not acceptable to us.  Also I’m not keen on the UKIP idea because it is too British.  Catholics in Europe are facing similar problems, so there may be a possibility of it expanding to be an international thing, or joining up with similar movements that might happen in other countries. 

    I am thinking 2 aims:  One simply to give us somewhere to go with our vote in good conscience. Secondly for the common good for society in general (in our country.  Other countries may not have exactly the same problems).  We would probably need a couple of decent Bishops and/or theologians as ethical advisors, because it would be quite complicated.  I mean what would our policies be?  Both “conscience-friendly” to Catholics whilst also possibly having a wider appeal. Non-negotiables and negotiables, because this isn’t a majority Catholic country. For example, abortion would have to be non-negotiable, whereas marriage might have to be more negotiable.  We could support marriage, for example with tax benefits for married couples, make divorce more difficult, measures to allow stay-at-home mums more choice etc. but we can’t expect non-Catholics to share our understanding of marriage.

    And that’s without mentioning all the complicated stuff I don’t pretend to understand like the financial viability of things.  It would need people who understand politics and finance and law and all sorts.

    From that point of view I can see what you mean about Christianising an existing party who already has the know how….but how would you go about that? And wouldn’t something like making abortion illegal except in the most extreme medical emergencies make them run a mile?

    I don’t know….it’s all too much for my little brain.  I’m not very good at politics….I just want somewhere I can vote in good conscience. And if we all just refuse to vote because of immoral policies, we are handing it over to those who do vote.  It’s really a dilemma.  ,

  • Frank

    Charming!

  • James Moriarty

     Why exactly do you read that Catholic Herald? Simply in order to express hostile comments?

    Unfortunately, you don’t seem to know what marriage is. Can I lend you a dictionary?

  • scary goat

     We have covered this subject in other threads.  If you look at the top of the page you will find comments/blogs, news etc.  If you read through some of the recent articles and comments you will find some answers.  Happy hunting.  :-)

  • Jeffocks

    Richard, I see that you find the Catholic position unreasonable. I’m sorry you don’t ‘get’ it.  But please understand that I make no judgements whatsoever about what people do.  It is not my place ‘to judge’ anyone or anything; and far be it from me to comment on anyone’s ‘private arrangements’.  They are simply none of my business.  But marriage is a social and religious institution whose rules are circumscribed by a Holy Tradition to which I subscribe. I am affronted by Parliament’s usurpation of the rights to interfere with that.

  • Jeffocks

     Thanks Jonathan for the sense of hope!

  • timothy canezaro

    Praying people Unite in the defense of Marriage & Family!

  • scary goat

     Start an (online?) petition then…..Looks like 32 willing to sign already just in here.  I’ll sign.

  • Tony Burns

    bah humbug.  You people have your heads in the sand, no doubt you will delete this post as it does not support your views which will only goes to prove that you have no real Christian heart.  The Catholic Church is a self serving sham & is no longer connected to the christian teachings of Christ.

  • Rondre

    . Not sure other segments of society who abuse had such a cover up that the Catholic church has.

  • Rondre

    Abuse is eveil no matter who rapes the children.

  • Rondre

    We do? Where did you find this?

  • Rondre

    Thank you Steve.

  • Guest

    JessicaHof: Are you in a position to comment? You are an Anglican with an overtly Anglican blog aided by an Anglican vicar and a non-Conformist layman.

  • Jonathan

    Had a think about it on my return railway journey, and have decided it’s probably best not to respond substantively.

    Cop out? Yes!

    I imagined (based on my limited experience here)  some responses to what I might post and, well… 

    I cannot tell for sure if your question is well-meant and hopeful, or an invitation to division.  I’m pretty sure though that an honest response from me would be met with many – how shall I put this? – robust (heart-felt, understandable, passionate) counter-responses from others.

    This non-answer is too long already. A substantive response would have been far longer (and even duller).

    Adieu! Good Catholics.  Thank you for tolerating my presence; thank you for helping me to understand your perspectives a little better; thank you for your forbearance at times, your honesty always.

    Your friend*, Jonathan.

    *“Who needs enemies?” – nobody else need post that now.

    PS – You really do have friends, and in the strangest of places.

  • mally el

    And one of the teachings of Jesus was on marriage (there were others too) in which he emphasised the fundamental fact that it was for marrige that God made us Male and Female. Those who deny or contradict the Master are no longer connected to the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbour does not mean that we need to approve of his every behaviour. Love the person and hate the sin.

  • mally el

    No. You cannot compare an evil law that attacks a unique and extremely important human phenomenon which provides society with stability and contiunuity and a good law that condemned violent people.

  • Sweetjae

    You mean WHO, no other than the Commandments of Jesus Christ.

  • Rondre

    You have to be kidding.

  • Sweetjae

    You are in a dreamland designed and perpetuated by liberal media. The School-Educational System is the highest of child abuse cases and cover-ups, is the media interested? NO, figure out for yourself.

  • Rondre

    A cardinal was onec asked why is it that when a protestant minster abuses it’s on page 15 but a priest it’s on page 1. His answer, people hold priests to a higher esteem. Thank you,

  • Rondre

    Don’t think so . Sorry

  • Sweetjae

    I agree with you.

  • Sweetjae

    After they get and have redefined Marriage they will go after the word Matrimony, mark my word. And don’t forget others too who are already today advocating Bestiality, Incest and love between man and young man, they have equality rights too!

  • Sweetjae

    Lol!

  • Sweetjae

    I’m not, who is higher than God in whatever?