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Don’t convert same-sex civil partnerships automatically into marriages, urge bishops

By on Thursday, 22 May 2014

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has said it opposes a proposal to automatically convert same-sex civil partnerships into marriages.

A submission to the Civil Partnership Review consultation, signed by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, said: “Now that same-sex marriage exists in law, a new issue is being raised. There are those lesbian and gay Catholics who have entered into civil partnerships in order to secure important and necessary legal rights, but who do not wish either to become married in the eyes of the state, or to have their civil partnership automatically ‘converted’ into a marriage. To remove the legal right of these same-sex couples, who do not wish to ‘marry’, to enter into a civil partnership would mean removing legal rights for such people in future.

“We have received representations from some lesbian and gay Catholics stating that they would not wish to enter into a same-sex marriage, and who fear that their legal rights will be removed if civil partnerships are abolished.

“Some lesbian and gay Catholics do not wish to enter into civil same-sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only, but still wish to have the legal rights that are contained in a civil partnership. The removal of the option for same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships could cause great harm to those Catholics and others.

The response continued: “In terms of the Equality Act framework, it is important that those who share the protected characteristics of sexuality and religion continue to be able to manifest their religious beliefs whilst not being denied the legal protections that are offered by a civil partnership.

“We are opposed to any automatic conversion of civil partnerships into same-sex marriages. The two realities were established differently in law with distinct meanings. Same-sex couples who entered into civil partnerships may not wish to have their relationship labelled in this way.”

Archbishop Peter Smith signed the response in his capacity as chairman of the bishops’ department for Christian responsibility and citizenship.

Here is the full text of the bishops’ response:

    Response from the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to “Civil Partnership Review (England and Wales): a consultation”

Introduction

1. In the wake of the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 Act the government is consulting on whether civil partnerships should be:

a. abolished and automatically converted into same sex marriages,

b. prevented from occurring in future whilst recognising existing civil partnerships,

c. extended to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, or

d. retained in their current state.

2. Now that same sex marriage exists in law, a new issue is being raised. There are those lesbian and gay Catholics who have entered into civil partnerships in order to secure important and necessary legal rights, but who do not wish either to become married in the eyes of the state, or to have their civil partnership automatically ‘converted’ into a marriage. To remove the legal right of these same sex couples, who do not wish to ‘marry’, to enter into a civil partnership would mean removing legal rights for such people in future.

3. We have received representations from some lesbian and gay Catholics stating that they would not wish to enter into a same sex marriage, and who fear that their legal rights will be removed if civil partnerships are abolished.

Q1: What are your views about abolishing the legal relationship of civil partnership once same sex couples can marry?

4. Some lesbian and gay Catholics do not wish to enter into civil same sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only, but still wish to have the legal rights that are contained in a civil partnership. The removal of the option for same sex couples to enter into civil partnerships could cause great harm to those Catholics and others.

5. In terms of the Equality Act framework, it is important that those who share the protected characteristics of sexuality and religion continue to be able to manifest their religious beliefs whilst not being denied the legal protections that are offered by a civil partnership.

6. We are opposed to any automatic conversion of civil partnerships into same sex marriages. The two realities were established differently in law with distinct meanings. Same sex couples who entered into civil partnerships may not wish to have their relationship labelled in this way.

Q2: Once marriage is available to same sex couples, do you think it should still be possible for couples to form a civil partnership as an alternative to marrying?

7. As explained above the continued legal right of lesbian and gay couples to enter into civil partnerships is important to them. Preventing new civil partnerships from being entered would deny them those rights and provide little or no benefit elsewhere.

“Other issues” within chapter 4 of consultation

Q8: Are there any proposals for changes to the legal terminology and processes for forming civil partnerships which are consistent with civil partnership being different from marriage?

8. There should be clear differences in the terminology and processes between civil partnership and marriage, recognizing the distinctive legal characteristics of each.

Archbishop Peter Smith
Chairman, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship
17th April 2014

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  • john

    That’s all very well but we are where we are. We have to live in a world where same sex marriage in the UK is a reality and we now have to work out what to do with CPs. The Archbishop has to deal with that. He has come out with one idea of keeping CPs alive for relgiious Catholic gays but he fails to mention the other part of this consultation which was to extend CPs to hetersexual couples. After this is the main reason for this consultation as LAbour forced the govt into a consultation on extending CPs to hetersexual couples. The Archbishop argument could equally be applied to relgiious hetersexual couples going through a second marriage who feel that marriage is inappropriate for them yet still what the legal protections offerred by a CP.

  • MIKE

    And it must be in full conformance with the teachings of the Church so there can be NO disagreements amongst Clergy or Laity.

    Unfortunately Catholics all over the world have to deal with (but not participate in) civil laws that conflict with our Faith.

    CCC: ” 888 Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”

    Where are the Laity – Catholic homosexuals who are affected by the law?
    Why are they not speaking ?

    Stating that those who live together are automatically married – if I get the drift of this law – is an outrage that all citizens should be involved in trying to correct. It makes no sense.

  • Bac

    A meets B and form a strong relationship, love each other and want to spend their lives together – if A = male and B = female then their path is set out in marriage. If A = male and B = male (or F and F) then this relationship based on exactly the same attraction, feelings of closeness, physical sexual reaction, wanting to commit etc is a grave sin?! All those people are made as they are by God – not one of them determined for themselves how they became attracted to which sex. And yet we’re told that God has made hetrosexual urges right and proper and homosexual urges sinful! does that sound like God – not to me it doesn’t. Love is beautiful and life giving and is a gift from God and can be expressed physically ……except if you happen to love the wrong gender through no fault of your own hmmmm

  • $97155992

    The Bishop should be more concern with the salvation of souls and less concerned with the politics of civil unions. He is way out of line.

  • Benji

    In my opinion the Churches made a fundamental error when iin 2004 they went along with the creation of “civil partnerships” for same sex couples. The result is that now they find themselves arguing for the retention of CPs on religious grounds. Almost certainly they will get what they wish for & it is therefore inevitable that CPs will be made open to opposite sex couples on the grounds of equality. The result will be the undermining of the institution of Marriage.
    If in 2004 the Churches had argued for the opening of marriage to same sex couples then CPs would never have been devised & Marriage would have been strengthened/

  • john

    You ask why aren’t Catholic gays speaking out about this but the Archbishop clearly states

    ““We have received representations from some lesbian and gay Catholics stating that they would not wish to enter into a same-sex marriage, and who fear that their legal rights will be removed if civil partnerships are abolished

    The Archbishop has clearly been listening to highly religious Catholic gays and as such has made this representation on their behalf. I don’t necessarily agree with him since it’s my belief that the British civil partnership is in fact a marriage in all but name and that gays, whether they be Catholic or not, are actually married. Unlike the French PACS, the British CP was always meant to mimick marriage.

  • George

    Mike whilst I agree with you with respect in your comments in general you put an over emphasis on the CCC without making any reference to the Roman Cathechism.

  • Benji

    But surely it is the Archbishop who sets the line so how can he be out of it?.
    And I presume, though I don’t realy understand how these things work, that the hierarchy will in due course modify the Catechism to fit the new situation

  • MIKE

    The “Catechism of the Council of Trent” (aka Roman Catechism) was written abt 1566AD.
    The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) completed in 1997.
    In the history of the Church there have been no other world-wide official Catechisms (approved by Apostolic Constitution).

    The CCC contains and references all the Church teaching from all Councils including Trent (- Roman Catechism), both in the footnotes so one can see where the teaching came from, and in the citations in the back.

    The CCC contains things in addition that were never even thought of in 1566AD, such as organ donation, artificial insemination, palliative care, subsidiarity, commutative justice,
    The Church now uses the CCC.

    If you have not seen this before (including quotes from Popes JPII, Benedict and Francis. This link might be helpful. Please watch the short video.
    “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE”
    http://whatcatholicsreallybelieve.com/

    JESUS said – Mt 13:51-52.

  • MIKE

    George, here is a link to the Vatican web site – CCC.
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm
    At the beginning you will find the Apostolic Letter – Laetamur Magnopere, etc.
    Just click on anything you are interested in viewing.

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  • Ferret

    Ok but the ccc although authorative contains errors the Roman one doesnt …its modernist, which was condemned by Pius X

  • MIKE

    Prove that it contains errors.
    Quote the exact paragraph from the CCC, or paragraph number to which you refer.

    Pius X died in 1914. The CCC completed in 1997.
    When Jesus gave His instruction to Peter, He did not say that Apostolic authority stops with Pius X or any other Pope.
    (Jesus’s instruction to Peter – Mt 16:18-19)

    JESUS said: “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Mt 13:52

    CCC: ” 2089 INCREDULITY is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.
    HERESY is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;
    APOSTACY is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;
    SCHSIM is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    Catechism of Council of Trent:
    “HERESY” – page 395.
    “Such sinners are very numerous, for they include all who fall into heresy, who reject what Holy Mother the Church proposes for our belief,…”

  • Benji

    Thanks Mike for making it clear that the various Catechisms can be modified with the changing times.

  • MIKE

    ONLY by Apostolic Authority. All Catechism teachings must include:
    Apostolic Authority (Pope), attested to Sacred Scripture (Bible), and Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium (Pope and Bishops in communion with him).
    (It must be promulgated OFFICIALLY and in writing.)

    “ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved … and the publication of which I today order by virtue of
    my Apostolic Authority,
    is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine,
    attested to or illumined by
    Sacred Scripture,
    the Apostolic Tradition
    and the Church’s Magisterium.
    I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. “ – Pope John Paul II (CCC pg 5)

    Benji, there are no “various catechisms” of the Church.
    There have only been two in the entire history of the Church.

  • Benji

    That’s clear then, the catechism can & has been changed with time

  • MIKE

    Not exactly. In that the CCC (of 1997) covers all those things in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (of 1566), and adds to it.

    It does not reverse Church teaching.
    The Ten Commandments, Apostles Creed, Sacraments, Lord’s Prayer, etc, – are covered in both Catechisms.
    (You can easily find this in the table of Contents in the beginning of each Catechism.)

  • $97155992

    You might have a point there. Check out problems with CCC #2357-2359.
    http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/04/02/category-archive-message-board-24/
    http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/03/23/category-archive-message-board-21/#more-220
    .
    The time we live in need us to be prayerful; and to be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”

  • $97155992

    A catholic can not identify as “Gay”. To do so is to embrace the “Gay agenda” and the ‘Gay lifestyle” and be on the slippery slope to accepting homosexual sex acts.
    A catholic can be struggling with Same-Sex-Attraction. Nothing more.
    No Catholic Bishop should refer to a catholic as “Gay”. If he does so…well…i won’t want to be in his shoes on that Last Day.

  • john

    cpsh , I honestly don’t want to be rude but after reading your comments I can see why the Archbishop has been chosen to speak on behalf of the RCC when it comes to dealing with the govt. I’m afraid your language isn’t going to be taken very seriously. Catholics struggling with same sex attraction isn’t the correct way to call gay and lesbian couples when it comes to dealing with a govt consultation on what to do next with CPs.

  • $97155992

    Who should a Catholic Bishop focus his attention on? The Lord Jesus or the govt of David Cameron?
    What should a Catholic Bishop be most concerned about? The salvation of souls or their human rights viz-a-viz human laws?
    “Wisdom is justified by all her children.”

  • Ferret

    That’s my point there are a good number of articles on line showing the errors of the new catechism, so I am not going to post quotes on the errors, Mike just has to do a simple google search…. Mike then stoops to a red herring or perhaps a subtle ad hominem by stating “When Jesus gave His instruction to Peter, He did not say that Apostolic authority stops with Pius X or any other Pope.” Which is also a strawman, because I also believe this. Mike has a lopsided tendency to only quote anything post-Vatican II in his comments. Vatican II is only a pastoral council it is not protected from error and neither is the catechism which is built on the faulty foundation of this council. That is not to say that the catechism is not authorative or any use, in fact the new catechism articulates many infallible truths, however the Roman Catechism is vastly superior, whilst acknowledging Mike’s point that the CCC address new situations and contexts.

  • Ferret

    Well put

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  • Thomas Sharpe

    Yes. It’s a deception, and a trap. At it’s root SSM is not about marriage, it’s about forcing the open acceptance of homosexual sex, and punishment for those who say it’s unnatural. I have to think that the Bishop does not understand this.

  • Chrysologos

    You write that Catholic homosexuals have been ordered not to enter into CPs.

    The source for this view seems to be in your quote above from CDF’s ‘Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons':

    ‘One must refrain … as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection’.

    The legislative force of such a statement is surely highly debatable; hedged as it is with ‘as far as possible’, an explicit reference to conscientious objection, and in a document with the status of ‘considerations’.

  • CHBrighton

    But the catholic church recognises neither civil partnerships nor civil marriages so why does it matter whether there is automatic conversion of civil partnerships into civil marriages?