Courtesy of The Telegraph
'Redefining marriage to include homosexuals would be a “profoundly radical step” stripping it of its “distinctive nature”, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, will say.
The warning, the most significant intervention yet into the debate on gay marriage, is in a letter to be read from the pulpit in 2,500 churches during Mass this Sunday. It has been seen by The Daily Telegraph as the Government prepares to announce the terms of a national consultation on a proposed change to the law on marriage.
The last time the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church intervened on a political issue, during the threat to impose quotas on faith schools in 2007, ministers climbed down within days.
Significantly, the letter, co-signed by the Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith, adopts a strikingly moderate tone, in contrast with that of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, who accused the Coalition of a “grotesque subversion” at the weekend.
As well as setting out Church teaching, it appeals to wider society, arguing that marriage is a “natural institution” with a meaning understood far beyond the confines of the religion. It says that extending it to same-sex couples would reduce marriage to a vague commitment between two people. The archbishops argue that marriage between a man and a woman is “at the foundation of our society”, but also praise the “remarkable example of courage and fidelity” displayed by many who have suffered marital breakdown.
While quoting the Catechism, which defines marriage as a sacrament, they say that their “instinctive understanding” of marriage as a setting both for secure relationships and bringing up children will be shared by wider society. “Neither the Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself,” they write. “Nor is this simply a matter of public opinion.”
Crucially, they argue against changing the meaning of civil, as well as religious, marriage. The Government had hoped to neutralise opposition from a coalition led by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, by offering reassurances that churches would not be forced to marry gay couples.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph last week the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, insisted that the Government was not “trampling over tradition” but “allowing a space” for homosexual rights to be respected alongside religious belief.
The archbishops’ letter has been sent to bishops across England and Wales and is being circulated to parishes this week. It is accompanied by a cover note asking priests to encourage their parishioners to sign a petition set up by Lord Carey’s Coalition for Marriage, opposing the redefinition of marriage.'
For full article, click here. How is this for a comment on The Telegraph article from one reader: 'I am thinking of going to mass - and I'm an atheist!'