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SEPTEMBER 16 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Bishops: marriage cannot be redefined
BY DAVID V BARRETT
SEVERAL Scottish bishops have united to condemn government proposals to allow gay marriages to take place in churches.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said that legalising same-sex marriage would “shame Scotland in the eyes of the world”. In a column in the Mail on Sunday he called the same-sex marriage proposal “madness” and a “grotesque subversion of a universal human right”.
The Scottish government is holding a 14-week consultation process to gather views on whether same-sex marriages with civil or religious ceremonies should be made legal in Scotland.
It proposes to change the law in order to allow samesex marriages to be conducted in places of worship, though the law would ensure that religious organisations did not have to register same-sex marriages against their will.
Cardinal O’Brien called this “disingenuous” and said it showed “staggering arrogance”.
“Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples through civil partnership and since the number of civil partnerships entered into has been falling steadily for the last three years, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists,” the cardinal said.
“We should be clear that redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools and for wider society. But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow also condemned the redefining of the word “marriage”.
He said: “We would use a word which carries huge significance, and render it meaningless in respect of one of its essential attributes, its capacity to create a natural family – I mean, of course, marriage.
“It hints also at a hubristic mentality on the part of those in power, who imagine that today they can call something what it was not yesterday, and tomorrow tell us
Cardinal Keith O’Brien with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond that black is white, and despite weasel words to the contrary, will require us to accept it or possibly fall foul of the law. Please spare us such nonsense. The term ‘civil partnership’ describes what such unions are. ‘Marriage’ does not – it describes a different reality,” he said.
In his submission to the consultation Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley said: “Marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father.
“For that reason, same-sex unions cannot fulfil the nature and purpose of marriage.”
Government has a duty to recognise and protect marriage, he said. “But governments do not have the authority to say what marriage is or to change its nature or to decree that people of the same sex can marry.”
He continued: “A government which favours and allows for same-sex marriage does wrong. It fails in its duty to society. It undermines the common good. It commits an act of cultural vandalism. Such a government does not deserve the trust which the nation, and including many in the Catholic community, has shown in it.”
Bishop Tartaglia said he had previously written to David Cameron: “Government should know with absolute certainty that the Catholic Church will never register civil partnerships nor celebrate same-sex marriage, ‘not now, not in the future, not ever’.”
Government should not be persuaded by those who say that any opposition to samesex marriage comes from homophobic bigotry, he said. “This is not only false, but is
David Cheskin/PA wire itself an illiberal and undemocratic intolerance which only seeks to close down rational argument and to intimidate people into acquiescence.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I can’t see how it is ‘cultural vandalism’ to bring greater equality into Scottish society.
“Under the changes the Catholic Church, nor anyone else, will not be forced to conduct a same sex marriage ceremony but if they wish to the law will no longer stop them. That’s a very tolerant and fair approach to this issue.”
Archbishop: judges are biased against Christians
BY SIMON CALDWELL
ARCHBISHOP Peter Smith of Southwark has said the British courts are wrongfully penalising Christians through an “incorrect interpretation” of human rights laws.
The archbishop said judges were guilty of “woolly thinking” and a bias against Christians who either wore religious jewellery or who had taken a moral stand against acts they held in conscience to be sinful.
He said certain court decisions had not upheld Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Britain’s Human Rights Act of 1998 is based on that convention.
His comments were directed primarily at courts which, he said, wrongly upheld the legitimacy of disciplinary measures taken against four Christians who have since decided to challenge the workings of the law at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the grounds that British judges were failing to protect their rights.
Archbishop Smith, chairman of the bishops’ Department for Citizenship and Christian Responsibility, said: “The courts are misinterpreting the law.”
His remarks came a day after the bishops responded to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government-funded body that had sought the bishops’ views on the four cases.
The request followed permission by the European
Court for the commission to intervene in the cases of Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane in an attempt to clarify how the law ought to have been applied.
Mrs Eweida, a check-in clerk for British Airways, was suspended after refusing to remove a small crucifix over her uniform. Mrs Chaplin, a nurse, was stopped from working on hospital wards and given a desk job after she refused to hide her cross.
Miss Ladele lost her job as a registrar in London after she refused to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples. Mr McFarlane, a relationship counsellor, was sacked when he refused to give therapy to gay couples.
The commission wants to convince the European court that the law was wrongly applied in the cases of Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin but correctly applied in the cases of Miss Ladele and Mr McFarlane.
Archbishop Smith said that although Sikhs and Muslims had successfully used the law to uphold a right to manifest their beliefs in such areas as religious attire and jewellery, Christians were denied the same right because the courts had decided that it was not essential to the practice of their faith.
“Why can’t Christians wear the symbol of the Cross?” he asked. “It is absolutely part of the Gospel. Without the Cross there is no salvation. It is at the heart of our faith because it is the symbol and sign of God’s unconditional love.”
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FORTHCOMING EVENTS SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER LAUNCH OF THE BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN INSTITUTE OF LITURGICAL MUSIC 9.30am Registration and inaugural address by Fr Guy Nicholls, Director of the Institute 11am Sung Pilgrim Mass. Celebrant & Preacher: Rt Rev. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham For further information: please phone 0121 454 0808 or visit www.oratorymusic.org.uk FEAST OF BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN TRANSFERRED TO SATURDAY, 8TH OCTOBER
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Pope welcomes new ambassador
ADDRESS TO UK AMBASSADOR BY POPE BENEDICT XVI
YOUR EXCELLENCY, I am pleased to welcome you and to accept the letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Holy See...
The Holy See and the United Kingdom have enjoyed excellent relations in the 30 years that have passed since full diplomatic relations were established. The close bond between us was further strengthened last year during my visit to your country, a unique occasion in the course of the shared history of the Holy See and the countries which today compose the United Kingdom. I would therefore like to begin my remarks by reiterating my gratitude to the British people for the warm welcome which I received during my stay. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh received me most graciously and I was pleased to meet the leaders of the three main political parties and to discuss with them matters of common concern. As you know, a particular motive for my visit was the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a great Englishman whom I have admired for many years and whose raising to the altars was a personal wish fulfilled. I remain convinced of the relevance of Newman’s insights regarding society, as the United Kingdom, Europe and the West in general today face challenges that he identified with remarkable prophetic clarity. It is my hope that a fresh awareness of his writings will bear new fruit among those searching for solutions to the political, economic and social questions of our age.
As you rightly remarked in your address, Mr Ambassador, the Holy See and the United Kingdom continue to share a common concern for peace among nations, the integral development of peoples throughout the world, especially the poorest and weakest, and the spread of authentic human rights, especially through the rule of law and fair participative government, with a special care for the needy and those whose natural rights are denied. On the subject of peace, I was very pleased to note the success of Her Majesty’s recent visit to the Republic of Ireland, an important milestone in the process of reconciliation that is happily becoming ever more firmly established in Northern Ireland, despite the unrest that occurred there during this past summer. I take this opportunity once again to encourage all who would resort to violence to put aside their grievances, and to seek instead a dialogue with their neighbours for the peace and prosperity of the whole community.
As you pointed out in your speech, your Government wishes to employ policies that are based on enduring values that cannot be simply expressed in legal terms. This is especially important in the light of events in England this summer. When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others. Policymakers are therefore right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favour long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society. Moreover, the active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defence of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of one’s duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community. Be assured that the Catholic Church in your country is eager to continue offering her substantial contribution to the common good through her offices and agencies, in accordance with her own principles and in the light of the Christian vision of the rights and dignity of the human person.
Looking further afield, Your Excellency has mentioned several areas where the Holy See and the United Kingdom have already agreed and worked together, including initiatives for debt relief and financing for development. The sustainable development of the world’s poorer peoples through well-targeted assistance remains a worthy goal, since the peoples of developing countries are our brothers and sisters, of equal dignity and worth and deserving of our respect in every way, and such assistance should always aim to improve their lives and their economic prospects. As you know, development is also of benefit to donor countries, not only through the creation of economic markets, but also through the fostering of mutual respect, solidarity, and above all peace through prosperity for all the world’s peoples. Promoting models of development which employ modern knowledge to husband natural resources will also have the benefit of better protecting the environment for emerging and developed countries alike. This is why I remarked in Westminster Hall last year that integral human development, and all that it entails, is an enterprise truly worthy of the world’s attention and one that is too big to be allowed to fail. The Holy See therefore welcomes Prime Minister Cameron’s recent announcement of his intention to ring-fence Great Britain’s aid budget. I would also invite you, during your mandate, to explore ways of furthering development cooperation between your Government and the Church’s charity and development agencies, especially those based here in Rome and in your country.
Finally, Mr Ambassador, in offering you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission, allow me to assure you that all the departments of the Roman Curia stand ready to support you in your duties. Upon you, your family and all the British people, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.
NEWSBULLETIN Cardinal Burke to speak to students in Manchester THE HEAD of the Apostolic Signatura is to give the de Lubac Memorial Lecture in Manchester on October 11 on the theme “Christ Jesus our Light – Heart of the New Evangelisation”.
Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy to speak at short notice.
Fr Ian Kelly, head of the chaiplaincy, has stressed that the talk will avoid Church politics.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, who in July withdrew from delivering a lecture to the orthodox lobby group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, accepted an invitation from the
“Inviting Cardinal Burke to a de Lubac lecture demonstrates the eclectic nature of the talks,” he said. De Lubac was a leading French Jesuit theologian.
Bishops prepare equality advice THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE of England and Wales has launched a consultation among Catholics to inform its response to the Equality Act.
In a letter sent on Friday, Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster, chairman of the Equality Act Working Group, invited Catholics to contribute towards guidance the bishops’ conference is drawing up.
The guidance will be drafted on the basis of legal advice to provide community leaders with a summary of changes that may affect them. Bishop Arnold’s letter notes potential ramifications of the act, such as consequences for parishes which wish to restrict the commercial letting of their halls.
The Equality Act 2010 was passed shortly before the last election and consolidates the body of anti-discrimination law in Britain. Catholics who wish to participate in the consultation can download a form on the bishops’ conference website, Catholic-ew.org.uk.
New bishop for Westminster FR JOHN Sherrington was to be ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, covering Hertfordshire, on Wednesday at Westminster Cathedral.
Fr Sherrington has acted as parish priest at the Good Shepherd church in Nottingham, among other duties over the past few years. As a bishop he will be based at St Bonaventure’s in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
Cameron sits on the fence DAVID CAMERON has said he is “keeping an open mind” about whether to include religious eduction in the new English Baccalaureate, designed to combat the “dumbing down” of GCSEs. A campaign to include RE in the new English baccalaureate has won the support of 110,000 people, including faith leaders and 100 MPs, but no decision has yet been made by the Government.
Ann Widdecombe to give talk FORMER Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe will speak at Aid to the Church in Need’s Westminster event on October 22, it was announced this week. She is the charity’s special envoy on religious freedom.
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