Alan’s back on the box
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Sunday June 17 2012 www.thecatholicuniverse.com
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To the Home Secretary: We strongly urge you to respect marriage laws
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Home Secretary 2 Marsham St London SW1P 4DF
Dear Home Secretary,
Response to Consultation on “Equal Civil Marriage”
I attach a response from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to your consultation document on the government's proposals to redefine the legal definition of marriage to include the civil union of same-sex couples.
The consultation document makes clear that the Government is principally concerned to elicit views on how legislative change could best be achieved and not with whether or not such change should happen. It is of serious concern to us that this proposal, which has such immense social importance for the stability of our society and which has significant implications for the unique institution of marriage and of family life, should be proposed on this basis and with such limited argument. These are issues of great magnitude with far reaching consequences for how our society sees itself well into the future.Asthe consultation document has not set out many of the issues to which the Government’s proposals will give rise, we are taking the opportunity of our response to raise them as matters of public concern, and we have not confined ourselves to the specific questions set out in the consultation document. In the interest of upholding the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we strongly urge the Government not to proceed with legislative proposals which will “enable all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony”. Yours sincerely
Archbishop Peter Smith presents 10-page response calling on Government not to proceed with proposals to allow same-sex couples to have a civil marriage
Archbishop Peter Smith Vice-President, Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales Chair of the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship
By Joseph Kelly
As the Coalition for Marriage presented its 500,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street this week, Prime Minister David Cameron has found himself under renewed pressure over the Government’s apparent determination to introduce same-sex ‘marriage’.
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales and The Church of England both launched scathing criticisms of the proposals.
In their 10-page submission, the Catholic bishops presented a wellargued and concise analysis of the issues, exposing the many aspects in which the Government has failed to appreciate the possible consequences of the proposed legislation.
The Catholic bishops also emphasised that the Government has “no electoral mandate” for the policy, having “at no time set out the full arguments in favour of such a significant social change”.
TheUniverse very much shares the bishops’ view that any such fundamental change to social policy has to be fully justified, and the onus falls on the Government to prove the benefits of any such decision, which should only be taken after extensive public consultation and exhaustive debate.
The brief and highly-limited ‘consultation’ provided in this case falls far short of any meaningful test of public opinion or need.
It’s also disconcerting that the Government has stated it will consider the points made, but “not the number of responses received” – making this one of the few occasions when a government seems determined not to be swayed by what is evidently a very significant weight of public opinion.
The Church of England has also accused the Government of failing to think through its plans, saying the legislation would lead to an unprecedented clash between its own canon law – that marriage is between a man and a woman – and that of Parliament.
It’s also very unclear whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and a successful legal challenge could make it impossible for the Church of England to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the State. Writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops, Archbishop Peter Smith also accused the Government of putting forward plans which were not subject to “careful study and analysis” which would, if
Catholic Trust for England and Wales Company No 4734592 Registered Charity No 1097482 www.catholicchurch.org.uk implemened, “permanently diminish” the significance of marriage.
“The proposal ... is based only on two very brief Party Conference announcements; there has been no Royal Commission, no manifesto commitment, no Green Paper and no White Paper,” said Archbishop Smith. Mr Cameron, who has declared himself to be in favour of gay ‘marriage’, has even come under fire from supporters of the proposals for allowing a free vote among Tory MPs to avoid a looming rebellion over the issue.
Critics have also pointed to the fact that nowhere in the consultation document is their evidence of an understanding of marriage as an institution with distinct characteristics, nor does it give any consideration to the social and cultural value of the unique relationship formed between a husband and wife.
“The institution of marriage has never prevented the development of other forms of friendship or human relationship ... but they have never been given the name of ‘marriage’.
“Marriage is therefore unique and distinct from all other human relationships,” said Archbishop Smith.
In common with the Catholic and Anglican bishops, and with what we believe to be the public majority, The Universe also urges the Government strongly not to proceed with its proposed legislative changes to marriage.
Professor Simon Lee – page 14 Full text of response – pages 16 and 17
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