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RC bishops issue Report stage briefing on Marriage bill

The Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales has issued a briefing on the amendments that have been submitted for next week’s Report stage debate in the House of Commons.

The document is available as a PDF file and its introductory section is copied below the fold.

Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith have commented as follows:

We urge members of the House of Commons to think again about the long term consequences of the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill in deciding how to vote at the report stage and third reading debates next week (20-21 May).

Many people within and beyond the faith communities deeply believe that the state should not seek to change the fundamental meaning of marriage. This proposed change in the law is far more profound than first appears. Marriage will become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage. It is not too late for Parliament to think again and we urge MPs to do so.

Furthermore, the Bill as currently drafted poses grave risks to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If the Bill is to proceed through Parliament we urge members to ensure it is amended so that these fundamental freedoms we all cherish are clearly and demonstrably safeguarded.

Even more detail than the Briefing Note can be found via this page.

Introduction and Summary:

This briefing note sets out specific amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill proposed by Members of Parliament in order to protect religious freedom and freedom of speech. These amendments have the support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The Church’s principled objection to the legislation was set out in our Second Reading Briefing Note (http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/marriage-same-sex-couples-bill-briefing). Given the support that the Bill received at Second Reading, our aim now is to ensure that the Bill, should it become law, effectively delivers the protections that the Government promised to provide for religious individuals and organisations. Our legal advice warns that these amendments are necessary to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

These amendments seek to give effect to the protections that the Government has repeatedly stated that it seeks to provide. The amendments cover four areas:

(1) Freedom of Speech:
There is a real concern that individuals will be subjected to some form of detriment if they express views or opinions against same sex marriage.

(2) Education:
The Bill causes two potential problems for religious schools: first in relation to current guidance issued by the Secretary of State about marriage, and second in relation to future guidance. Unless protection is built into the Bill, religious schools may be compelled to promote and endorse same sex marriage under current and/or future guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

(3) Protection for Registrars:
There is presently no protection in the Bill for current (or future) civil registrars who have a conscientious objection to conducting same sex marriage ceremonies.

(4) Protection from Compulsion:
Protection from “compulsion” is central to the protection provided for religious individuals and organisations. But there is no definition of ‘compelled’ in the Bill. This creates significant uncertainty and weakens the scope of the protection that is afforded by the Bill. The Bill also recognises the possibility of legal challenge under section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 and provides explicit protection in Clause 2(5); however the scope of that protection is too narrowly drawn and leaves religious organisations at risk of legal challenge.

Whilst these four issues are not our only areas of concern (other pieces of legislation, including the Public Order Act 1986 and other sections of the Equality Act 2010, should also be amended in order to provide proper protection for religious individuals and organisations), we have focused on them as our major concerns.

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dr.primroserobert ian WilliamsTobias HallerErika Bakerrobert Ian Williams Recent comment authors
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badman
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badman

“Many people within and beyond the faith communities deeply believe that the state should not seek to change the fundamental meaning of marriage.” No-one with any historical memory could make such a statement. For example, until very recently, a fundamental of marriage was that the woman BELONGED to her husband. Hence, she was “given away” in marriage. Hence, there could be no rape in marriage since, as Sir Matthew Hale put it in his “History of the Pleas of the Crown”, a wife “hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.” Hence, adultery was… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

One day all churches are going to be so profoundly ashamed and embarrassed by these pronouncements. I’m staggered that they still cannot see it.

Pier
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Pier

QUOTE Marriage will become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage. END OF QUOTE This is their error. There is no such thing as ‘society’s understanding’ of pretty much anything. What is there in my view is a set of living-together practices more or less socially tolerated, and contrary to what these folks say, marriage is not socially limited to the procreation of children anymore. Besides, this is the freakin’ roman… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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“openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage” This should say, “has never been,” and would then be true. “Openness to children” (whatever that means to an infertile couple I can not grasp!) and upbringing by their biological parents has been, in many cultures, one aspect of a possible outcome of marriage. Fortunately the Church of England has long recognized that this “use” or “purpose” of marriage is only one among a number, and has explicitly… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

I await the RC bishops’ report on the abuse of children at all levels within that denomination.

They really should lay off consensual adult relationships in the light of this on-going scandal; combined with the abuse of subordinates / ’employees’ – call them what you will, at the highest level in the RC Scottish Church.

They have lost all credibility with the public and with many RCs.

David
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David

‘All the objections to gay marriage come down to two (1) marriage must never change and (2) gay sex is always wrong.’ Actually no on both counts. There are many who would affirm and celebrate civil partnerships. And who also believe that the word ‘marriage’ should be a preserved for the union of a man and a woman. My concern is that the language of rights and equality is driving the debate. We seem to have no positive understanding of ‘difference’. It can only be heard as discriminatory and excluding. I accept that pronouncements from the church centre at present… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

AS IF all this sectarian gobbledy-gook should have any say in CIVIL law, compared to a loving couple who says “We want to get married!”

Father Ron Smith
Guest

When considering this Roman Catholic opposition to Same-Sex Marriage, one must also take into account the fact that no minister of the Roman Catholic Church is permitted to enter into the married state. Is this because of the dangers of sex? Therefore, no R.C. clergy-person can possibly be expected to fully understand what marriage is really all about – much less to dictate to other people what may, or may not, be considered as a worthy marriage partnership. The real objection to Same-Sex Marriage seems to be predicated on the exercise of God’s gift of physical sexual expression – which… Read more »

Joseph Golightly
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Joseph Golightly

Laurence you’ll have to be careful about child abuse and the Catholic Church. I believe there are more anglican ministers languishing in jail compared with catholics. Celebs, teachers, musicians and indeed “family” members also outweigh the catholic priests. This is not a defence but you cannot have throw away lines. To link child abuse with opposition to same sex marriage is not even worthy of debate

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David, “We” may well have a positive understanding of difference. No-one suggests that male and female are not different, for example. But there is no credible reason why difference should mean inequality. And to that extent, the debate is indeed about rights and equality and there is no reason why it should be about anything else. If individual gay people have the kind of understanding about their own difference that makes them decide that marriage is not for them, then that is to be respected. But when straights reserve the right to pronounce a difference and to translate that into… Read more »

David
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David

Erica
Thank you. But of course the discussion about whether ‘difference’ is a matter of unequal treatment depends on what we understand is actually being discussed. If this is marriage perhaps we disagree but this is still something I am trying to seriously think through.
But it helps no one when serous debate is dismissed in ways I was responding to above.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David, isn’t the problem that those who oppose marriage equality do it in hyperbolic terms? If you look at the statements made by the RC church and the CoE one in the next post, they don’t engage with any differences between marriage and same sex partnerships. They don’t affirm the values of same sex relationships while making considered contributions as to why these equal relationships are not marriages. Instead, they talk of the dangers to society, threats against religious freedom and free speech, diluting the meaning of marriage etc. It’s all one huge amount of scaremongering without anyone ever explaining… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

Joseph Golightly you seem to have misunderstood my comment.

I was, in fact speaking of the RC denomination; and said not a word of the Catholic Church.

Please attend.

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

Joseph Golightly I find your ad hominem unconvincing. Go lightly !

The RC denomination has lost its authority on relationship and sexual matters because of abuse practiced by its ministers down the decades, its cover up by bishops, cardinals and popes, and the abuse of young men in the care of Cardinal O’Brien by O’Brien himself over decades.

Rosie Bates
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Rosie Bates

‘Marriage will become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage. It is not too late for Parliament to think again and we urge MPs to do so.’ What a ridiculous comment given divorce statistics. When will the Churches realise that they exist to serve and support all people whatever their circumstances. To use this as an excuse for being concerned about gay marriage is not only scaremongering it is the usual… Read more »

David
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David

Erica thanks again.
Hyperbole is a feature of all sides of this debate of course.
In my first post I acknowledged how poor the ‘church’ pronouncements are on this subject.
‘The only remotely genuine argument’ – really? You may well have explored this subject exhaustively (and I always value your postings). You may well be right on this. With all respect, here on this thread it remains your own opinion and you claim it before engaging with how others are trying to make sense of it out of the same concerns to honour the rich diversity of human relating.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, thank you. Having followed this debate for many years, the arguments seem to me to go in circles. – Marriage is between a man and a woman, therefore gay people cannot marry. – Why does it have to be between a man and a woman? – Because same sex couples cannot have children. – Why does it matter if they cannot have children when there are many straight couples who cannot have them? – Because they could have them if they could have them – Why is having children so important and why do adoption, fostering and step parenting… Read more »

magistra
Guest

For all those who want to talk about the “positive understanding” of difference, what is it? What qualities do *all* men have that *all* women do not possess and vice versa? Because I don’t see anyone making this argument who also says that some male-female marriages are wrongful because one of the couple lacks some key characteristic.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Joseph Golightly, child abuse is always a dreadful crime, whoever did it. However, the fact that the RC Church covered up the crimes and enabled abusers to continue abusing is yet another layer of crime. The CoE seems to be working through institutional ways of stopping abuse, as have many schools and other public institutions. The enabling, denial, and cover up at every level of the church hierarchy is way out-of-step with most institutions efforts to stop it. Given this moral failing, I’m not sure why anyone outside of the RC church would pay the slightest attention to their pronouncements… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“My concern is that the language of rights and equality is driving the debate. We seem to have no positive understanding of ‘difference’. It can only be heard as discriminatory and excluding.” David, that’s because it can only be discriminatory and excluding. There’s no clever argument around this fact. Separate is unequal. And who exactly is defining this “difference?” Those who hold the power in order to exclude those who don’t hold the power. CoE is way behind in terms of rigorous theological and moral thinking on difference. Not to be judgmental about it, after all, TEC only came to… Read more »

robert Ian Williams
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robert Ian Williams

Surely you have missed the prime Catholic objection ..in that for a marriage to be valid in Catholic eyes it has to be open to the gift of God’s gift of life. The Church will grant marriage rights to elderly couples, as they will not be doing anything to thwart conception…and the same goes for couples who find they have fertility problems. If X went along to Catholic marriage preparation , and said, ” I am only getting married for the sex and do not want children. ” They would not marry X. As the Universal Catechism asserts: Section 1664….… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The Church will grant marriage rights to elderly couples, as they will not be doing anything to thwart conception…and the same goes for couples who find they have fertility problems.” That is part of the nonsensical argument of “they could have children if they could have them.” Infertile people and post menopausal women cannot have children, whether they “thwart” conception or not. You’d need a divine miracle for these people to conceive. But if we get into the realm of needing divine miracles then we might as well say that gay people can marry because they do not anything to… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

“Openness to procreation” is a modern invention, designed to address the anti-contraception teaching. It is logically meaningless when applied to those who are by nature infertile. If the church of Rome were truly even-handed on this ground, it would allow same-sex marriage, as same-sex couples are naturally infertile with regard to each other, as are any number of mixed-sex couples, one or both of whom may be incapable of procreation, rendering the pair incapable.

And as I’ve noted, the Church of England has not held procreation to be essential to marriage at least since 1549.

robert ian Williams
Guest
robert ian Williams

So why did the Lambeth Conferences of 1908 and 1920 condemn contraception?

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

The main 1920 Lambeth Conference resolution that condemns contraception is Resolution 68, which provides: “The Conference, while declining to lay down rules which will meet the needs of every abnormal case, regards with grave concern the spread in modern society of theories and practices hostile to the family. We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers – physical, moral and religious – thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under the name… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

Continuing the response concerning the Lambeth Conference and contraception, Resolution 41 of the 1908 conference stated, “The Conference regards with alarm the growing practice of the artificial restriction of the family, and earnestly calls upon all Christian people to discountenance the use of all artificial means of restriction as demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare.”