Thinking Anglicans

Civil Partnership Review: response from Roman Catholic bishops

The response from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship to “Civil Partnership Review (England and Wales): a consultation” is available to download here.

It is also reproduced by the Catholic Herald in this article: Don’t convert same-sex civil partnerships automatically into marriages, urge bishops.

Archbishop Peter Smith issued this additional comment:

“My recent comment on civil partnerships was solely in response to a specific government consultation on whether to abolish civil partnerships or convert them all into marriages in law. My comment should not be misunderstood. The question at issue is one of individual conscience for those who are in same sex civil partnerships and who do not want to enter into same sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only. In requesting the government to respect their consciences by leaving the existing civil partnership law unchanged, I was dealing solely with this issue of conscience which has now arisen given the current law, and my response should not be misinterpreted as a wider commentary on civil partnerships in general.”

The Cutting Edge Consortium issued this statement:

CUTTING EDGE CONSORTIUM WELCOMES CATHOLIC BISHOPS AFFIRMATION OF CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS

The Cutting Edge Consortium welcomes the response from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales’ Department of Christian Responsibility & Citizenship to the Government’s recent Civil Partnership Review Consultation.

The Catholic Bishops affirm both the importance of civil partners’ legal rights and that civil partnerships should be retained as a future viable option for same-sex couples.

The Statement is consistent with what a number of individual bishops, including Pope Francis, have said in recent years, that these legal rights contribute to both stability of relationships, and to the common good of society as a whole.

The response also highlights the fact that many people will share protected human rights characteristics, including both faith and sexual orientation, and these rights must be taken into account when respecting people’s choices and courses of action.

The Church of England response was published earlier, and can be found here.

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JohnGary Paul GilbertErika BakerSavi HensmanInterested Observer Recent comment authors
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JCF
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JCF

“Now that the horse has fled [for greener pastures], that old second-class barn—which we fought tooth&nail—is looking surprisingly good to us! Especially that plausible-deniability about Teh Gay Sex it affords!”

Oh, Rome: you’re just so you. :-p

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Those that went to school in the intermittent periods when mathematics included some elementary set theory will recall the Venn diagram. Overlapping circles drawn inside a box. Three overlapping circles allow you to place elements that are members of 0, 1, 2 or 3 sets in their rightful place. http://www.sciencehq.com/mathematics/euler-venn-diagram.html The Catholic Church is drawing its own Venn diagram. In the big rectangle, all the people in England. In one circle, all the people who are bothered about what the Catholic Church thinks. Let us call that set “A”. In the second circle, set “B”, all the people who have… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest
Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

JCF, I agree that to construe this as bishops supporting RC gay people is nothing short of ridiculous, but our bishops are doing exactly the same! We certainly are not in any position to cast stones across the Tiber.

Sound
Guest
Sound

What is the point in the RC Church asking those questions at all if they do not intend to permit either those in Civil Partnerships or Same Sex Marriages to take communion if they are not celibate? Or have I misunderstood something?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Seems so very much like the dilemma being experienced by the Church of England!

Step 1: Vigorously oppose Civil Partnerships.

Interval – then Same-Sex Marriage approved

Step 2: Approve of Civil Partnerships, but don’;t allow any official Blessing of Same-Sex Marriage.

This is people’s lives the Church is playing with here. This is not a game of chess!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I think the point that people should not be forced to have their partnership changed into marriage is valid. There are couples who would never have chosen marriage and all the government should do, if it wants to abolish CPs, is to ensure they are no longer available to new couples.

I am slightly bemused by the theological thinking that must have gone into arriving at a point that welcomes legal stability for relationships that are an intrinsic evil and I wonder how long that double think can actually last.

Tristan
Guest
Tristan

Erika,

Could we have the source on the RC judgement of same sex relationships as an intrinsic evil? Or is that hyperbole?

As far as I can tell, the Catechism states that only homosexual *acts* (sexual?) are disordered, which is a considerable difference from ‘intrinsic evil.’

I understand that as Anglicans we do not agree with Rome, but let’s try to be fair.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

It seems to me that everything about civil partnership-marriage would less fraught if the UK had done what France did. One order of civil relationship with its guarantees and obligations is Civil Relationship, not limited by any means to people of the same sex, nor I believe to people not in a close family relationship. The other civil order is marriage with its own and somewhat different guarantees and obligations. Making civil partnerships ONLY same-sex, implies that it is (as it was) a same-sex substitute for marriage and therefore should now be converted into the fuller and/or different relationship. Just… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

But the church is very good at ‘double think’, Erika. Yesterday Chichester Diocese celebrated the 20th anniversary of the priesting of women with a Eucharist in the Cathedral presided over by the Diocesan, who not only will not ordain women, but also voted against the legislation for enabling them to be consecrated Bishops. It was a very odd occasion! The extraordinary thing is that these people think that their stance on civil partnership, as with women priests, will be understood by the people. I fact, most people are completely bewildered by it all and inconsequence the church is further derided… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest
Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

Erika: a looooong time! a bit like the notion that marriages that fail never really happened in the first place and can be annulled.

martin
Guest
martin

I have no idea how many ‘Thinking Anglicans’ respondents are Roman Catholics, but this RC is taken aback by an old-style anti-Roman prejudice, not so subtly concealed in many of these comments. “The Catholic Church wants to believe that right in the middle (the intersection of all three sets) are some non-trivial set of people who are at least nominally Catholic, who have entered into a civil partnership, and are yet still exercised by equal marriage.” I am not ‘nominally Catholic’ but fully practising, openly gay, in a relationship for 38 years, and in a civil partnership since June 2006.… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

@ Martin: Dude, the idea of Christ as the male spouse of the female church is a figure of speech used by ONE biblical writer of a book loaded with such figures of speech. Fortunately, dogmaticians have had the good sense to avoid basing any of its formulations on such figures of speech. IT’S POETRY, dude.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“but our bishops are doing exactly the same!”

Lorenzo, recall that I’m a Yank Episcopalian, so those would be *your* CofE bishops. But other than that, I don’t disagree w/ your comment at all. *SOME* Anglicans bishops are Imago-Dei-Made-LGBT&Espoused-Appropriately affirming (in a way that *no* Roman bishops are), but on the whole, the bishops of the Anglican Communion need to do MUCH, much better (in fidelity to the Gospel of Christ).

Sound
Guest
Sound

Martin: thanks for your comment. So could you clarify something? Are you and your partner permitted to take communion? Or are you asked for an assurance that your civil partnership is a celibate one?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Thank you, Martin, for your clear statement of what you believe to be the Roman Catholic view of Marriage – that it is a sacrament contracted between the two people involved. What the Church does (or can do) is add a blessing. This, seemingly, is what the Church of England is not – at this moment – prepared to do. I wonder if Pope Francis – who seems like God’s gift to your Church – might accept the fact that committed same-sex couples deserve the blessing of the Church on their mongamous relationships? If this happens, it certainly would provide… Read more »

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

“While we do not base our rejection of same-sex marriage on the view that ‘marriage is between one man and one woman’, we do have conscientiously held theological difficulties, given that Roman Catholic teaching on marriage holds that sacramental marriage is a reflection of the union of Christ (male) with the Church (female).” Martin, I hope I am not being remotely anti-RC in asking you to unpack this sentence further. I can’t understand the distinction you are making here. It sounds as though you are saying: “while I don’t hold that 2+2=4, Catholic teaching holds that 4 is the sum… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

It’s hardly anti-Roman prejudice, martin, when folk have been just as critical of the CofE stance on this issue. It’s not anti-Roman, it’s anti-hypocrite.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

And as Paul reminds us in Christ there is no male or female (east or west, gay or straight, black or white, aryan or Jew, aristocrat or plebian etc) for in him we are all one.

Also I guess the difference (significant or not) between the hypocrisy in the RC church and that in our own (whether C-of-E or TEC) is that we can and do talk about it in public, in synod, in print, on the air – there is no obligation to speak with one voice (alleluia).

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Quite how the contention that the intersection of three sets is for practical purposes null constituted “anti-roman prejudice” is unclear: cross out Catholicism, write in the protestant group of your choice, I’d say the same thing. Your argument appears to be that you want something that’s like marriage in every way except for the name. You’re entitled to your opinion. I hope you won’t trot out some other accusation of anti-papist extremism when I say that it’s a trivial point, and not one that the law should be complicated to support. Your objection is not to your partnership, but what… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I welcome Martin’s real life experience and personal narrative. His position is (to me) an example of what would need to be respected and protected (on conscience grounds) in a Church of England operating “unity in diversity”. It is reasonable, it is a conscience issue, and it is his actual and real life. Having said that, I think Martin is incorrect to suggest anti-RC motivation here, because the concerns many of us express here are directed equally towards the Anglican positions. In addition, my complaint would be that uniformity should not be enforced in the Church of England from a… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It mustn’t be forgotten that here in the UK (remember this is a UK blog) the main gay organisation Stonewall was opposed to gay marriage until 2010! They had helped steer through the Civil Partnership Bill and supported a policy that was anticipated seeing Civil Partnership take over from marriage as the legally recognised gold standard for all couples. That policy, which would have left marriage as a religious bolt on, never materialised. There was deep resistance particularly amongst lesbian feminists to the idea of seeing what they saw as a corrupt and abusive institution rolled out as something gays… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

It’s great to have the RCs on board. They are now in a position to say positive things about Civil Partnerships. Great. We move forward slowly, very slowly but still forward. We can be very glad of that and it shows the necessity of equality of marriage for this type of conversation to take place (it certainly wouldn’t without it). Yes it’s tempting to point up some contradictions but as has been said we have contradictions aplenty on our side! I am glad to hear witness from Martin about his perspective. I think it’s a valid one and one of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tristan
“although the homosexual inclination is not itself a sin, it constitutes a more or less strong tendency towards behaviour which is intrinsically evil, and thus the inclination itself must be considered objectively disordered”

Homosexualitatis Problema, CDF 1986, Paragraph 3

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Martin R, the views of lesbian feminists are hardly representative of the views of most women. They are entitled to object to the concept of marriage if they wish – and would be an example of a conscience issue to be protected in a diverse church, if they wished to exercise it in their own personal lives – but feminism is a minority ideology which is not embraced by the majority of women. I believe most women (and men!) probably want marriage as a public and personal affirmation (and for some, sacrament) of their fidelity, their tender love, their lives.… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“That policy, which would have left marriage as a religious bolt on, never materialised.” Because no political party that wanted to ever get elected ever again could possibly support such a policy. Sure, in its own terms, it’s internally consistent. But the optics would be shocking: “ban marriage, say gays”, and as the only people supporting such a policy would be a minority of gay people and, well, almost no-one else, it would fail. And what would it achieve: what, seriously, is claimed to be the difference between “marriage” and “civil partnership” that isn’t about the name? People who have… Read more »

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

>> It mustn’t be forgotten that here in the UK (remember this is a UK blog)

Perhaps the site name should be changed then to reflect the *type* of Anglican desired here.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

This is the internet.

TA is a blog, edited (at present) by people who all live in England and therefore naturally focus mostly on life in the Church of England and the other Anglican provinces in Europe. Readers from all over the world are entirely welcome.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Of course, the church is not in fact female. It is made up of men and women both. The imagery used in Ephesians does not actually say that the church is the “bride” (a concept borrowed from Revelation) but that men should love their wives _as_ Christ loved the church, which is his Body (the Body of which he is the Head). Sex is irrelevant, for head and body do not have different sexes. And as to the imagery in Revelation, the “bride” is the New Jerusalem, and the “groom” the Lamb. Hardly an issue of male and female. Close… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

“Perhaps the site name should be changed” — the site name is thinkinganglicans.org.uk, which is a bit of a clue. The “About TA” article linked from the left of the main page and posted as the very first TA article also makes this clear.

As my co-editor comments, those outside the UK are welcome too.

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

FYI @Simon Kershaw, just a minor point of order, I always seem to have accessed it via, “http://www.thinkinganglicans.org/” not .org.uk… so the .org.uk domain is new to me…. but I get your drift thanks for the clarification that it’s an English site, rather than British or worldwide. cheers!

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Yes, you’re right — we own the .org domain as well and have configured our server to respond to both URLs. But we always use and publicise the .org.uk version: links to comments and permalinks and so on ae all to the .org.uk name even if you arrive via the .org name. I agree that this is rather low-profile / subtle. Perhaps we should make the .org URL redirect to the .org.uk one rather than being a first-class URL.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

While I think the term ‘marriage’ is appropriate for both opposite-sex and same-sex partnerships, I hope the government will allow civil partnerships to remain and extend these to opposite-sex partners who feel that the language of marriage does not fit their relationship. It is also positive that so many Roman Catholics in England are now broadly affirming towards partnered LGBT people, despite the official Vatican position, though there is a still a long way to go.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“As to Sara’s idea that CPs should be open to all couples I personally agree.” Aside from the name, and not being recognised in other countries, could you outline any material way in which this would differ from marriage? Many couples in civil partnerships refer to themselves as “married”: there’s nothing stopping people who are married referring to themselves as in “civil partnerships”. The rest of the debate is utterly facile: marriage as currently defined and civil partnership as it would exist in any reasonable definition are indistinguishable. Equal marriage solves an obvious injustice. Civil partnerships for same-sex couples was… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The reason is that some straight couples may not wish to marry for whatever reason” And I have no problem with that, after all, it’s not up to me to tell people how to live their lives. But someone should tell them that one of the reasons we didn’t like civil partnerships is that they aren’t portable and that you will not count as married in other countries. Yes, the government can negotiate individual agreements with every single other country in the world (how likely is that?), but no, there’s no guarantee that local hospitals etc. will be aware of… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

” I hope the government will allow civil partnerships to remain and extend these to opposite-sex partners” They won’t. Labour aren’t in office. If they do get into office in 2015 they will be probably be a minority government, and will have much more pressing problems than a middle-class nomenclature issue which would be seen as “weakening marriage”. They also have no interest in a lengthy dispute amongst wonks about what civil partnership would look like. The Tories aren’t going to touch marriage ever again, because it’s not worth the political risk with their base. The Lib Dems have ceased… Read more »

robert Ian williams
Guest
robert Ian williams

A Catholic bishops conference has no real authority. In some parts of the world other conferences are currently fighting the introduction of civil partnerships. It was really bizarre when the film “The Passion” was released some conferences praised it (USA) and others (Swiss) criticised it! It is Catholic theology that to assist persons or help facilitate their sin is a sin of a very serious nature.The Universal catechism states: section 1868: Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: – by participating directly and voluntarily in them;… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Savi Hensman’s comment above is so very apt. There will still be Gay people who do not want a Church ceremony to cover their relationship. As, also, there will be heterosexual couples who do not want the Church to ‘bless’ their relationship. So Civil Partnerships could be made available to both. After all, not all marriages take place in Church.

Let those who are Church people be married in their Church if they would prefer that – whatever their gender or sexuality. After all, they are members of the Body of Christ, which, as St. Paul reminds us, is not gender-bound.

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

Civil partnerships restricted only to same-sex couples should be abolished because they violate the principle of equality before the law. Civil partnerships fail to deliver the same rights and protections as civil marriage because they lack portability from one country to another. New York State, for example, will not recognize them because New York has never had civil unions. New York recognizes marriages from England, however, so a couple with a civil partnership wishing to live in New York would have to go down to city hall to get married in order to be recognized. Civil partnerships should be converted… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron,
what would civil partnerships do for non-church couples that a register office marriage doesn’t already do?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“There will still be Gay people who do not want a Church ceremony to cover their relationship.”

So they can go to a register office.

“After all, not all marriages take place in Church.”

Precisely.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

There are some people – including quite a number of women – for whom the term ‘marriage’ is linked with concepts they find unappealing, including sometimes women’s subjugation. That is not how I see it, but it did commonly have that meaning for many years, and in some circles it still does. Some of those who fought for the freedoms which LGBT people and women in general now enjoy, in an era when this required considerable courage, would find the notion of being ‘married’ themselves very off-putting, even if they believe that others should have that right. It is likely… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Erika. You are so right! Absolutely nothing. In fact, in view of what Gary Paul Gilbert is saying, the sooner Civil Partnerships are scrapped the better for all concerned – except, perhaps, the Churches – that can continue insisting on marriage as suitable for opposite sex relationships only.

As Gary points out, in some civil jurisdictions there is no recognition of Civil Partnerships – which seems manifestly unjust.

All in all, it seems better for marriages – of whatever constituency – to be civilly registered. In that way, only the Churches miss out.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“It is likely that, among both opposite-sex and same-sex couples who do not wish to be ‘married’, civil partnerships will provide at least some legal protection,”

Again: apart from the name, how would the two statuses differ?

Would you accept a single clause piece of legislation which says “marriage can also be referred to as civil partnership”? If not, what difference would you envisage?

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Well despite well argued views here, I am confident a government in the near future will decide that the state has no part to play in performing marriages. Authorising them to happen and registering the event has taken place, definately, but having a local government functionary perform the ceremony will soon be a thing of the past. The proposal to authorise a diverse and large number of “celebrants” will be back on the cards and in the statute books within the decade and outside the Church, the authorisation of buildings for marriage will cease. If CPs are abandoned, then will… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron
“As Gary points out, in some civil jurisdictions there is no recognition of Civil Partnerships – which seems manifestly unjust”

It’s equally complicated in jurisdictions in which civil partnership are recognised, because the content of domestic partnership arrangements varies from country to country and, in America, from state to state.
Only in a minority do CPs confer virtually the same right and responsibilities as marriage.

So your CP’d couple would have to know what level of recognition their partnerships enjoy in different countries and what rights they confer.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“A Catholic bishops conference has no real authority.”

To see the mental gymnastics you go through when experiencing cognitive dissonance is simultaneously impressive and exhausting, RIW!

If Pope Francis were to say something similar (to the UK RC bishops), what would you do then? “That’s just his opinion”? Sedevacantism? Depart for (much less inclined to say anything other than “SIN!!!”) Eastern Orthodoxy? Interesting times.

Revd Laurie Roberts
Guest
Revd Laurie Roberts

A strange fact, that couples in CPs are still waiting to hear how and when they may marry !

I find it very, very strange. What is going on ? Anyone ?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I am confident a government in the near future will decide that the state has no part to play in performing marriages.” A political party with a death-wish might debate it at conference, although it’s not clear which faction of which party would care enough to bring it up. They would never be elected, and the measure would not get a second reading. It would either be electorally toxic, or would look like self-indulgent time-wasting. Neither is a good look. “If CPs are abandoned, then will the government recognise civil unions from abroad as marriage” Presumably. Does anyone know what… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“If CPs are abandoned, then will the government recognise civil unions from abroad as marriage”

I would be surprised, simply because the different domestic partnership arrangements in different countries have a different content.
And if they are not equal to marriage in terms of rights and responsibilities in their home countries it is hard to see how the UK can treat them as equal here.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

IO “Under a very recent change to the law in France (in April 2009), UK civil partnerships are now recognised in France, as are civil partnerships registered elsewhere abroad. The UK has recognised a French PACS between a same-sex couple (but not for an opposite-sex couple), and viewed it as a UK civil partnership for all UK purposes since the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK in 2005.” http://www.completefrance.com/living-in-france/news/entering_in_a_pacs_agreement_1_1199504 This was the most recent information I could find. Also this: So far so good! It is important to remember however that in France non-married couples, whether in a PACS… Read more »