Wednesday, 26 December 2012

RC archbishop attacks government plans for equal marriage

The BBC carried this interview: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan

And Robert Pigott writes

This was Archbishop Nichols’s strongest attack yet on the government’s plans for gay marriage.

There was anger in his passionate criticism of the government’s plans, and a call to Catholics to become involved in the political struggle against them.

He said MPs would have a free vote on the issue, and they should feel the weight of the Church’s opinion.

I’ve never heard him speak with such emotion. This is something very close to the Church’s heart and his personally.

Many Christians - including Roman Catholics - do support marriage for same-sex couples, and the government has made it clear that no churches will have to perform gay marriages.

However, the Church feels very strongly, not about whether it has an exemption about carrying out same-sex weddings, but about the distinction between the ceremony - the wedding - and the institution of marriage.

The Church says the government’s plans will weaken society, “hollow out” marriage and diminish it for everyone else who’s been married.t

The text of the archbishop’s midnight mass sermon is published here.

The Independent reports: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan

And reports on a new public opinion poll: Gay marriage: public say Church is wrong

By a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government’s proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages. Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying “don’t know”.

And comments on the archbishop’s sermon: Editorial: The Archbishop’s unseasonal note

…No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop’s Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.

And if the Church of England will not be permitted to conduct gay marriages, at least for the time being, it is unthinkable that any pressure would be placed on the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is far more united in its opposition than that of the Anglican Church. The proposed legislation is designed to give gay people, not before time, full equality before the law. So what is the Archbishop so worried about?

Telegraph Gay marriage plans are totalitarian, says Archbishop of Westminster

Guardian Archbishop attacks David Cameron’s same-sex marriage plans

Update

Guardian Three in five voters back gay marriage, new poll shows and Same-sex marriage plan boosts Tory support among gay voters

…Although Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters remain more likely to support gay marriage, with respective majorities of 67% and 71%, there is now also a majority among Conservative supporters. Among those who voted Tory in 2010, gay marriage now enjoys 52%-42% backing, a big turnaround from ICM’s survey in March, which recorded 50%-35% opposition from 2010 Conservative voters.

Both men and women support gay marriage, although the majority is bigger among female voters, 65% of whom support gay marriage, compared with 58% of men. Gay marriage is backed by 60%+ majorities across every nation and region, the 74% majority recorded in Wales being the most emphatic. There is a pro-gay-marriage majority, too, in every social class – although the majority is somewhat smaller in the DE class, which contains the lowest occupational grades. Fifty-one per cent of this group is in favour of the change, as opposed to 68% in the C1 clerical grade, which emerges as the most enthusiastic.

Sharper differences emerge when the results are analysed across the age ranges. The over-65s resist the proposal, by 58% to 37%, but support is progressively stronger in younger age groups. The pro-reform majority is 64% among 35-64s, 75% among 25-34s, and an overwhelming 77% among 18-24s…

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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

The weasel wording of the archbishop's statement demonstrates that he knows full well that his argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. He deliberately fudges over what 'extra' he thinks there should be to marriage beyond 'love and commitment', by using the woolly expression 'commitment to the future generation'. Assuming that he is referring to procreation, he is trying to gloss over the highly relevant point that hetero couples who can't or choose not to have children are still authentically married.

I contend that love and commitment are the sufficient criteria for marriage. Nothing 'extra' is necessary.

Posted by: mark nicholls on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 10:55am GMT

The trouble with the ComRes survey is that it asks an impossible question. There is no way, as I see it, in English law, for individual Church of England clergy to be able to choose to perform marriages for same sex couples. Either every cleric has to be required to conduct the ceremonies or all have to be banned from doing. The present system that allows opt outs for individual clergy with regard to the marriage of divorcees with a previous partner still alive cannot be extended as sexual orientation is, rightly, a protected characteristic. I've not seen anybody suggest there is a way round this.

Wearing my statistician's hat, I suspect also that the poll is telling us that people are generally in favour of choice, unless there is some overriding factor. It would have been good research policy to have also asked a question about making it compulsory for clergy to officiate.

Posted by: David Walker on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 12:30pm GMT

The Church has become dialectical, rather than affirming and liberating, it instead declaims and enslaves.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 1:11pm GMT

SInce they've never been in one, Roman Catholic clerics have no clue as to what being married is like and have no business saying how anything will affect any marriage. There's an old saying that goes: If you don't play the game you shouldn't make the rules.

Posted by: Deacon Charlie Perrin on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 2:07pm GMT

Re: David Walker's comment, I appreciate that C of E clergy are in a different cultural and ecclesiastical environment than we clergy in TEC USA and other places no doubt. I am glad that our local parish clergy are not required to officiate in any wedding if they choose not to - period. Many of us yearn for the day when a civil ceremony might be required here, following which those earnestly seeking the church's blessing could do so without the impediments of canon law or the like.

Posted by: Bob McCloskey on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 2:30pm GMT

Others have commented on how sad the use of Christmas pronouncements in this way is. Yes, the injunction to 'goodwill towards all men' has become a core part of the secular feast of Christmas but nonetheless one feels at times the spell that the secular feast casts was broken at times this Christmas - like gay people don't mark and celebrate Christmas in different ways and don't like being assailed from pulpits at this time of year in particular.

Once the spell is broken it means (unless one is a churchgoer) that Christmas is just a time for parties, presents, shopping, nice food and alcohol (for children a belief in Santa) - a purely secular time of relief in mid winter as the Christian message becomes one of division and harshness.

I've noticed, after these Christmas anti-gay manoeuvres of late a lot more people wishing each other a happy Winterval, Yule and Winter festivities as the religious overtones of Christmas become something one wishes to distance oneself from.

All of those brought up on Dickens' A Christmas Carol will find that development very sad as Christmas has been a strong point of contact between believers and nonbelievers (already Easter is mainly about chocolate eggs in wider culture).

More broadly there appears to be a slow imperceptible continental drift of religions away from secular cultures in the modern West (and doubtless vice versa).

I suspect we are somewhere in the middle of that process and it has a while to go yet and doubtless religious figures will become yet more raucous with time.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 3:00pm GMT

It takes some considerable courage to speak out against the flow. Isn't the Gospel mandate of the Church supposed to be counter cultural? The Archbishop of Westminster is quite correct - David Cameron has no democratic mandate for this legislation as no such proposal appeared in any political party's manifesto at the last General Election. Yet one more example of the omnishambles we have come to expect from this Coalition Government.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 3:06pm GMT

Isn't one way "around" this problem to remove the requirement that all things being equal, everyone has a right to marry in the parish church? I realize this is a step towards, or could be seen as a step towards, disestablishment -- but this is a cognizable legal point. It may be a way around that people would not want to take, but is it not possible?

And isn't another way around simply not to provide a rite that is, in its unaltered form, suitable to a same-sex marriage? (This is rather like the original US anti-marijuana law that did not outlaw the substance, but required paying an excise tax and affixing a tax stamp to the packaging -- and then not printing the stamp!) Surely the EU cannot force any church -- even an established one -- to create a liturgical form.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 3:25pm GMT

The last General Election took place on 6 May 2010.
A few days before that, on 3 May, the Conservative Party published its equality manifesto that includes proposals to convert civil partnerships to marriages.

http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/05/Our_contract_for_equality.aspx

Page 14 of the manifesto includes:
"We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage."

Pink News writes:
This makes the Conservatives the only one of the major political parties to raise the prospects of re-classifying civil partnerships to marriage in formal manifesto or policy documents. However, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg writing for PinkNews.co.uk has pledged his personal support to changing the law. The Green Party similarly support full gay marriage.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/05/03/conservative-equality-manifesto-promises-to-consider-full-gay-marriage/

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 4:37pm GMT

Not forgetting the bishop of Shrewsbury, who, for some reason, released the text of his midnight mass sermon to the press a day ahead of its delivery. In the sermon, he likened the government to "Hitler and Stalin [who] challenged Christianity with the notion that what they were doing was ‘progress’". The bishop could do worse than remember that Hitler, Stalin and the Roman Church all, when they had the opportunity, worked - systematically, violently and cruelly - to extirpate gays. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2252699/Mark-Davies-Senior-Roman-Catholic-Bishop-links-push-gay-marriage-Nazi-attack-religion.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 5:33pm GMT

Although I believe in a higher power, whom out of convenience I call God, and although I admire many of the precepts of the Christian religion,
The more I see and hear religious institutions and certain religious people in action, the less I like religion.
No Roman Catholic church or priestly official (priest, arch/bishop) will ever be forced to perform a same-sex marriage. Just like, right now, no Roman Catholic church or priestly official will ever be forced to marry a Roman Catholic man and woman who were civilly divorced but not religiously annulled from a previous marriage. Just like no Roman Catholic church or priestly official will ever be forced to marry a Jew and a Buddhist.
But -- so typical of certain religious institutions -- while they glory in their freedom from government interference, they don't hesitate to interfere through bullying, coercion, and harassment to force government to bend to its will.
Don't worry, Archbishop Nichols. Even as gay or lesbian couples someday will marry at the city registrar's office, you'll still be able to hurl thunderbolts of condemnation at them from your supremely moral authority and feel smug about it.
But first make sure you know what your priests are really doing with that one-on-one youth counseling.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 6:48pm GMT

Gratifying - in a bitter-sweet way - to see that the RC hierarchy is even stupider than the C of E one. Whether ot not one agrees with the actual stance in question, the sheer disproportion of these reactions condemns them.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 8:26pm GMT

On an earlier thread We read:

Two extracts from his article which may be of particular interest to English or Welsh readers:

The [consultation] document begins with a list of “proposed protections” at para 1.06 (which is not on all fours with the recent English proposals):

religious bodies that wish to solemnise same-sex marriage or register civil partnerships will have to opt in to do so;
there will be no obligation on religious bodies and celebrants to opt in to solemnise same-sex marriage and register civil partnerships;
religious celebrants will only be able to solemnise same-sex marriages or register civil partnerships if their organisation has decided to opt in;
if a religious body decides to opt in, there will be no obligation on individual celebrants to solemnise same-sex marriages or to register civil partnerships.
And there is this:

In addition, it has concluded that an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 is required – which would need to be made by the United Kingdom Parliament rather than by the Scottish Parliament. A draft of the proposed amendment to the 2010 Act is at Annex N.

Possibly with Ladele in mind, the Government has decided that the legislation should not include a conscientious opt-out for civil registrars.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 December 2012 at 9:43am

Again I say in response to a comment above, as I read this the Scots are proposing precisely what we are told will be impossible.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 8:51pm GMT

"It takes some considerable courage to speak out against the flow. Isn't the Gospel mandate of the Church supposed to be counter cultural?"

I can remember (and I'm not that old) when saying that gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities were anything other than criminals and freaks was quite counter-cultural, and even dangerous. Persons identified as such could be arrested, prosecuted, jailed, forcibly institutionalized and "treated" by court order. That did indeed happen, and to a lot more people than we think. That happened to friends of mine.
As recently as 20 years ago, the very idea of same-sex marriage was considered quite radical, even within the gay community.

And now, forty years worth of blood, sweat, and tears (in the USA certainly, and I would imagine that the same is true in the UK) since the Stonewall riots is finally paying off, and the dam is bursting.

I'm sorry, but no longer being able to decide what constitutes "normal" for everyone is not oppression. Not being heeded or listened to is not oppression. It is being left behind.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 at 10:11pm GMT

The audience for Archbishop Nichols's attack on civil marriage equality is most likely his boss in the Vatican. It makes little sense to assume the addressee is the people of England. He might be able to get a promotion down the line by defending the Vatican's homophobia.

The new civil rights movement has left most of the churches behind.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 12:20am GMT

FAther David wrote: "David Cameron has no democratic mandate for this legislation as no such proposal appeared in any political party's manifesto at the last General Election."

This argument appears (on this issue) frequently, but I'm not sure where it comes from. In a parliamentary system like that of the UK, governments have never been limited to doing what was in their election manifesto (and in the more distant past, didn't have manifestos at all). The task of governments is to respond to the needs of the day, as they perceive them: manifestos are only guides to the kind of thinking they might apply to situations as they arise. It is, in my opinion, stunningly a-historical not to expect governments to do things they didn't campaign about, or to change their mind as circumstances or perceptions alter.

"The Kaiser's invaded Belgium so we have to act. Sorry, that wasn't in our election manifesto three years ago, so there's nothing we can do."

As a student of politics for some 50 years, I'd never seen the idea that governments couldn't do anything that wasn't explicitly in a manifesto -- until the anti-same sex marriage crew started using it. As a point of view about how the parliamentary system works, it is without any merit at all, again in my opinion.

Posted by: John Holding on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 2:56am GMT

"The Church says the government’s plans will weaken society, “hollow out” marriage and diminish it for everyone else who’s been married"

So, on a direct parallel then, does the bestowal of Holy Orders on a priest 'weaken society, hollow out membership of the Body of Christ, and diminish it for everyone else in the priesthood of all believers' ?

This does seem a silly argument, to me.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 4:33am GMT

In response to Vincent Nichols's remarks on gay marriage, I submit that perhaps the single most important reason I now belong to the Episcopal rather than the Catholic Church is that under Montini and Wojtyla the church has almost totally abandoned its commitment and service to families. Probably a not so indirect result of Humanae Vitae. My formerly Baptist now Episcopal wife once said that in thirty years of marriage to a Catholic none of the things she had expected problems with, such as Marian devotion, saints, priests had bothered her but she had been shocked by the lack of interest in youth, possibly excepting some college students that might grow up to be donors.

And I think some of the cracks from commenters about how Catholic priests shouldn't talk about marriage are overblown. The only decent sex education, with a strong focus on marriage, that I had in my rather difficult teenage years came from a Catholic priest who had listened while counseling. I have personally known several priests who were both perceptive and helpful to married couples -- for what it's worth, a high percentage of them were celibate homosexuals.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 5:01am GMT

With a tiny minority of the population active Christians and a diminishing majority who profess themselves Christian but don't practice, marriage is a secular contract, not a religious sacrament, probably a majority now see it that way. Therefore the fulminations of assorted RC bishops and others about same sex marriage fall on deaf ears since what they are defending Is meaningless to the majority. They may be acting counter-culturally but they have lost the culture in which they operate. Moreover, to use Christmas to propagate their message must be seen to be mean spirited, ungenerous and indeed homophobic, not the virtues associated with Christmas by the people at large.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 10:12am GMT

With regard to the Kaiser's invasion of Belgium - we elect politicians not psychics and clairvoyants.
As the Common Worship marriage liturgy states:-
"Marriage is a sign of unity and loyalty which all should uphold and honour. It enriches society and strengthens community."
Something as important to society as a change in our understanding of marriage must surely find expression in the manifesto of any political party (Mr. Cameron is discovering this fact too late as his former supporters desert to UKIP now standing at 14% in the opinion polls - well ahead of the Liberal Democrat coalition partners) as I am sure our politicians must all wish to enrich society and strengthen community in the time honoured traditional way. Or are we perhaps seeing the veil being drawn away from what the Prime Minister really understands to be "The Big Society"?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 10:25am GMT

Yes, indeed, Vincent Nichols is maybe keen on getting a red hat asap.

But at what cost to his own integrity and ours as lgbt ?

I wonder what a Basil Hume thinks of it all ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 2:24pm GMT

With opinion polls showing an overwhelming majority of people in support of this legislation I think we can probably say that charges of undemocratic totarialism are ever such a slight little bit exaggerated.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

Disgusting to spew hate on Christmas. However, I'm sure it was politically expedient and will win brownie points for him in Rome.

The Incarnation. The most powerful manifestation of God's love. May all see it in one another these 12 days and beyond.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 7:55pm GMT

"Marriage is a sign of unity and loyalty which all should uphold and honour. It enriches society and strengthens community." - Father David, et al -

Quite right! And so it should prove to be for same-sex persons a sign of commitment of two people to one another in love and fidelity. In fact, a sign of stability in the Gay community - as it ought to have been in the heterosexual world.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 8:13pm GMT

In applying the British constitution as it is rather than as some people think it should be to suit their purposes at a given point in time governments can enact laws not contained in the manifesto (Civil Partnerships were not included in a manifesto - it is also not necessary for Bills to always be included in the gracious speech). This is going to be even more likely when the identity of the government is 'shared' between two parties when in a coalition.

How the manifesto works is that the governing party should definitely do what they promise to do; they should definitely not do what they promise not to do (exceptions should be rare and compelling) but they have never been restricted to the manifesto.

The theory behind the approach that says you need a mandate for everything lies behind the spectre of referendums and initiatives that we see in the US and Switzerland - a kind of direct democracy if you will. If one is for that kind of thing one can enter the political fray and campaign for them - I rather prefer the British system of representative democracy. To some extent it shields the rights of minorities from crude electoralism (not always but to some extent).

More than this, I think that our rulers, elected from among the people, have a general duty to ensure the welfare of the people and removing discriminatory measures is a part of a general mandate that good governance presupposes.

This aside, the idea that UKIP are going to cash in on this issue offers fascinating (and slightly disturbing) insights into the coherence of the Conservative party at the present time. I don't think UKIP will do anywhere near as well as their polling in an election and their naked homophobia will, in time, constitute a rather large albatross around their neck as they run a very real risk of drifting off into the nether regions of British political extremism (alongside the extremist factions they coalesce with in the European Parliament).

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 8:19pm GMT

"I’ve never heard him speak with such emotion."

And this is the issue? How very sad.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 8:59pm GMT

Might I suggest that it's up to those getting married what their motives are, not some externally imposed dictate. Unless, I suppose, we want to make windows into their souls to somehow dictate motives by decree. Didn't we learn not to do that somewhere along the way?

Posted by: Curtis on Friday, 28 December 2012 at 6:16am GMT

'Might I suggest that it's up to those getting married what their motives are, not some externally imposed dictate.'

I agree entirely, your motives can be whatever you want them to be. Nevertheless, your motives should not trigger a reciprocal duty on society for support as marriage. The CAUSE OF MARRIAGE i.e. the legal purpose of marriage for which its duties are enforceable is very different from the motives for getting married.

The CAUSE OF MARRIAGE is to ameliorate the potential impact of heterosexual union (shared responsibility for each other and offspring as part of a biological family) for the benefit of society. Marriage devolves daily support for offspring to biological parents, wherever possible. The exceptions of the elderly and childless are qualified exceptions that do not justify changing the rule in a unqualified way. The vows are in respect of potential impact anyway.

Marriage is an executory agreement. As with all executory agreements, after the exchange of promises, the partners must fulfil the inaugural conditions in order to make it mutually binding. In other agreements, we call it completion, in marriage, we call it consummation. The binding precedents of case law clearly define this as heterosexual intercourse.

The fact that the Government now proposes a two-track system of consummation in which same-sex couples are exempted from this requirement is a complete fudge. This Government's 'response' merely tries to apply marital privileges at the tax-payer's expense to those who (although perfectly fertile in themselves), by the constitution of every same-sex relationship, do not undertake the paired primary biological rights and responsibilities that ensue from heterosexual intercourse. A complete legal fiction will also use marriage to override the primary lifelong right of every child to know both of its biological parents, even when a donor has not relinquished responsibility (as in informal assisted reproduction).

What a shameless misappropriation of the institution of marriage!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 28 December 2012 at 1:04pm GMT

Consummation cannot be part of the essence of marriage because it is not a legal requirement in many countries.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 28 December 2012 at 10:09pm GMT

I know nothing about the legal requirements for marriage in England. The legal requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the English speaking world. And, contrary to much popular thinking, many of them do not require "consumation" to make the marriage legal.

For example, in California (where I live), the only legal requirements for marriage are (1) consent, (2) a state-issued license, and (3) a "solemmization" of some sort. "Consumption" is not required.

A "physical incapacity" for "entering the marriage state" that (1) exists at the time of marriage and (2) is "incurable" makes the marriage "voidable" in California This means that one party can seek a court decree to annul the marriage on this ground but the marraige is valid unless a decree of annulment is granted (unlike things like incest or bigamy which render a marriage "void" even without a court decree). But a party has to seek a court decree annulling the marriage on that ground within four years of the marriage or that ground for seeking an annulment is lost. In addition, the failure to "consumate" where there is a physical capacity to do so has no effect on the validity of the marriage.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Friday, 28 December 2012 at 10:30pm GMT

Please, DavidS, spare us your oxymorons. If "it's up to those getting married what their motives are" and you "agree entirely", then you permit those (consenting adult) couples to MARRY. Period.

If you wish to slam-the-door in the faces of those couples, then OWN IT. You're just being inhospitable, is all. It's not like you're committing the Sin of Sodom (oh, wait...)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 5:34am GMT

It is a great pity that those making decisions on equal marriage in the church are by and large the demographic most opposed to it: old men.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 10:58am GMT

It is a pity someone normally as level-headed as Vincent Nichols allows himself to join in the Pope's increasing desperation against equal rights for gay people that no one in the wider educated lay Catholic world seems to take him seriously because of his own rather obvious ambitions for a Red Hat. As for the Pope, someone else has said he is the opposite of King Midas - everything he touches turns to dross; we've seen it from the Regensburg lecture downwards.

Posted by: Tom on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 11:49am GMT

@ David Shepherd

The law is to enshrine the requirements of society. Not the other way round.

"What a shameless misappropriation of the institution of marriage!"


Posted by: mark nicholls on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 2:22pm GMT

"Since they've never been in one, Roman Catholic clerics have no clue as to what being married is like" Deacon Charlie Perrin

You forget our ordained, married Anglican chums who joined the Ordinariate - currently having their cakes and eating them too.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 3:13pm GMT

David continues to blur the very important legal distinction between "voidable" and "void." Consummation does not "make" the marriage, but renders it non-voidable on the cause of non-consummation; but that is all it does. The marriage may still be voidable on other grounds; but that does not make it void.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 3:57pm GMT

Every baptized Catholic is taught that marriage for a Catholic whether in a registry office or in a non catholic ceremony is totally invalid without the prior permission of the Church.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 29 December 2012 at 7:12pm GMT

"Marriage is an executory agreement. As with all executory agreements, after the exchange of promises, the partners must fulfil the inaugural conditions in order to make it mutually binding. In other agreements, we call it completion, in marriage, we call it consummation. The binding precedents of case law clearly define this as heterosexual intercourse."

I have never heard of "completion" as being a requirement for any contract, executory or otherwise.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 5:45am GMT

Craig:
'Consummation cannot be part of the essence of marriage because it is not a legal requirement in many countries.'

Your argument would be like saying that because the transfer of title at completion is not part of the earlier exchange of contracts, it cannot be part of the essence of that sort of agreement.

You predicate the essence upon a fictional set of universal legal requirements. On that basis, you could also claim that monogamy is not part of the essence of marriage because it is not a legal requirement in many countries. We are dealing with UK law, rather than some imaginary lowest common denominator of all marriage laws everywhere,

In civil law, we distinguish what is legally enforced (through prohibitions) from what is legally enforceable (through petition).

As an executory agreement, marriage law allows partners to defer intercourse by mutual consent. Although the non-consummation requirement is not legally enforced, it is legally enforceable by way of annulment.

Apart from consummation, a marriage is also voidable if consent was coerced. So, because you're not strictly prohibited from marrying under coercion, does that mean that freely granted mutual consent is not part of the essence of marriage, that the law should remove the annulment remedy for consent under duress? Of, course not! So why pretend that consummation is any less central to marriage?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 9:46am GMT

"You forget our ordained, married Anglican chums who joined the Ordinariate - currently having their cakes and eating them too."

However, our former co-communicants are not bishops in the part of the Church that they have joined. Rome will not at present allow married bishops even if it makes an occasional exception for married priests.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 6:19pm GMT

But the Oh-so-important episcopal accoutrements - yes.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 7:23pm GMT

David Shepherd:

"On that basis, you could also claim that monogamy is not part of the essence of marriage because it is not a legal requirement in many countries. We are dealing with UK law, rather than some imaginary lowest common denominator of all marriage laws everywhere,"

The argument that I have been hearing again and again in this debate is precisely that marriage IS some universally understood thing - one man and one woman for life - fixed by God from the foundation of the world, which people are now wickedly and perversely trying to redefine.
If marriage can be different in different countries,however, as you suggest, (e.g. polygamy, consent, etc.) then there is no logical reason why a particular society (ours, for example) shouldn't choose to call a same-sex union marriage. Either there is a universal state of marriage, fixed in the heavens for all eternity, or there isn't. If there isn't then all the arguments that rest on that premise (that we don't have the authority to redefine "marriage") fall. You can't have your cake and eat it.

Posted by: Anne on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 7:37pm GMT

Aquinas addressed this question of consent and consummation and was quite clear that the consent is to marriage, not to consummation, although consummation is implicit. It is not, however, explicit and does not form part of the matrimonial compact as such.

Marriage is valid prior to consummation, and remains valid even if consummation is deferred.A couple could intend never to live together as husband and wife and still have a valid marriage. (Vervaeke v Smith (1983)) This is what English law actually says.

Moreover, consummation is not "enforceable" -- though failure to consummate could lead to annulment if one of the parties makes a case. Again, these are subtleties that need to be very carefully maintained in any discussion.

Non-consummation as cause for annulment could easily be removed from the statutes without great violence being done; if desired, it could be retained as a cause for divorce instead. In the long run, case law will settle these details, and the statute can by much simpler.

But this has little or nothing to do with the opinions of Bp Nichols...

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 30 December 2012 at 9:07pm GMT

Nothing succeeds better at demonstrating mutually-exclusive worldviews, than the notion of "consummation [whether hetero- or homo-, I really don't care!] is necessary for marriage." What happens intimately after a couple makes their vows is NOBODY'S BUSINESS, except for the couple's! Criminey, can we please let couples close their bedroom doors, and not I-Spy-with-My-Little-Eye any further??? Mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 1:47am GMT

Tobias:

If consummation, as you say, is implicit, it is as implicit as the absence of duress. In the case of a freehold agreement, the transfer of title is implicit to the earlier exchange of contracts. Yet, the transfer of title, though deferred until completion, is essential to realising a freehold agreement.

So, based on your logic, marriage is equally valid without ensuring the absence of duress. A couple or on spouse could intend to capitulate to duress and still have a valid marriage. Yet, this would contradict the goal of freely granted mutual consent. Duress and non-consummation both make the marriage voidable. They both contradict the cause of marriage. You've just chosen to single out consummation because it suit your purpose, rather than consistent argument.

So, do you believe that the absence of duress is essential to the institution of marriage or not? If you do, you hold to a special pleading against consummation that lacks consistency.

Oh, and please don't invoke jurisdictions where forced marriages are approved by society. We are dealing with UK law.

JCF:

Do whatever you like in private, just don't expect the public purse to support and privilege it as marriage. Especially, when it is incapable of delivering the same social goods!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 11:36am GMT

BTW, the common understanding for marriage, as with voiding many other civil agreements, is that legal enforceability does not entail a demand for specific performance, but a judgement that returns both parties, insofar as is possible to their state before entering the agreement, i.e, annulment.

Of course, it only helps to resort to this tactic, if it appears to undermine the credibility of the opposing argument.

In all cases of executory agreements, the completion involves the deferred exchange of actual value. It is no different with consummation. A legal institution involves a shared social meaning defined in law.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 12:32pm GMT

As seems to have happened repeatedly of late, this thread has diverted rather far from the original topic, in this case what the RC Archbishop of Westminster said. Please, no further comments relating to consummation.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 3:01pm GMT

"Do whatever you like in private, just don't expect the public purse to support and privilege it as marriage. Especially, when it is incapable of delivering the same social goods!"

And Archbishop Nichols speaks of a weakening of society if gay people can marry.

Both those arguments completely miss what social goods marriage provides. Leaving aside this nonsense about consummation, society has a legitimate interest in supporting stable relationships.

A stable couple is financially and emotionally better placed to look after aged parents, for example. In view to the expensive and lamentable care of old people in our society this is something that every government, especially a conservative one, has a legitimate interest in.

In a stable partnership partners look after each other in times of financial and health crises, thereby reducing the burden on the government. The requirement for old age care places is postponed or eliminated altogether and the mental health of the partners is generally better than that of single people.

Again, this is a great good that also stabilises society and is therefore a legitimate government interest.

Add to that a stable couple’s ability to foster, adopt, and to commit more time for socially valuable voluntary work than single people and you will find it very very difficult to find any evidence for the claim that providing people with recognition and a stable legal and financial framework on par with everybody else weakens society or does not deliver social goods.

Quite objectively, those claims are wrong. Which is, precisely, why the current government will legislate for marriage equality. They wouldn't do it if it didn't make political and economic sense and if they genuinely thought it would destabilise anything.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 4:51pm GMT

Thank you, Simon. Point taken.

I do, however, think it right to note, in light of the address being given on Christmas and all, that under Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act the marriage of the Joseph and Mary could have been voidable under the title "pregnancy per alium." Matthew makes precisely that point.

The highly irregular nature of the means by which the conception of our Lord took place, which in a number of ways some might say significantly undermines the "traditional institution of marriage," ought to be taken into account by a senior cleric of any Christian tradition.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 31 December 2012 at 7:35pm GMT

The original story is moving on. See these news reports:
Telegraph
Gay marriage: Catholics urged to write to MPs
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9771682/Gay-marriage-Catholics-urged-to-write-to-MPs.html

Press Association
Gay Marriage: Archbishop Tells Catholics To Lobby MPs
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/31/gay-marriage-archbishop-catholics-mps_n_2386913.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 1 January 2013 at 7:50am GMT

And the Telegraph has two viewpoints from its bloggers:

The Twelve Homosexually Fixated Press Releases of Archbishop Nichols's Christmas
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/graemearcher/100195836/the-twelve-homosexually-fixated-press-releases-of-archbishop-nicholss-christmas/

Archbishop Vincent Nichols and gay marriage
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100196160/archbishop-vincent-nichols-and-gay-marriage/

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 1 January 2013 at 7:57am GMT
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