Mass-goers urged to oppose gay marriage proposals


CATHOLICS ATTENDING Mass at hundreds of churches in England and Wales tomorrow will be urged to oppose the UK government’s bid to legalise gay marriage.

In a pastoral letter, Archbishop of Westminster Most Rev Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Southwark Most Rev Peter Smith will urge Catholics to fight to save marriage “for future generations’.

Meanwhile, priests are to encourage English and Welsh Catholics to join the online “Coalition for Marriage” petition to block prime minister David Cameron’s support for gay marriage.

The British government is to publish a consultation document on the subject in coming weeks, but a succession of ministers have spoken openly about their support for legalisation in recent days.

In Rome yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI urged American bishops not to back down in the face of “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage”, saying that “sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage”.

Pope Benedict, saying “the widespread practice” of cohabitation between mixed-sex couples caused “serious pastoral problems”, and that marriage and the family had to be “promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature”.

In their joint pastoral letter, archbishops Nichols and Smith said changing the legal definition of marriage in the UK would “be a profoundly radical step”.

“Its consequences should be taken seriously now. The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved.”

There would, the two church leaders went on, “be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.

“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.” Saying marriage formed the centre of most religions, the two archbishops said “neither the church nor the state has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself.

“Nor is this simply a matter of public opinion. Understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and for the creation and upbringing of children, marriage is an expression of our fundamental humanity.

“Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of the spouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple as the source and guardians of the next generation. As an institution marriage is at the foundation of our society.”

Two years ago, Mr Cameron, despite doubts among his own MPs, declared his full support for legalisation, saying: “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.” He argues Conservatives should support relationships that lead to a stable society.

Gay marriage has become a controversial issue in Britain since last Sunday’s declaration by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Catholic leader in Scotland, who compared gay marriage to slavery.