The govt. released its proposals and open consultations today, March 15. You can respond on -line here: Equal Civil Marriage Consultation
A Letter on Marriage from the President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of
England and Wales
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
This week the Coalition Government is expected to present its consultation paper on the proposed change in the legal definition of marriage so as to open the institution of marriage to same-sex partnerships.
Today we want to put before you the Catholic vision of marriage and the light it casts on the importance of marriage for our society.
The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity wonder. This pattern is, of course, affirmed by many other religious traditions. Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the Church nor the State has the power to change the fundamental nature of human love. The Catholic Church therefore welcomes the inclusion of same-sex partnerships as an essential reaffirmation of love between individuals, as the essential gift of God.
Long understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, 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. It is for this reason that we welcome the inclusion of same-sex marriage as yet another brick in the foundation of fundamental humanity.
There are many reasons why people get married. For most couples, there is an instinctive understanding that the stability of a marriage provides the best context for the flourishing of their relationship and for bringing up their children. Society recognises marriage as an important institution for these same reasons: to enhance stability in society and to respect and support parents in the crucial task of having children and bringing them up as well as possible.
The Church starts from this appreciation that marriage is a natural institution, and indeed the Church recognises civil marriage. The Catholic understanding of marriage, however, has been short-sighted and exclusive. By relying upon ancient and prejudiced doctrine, the Church has inadvertently neglected a vital source of revitalization for the institution of marriage. As a consequence, and without direct intention, we have stoked the fear of homosexuality in ways that have sometimes had catastrophic consequences for our fellow brothers and sisters. Ignorance has led to violence, discrimination, and bigotry. Church doctrine has been used as a veil for persecution, both legal and extra-legal. It has permitted sinful people to act sinfully, while pretending to carry out God's will. The Church will no longer abet this travesty. We make it clear today that homosexual people are fully human, fully participate in God's plan, and are fully equal in the eyes of Christ, and Christ's church. This includes not only the "right" of marriage between people of the same sex, but the obligation to marry, as a fulfillment of God's promise.
These rather abstract words are reflected however imperfectly in the experience of married couples. We know that at the heart of a good marriage is a relationship of astonishing power and richness, for the couple, their children, their wider circle of friends and relations and society. As a Sacrament, this is a place where divine grace flows. Indeed, marriage is a sharing in the mystery of God’s own life: the unending and perfect flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We know, too, that just as God’s love is creative. It is open, in its essence, to welcoming new life, ready to love and nurture that life to its fullness, not only here on earth but also into eternity. This is a high and noble vision, for marriage is a high and noble vocation. It is not easily followed. But we are sure that Christ is at the heart of marriage, for his presence is a sure gift of the God who is Love, who wants nothing more than for the love of two people, regardless of their sex, to find its fulfilment. So the daily effort that marriage requires, the many ways in which family living breaks and reshapes us, is a sharing in the mission of Christ, that of making visible in the world the creative and forgiving love of God.
In these ways we understand marriage to be a call to holiness, recognised and respected as the gift of God to all people on earth, with fidelity and permanence as the boundaries which create its sacred space. Marriage is also a crucial witness in our society, contributing to its stability, its capacity for compassion and forgiveness and its future, in a way that no other institution can.
In putting before you these thoughts about why marriage is so important, we also want to recognise the experience of those who have suffered the pain of bereavement or relationship breakdown and their contribution to the Church and society. Many provide a remarkable example of courage and fidelity. Many strive to make the best out of difficult and complex situations. We hope that they are always welcomed and helped to feel valued members of our parish communities. Because of Church doctrine, and a history of rejecting same-sex partnerships, many homosexuals have been deprived of the simple rights in times of bereavement: hospital visitation, funeral rites, legal recognition of marital status. We denounce such discrimination as being essentially non-Christian, and call on all Roman Catholics to open their hearts.
The reasons given by our government for wanting to change the definition of marriage are those of equality and discrimination. Our present law discriminates unjustly when it requires both a man and a woman for marriage. It creates a class of humans who are seen and treated as lesser beings, not fully worthy of celebrating the gift of marriage. We denounce this discrimination, in the name of Christ, and call upon the government to swiftly end all legal discrimination against homosexuals. We pledge our financial, political, pastoral, and ecumenical resources to this crusade for righteousness. We must redress the past, and will do so aggressively.
Changing the legal definition of marriage is a profound step toward the expansion of justice, and therefore of God's intention. 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 improve our society and it's relationship with both the Church, and with God.
We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that love is never hindered by hide-bound and medieval doctrine, and that the Roman Catholic Church is never again used as a cloak for the sins of legal discrimination and violence directed toward homosexuals.
With every blessingPLEASE SHARE.
Most Reverend V. Nichols, Most Reverend P. Smith
11 March 2012
Archbishop Nichols' Actual Text