U.K. Catholics Decry Prime Minister’s Call for Same-Sex 'Weddings' in Churches

Bishop Philip Egan of the Diocese of Portsmouth warns that this would 'strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.'

Bishop Philip Egan
Bishop Philip Egan (photo: Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, England)

LONDON — Leaders of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom have reacted strongly against the prime minister’s recent statement that he intends to support same-sex “marriages” in churches.

Prime Minister David Cameron “seems utterly determined to undermine one of the key foundations of our society. ... He is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values,” Bishop Philip Egan of the Diocese of Portsmouth said in a recent statement.

The bishop said Cameron is drawing the English from their “Christian patrimony” and is “forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.”

In a television interview Dec. 7, Cameron said he is an enthusiastic supporter of marriage, and he doesn’t want “gay people to be excluded from a great institution.”

Not only is he pushing for legislation of same-sex “marriage”; he also wants churches to be allowed to conduct weddings for homosexual couples.

In March, however, his government wrote that “legislation would be clear that no religious organization could conduct a religious marriage ceremony on religious premises for same-sex couples.”

In the interview, Cameron reiterated his claim that no religious groups would be forced to hold these ceremonies in their places of worship. He added that there will be legal safeguards protecting those churches that may be sued under equality and human-rights laws for refusing to hold same-sex weddings on their premises.

Bishop Egan stressed in his response, however, that “if the prime minister proceeds with these intentions, he will pervert family values, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behavior of future generations.”

The move would “strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.”

He questioned whether Catholic institutions and persons would be allowed to express Church teaching and act in accordance with it.

Bishop Joseph Devine of the Diocese of Motherwell was more outspoken. He wrote a letter to Cameron Dec. 9 complaining that the prime minister claims to advance Christian values while undermining family life and conscience protections.

“You vacillate, ambivalent about the role you wish to perform — the disciple of David or Nero,” the Scottish bishop wrote, in reference to Cameron’s failure to support in a European court British Christians who have been fired for wearing crosses at their workplaces.

“With such a contradiction between your statements and actions, on what basis can you expect anyone — Christians in particular — to trust or respect you?”

Bishop Devine echoed the concern of Bishop Egan, saying, “I suspect it is only a matter of time before you go one step further and outlaw the teaching of Christian doctrine on sexual morality on the grounds of discrimination.”

Cameron is a member of the Conservative Party, which holds the majority in the British Parliament. Of the three major political parties in the U.K., it is the least progressive.

While the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are avid supporters of the legalization of “gay marriage,” the Conservative Party is sharply divided on the issue. According to The Telegraph, at least 130 Conservative members of parliament will vote against the measure.

The Church of England has also spoken up against Cameron’s proposal.

“Insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage ... is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole,” read a Dec. 7 statement from the ecclesial community.

“Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defense of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.”

The Church of England emphasized that the traditional understanding of marriage emphasizes the complementarity of man and woman and that the acceptance of “gay marriage” asserts that “men and women are simply interchangeable individuals.”

George Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury, the senior position in the Church of England, said, “The matter is so serious ... that we cannot allow politicians to plunder something as sacred” as the institution of marriage.

“We need to strengthen marriage, not weaken it.”