Monday, February 21, 2011

Archbishop Peter Smith says no civil partnership registrations will take place in Catholic Churches

 Protect the Pope (Archbishop Peter Smith categorically states Church’s opposition to government plans for ‘gay marriage’ but…) draws our attention to a report in Independent Catholic News which states the following:
Following the government announcement that civil partnership ceremonies could be held in religious premises, Archbishop Peter Smith has issued the following statement:

The Government statement on 17 February makes it clear that they are now considering a fundamental change to the status of marriage. That is something which was never envisaged by the Equality Act or any other legislation passed by Parliament. Marriage does not belong to the State any more than it belongs to the Church. It is a fundamental human institution rooted in human nature itself. It is a lifelong commitment of a man and a woman to each other, publicly entered into, for their mutual well-being and for the procreation and upbringing of children.  No authority - civil or religious - has the power to modify the fundamental nature of marriage. We will be opposing such a change in the strongest terms.

The Equality Act was amended to permit Civil Partnerships on religious premises, which unhelpfully blurs the distinction previously upheld by Parliament and the Courts between marriage and civil partnerships. A consenting Minister is perfectly free to hold a religious ceremony either before or after a Civil Partnership. That is a matter of religious freedom, but it requires no legislation by the State.  We do not believe it is either necessary or desirable to allow the registration of civil partnerships on religious premises.  These will not take place in Catholic churches.
Protect the Pope applauds Archbishop Smith's upholding of the Church's teaching on this matter but expresses some concern:
The one disturbing thing about Archbishop Smith’s statement is his reference to the right of Ministers ‘to hold a religious ceremony either before or after a Civil Partnership. That is a matter of religious freedom…’ Surely the Archbishop didn’t mean to imply that Catholic priests or deacons can hold a ‘religious service’, before or after the registration of a civil partnership? What kind of religious service? A blessing of the couple? He can’t mean this can he? Am I missing something here? My understanding is that Catholic clergy cannot condone a homosexual union.
I would assume that, no, Archbishop Smith did not mean to imply that Catholic clergy can hold any religious service before or after such civil ceremonies. No, Catholic clergy cannot condone a homosexual union. Whatever the civil law, Catholic clergy are bound also by the law of the Church. And the Church's position concerning civil partnerships was laid out some time ago This is clearly stated in the CDF's 2003 statement Considerations regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (n.5)

Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself. (n.11)

In mentioning 'religious freedom' I would presume that the Archbishop is referring to the freedom of the consenting minister to act in accordance with the beliefs/rules of the group to which the minister belongs.

Is it possible that some religious groups with rather 'liberal' views on this matter might have lobbied for legislation to permit them to register civil partnership on their premises?


  1. ”Is it possible that some religious groups with rather 'liberal' views on this matter might have lobbied for legislation to permit them to register civil partnership on their premises?”

    As we say in these parts: “Ya think, Father?”


  2. Do you not think he is referring to other denominations like quakers, unitarians etc who have no moral opposition to it? He makes it clear it will never happen in a Catholic Church.

  3. That's what I was trying to infer, Laurence. He is not saying that a consenting Catholic minister may carry out such blessings. But clearly some groups would like to be able, legally, to register these partnerships because of their liberal moral code or because it can bring in some financial benefits.

  4. unitarians and liberal reformed synagoues were mentioned on Radio 4 as requesting the right to hold such services

  5. Very nice mitre auriphrygiata. worn by H.E. Archbishop Peter Smith.
    For "mitre aficionados" have a look at the mitra of the coat of arms of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.


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