“We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said at a press conference after the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ meeting last week.and
“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life … The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.”As quoted in The Tablet, London, UK.
He's wrong. Civil partnerships are deeply discriminatory. A brother may not enter into a civil partnership with a brother, or a sister with a sister. Or a man may not enter into one with a woman. The impediments of consanguinity to entering into a partnership are analogous to, if not exactly the same as, those of marriage.
Let us keep the question of chastity out of it for a moment. Let us not even enquire into the nature of the relationship between the parties to a (potential) civil partnership. Why do these need the protection of the law? One can be in a committed and stable relationship of friendship which, it could be argued, is good for society. But these neither need nor merit any legal recognition.
As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed out in its 2003 document Considerations regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons:
By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties. The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it. (No. 8)
If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment. (No. 10)
See comment by William Oddie of the Catholic Herald, and Father Ray Blake, and His Grace's interventions in the following interview: