The leader of Catholics in England and Wales has warned that same-sex marriages would be a “profoundly radical step” that threatens the true meaning of matrimony.
In a letter due to be read during Mass in 2,500 churches this Sunday, Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said plans to extend marriage to same-sex couples would strip the union of its ‘distinctive nature’, reducing it to a simple statement of commitment between the two people involved, without recognising the intention to procreate and educate children.
The letter, which is co-signed by Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark, argues that marriage is a “natural institution”, with a meaning that is understood and accepted beyond the Church. By extending marriage to same-sex couples, the archbishops argue, the significance of the union would be reduced.
The announcement comes as ministers prepare to launch a consultation on the introduction of same-sex marriages, and as Roman Catholics in England and Wales are being encouraged by the Coalition for Marriage to sign a petition opposing it.
In the letter, the archbishops said: "Changing the legal definition of marriage 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....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."
The letter has been released after Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, described gay marriage as an "aberration" which would lead society even further into "immorality".
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman responded saying: "The Government has made clear its commitment to equality...We believe people should have the option of civil marriage, irrespective of sexual orientation."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told ITV's The Agenda: "I think marriage is defined surely by two people who love each other and want to make a commitment to each other...Depriving same-sex couples of that public display in this day and age, I think most people think 'Come on, let's move with the times'."Reuse content