Southwark Archbishop Peter Smith, met with 60 representatives from 35 British Catholic lay organisations concerned about the government’s proposals to re-define marriage. He was accompanied by Mr Charles Wookey from the Bishops’ Conference.
The archbishop said that the Catholic bishops had had meetings with the government over the last few months. Ministers had said the government was committed to a "quadruple lock" package of safeguards to protect religious freedom but had also admitted that they were not sure if the package would stand up in court.
The archbishop agreed with various representatives that the proposals were a threat to Catholic schools since Catholic teachers would be required to teach about same-sex marriage in the same terms as regular marriage. Catholic schools might face a similar fate as Catholic adoption agencies which had been secularised following equality legislation requiring them to provide Catholic babies to same sex couples.
The meeting was informed that legal advice had been sought, by the Campaign For Marriage, from Mr Aidan O’Neill QC who had advised that, if the proposals became law, churches could only be sure to be free from litigation if they refrained from performing any marriages at all.
The meeting was held under the auspices of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. Representatives unanimously agreed that an umbrella group should be set up to exchange information and to promote the campaign to support marriage and oppose its re-definition.
Those attending were warmly encouraged to promote, in parishes and among their parish priests, the bishops’ campaign for sending postcards to peers and MPs. They were also encouraged to promote letter writing and meetings with peers and MPs, many of whom, especially in vulnerable marginal seats, were now taking notice of the increasing strength of the vote “no” campaign.
Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP and over 100 Conservative MPs are said to have indicated that they may vote against the proposals. If the government lose a vote, particularly a timetabling vote, then the bill may well fall like the Lords’ Reform proposals.
The government has announced that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be published today and that Second Reading will take place on Tuesday 5 February.
Source: Catholic Union