REFLECTING today on the fact that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols used his Christmas sermon to attack gay marriage, The Independent writes:
It is a sad comment on the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church that … Vincent Nichols thought his Christmas sermon a suitable place to launch his fiercest attack so far on the Government’s plans to legalise gay marriage. It might have been hoped that, at a time of joyful festivities, a time moreover when people of all religions and none are uniquely open to the Christian message, the prevailing tone from the pulpit would be one of generosity.
Instead, Archbishop Nichols turned his attention to the politicians, decrying the fact that “there was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen’s Speech”. “From a democratic point of view,” he told his flock, “it’s a shambles”.
No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop’s Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.
A separate Independent report, based on the findings of a ComRes survey, shows that the public want the Government to go further on gay marriage by allowing Church of England vicars to conduct same-sex weddings. The survey makes it clear that the C of E is way out of touch with the British public opinion on this matter.
By a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government’s proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages. Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying “don’t know”.
The Rt Rev Mark Davies, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, also told a midnight Mass at Shrewsbury Cathedral:
This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government that pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage … the Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consultation to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come. This is again done in the name of progress … The British people have reason to ask on this night: ‘Where is such progress leading?’
According to the ComRes survey of 1,000 people, women are more likely than men to oppose the plan to outlaw gay marriage by the Church of England. By a margin of 64 to 27 per cent, women think that its vicars should be allowed to perform them. Among men, 60 per cent agree that gay weddings should be held when vicars want to conduct them, but 35 per cent oppose this.
There is much stronger support for the Church to conduct gay marriages among younger than older people. Almost three in four people between the ages of 18 and 44 support the move, compared to 55 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds. Those aged 65 and over are the only age group opposed to the idea, by a margin of 50 to 38 per cent.
Under proposals announced by the Government earlier this month, the Church of England would be the only religious organisation specifically banned from conducting gay marriages. The aim was to reassure its critics by bolstering the Coalition’s pledge that Churches would not be bounced into holding such ceremonies against their will. It was also intended to balance the decision to allow other churches to “opt in” to same-sex marriage if they wish.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn