Cleric opposed to same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriages would be a "profoundly radical step" that would threaten the true meaning of matrimony the most influential Catholic in England and Wales has warned, it has been reported.
Plans to extend marriage to same-sex couples would strip the union of its "distinctive nature" and reduce it to just the commitment of the two people involved, without recognising the intention of procreation and the education of children, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, will say.
The warning is part of a letter seen by the Daily Telegraph which is due to be read from the pulpit in 2,500 churches during Mass this Sunday.
The letter is co-signed by the Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith and comes as ministers prepare to launch a consultation on the introduction of same-sex marriages.
The Archbishops argue that marriage is a "natural institution" with a meaning understood by wider society outside the Church. It says that extending it to same-sex couples would reduce its significance.
In the letter, the Archbishops say: "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. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children. 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 says the roots of marriage lie in human nature and the pattern of complementarity and fertility in the union are affirmed by many other religious traditions. It argues that matrimony is an expression of "our fundamental humanity" and says: "Neither the Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself."
It continues: "Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of the spouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple as the source and guardians of the next generation. As an institution marriage is at the foundation of our society."
The letter has been sent to bishops across England and Wales and is being circulated to parishes this week, the Daily Telegraph reported. It is accompanied by a cover note asking priests to encourage their parishioners to sign a petition set up by Lord Carey's Coalition For Marriage, opposing the redefinition of marriage, the paper said.