British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

10 replies
  1. Luke
    Luke says:

    None of the 27 people who signed this letter are Catholic Leaders, indeed 1 of 27 is a only a blogger. The British Catholic Leadership led by Archbishops Conte and Nichloas are 100% opposed to redefining marriage

    This is the kind of misleading headline I have come to expect from New Ways Ministry,

    • Nick
      Nick says:

      If the official Catholic leaders don’t lead on this, what else do you expect? I am very glad I am not officially led anywhere or in any sense by the Cardinal Archbishop of Glasgow …

    • Vern Smith
      Vern Smith says:

      If one defines leadership in terms of position or hierarchical status, then of course one will feel misled. But I believe this post views true leadership in more expansive terms. Much of the Church hiearchy has unfortunately demonstrated a profound lack of leadership in so many ways in recent decades. Leadership is a demonstrated quality, not a static title. It makes complete sense to identify true leaders who are not defined by mere status or position. If one views the Church as of the whole people of God, then the potential for leaders to emerge with profound, diverse vision from any sphere of life is endless. I bet most of us have, at some point in our lives, experienced a group in which true leadership comes from someone other than the person / people who are in power. That, I suggest, is largely the situation with the Catholic Church today.

  2. AKP1
    AKP1 says:

    Asmuch as you want change; truth cannot change. They have used part of Cardinal Hume’s Note and ignored the important bits. Writers who wish to quote Cardinal Hume in their support would do well to read the whole of the document they are quoting. It is worth observing that he does in fact affirm the teaching of the magisterium when he says:

    “First, the Church has always taught that the sexual (genital) expression of love is intended by God’s plan of creation to find its place exclusively within marriage between a man and a woman. The Church therefore cannot in any way equate a homosexual partnership with a heterosexual marriage”.

    Reading this, it is hard to see how the signatories of the letter to the Times could think it was honest to quote another section of the same Note by Cardinal Hume to back up their support of the legal extension of marriage to same-sex couples. Cardinal Hume went on to say:

    “Secondly, the sexual (genital) expression of love must be open to the possible transmission of new life. For these two reasons the Church does not approve of homosexual genital acts. When the Church describes such acts as ‘intrinsically disordered’ (PC para.3), it means that these acts are not consistent with the two fundamental principles mentioned above. It is in this sense that the Church teaches that there can be no moral right to homosexual acts, even though they are no longer held to be criminal in many secular legal systems. No individual, bishop, priest or layperson, is in a position to change the teaching of the Church which she considers to be God-given.”

    Pretty clear really.

    • John
      John says:

      Yes, it is pretty clear. I can’t for the life of me understand those Catholics who wilfully ignore the crystal clear teaching of the Church which Cardinal Hume in his note repeated. It is true that he sought a more compassionate approach to homosexuals but this does not mean accepting that homo-erotic behaviour is one that is compatible with Christian life. I think in theological terms what we are seeing is a neo-gnosticism, that is a heretical position, which postulates that the physical, physiological and corporeal nature of human beings is irrelevant but that this can be over-ridden by a kind of gnosis – I am what I think I am whatever shape my body takes. This is the basic premise of queer studies, gender theory, and all the other weird and wonderful philosophies that the above self-appointed theologians adopt as the basis of their theology. Personally I prefer John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which is truly orthodox and incarnational.

    • Hilary Koe
      Hilary Koe says:

      Pretty clear, but not consistent. The Catholic Church has never prevented heterosexual people from marrying because they are incapable of procreation, or required them to abstain from sexual contact for that reason.

  3. Jorge R
    Jorge R says:

    The word for Church—iklesia—does not mean pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, etc.
    It means the people, the Full Body of Christ. Just like the word “mass” has a similar meaning.
    And we forget history, that our Church is human and has been formed by its successes and mistakes,
    that its present structure was a reaction to conditions coming out of the middle ages. Its structure is outdated. It is not “universal”, stifling as it does the voice and role of women as well as excluding and castigating its homosexual brothers and sisters, even those in the clergy and religious life who live either a life of closeted martyrdom prescribed by those who would resist allowing a more truly representative Body to emerge or who resort to all-out witch-hunts of their own to deflect attention from their insecurities.

    God is love. I came that you might have life. Come to me. Love one another. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
    Do not judge. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.

    Truly God’s ways are not our ways. Otherwise, we might humble ourselves and come from behind
    doctrinaire living and imposing limitations to embrace and accept one another in the way of the Father in the Prodigal Son story.


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