Friday, 23 December 2011

Catholic Voices rush to defend episcopal obfuscation on homosexual unions

In recent days and weeks "Catholic Voices" have been rushing to defend comments by Vincent Nichols, Catholic archbishop of Westminster, on homosexual unions.* ** Yesterday the Catholic Voices blog claimed that:
"Archbishop Nichols's position on civil partnerships is consistent with church teaching"
"As the law continues to treat homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon, it is entirely consistent with church teaching for Archbishop Nichols to support the civil partnership scheme as an existing and legitimate mechanism to help give stability to committed couples of the same sex, while strenously resisting any attempt by the state to redefine marriage."
Part of Catholic Voices's defence of Archbishop Nichols' position is that the civil partnership legislation:
"does not undermine the unique position of marriage in British law as it does not presuppose that a civil partnership is a homosexual relationship."
Yet as Jacqueline Humphreys, an Anglican barrister, has said:
"[T]here can be no ambiguity that [UK civil partnerships] are intended to be sexual ... [T]he fact that some people do not engage in genital sexual activity within their marriage does not prevent marriage from being the legal regulation of an essentially sexual relationship. The same applies to civil partnerships ... [C]ivil partnerships are in all important respects the same as marriage in terms of practical legal effect. Civil partnerships also share the overwhelming majority of the conceptual understandings of marriage that exist within English law".
In fact, Ms Humphreys, who supports homosexual unions, argues that UK civil partnerships can't undermine marriage - because (she argues) they are marriages! (However, I can't emphasise strongly enough how important it is to campaign against the government's proposals for same-sex marriage, as such explicit and total legal equality with true, i.e. heterosexual, marriage would further enshrine homosexual unions in UK law as well as undermine marriage by redefining it.)

Ms Humphreys has explained in detail how the Civil Partnerships Act has numerous aspects which mirror UK marriage law. There are so many of these aspects, so I won't list them all here, but here are some of the main ones [my emphases in bold]:
  • "Like marriage, a civil partnership ends only on death, dissolution or annulment"
  • "[C]ivil partners are to be treated by law in the same way as married couples in respect to property disputes" etc.
  • "Civil partnerships are also designed to be monogamous ...  This mutual exclusivity of marriage and civil partnership has the effect of putting civil partnerships firmly in a position equivalent to marriage."
  • "[T]he range of persons within prohibited degrees of relationship with whom it is not possible to enter a civil the equivalent to that for marriage ... If civil partnerships are not assumed to be sexual, there can be no reason to restrict close family members from entering them. But because they are presumed to be sexual, it would not be appropriate for the law to legitimise 'incestuous' relationships."
  • "[T]he term 'in-law' where it appears in legislation also includes relationship by reason of civil partnership in addition to relationship by marriage and that `step-parent' and 'step­child' relationships are also recognised for civil partners as they would be for spouses."
  • "A civil partnership is voidable on the ground that at the time of its formation the respondent was pregnant by some person other than the applicant."
  • "[M]any of the details of the 2004 Act anticipate that children will be a feature of the family life of some civil partnerships"
  • [T]he Act recognises same-sex marriages in other countries as civil partnerships.
Ms Humphreys explains that it is for technical legal reasons that adultery is absent as a ground for dissolution, and not because civil partnerships are not intended to be sexual. She concludes that the only significant difference between UK civil partnerships and UK marriages is the obvious - the former are same-sex only, the latter opposite-sex only.

Even Archbishop Nichols's spokesman admitted [my emphasis in bold] that:
"the archbishop acknowledged the existence of 'civil partnership' between persons of the same sex that already offer the same legal framework of marriage". 
So it is absurd for Catholic Voices to claim that the Civil Partnerships Act 2004:
"denies homosexual unions a parliamentary imprimatur and does not enshrine them as institutions within the legal structure of the United Kingdom."
Catholic Voices did state correctly that:
"Civil partnerships...come into effect through the signing of a civil partnership document rather than via publicly-made promises in a civil ceremony, as...with marriage."
Yet everyone knows that civil partnerships are in practice celebrated like civil marriages:
  • conducted at registry offices, witnessed and registered by the same government officials who witness and register marriages
  • celebrated with much of the traditional panoply of weddings (rings, kisses, formal attire, receptions etc)
  • referred to in common parlance as "weddings" and the partners referred to as "husbands" or "wives".
Here are Elton John and David Furnish in wedding attire as they celebrate their civil partnership at Windsor Guildhall, famous for the civil marriage of HRH the Prince of Wales, on the first day that the civil partnership legislation came into effect:

Also on the first day of civil partnership legislation, here are two lesbians in (modern) wedding attire at their civil partnership ceremony at Brighton Town Hall:

And again on the same day, two homosexual actors proudly display their exchange of rings - the most traditional, public and permanent of material symbols of marital fidelity - at their civil partnership ceremony at Islington Town Hall:

Catholic Voices' scramble to defend Archbishop Nichols is the latest evidence confirming that Catholic Voices has been established to defend the Catholic bishops of England & Wales against accusations of dissent from Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching. For example:
What we need are real voices of Catholics as distinct from the highly-compromised establishment mouthpieces called "Catholic Voices".

*SPUC's national council, which is SPUC's policy-making body, elected by its grassroots volunteers, last month passed the following resolution to defend marriage:

"That the Council of SPUC, noting the various proposals currently being made by the present Government and others in regard to the status and standing of marriage and its consequent effect upon family life; and further noting the higher proportionate incidence of abortion in unmarried women compared to married women, resolves to do its utmost to fight for the retention of the traditional understanding of marriage in the history, culture and law of the United Kingdom, namely the exclusive union of one man with one woman for life; and accordingly instructs its officers and executive committee to conduct a major campaign to this end, to co-operate with other persons and societies in so doing and specifically to target the Government's consultation period starting in March, 2012, in regard to (so-called) same sex marriage."
**Why is marriage (and sexual ethics generally) important specifically for the pro-life movement? The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in no. 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

Comments on this blog? Email them to
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Like SPUC's Facebook Page
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy