“A demagogic move, aimed at gaining votes!” For the bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Msgr. Kieran Conry, head of the Department for Evangelization of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the decision of Prime Minister David Cameron to legalize gay marriage by the 2015 general elections is due to the need for political consensus. “I’m surprised that Cameron behaves this way, considering that at the beginning of his mandate he pledged to defend the family and marriage”, said bishop Conry, interviewed by Silvia Guzzetti, for SIR Europe. The government, undergoing serious difficulties, opened a consultation process on the subject that ended on June 14 while over the past week it changed its stands on tax and judiciary-related issues. “It isn’t excluded that Cameron might change his mind”, added Msgr. Conry. “The law on gay marriage is the result of a very hastened decision. In fact, it wasn’t mentioned in the speech delivered past May by Her Majesty the Queen announcing the new laws to be adopted in the coming year. The decision passed over regular legislative procedures” which provide for a “green” or “white paper”, i.e. a government report followed by parliamentary debate.
The risks. For Msgr. Conry considering gay marriages is the result of a request by homosexual lobbies. “I was on the radio with representatives of the gay community. They claimed there is no need to change the marriage institution as civil unions already provide for all respect of all related rights, as underlined by the Catholic and Anglican Churches”, the bishop said. Will Cameron succeed in conquering new votes? “I don’t think – he said – that normal people are interested in this since, in any case, the number of people who get married has tragically dropped and many consider marriage an outdated institution”. “For the Catholic Church it would be a problem if the new legislation were definitely adopted. The government made known that the Catholic Church will not be compelled to celebrate gay marriages. But we’re no longer so sure since, thanks to the human rights legislations, anyone could file an appeal against the Church to the European Court of Human Rights. The ‘Church of England’ allows everyone to marry in her churches, regardless of the religious denomination, which makes the problem even more serious since she runs greater risks than the Catholic Church of being the object of an appeal to the European Court”.
The “no” of the Church of England. The Catholic and Anglican Churches adopted a common position to this regard. In a statement addressed to premier Cameron the Church of England said that “over the past years increasing legislative amendments were made to step up the rights of same-sex couples” but added that a change in the definition of marriage is unacceptable. “To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementary feature – the document states –would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”. Cameron assured that Christian Church can refuse to celebrate gay marriages, but the Church of England is concerned on the grounds that any English citizen who has the right to marry in Anglican Church, as provided for in British law, regardless of his/her religious belief, could appeal to the European Court of Justice to obtain a religious homosexual marriage. Indeed, the document continues, “it isn’t clear which new rights, opportunities or responsibilities would result from the adoption of gay marriages”.
The no of Catholic bishops. A long and articulated document was drawn up by the Bishops’ Conference of Englan and Wales. In a cover letter to the bishops’ response, Msgr. Peter Smith, vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference told Theresa May, Britain’s home secretary, to Home Affairs Minister Theresa May. “In the higher interest of defending the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we call upon the government not to proceed with legislative proposals to redefine the possibility of civil marriage to all couples, regardless of their gender”. In their statement the Catholic bishops reiterated: “it is of serious concern to us that this proposal, which has such immense social importance for the stability of our society and which has significant implications for the unique institution of marriage and of family life, should be proposed on this basis and with such limited argument”. They added: “once the legislative proposal is adopted it will be irreversible. The government is unable to foresee the consequences”.