7 comments for “Gay Marriage, and the English Catholic Church: More Sanity From Vincent Nichols

  1. Martinjp
    February 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Excellent comment but I’m surprised by the statement that current church teaching “rests on the assumption that the primary purpose of sex is procreation”. This is neither the teaching of Gaudium & Spes nor even Humanae Vitae. Such formal teaching affirms a two-fold purpose: the procreation of children AND the mutual benefit and relationship of the couple. The one has no priority over the other, otherwise countless numbers of infertile marriages would be invalid or flawed, as I think you’ve probably pointed out in other contexts. It is this principle of beneficial relationship which underlines the stance of the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales’ 1979 “Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People” where it cautions clergy, and others in a pastoral role, from immediately assuming culpability in those who commit to same-sex relationships, rather than serial sexual contact.

    • February 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Martin, I agree that my statement is a gross oversimplification – but that is the way it is often presented to justify the teaching on homosexuality, and as it was presented in the Guardian article:

      “So, for example, the Catholic teaching about sex is based on the idea that it leads to babies, and this must be its highest good. ”

      I did consider making your point myself to contest the statement (it’s not clear if these are Andrew Brown’s own words, or if this is his presentation of Nichols’. Either way, I decided to live with the simplification, to stick with the main point.

  2. Chris Morley
    February 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    The English & Welsh bishops formally oppose legalising gay marriage, and Archbishop Nichols is trying to put a liberal spin on this: “Archbishop Nichols says … the Church “as a whole” will not join in
    the campaign.”

    This is contradicted by Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, speaking as Chair of the Bishops’
    Conference Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship:
    The Bishops’ Conference has formally announced in a press release that they are encouraging
    parishioners to both sign the petition against gay marriage and to oppose gay marriage in the public consultation, so it is hard to see how Archbishop Nichols can justify his claim that ‘the Church “as a whole” will not join the campaign’. OK, this is not as bad as the rabid opposition and Catholic church’s own petition in Scotland, but it is nonetheless official church opposition.

    Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark is also misleading and talking through his mitre when he claims: “it would fundamentally change the legal purpose
    of marriage by removing any reference to the begetting and rearing of
    There is no such legal purpose in English and Welsh marriage law. If there was such a legal requirement this would make it impossible for infertile people, women beyond the menopause, or people who do not wish to have or raise any children to marry.

    ‘Procreation’ is simply one of the Catholic Catechism’s reasons for the existence of the sacrament of marriage but even Catholics are not required to procreate if they marry, so “begetting and raising children” is not even a Catholic “legal purpose” of marriage.

    Incidentally, I don’t think the reason Archbishop Vincent Nichols did not collect a red cardinal’s hat recently is because of his reputation for relative gay tolerance.
    The Vatican needs to keep a limit on the number of cardinals eligible to vote for the next pope and one way it does this is not to create a new cardinal until the previous cardinal for the bishopric has either died or past 80 (a ‘one voter at a time’ preference), but this is sometimes broken. In New York, Cardinal Egan is still alive and is not yet 79, yet Dolan was made Cardinal. Both NY cardinals have poor records on dealing with child abuse.
    Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ predecessor Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is alive and 79 (80 in late August, when he will no longer be eligible to elect the next pope), so maybe Vincent Nichols will get a red hat next year. Most Westminster Archbishops have had to wait some years before becoming a cardinal.
    Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin was not made Cardinal either, although his predecessor Cardinal Desmond Connell is alive, and long since ineligible to vote because he’s over 80. Maybe the Irish government’s recent snub to the Vatican by saying no more ambassadors to the Holy See has kept Archbishop Martin waiting.

    • February 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Yes, there is a difference in emphasis between Nichols and Smith – but both are saying, in effect that while they are opposed to gay marriage, it will be up to individuals to sign the petitions, and neither is saying declaring the all out war that we are seeing in Minnesota, for instance. Much of this is indeed a play on words, but that alone is to be welcomed, for displaying some of that sensitivity that is all too often notably absent.
      Thank you for the clarification on the rules around the cardinal’s hat. I obviously wasn’t thinking far enough, and am heartened that it could/should still come in time.

  3. Martin
    February 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks, Terry, for your clarification.It just shows that we should rely on actual texts rather than journalists personal interpretation/comment, particularl;y when they themselves are not Catholics, or headlines – something you’ve often pointed out. I was hoping that rather than the format of a news report, the interview with Archbishop Nichols would have been carried in full. 

  4. Robertocucina
    March 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I find it rather hypocritical of Archbishop Nichols saying the Catholic Church is not going to be part of campaign opposing same-sex civil marriage.  It in fact is now that Archbishop Smith of Southward has invited 80 or more MPs for a meeting on April 18, obviously to admonish them to vote against equal civil marriage. 

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