Archbishop Nichols’s Comments on Gay Unions v. The Pope

Commentary by John Smeaton, Director of SPUC

These are dangerous times for families in Britain – and they are dangerous times too for Catholic families in Britain.

In [Monday’s] Telegraph, Archbishop Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, described as the “leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales” is interviewed by Neil Tweedie. He asks the archbishop whether the Catholic church should one day accept the reality of gay partnerships, who replies:

“I don’t know … ”

Now this is not an off-the-cuff, careless, remark by His Grace. He means what he says. Only two months ago I watched him in an exchange on Catholic teaching and gay unions during an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk (Friday, 2nd July). Stephen Sackur, the Hardtalk interviewer, asked the archbishop:

“Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?”

To which the archbishop replied

“I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments, Article 6)

I am in no position to judge where Archbishop Nichols stands in the sight of God when he makes statements so clearly at odds with Catholic teaching. However, as a Catholic parent, I am in a position to say, and on behalf of Catholic parents I meet up and down the country, that Archbishop Nichols’s, my archbishop’s, comments are dangerous to the souls of my children. And as a pro-life campaigner, I once again recall the late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, who taught in paragraph 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.

Elsewhere in the Telegraph interview, in the context of the sexual abuse of children, Archbishop Nichols says:

“I can assure people that children in the care of the Catholic Church, in schools and parishes, will be safeguarded. They can be confident of that.”

Yet children returning this autumn term to Catholic schools up and down the country will be subjected,  courtesy of Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, through the agency the Catholic Education Service, to the government policy of giving schoolgirls, under the age of consent, access to secret abortions without parental knowledge or consent. They are delivering Catholic and non-Catholic children to the abortionists – and I can think of no greater abuse of children and parental rights and responsibilities than that.

Just two days after Archbishop Vincent Nichols said, for the second time in recent weeks, that he did not know if the Catholic Church would “accept the reality of gay partnerships” (11th September) or “sanction gay unions” (2nd July), Pope Benedict has made a statement which, effectively, puts Archbishop Nichols firmly in his place.

The Church looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life … the success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this sense, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativisation of all legislation and confusion about values in society.

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This commentary was originally published on the John Smeaton blog

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