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Prominent Catholics Show Diversity on Equal Marriage

27 prominent Catholics in England & Wales, including well-known theologians, clergy, and laity, have signed a letter to The Times newspaper expressing a right to differ from Catholic bishops over the Government’s proposals for equal civil marriage for same sex couples. The letter was published on 13 August. The signatories include Catholic theologians James Alison, Tina Beattie, Mary Grey, Kevin Kelly, & Gerard Loughlin, as well as a number of parish-based clergy, educationalists, and laity active in various movements for social justice, church reform, and renewal.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics are joined by heterosexual members of the Church amongst the letter’s signatories. They use principles of social justice, the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales pastoral guidelines for ministry with homosexual people, and Cardinal Basil Hume’s 1997 observations on Church teaching to say that Catholics might reach varying conclusions in these matters and “suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using their fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The letter also refers to the late Cardinal Basil Hume’s 1997 observations regarding Catholic teaching on homosexual people, that if “love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex is to be treasured and respected,” then this requires that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. The letter also emphasises the strong commitment made in the hierarchy’s 1979 Pastoral Guidelines that, “The Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.” 

TEXT OF LETTER TO THE TIMES NEWSPAPER:

Not all Catholics share their Hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales submission 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.

As Catholic laity, theologians, and clergy, it seems important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 Pastoral Care Guidelines stated: The Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote: 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, such as that before us now: 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 in the law 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 and relevant reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens?

We therefore suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using their fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Yours faithfully

James Alison, Tina Beattie, Mary Grey, Bernard Lynch, Martin Pendergast

FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES:

(in alphabetical order - 27 signatories)

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 Exall                         Chair, TUC 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