The House of Lords agrees with Catholic lawyers that clergy are open to prosecution over same-sex marriage

The House of Lords scrutinee  of David Cameron’s same-sex bill agrees with legal advice given to Archbishop Nichols that Catholic clergy are open to prosecution for discriminating against those persons seeking same-sex marriage.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

‘Prof Christopher McCrudden, a legal expert advising Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, warned recently that this might not prevent them facing a legal challenge on the grounds that they are discriminating while acting as “public” officials.

‘Maria Miller, the equalities minister, told Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights that her advice was that churches would not count as performing a “public function” by opting out of conducting same-sex weddings.

But in a report published ahead of the Lord’s scrutinee of the bill, the committee found that the law is unclear and it “may” indeed be a public function. They urged the Government to insert a last-minute amendment to protect the Catholic church and others.

“We note that there was clear disagreement in evidence to us regarding the Government’s position on the extent to which solemnisation of marriages by religious organisations would constitute a public function,” they wrote.

“We believe that the solemnisation of legally-binding marriage by any religious organisation under the provisions of the Marriage Act 1949 may be a public function.”

The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, said: “The committee, many of whose members support this legislation, have recognised and accepted arguments we and others including the Church of England have made about the vital need for amendments if this Bill is to safeguard freedom of expression and protect religious freedom. It is vital that these amendments are made if this far reaching law is not to have unintended long term impact on the cherished freedoms we all value.”

John Bingham, the Daily Telegraph Religious Affairs correspondent, observes:

‘Catholic bishops were advised earlier this year that they might have to stop carrying out weddings in the way that they currently do if they wish to avoid being taken to court under human rights laws.

The church’s legal advisers said that the uncertainty could even lead to Catholic couples being forced to get married twice – once in front of a civil registrar before a separate church service, as happens in France and elsewhere.

The problem is confusion over whether Catholic priests are acting as “public” officials when they carry out weddings, under a legal arrangement dating back 120 years.’

Protect the Pope comment: Since David Cameron announced that he was going to push through same sex marriage legislation campaigners seeking to defend marriage have pointed out that the  ’Gas and Dubois’ ruling made by the European Court of Human Rights categorically states that if a state legalises gay marriage then every institution that provides marriage services cannot refuse to conduct same-sex marriages. This is the legal advice given to the Catholic bishops and the conclusion of the House of Lords. If Cameron doesn’t provide cast-iron protection of churches who oppose same-sex marriage then it is 100% certain that Tatchell and Stonewall will engineer a legal challenge against the Catholic Church in the full media spot light of the pro-homosexuality media.


24 comments to The House of Lords agrees with Catholic lawyers that clergy are open to prosecution over same-sex marriage

  • Mike2

    “If Cameron doesn’t provide cast-iron protection of churches who oppose same-sex marriage….”

    He can’t, even if he wished to do so, which he probably doesn’t. He’s the Stonewall Stooge. If they don’t want it he won’t do it.

    • ms Catholic state

      These guarantees and protections are worthless. Cameron has lost all credibility long ago. We should stop being so trusting….or dumb even.

  • Michael Petek

    The Catholic Church has the advantage of being able to claim sovereign immunity for its clergy in relation to acts of ecclesiastical governance. The Holy See can impose a latae sententia excommunication upon anyone asking or demanding to be married to a person of the same sex.

    Even so, once this legislation goes through, it will be time for the clergy to hand back their licences to conduct marriages. Then we can play some word games.

    What the civil authorities call marriage, we call legally privileged sodomy.

    What the Church calls marriage will have to be renamed ‘heterobonding’ for the purpose of distinguishing it from the travesty the civil authorities offer.

  • Rifleman819

    This was always the gay lobby outcome from the very beginning.

    Interesting …if the very act of seeking a “marriage” in a Catholic church by a same sex couple then “ipso facto” makes them heretics…then they are not Catholics and can’t claim a marriage rite??

    Please will the first case where religious are involved occur in a mosque where Farook wants to tie the knot with that really will be something, won’t it?

    • Andrzej

      “Interesting …if the very act of seeking a “marriage” in a Catholic church by a same sex couple then “ipso facto” makes them heretics”

      I am sure they will argue that the teaching on marriage isn’t a “core” belief….

      • Ronald

        Why can’t the church just shut up about sex. the RC church has good teachings on the sanctity of life and poverty. Also on worship of God but all this homephobic rubbish is not supported at all by the New Testament. As for prosecution, why shouldn’t clergy be prosecuted? Did Thomas More whinge like the present feeble clerics. TYes , go to prison for refusing to perfom a gay marriage . thn you will show you have some guts.

        • Bob Hayes

          ‘Why can’t the church just shut up about sex.’ The Church is responding to society, media, lobbying and governments that cannot seem to ‘shut up about sex’.

    • Tim

      Under the current law, Mosques are not authorised to register marriages on behalf of the civil authorities. This proposed law change would affect Catholic churches more than mosques, but only because Catholic churches have had privileges extended to them by the state (to permit them to act as agents of the state) that have never been extended to mosques.

      • Wake up England

        Marriages are not conducted in mosques, actually.

        • Michael Petek

          Actually, they are, but they are not recognised in English law. It is doubtful that they could be recognised as marriages in view of the fact that the form in which they are contracted expressly reserves the possibility of divorce. If contracted abroad under the law of a Muslim country, then they are recognised.

  • Peter Northcott

    Dr Taylor Marshall made a point the other day which argued we should simply go back to the original: Matrimony.
    Gay relationships simply aren’t wired for Matrimony, because they are sterile and not fecund: ‘matrimony is an institution for having babies’, as he puts it, by definition.

  • Same old, same old

    This is all complete nonsense. There are many couples that have a perfect legal right to get married at the moment but which the Catholic Church refuse to marry. Has there ever been the slightest hint that this could, would or should be challenged in the courts?

    • Tim

      You are right of course and that leads me to think that the Church will /probably/ be Olegally with refusing SSMs. BUT I don’t think any of the arguements are completely watertight or that the current arrangement means that the Church can freely choose who to marry for ever into the future.

      So it isn’t complete nonsense. The Church is probably OK for the forseeable future but it isn’t guaranteed. The only way for a watertight guarantee would be to withdraw from civil registration of marriages. I think that the church should consider doing so promptly and thereby remove all possible future confusion. Of course they won’t. Maybe I am too cynical, but I get the feeling that they would love to be sued for refusing to conduct a SSM. They would /probably/ win but it would help them position themselves as victims which seems to be their strategy at the moment.

      But if they disagree with the civil definition of marriage, a truely principled stance would be to cut all ties with civil marriage.

      • Deacon Nick Donnelly

        I have argued for a while that the Catholic Church should disengage from the civil registration of marriage. I advocate the disengagement of the Catholic Church from the State as much as possible. It was a mistake to accept government funding of Catholic schools in the 1940′s and a disaster for Catholic adoption agencies to accept funding from the state. This is a fundamentally anti-Catholic state, and has been since the Reformation. The moment we forgot that the English State is our enemy that was the moment we gradually handed over our autonomy. Deacon Nick

        • Michael Petek

          The English/British State hasn’t been our enemy since the time of Catholic Emancipation. It is only now that it is becoming the enemy of Christ and of all Christians in all its institutions except the Monarchy.

          Now, as for the question of disengagement from the civil registration of marriage (which was established only in the 19th century) we should go ahead and disengage. After that, we do marriage on our own terms: marriage defined as an exclusive union for life of a man and a woman which they are to consummate by the act from which children are conceived.

          Catholics will still marry in church. For those who can marry only elsewhere, the Church can provide a service of registration and social recognition of their marriages.

          The invalidating provisions of the civil law will no longer apply to true marriages, but only of unions which bear only the name of marriage but are of a completely different description.

        • Peter Northcott

          I agree wholeheartedly!
          Counterfactuals are always speculative, but what if…? Maybe if we hadn’t, we’d have nothing at all now, considering the state of the Church in Britain? What if we’d accepted state funding but had then become fiercely loyal to the Magisterium? (Miracles can happen!)

          Of course, we can’t say ‘remained fiercely loyal’ as, reading Frank Sheed (or any other historians of the period), will disavow anyone of the notion that the pre-concilliar Church in Britain was anything but a culture of Lemmings who were only too glad to escape the suffocating clericalism and anachronistic Thomism. They would then turn to the dissenters who offered life and talked about God’s mercy and love – in English and words of one syllable they could understand – for a change. Vatican II was a council designed to address that culture that was out of kilter with the world, except the dissenters didn’t realise that the windows were opened so the life of Christ might go out, rather than the sickness of the world, flood in, whilst the traditionalists, like vampires, were just dazzled by the sun as the curtains had to be drawn back to open them.

          As I’ve expressed elsewhere here, it’s the British Catholic cowardice and this sort of quisling behaviour that sickens me, especially the clergy I’ve seen at ordinations, for example, who claim to be loyal whilst sucking-up to, and flirting with their Bishop over the Tio Pepe and canapes when they should be challenging them. But, they also have the cheek to goad us, the laity, through their homilies, into doing what they should be doing too (because they’re conveniently not to get involved in ‘worldly affairs’ all of a sudden).

          Maybe you generals should start leading from in front instead of commanding from behind?

    • Trisagion

      It is not all complete nonsense. Where have you been?

      The legal grounds for refusing to conduct the marriage of, for example, a divorced person whose first spouse from a valid marriage is still alive are based on the right to freedom of religion (article 9). We have seen, in a number of high profile cases over the last few years, that the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation trumps that right.

  • Tim

    Legally, the situation seems to me to be arguable either way.

    But the Lords are right that if the Church wants watertight certainty it will have to withdraw from participating in the civil part of marriage registration.

  • Lola

    Council of Europe adopts new principle offering protection to harassed Christians

    “The Council of Europe has passed a resolution in favour of the “reasonable accommodation” of the sincerely-held views of Christians clashing with employers or the authorities.

    Under the legal principle, ways are sought to help Christians to avoid involvement in particular practices at odds with their consciences rather than use laws or regulations to victimise them.

    The principle was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at the same time it was introduced into British law by a Scottish court ruling in favour of two Catholic midwives who objected to any involvement in abortions.

    Passed by 148 votes to three, the resolution urges 47 member states to “accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care, education and the civil service provided that the rights of others to be free from discrimination are respected and that the access to lawful services is guaranteed”. It also called on member states to “ensure the right to well-defined conscientious objection in relation to morally sensitive matters.”

    Council of Europe – Resolution 1928 (2013)

  • Bob Hayes

    I agree entirely with Deacon Nick that the Church should disengage from the state in respect of marriage. I would suggest further that the Catholic Church encourages and promotes the distinction between ‘civil marriage’ and ‘Holy Matrimony’.

    Clearly the former has been evolving over decades into little more than a civil contract. If either party becomes dissatisfied then lawyers press their client’s interests and the judiciary adjudicates. Given the purely business nature of ‘civil marriage’ why not remove the ‘burden of red tape’ (i.e. civil registration) and privatise the process? Solicitors could officiate at contract signings and the way could be opened for competition which would surely benefit consumers. As solicitors and judges are so involved in civil divorce surely it makes sense for them to initiate ‘civil marriage’. Perhaps Catholic MPs might wish to consider promoting a Bill?

  • Robin Leslie

    I agree with Deacon Nick Donelly that the Church should distance itself from the neo-liberal State. The reason why I say the ‘neo-liberal State’ is because historically it has been the ideology of industrialisation, technology and warfare
    that has constituted the Western state since the Reformation. However it was the late Enlightenment that triggered the narrow serfdom of the Nation-state and subsequent colonisations through commerce, trade and warfare.
    The collapse of Reason and Progress confronts all Christians let alone Catholics with a serious reflection on personal and social commitments and on the future consequences of siding with violent neo-liberalism for both human and natural ecology.

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