The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the new Bishop of Westminster, has dismissed Tony Blair’s call for the Catholic Church to change its views on homosexuality.
Speaking to Attitude magazine last week, the former prime minister said the Vatican needed to rethink “entrenched” attitudes towards homosexuality which are out of step with the feelings of most Catholics.
He added: “If you went and asked the [ordinary Catholic] congregation, I think you’d find that their faith is not to be found in those types of entrenched attitudes.”
Archbishop Nichols told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Mr Blair is a very fine politician and he has got very well-tuned political senses.
“But I am afraid the way the Catholic Church thinks is rather different to that and I think I will take my guide from Pope Benedict actually.”
When asked whether a “married, faithful, Catholic couple” should use condoms if one partner had HIV/Aids, the Archbishop said: “That is a very sensitive point and there are different views on that.”
He continued: “That is not what this public debate is about…that is the point I would rather pursue, that we really do have to raise people’s expectations of themselves.
“Today is Good Friday. What do we celebrate today? We celebrate this enormous gift of God’s love to us which teaches us how much dignity we have and we have to encourage as a society people to live off their best instincts, their best generosity and not constantly be portraying our society as degraded and in need of Elastoplast all the time.”
Archbishop Nichols, a staunch opponent of gay adoption, was named last week as the new leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Currently the Archbishop of Birmingham, he will take over from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor next month.
He was strongly against the Sexual Orientation regulations that forced Catholic adoption agencies to accept same-sex couples as potential parents.
In November 2007, he told the Birmingham Post: “I don’t think for a minute that a same-sex couple would produce a gay child, but they would not be as complementary as having a mum and dad.”
He warned that granting equal rights to gay people meant creating “a new norm, a new moral law, and that, I believe, is not broadly accepted in our society”.