A Catholic newspaper has claimed the government is ‘expected to bow to public pressure’ and include in its upcoming consultation on marriage equality a question on whether such marriages should be legalised at all.

The latest edition of The Tablet makes the claim that the consultation, which is expected to launch soon, will now ask respondents “whether gay civil marriage should be allowed at all” after a week of high profile Catholic opposition to the move.

The paper says the government is “expected to bow to public pressure by asking directly whether same-sex civil marriage should be introduced”.

But it said expectations the consultation was to include the question following “public pressure” was unconfirmed by the Home Office.

A government source confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk this afternoon the consultation “has always been about how to introduce equal marriage, not whether to introduce it”.

The Tablet’s claim comes at the end of a week in which senior figures within the Catholic Church have spoken out desperately against allowing gays equal marriage rights even in non-religious marriages.

Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien has been criticised in many quarters for saying gay marriages formed a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and their legalisation would be akin to the reintroduction of slavery.

In a letter to be read to Catholics who attend Mass this weekend, the Archbishop of Westminster will tell them they have a “duty” to oppose marriage equality, even in civil unions. Catholics will be thereafter be urged to file their opposition to equal, non-religious, marriage in the government’s consultation.

A poll undertaken by ComRes on behalf of Catholic Voices claimed to show opposition to marriage rights for gays at 70 percent, but the poll has been criticised for the wording of the statement respondents were asked to rate.

Speaking earlier today about The Tablet’s claim that the government was expected to “bow” to pressure, Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, said if it were true it would mean “very bad news for those of us who value human rights”.

He added: “If the Church manages to overwhelm the Government’s resolve, it will come back emboldened with the other issues that it wishes to see on the legislative agenda – restrictions on abortion, exemptions from human rights and equality legislation – even the complete dismantling of the equality laws.”