More than eighty MPs have reportedly been invited to meet the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark to discuss the equal gay marriage proposals being publicly consulted on by the government.

According to Catholic newspaper The Tablet, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have been invited to meet Archbishop Smith next month.

The politicians, equivalent to just over 12 percent of the House of Commons, were invited to be briefed by the prelate on the 18 April, but the Catholic Church has not yet confirmed the numbers to PinkNews.co.uk today.

The Archbishop of Southwark was, along with the Archbishop of Westminster, co-signatory of a letter read to the Catholic faithful at Mass earlier this month that told them of their “duty” to oppose marriage equality, even in civil ceremonies.

Dismissing wholesale the arguments from “equality and discrimination”, the archbishops wrote: “But our present law does not discriminate unjustly when it requires both a man and a woman for marriage. It simply recognises and protects the distinctive nature of marriage.

It added: “A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.

“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.”

Peter Tatchell wrote afterwards that the letter, either deliberately or by omission, had been misleading to the Catholics who heard it by not mentioning that the current proposals are for civil marriage ceremonies only.

The Tablet reported ahead of the launch of the government’s equal marriage consultation that it was “expected to bow to public pressure” and open up the consultation to whether equal access to marriage for gay couples should be considered at all, rather than how best to implement it.

The predicted change of stance did not occur on the 15 March when the consultation was affirmed to be about ‘how’, rather than ‘whether’, changes would be achieved.