Openly gay senior teachers at Catholic schools could face demotion or the sack if they fail to live according to the gospel of the Roman Catholic Church.

The guidance, sanctioned by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, says that teachers in Catholic schools should not marry divorcees, marry in registry offices or in other civil ceremonies (such as civil partnerships) that do not meet the Catholic Church’s approval.

The booklet, ‘Christ at the Centre: Why the Church provides Catholic Schools’, says that senior teachers in “a partnership of intimacy with another person, outside a form of marriage approved by the church…can be removed from office.”

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Liverpool was told that it could not sack a gay headmaster after he entered into a civil partnership.

A spokesman for the Church told the Sunday Times: “The expectation is that [school] leaders and those who aspire to leadership positions will make substantive life choices that are in conformity with the gospel and the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: “It is scandalous that the Catholic Church is able to use taxpayers’ money to practice this sort of crude discrimination.

“The way a person arranges their private life, so long as it is within the law, should be of no concern to an employer, not even the Catholic Church, particularly if no scandal is caused.

“Ironically the vast majority of British Catholics disagree with their church’s hard line on matters such as homosexuality, contraception and cohabitation.”

The European Commission is already considering whether British laws governing faith schools breach European education directives.

Commenting on the booklet, the Department for Education said: “This is a matter for schools and their governors. Faith schools can consider whether a person’s conduct is in line with their religious values when dismissing teachers. However schools must also comply with employment law.”