The Catholic Church in England and Wales has made a surprising acknowledgement that same-sex couples make good parents. The statement is included within a document submitted to MPs and Peers urging them vote against same-sex marriage.

The document says: “We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes. Nevertheless, marriage has an identity that at its core is distinct from any other legally recognised relationship, no matter how much love or commitment may be involved in these other relationships.

“Marriage has, over the centuries, been the enduring public recognition of this commitment to provide a stable institution for the care and protection of children, and it has rightly been recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection for this reason.

“Marriage furthers the common good of society because it promotes a unique relationship within which children are conceived, born and reared, an institution that we believe benefits children.”

Despite acknowledging that same-sex couples have children and that not all heterosexual couples chose to or can have children, the document claims that changing the law will break the “existing legal link between the institution of marriage and sexual exclusivity, loyalty, and responsibility for the children of the marriage.”

It says that allowing same-sex couples to wed “threatens subtly, but radically, to alter the meaning of marriage over time for everyone.”

The document says that it recognises that there are different views as to the status of marriage. “We recognise that there is an alternative view of what constitutes the ‘good’ of marriage, and we understand that proponents of same sex marriage often adopt this alternative view, in good faith.

“Under this alternative view, the ‘good’ of marriage is that it fosters intimacy and care-giving for dependents, builds trust, and encourages openness, and shared responsibilities.”

The Church says: “The basic argument that is advanced in favour of same sex marriage is one of equality and fairness. But we suggest that this intuitively appealing argument is fundamentally flawed. Those who argue for same sex marriage do so on the basis that it is unjust to treat same sex and heterosexual relationships differently in allowing only heterosexual couples access to marriage. Our principal argument against this is that it is not unequal or unfair to treat those in different circumstances differently. Indeed, to treat them the same would itself be unjust.”

The Catholic Church opposed the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships but it seems now to support the maintenance of a separate relationships system for same-sex couples. It points out that the Government is opposed to allowing opposite-sex couples to have civil partnerships, despite support from those who responded to the official Home Office consultation.

The Church says: ” Catholic teaching, whilst it does not condone same sex sexual activity, condemns unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We note that same sex couples already effectively enjoy equivalent legal rights as heterosexual couples by virtue of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. A Civil Partnership in essence entitles a same sex couple to equivalent legal benefits, advantages and rights as heterosexual couples6 . Therefore the changes proposed in the Bill
are not needed in order to provide legal recognition to and protection for same sex relationships. Our opposition to same sex marriage is not based in discrimination or prejudice; it is based in a positive effort to ensure that the unique social values currently served by marriage carry on being served by that institution in the future.”

Despite referring to support in the official consultation to point out that the Government is ignoring support for straight civil partnerships, the Church says that the Government has ignored the 625,000 signatures to the Coalition for Marriage’s petition in favour of the 53% of those who responded to the Government.

The Church claimed that the no mainstream party had a policy to introduce equal marriage during the 2010 general election. The Conservative Party pledged to review the case for same-sex marriage in an equalities manifesto published before the election.
The Catholic Church also warns of a “slippery slope” saying that at the time civil partnerships were introduced that politicians promised that same-sex marriage wouldn’t follow. It is unclear what the Church imagines might become law next.

The Church also claim that the protections to prevent churches being forced to hold same-sex marriages will not adequately protect religious organisations or individuals. It claims that faith schools could be “compelled” to teach about a definition of marriage which goes against the teachings of the Church.