'Church is not homophobic in its opposition to gay weddings'

Your various correspondents have shown considerable imagination in attacking the views of the Catholic Church in general, and Archbishop Conti in particular, over the question of gay marriage, writes Ronnie Convery, Director of Communications of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, to The Herald.

Firstly, for the record, and as I suspect Tim Hopkins and David French well know (Letters, September 10), the Church makes no requirement for fertility testing before marriage, simply stating that the marriage must be between male and female – as taught by God in the understanding of the Judaeo-Christian civilisation and other great world faiths.

Its validity is not in any way predicated on the fertility of the couple. It is a simple fact of life though, that children (considered the fruit of marriage) can only be born of the male/female union.

Nor can we accept Tim Hopkins’s claim that marriage’s definition has “changed enormously over time”.

While various regulations and practices may vary from place to place, the basic concept of marriage as being the exclusive relationship of man and woman has stood the test of time – always and everywhere. Indeed its definition is cemented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 16.

Paul Brownsley introduces a subtle but inaccurate twist into his argument (Letters, September 12).

The Archbishop does indeed accuse campaigners of “redefining a particular relationship to give it a meaning it does not possess”. But it is civil partnerships they are trying to redefine as marriage, not the other way round!

Tim Hopkins asks why the Archbishop is not convinced by assurances that non-compliant Churches will not be prosecuted for refusing to carry out gay weddings.

The obvious answer lies in the experience to date, where one law over-rides another and effectively changes settled practice. In the case of adoption, Churches were assured that allowing gay adoption would not be the same as enforcing gay adoption.

What has happened subsequently? The right has become a duty, and any agency in England and Wales which maintains its principles (in this case, that children should be adopted by heterosexual married parents) has been effectively forced out of operation.

Already we are hearing calls from Parliamentarians for the Government to crack down on Churches that will not hold same-sex ceremonies.

Last month Tory MP Mike Weatherley wrote to David Cameron urging him to reconsider what he termed the “inequality” which allowed Churches to refuse to hold civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples – the debate in England being at a different stage to that in Scotland.

The Church’s position is not homophobic. There are many circumstances in which the Church either does not recognise a marriage or will not solemnise it: cases involving those who have previously entered into a valid marriage; those in religious vows, those in close bonds of consanguinity and others.

It is not to safeguard their position before the law that the Catholic bishops have spoken out, but rather to safeguard the integrity of the law itself. It is that which chiefly motivates the Church’s stance.

• Full story at The Herald.