We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them.In a press conference in November 2011 (as reported by The Tablet), Archbishop Nichols reportedly said:
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”The Tablet crowed, and Catholic Voices duly leaped in to explain (though they didn't manage to explain it to me) how that was not a complete volte face.
Yesterday, following a piece in the Guardian, the relevant part of the 2003 statement was posted afresh on the Catholic Bishops' Website as a clarification:
Following a Guardian report today, 23 February 2012, it is important to clarify the position taken by the Bishops' Conference in 2003 in response to theGovernment Consultation on "Civil partnership – A framework for the legal recognition of same–sex couples”. Civil Partnerships are now part of the framework of British law. The current debate is about the specific nature of the institution of marriage and its distinctive place in the fabric of society.I welcome this clarification and the reiteration that our bishops are strongly opposed to civil partnerships. But with the best will in the world, I cannot reconcile the Archbishops remarks at the press conference with this statement. Is it me? Am I dense? Can anyone explain?
23. We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them. They would in the long term serve to undermine marriage and the family for the reasons set out in paragraphs 9-12 above. They are not needed to defend fundamental human rights or remedy significant injustices for same-sex couples, as these have either already been substantially addressed or can largely be addressed by the couple entering into contractual arrangements privately. Moreover, the government’s proposals do nothing to tackle what is in fact a very much bigger issue, namely the lack of rights enjoyed by cohabiting heterosexual couples and their children, many of whom wrongly believe they are protected by ‘common law marriage.’ The government needs to publicise their lack of rights, and strongly advocate the obvious solution, which is marriage.
However, let us not overlook the good point in all this: that the bishops stand where they should in this latest reiteration, and despite what the Tablet, and even Catholic Voices, seem to think, they are not now pro Civil Partnerships, even as codified...