BY Ian Dunn | August 24 2012 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

11-MARRIAGE

Faithful urged to support marriage

— Congregations to hear bishops’ message as talks between Church and state become further strained

Scotland’s bishops are setting up a special commission to protect the family as the Church’s relationship with the Scottish Government becomes ‘increasingly difficult’ over the planned legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage.’

Cardinal Keith O’Brien said on Wednesday that the Church would never waver from its position that it was ‘wrong’ for ‘governments, politicians or parliaments’ to seek to ‘destroy’ the reality of marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman.’

“While we pray that our elected leaders will sustain rather than subvert marriage, we promise to continue to do everything we can to convince them that redefining marriage would be wrong for society,” Cardinal O’Brien added.

A senior Church official told the SCO of the bishops’ plans as parishes all over Scotland prepare to mark Marriage Sunday this weekend. Congregations across the country will hear a special message at Mass from the bishops announcing the creation of a National Commission for Marriage and the Family and urging all Catholics to pray for, and sustain, traditional marriage.

“The new commission will promote the true nature of marriage as both a human institution and a union blessed by Jesus,” the bishops say.

 

Church/state strain

The bishops’ Marriage Sunday message comes as Cardinal O’Brien tells the Scottish Government he is no longer willing to meet government ministers to discuss same-sex ‘marriage’ after the First Minister’s cabinet ignored the overwhelming opposition from its own consultation and opted to legislate to redefine marriage.

“The climate is strained, the relationship is very difficult,” Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said of communication between the Church hierarchy and the Scottish Government.  “There is always a desire for dialogue but that is made difficult when people appear to ignore and disregard everything you say. The cardinal doesn’t feel he should personally continue with the negotiations and has said he wishes Church officials to meet with the government.”

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had asked to meet with the cardinal to discuss the issue and First Minister Alex Salmond personally called His Eminence last weekend. Mr Kearney said the two men had had a ‘short conversation’ but it had been ‘a damage limitation attempt by the First Minister’ and it ‘was not about the substance of the issue.’

 

Religious freedom

While Mr Kearney said discussions between Church and state would continue in other areas, he did note that the Scottish Government’s pledge to establish protection for Catholic schools and religious celebrants before proceeding with same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation was ‘unhelpful.’

“Catholic schools already have statutory protection in law and religious celebrants are not the issue,” he said. “It is about the wider impact on society. What happens to the teachers who want to stay true to their Faith or the social worker who has to place children for adoption? It is a question of religious freedom.”

 

Commission

The message of religious freedom will be echoed by the message for Marriage Sunday from Scotland’s bishops that will be heard at all vigil and Sunday Masses this weekend. In it, the bishops say ‘in the Year of Faith, which begins this October, we wish to place a special emphasis on the role of the family founded on marriage.’ They outline plans for the commission that ‘will be led by a bishop and will be composed mostly of lay men and women.’

“The commission will be charged with engaging with those young men and women who will be future husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and with those who already live out their vocation to marriage and parenthood in surroundings, which often make it hard to sustain and develop the full Catholic family life we cherish,” the bishops explain.

“We wish to support too, those who are widowed, separated and divorced and all who need to feel the Church’s maternal care in the circumstances in which they find themselves.”

Cardinal O’Brien added that the commission would help promote Church teaching on the issue. It will be ‘a body which will be charged with promoting the true nature of marriage, it will develop an online presence and produce materials and organise events which will help Catholic families to support and sustain marriage.’

The commission will be asked to develop an online presence so that prayer, reflection, formation and practical information on matters to do with marriage and family life can be quickly accessible to all.  It will also work to produce materials and organise events which will support ordinary Catholic families in their daily lives.

The message says it hopes all Catholics will support these plans which are intended to ‘affirm and celebrate the truth and beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and family life as Jesus revealed it; to do something new to support marriage and family life in the Catholic community and in the country;  and to reinforce the vocation of marriage and the pastoral care of families which takes in the everyday life of the Church in dioceses and parishes across the country.’

 

Road ahead

The bishops also say that they will ‘continue to promote and uphold the universally accepted definition of marriage as the union solely of a man and a woman’ they also intend to ‘work positively for the strengthening of marriage within the Church and within our society.’

The message ends with a call for prayers for this initiative, and urges young Catholics to heed it closely.

“This is an important initiative for all our people, but especially our young people and children,” they say. “We urge you to join us in this endeavour. Pray for your own family every day, and pray for those families whose lives are made difficult by the problems and cares which they encounter.

“Finally, we invite you to pray for our elected leaders, invoking the Holy Spirit on them, that they may be moved to safeguard marriage as it has always been understood, for the good of Scotland and of our society.”

The Scottish Government was left in no doubt of public hostility to same-sex ‘marriage’ on Thursday when a large group of Scotland for Marriage campaigners protested at their cabinet meeting in Renfrew.

The protest focused on fears that legalising same-sex ‘marriage’ could see teachers disciplined if they refuse to use books about same-sex relationships.

“Under sex education rules, schools must tell children about marriage,” a Scotland For Marriage spokesman said. “If the legal definition of marriage is changed, there will be political [and legal] pressure for books [on gay ‘marriage’] to be used.”

— ian@sconews.co.uk

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