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Bishop Tartaglia’s pastoral letter in defence of marriage

The Paisley bishop today rallied the clergy and Catholics in his diocese in response to the Scottish Government Consultation on same-sex 'marriage.' Full text below. Pic: Paul McSherry

“God created man in the image of himself,

in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them”

(Genesis 1, 27)

A pastoral letter to the clergy, religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Paisley

In Defence of Marriage -A response to the Scottish Government Consultation on Same Sex Marriage

Right Rev. Philip Tartaglia, PhB, STD.

Bishop of Paisley

October 2011

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation in which they propose that same sex marriage should be introduced in Scotland.

The Catholic Bishops of Scotland have expressed their unanimous opposition to this proposal. I have made public my own submission to the Scottish Government. You can read it on the website of the Diocese of Paisley at http://www.rcdop.org.uk

I have also given radio and television interviews in which I have defended the institution of marriage as uniquely the union of a man and a woman, and stressed the foolishness of the Government’s proposal to re-define marriage to accommodate same-sex unions.

I now ask you to respond individually to the Government Consultation and say that you are against the introduction of same-sex ‘marriage.’

Same-sex ‘marriage’ is wrong in principle

Nature, reason and religion concur that marriage is uniquely the union of a man and a woman, which, by its very nature, is designed for the mutual good of the spouses and to give the children who may be born of that union a father and a mother.

For obvious reasons, a same-sex union cannot do that. A same sex union should not therefore be called marriage. Same sex unions are different in nature and purpose from marriage. Same-sex marriage is therefore not an issue about equality or human rights. It is an issue about the nature and meaning of marriage in our society.

It is very important to realise that opposition to the introduction of same sex marriage is not, as some so stridently assert, ‘homophobic bigotry,’ but is the assertion and defence of the nature and meaning of marriage which has been universally recognised by all cultures and all the great religions, and which has sustained humanity since time immemorial. It is therefore wrong and foolish to undermine this understanding of marriage.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ is unnecessary

The State recognises same-sex unions in the form of civil partnerships. In law, same-sex partners have all the rights and privileges of marriage, except the right to be called a marriage. Same-sex ‘marriage’ is therefore unnecessary. Moreover, to call a civil partnership a marriage is to play a childish but dangerous game with language, in which people make something mean whatever they want it to mean.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ will have undesirable consequences

1. Same-sex ‘marriage’ will change the nature of parenting. The normal mother and father model of parenting will be replaced in law and then gradually in culture by a non gender-specific model of parenting which will deprive children of their right to have a mother and a father, and which will have negative implications for the sexual identity of children, creating in the long run a society in which more and more people will not be able to identify their sexuality, something which will further damage marriage and family, and be to the detriment of the common good.

2. The introduction of same-sex ‘marriage’ into law will have detrimental effects on education. The new models of sex education, of marriage and of parenting will certainly become mandatory in public schools. While Catholic schools in Scotland have autonomy in religious education programmes, the ideological and bureaucratic pressure on teachers and schools to conform to the new coercive orthodoxy could become unbearable, creating a climate of confusion, mistrust and fear in education and in schools, as teachers and educators are cajoled and bullied into teaching what is contrary to faith, reason and common sense.

3. Once the definition of marriage is changed to accommodate same sex unions on account of equality and human rights, Government will have no good reasons not to extend the definition of marriage to other combinations, such as three or more partner marriages. The problem will be that Government will not be able to give a principled answer to requests for polygamous marriage. It will not be able to say, “This is not allowed because it is not right”. It can only say, “This is not allowed because it’s not allowed”, and this is clearly unsatisfactory and ultimately unsustainable.

4. The redefinition of marriage to include same sex unions will bring with it State-sponsored discrimination and penalties in the courts and in the workplace against anyone who dares to question the rightness of same sex marriage, thereby riding roughshod over freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Civil partnerships and same-sex ‘marriages’ in Church

The Government’s assurance that it will not require religious bodies to register civil partnerships or conduct same sex marriages is disingenuous. The Government could not require the Catholic Church under any circumstances to conduct civil partnerships or same sex marriages. In a democracy, any such attempt would be a serious infringement of religious liberty. So as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, this assurance is worth nothing. It is a complete red herring.

However, what the Government’s assurance may do is to create the expectation that religious bodies will register civil partnerships and conduct same sex marriages, thereby heaping pressure on religious bodies which are uncertain which way to go and sowing the seeds of dissent and disunity among Church memberships. It would have been much wiser for the Government not to have attempted to interfere in the legitimate freedom and self-regulation of religious bodies.


The Government consultation remains open until 9th December 2011. Please contribute to the consultation and tell the Government that you do not want same sex marriage to be introduced in Scotland because it is wrong in principle, it is unnecessary in practice and will have damaging consequences for the common good.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

+ Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley


You can respond to the Government consultation in two ways:

1. By filling out the postcard from the Catholic Parliamentary Office, which will be delivered soon to your parish.

2. By accessing the on-line response form on same sex marriage at the Scottish Government website:


You can e-mail your completed response to familylaw@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or you can print it off and send it by post to Sandra Jack, Scottish Government, St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG.

Comments - 11 Responses

  1. Carol Cairney says:

    Totally agree that it is ill conceived to accept marriage as a joining together of same sex partners.
    Civil partnerships already widespread should suffice since each person is equally recognised in law and should experience the same rights as a marriage in real terms.
    It seems nowadays that traditional values and standards from a Christian point of view are being eroded quite extensively. The other day it was reported in a national newspaper that the term mother and father are to be replaced on passports for same sex couples with the term parent 1 and parent 2. This is just becoming a case of the tail wagging the dog.

    Carol Cairney.

  2. blogiston says:

    I’m not a catholic, nor religious in anyway, in fact – just part of the secular and silent majority.
    Nor am I homophobic either.
    I don’t agree with the redefinition of marriage which is happening in UK parliaments presently. Marriage is simply the long-term union between a woman and a man – and is certainly not the union of two partners of the same sex.
    The Bishop’s point about marriage as an institution predating the elected institutions who now seek to legislate against the original definition is exactly right. There has been an liberalisation of most laws in the last thirty years mostly on the premise that existing laws that served the country well for many years may now infringe recently enshrined human rights, or suchlike.
    The proposed change will also result in cases coming to court to test the law – and which will ultimately reduce the value of the institution of marriage for everyone…which, no doubt, is part of the ulterior liberal agenda in this matter.

  3. Laura-Jane Greenwood says:

    Traditional views and standards from a Christian point of view are being eroded because its an incredibly backwards way of thinking, society has moved on from the days where being a wee bit different was completely frowned upon! The Church should start to do the same to be honest, and right now it is prominently the catholic church that are opposing gay marriage.
    Many Churches right now are saying they would perform same sex marriages and the government isnt proposing to force every church to do so. Churches can refuse if they want to, if gay marriage does become legal it will in no way affect the catholic church, your shallow and sadistic views are affecting peoples lives.
    Also, civil partnerships do have mostly the same rights as marriage yes, but how is it fair for anyone to make these people outsiders purely based on who they love? telling a gay couple they are only allowed a civil partnership is totally out of order. It’s basically telling them that their relationship isn’t as respected as a straight couples. The very fact that it has a different name is the problem, its encouraging the idea that we shouldn’t accept anyone who is different, an quite frankly its only a small number of narrow minded, ignorant, bigoted people, including yourself, that believe this. And as for the comment about the passports, that isnt ‘a case of the tail wagging the dog’ its a case of people becoming more open minded and realising that yes same sex parents do exist and we should become more accepting. I pray you don’t have children because no body deserves to be brought up with such petty beliefs. It’s time you, the catholic church and everyone else who displays such blatant homophobia grows up or keeps there mouths shut. People who are different, especially gay people have suffered an astronomical amount of discrimination over the years, specifically from people like you. Stop being so stuck in the past, if you think allowing people a basic human right will have ‘damaging consequences for the common good’ then you need to get you head checked.

    • Michael Creechan says:

      If you believe that safeguards for churches will remain intact, you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy.

      Have you learned nothing from the erosion of safeguards against on-demand abortion which has led to the current carnage of 7 million and rising in the UK.

  4. Philip M. McGhee says:

    Defending “traditional” marriage is not the same thing as “homophobia”. Those of us who support marriage are not doing so,out os any animosity towards individuals of a same-sex orientation. Partnerships with some of the rights of marriage should be sufficent. I am afraid that emotion will triumph over reason and in 50 or so years,society may regret what it has done.

  5. pat odonnell says:

    what planet do some people exist, i have not got any grudge against same sex partnerships, but give them the right to demand a church wedding, or any holy place such as a mosque or synagogue or temple, to me is quite absurd, what next a man can marry his horse or grandmother, where will it all end.

    pat o’donnell

  6. Alistair Craig says:

    So two same-sex people getting married will lead to marrying horses or your grandmother? Logic.

  7. Laura-Jane Greenwood says:

    pat O’donnell, comparing a gay marriage to somebody marrying their horse or grandmother seems pretty homophobic to me. Also, no body is demanding anything, any church can refuse is the proposal, if you had bothered to read it you would know that.

    • Michael Creechan says:

      Should the Scottish Government’s decision (quaintly described as a Consultation) to legalise same-sex marriage be enacted under cover of equality legislation, there soon will arise, as night follows day, claims of discrimination against “bi-sexuals”, with subsequent demands for the legalisation of plural marriages carrying rights, social and financial, equivalent to those historically bestowed on married couples.

      There may well also be lobbying ,by groups with further esoteric preferences as yet unidentified ,for unions of their choice to be recognised as marriage should the exclusive and ancient use of the word be removed from the union of a man and a woman. It’s difficult to see how they can be resisted, should the Government’s plan materialise.

      It doesn’t require a long memory to remember senior politicians North and South of the Border insisting emphatically that Civil Partnerships were not and would not be equated with marriage. Plus ca change ……!!

  8. Jaye Richards-Hill says:

    This is turning into a very abusive discussion. Surely the important thing is that no church will be forced to marry anyone they don’t want to. The RC church already does this anyway with divorcees and non Catholics?
    The bible has eight definitions of marriage, and if +Tartaglia insists on quoting Genesis, he might as well insist on these other formats of biblical marriage as well. The fact is that the original Hebrew old testament says nothing about same sex relationships. It refers to lots of ‘acts’ but most have no modern day equivalent. Later day interpretations of the Hebrew have given this rather skewed view of the bible. Jesus also said nothing about same sex relationships. What would he say today in response to much of this discussion, I wonder?

    If the Roman church wants nothing to do with same sex marriage, so be it, but to impose their views on society in general is wrong and undemocratic.

  9. Catriona Smith says:

    I think the bishop of paisey is right about the marriage

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