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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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False notions of progress threaten civilisation once again, says Bishop Davies

The Bishop of Shrewsbury has used his Christmas homily to address the deeply controversial intentions of the Coalition Government to redefine the institution of marriage.

During midnight Mass in Shrewsbury Cathedral, the Rt Rev. Mark Davies said that proposals to fast-track a Bill to legalise “same-sex marriages” were casting a long shadow over the country.

He accused the Prime Minister, David Cameron, of attempting to redefine the identity of marriage for “generations to come” without either a mandate from the electorate or properly consulting on the consequences of the proposal.

The Bishop also reflected on how such ideologies of the 20th century as Nazism and Communism, which were masqueraded as progress, had posed a threat to Christian civilisation. He warned the faithful that Britain’s political leaders risked making the mistake of not taking account of the lessons of history.

The Bishop also used his homily to denounce the “industrial scale” of abortion in Britain and destructive experiments on human embryos.

He suggested that such apparent contempt for human life was connected to the growing loss of respect for the elderly reflected in recent news headlines.

He told the faithful that a unique moment has arrived for them to “stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value and dignity of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman … the foundation of the family”.

Bishop Davies said: “Past generations have gathered in this cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them. We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity.

“These inhuman ideologies would each challenge in the name of progress the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family.

“Winston Churchill, Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, a man without clear, religious belief, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilisation.”

He said: “This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government that was pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage.

“The Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consultation, to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come. This is again done in the name of progress,” the Bishop said.

He added: “The British people have reason to ask on this night where is such progress leading?”

In his homily, Bishop Davies also referred to the work of Elizabeth Prout, the 19th century Shrewsbury-born foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion whose cause for Canonisation is at present being investigated by the Vatican.

He compared the monumental challenges that she faced with the challenges confronting Christians today.

“Armed only with her newly-found faith”, the bishop noted, Elizabeth went out to confront the darkest impact of the industrial revolution – the reality of slums in which marriage and the family, religious practice, human dignity and life itself were being undermined on a massive scale.

“Elizabeth’s faith gave her the unflinching conviction in the face of claims that such degradation of human beings was the inevitable cost of progress, to defend human dignity and especially the dignity of women, Bishop Davies said.

He added: “In the face of what is presented as this inevitable march of human progress we recognise once more the Saviour born for us: Christ the Lord who meets us all along the path of history.

“The same Lord who promised those who follow Him would be called to give witness amidst the most testing circumstances.”

Bishop Davies has been consistently outspoken against plans to redefine marriage, a policy which is also “strongly” opposed by the English Church.

Earlier this month, the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark urged Parliamentarians to vote against the proposals, declaring that it was “not too late to stop this Bill”.

In a joint statement the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols and the Most Rev. Peter Smith – president and vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales –  also attacked the legal process as “shambolic”.

The archbishops argued that the Government was circumventing all the normal legislative pathways to fast-track highly unpopular legislation.

These included, they said, deliberately ignoring a 600,000-name petition in support of traditional marriage, a failure to insert the proposals in election manifestos, to announce them the Queen’s Speech, and to hold up the proposals to public scrutiny through Green and White Papers.

The archbishops noted there had been “a constant shifting of policy” right up to the present moment.

‘Not too late to stop this Bill’

Culture Secretary Maria Miller had earlier told the Commons that the legislation would apply to religious organisations, which could “opt in” to same-sex weddings.

But she said this would not extend to either the Church of England or the Church of Wales which were being treating differently because the Government “recognises and protects the unique and established nature of these churches”.

She promised that no religious organisation or minister can be compelled to marry same-sex couples and promised to amend the 2010 Equality Act to protect churches.

She said: “With appropriate legislative drafting the chance of a legislative challenge through domestic or European courts is negligible.”

Her claims have already been challenged by the Rt Rev. Philip Egan, the Bishop of Portsmouth and former vicar general of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, in a letter to Mr Cameron.

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage will be presented to Parliament in the New Year with the aim of the first same-sex weddings taking place by 2014.

It is facing huge opposition from not only the mainstream religions but also from rank-and-file Conservative Party activists, with Mr Cameron facing a rebellion of more than 100 Tory MPs.

In spite of his assurances, Baroness Warsi, the Faith Minister, has written warn him of “unforeseen consequences” for religious organisations and to ask for clarity on how church institutions will be protected.


(Photos by Simon Caldwell, St Gabriel News and Media)