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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Supporting marriage is more urgent than Brexit, says Bishop of Shrewsbury


The institution of marriage is in such a state of crisis that family policy should be a higher priority than Brexit for the Government, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has said during the annual diocesan Mass in celebration of marriage.

The Rt Rev. Mark Davies noted the results of recent research by the Centre for Social Justice that revealed that more than 75 per cent of teenagers aspire to be married. But he also spoke of the bleak reality of the health of married life today, pointing to low rates of marriages and high rates of divorce among trends that undermined “the well-being of society and the health of the family”.

The Bishop said that Brexit negotiations were a “small issue” compared with the urgency of repairing marriage and family life in the UK and he suggested that policies in support of marriage should be at “the very top” of public concerns.

Bishop Davies expressed concern that the Government might “further undermine” marriage as it considers proposals to reform marriage registration for the first time since 1837, including a right of heterosexuals to register relationships as civil partnerships instead of marriages.

Bishop Davies said: “Generations to come will surely be surprised that we failed as a society, and sometimes even as Christians, to actively propose and defend marriage as it came from the hands of the Creator.

“We cannot be unaware of the disturbing trends. The number of couples entering marriage has reached historic lows; half of marriages end in divorce increasingly facilitated by the State; and according to the predictions of the Marriage Foundation, only half of today’s 20-year-olds will ever enter marriage, a number which falls to less than 24 per cent among those on lower incomes.

“There are currently many anxieties around Brexit; yet, even this seems a small issue when compared with the human and social crisis now assailing the institution of marriage and impacting upon the future of the family. This is an issue which should surely be raised to the very top of our public concerns.”

The Bishop said that until very recently the State “recognised the bond of marriage and with great reverence sought to protect it as vital to the well-being of society and the health of the family”.

He said: “If the present Government is seeking the greatest shake-up of marriage registration laws for 200 years then it should surely be seeking to strengthen marriage not to further undermine it.”

Bishop Davies preached the homily on Saturday during the annual diocesan Mass in celebration of marriage at the Church of Our Lady and St Christopher in Romiley, Stockport.

He reminded members of the congregation – who this year will celebrate landmark wedding anniversaries – that the Church has for 20 centuries defended and proposed the “greatness of marriage” as a “path to holiness, for the perfecting of human love and as the foundation of the family”.

Catholic teaching on marriage was clear, deriving directly from the words of Jesus Christ himself, the Bishop said, adding that the Church therefore “possesses no authority to change or compromise the promises on which marriage rests”.



(Photos by Simon Caldwell)