Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2011 / 12:03 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster is being accused of defying Vatican guidelines on homosexual civil partnerships. In response, he says he is simply trying to defend the “profound human good” of traditional marriage.
“We’ve got to find the ways of speaking to people about the positive values of marriage as it’s always been understood, while not getting boxed off by somehow being accused of being homophobic,” Archbishop Nichols told CNA on Dec. 1 in Rome.
“The convictions about marriage mean that this is not something that the Church has invented nor the State has invented. And therefore it is not, as it were, at the disposal of the Church nor the State, if you like, to change,” he said.
The Church believes that marriage is “part of what is best in human nature,” he added.
Archbishop Nichols recently came under fire from some Catholics for the way he explained his position of same-sex civil partnerships at a Nov. 26 press conference that followed a meeting of the English and Welsh bishops.
According to the English religious journal The Tablet, the archbishop remarked that “(w)e would want to emphasize 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.”
Same-sex civil partnerships become law in the United Kingdom in 2004. In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued guidelines that stated, “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” It also stressed that “all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Well-known Catholic commentator William Oddie wrote in the Nov. 30 edition of the Catholic Herald that “Archbishop Nichols says he is in favor of gay civil unions: but that legally includes the right to adopt. So why did we lose our adoption agencies?”
“Now we are told, by the chairman of the bishops’ conference, that the English Church supports civil unions between homosexual persons, unions which have been given the legal right to adopt children,” Oddie continued.
When Archbishop Nichols was asked by CNA if the bishops of England were contradicting the Vatican’s guidelines, he said that the bishops have tried “to recognize the reality of the legal provision in our country of an agreement, a partnership, with many of the same legal safeguards as in marriage.” He further explained that while the bishops recognize the existence of civil partnerships, they also “believe that that is sufficient,” and that they should not be placed on par with marriage.