Indeed, the article carries the sub-headline “British Catholic groups accuse the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, of following the Vatican’s guidelines, on homosexuality and civil partnerships, too closely.”
“These unfair accusations made against the President of Catholic Bishops reflect past prejudices and are the consequence of an inveterate mistrust that has its roots in past centuries,” said Cardinal Silvestrini.
The article describes Archbishop Nichols as “a bona fide Ratzingerian” who is “highly esteemed both in the Curia and among the ranks of European bishops.”
Cardinal Silvestrini argues that some in England still seem to suffer from “a legacy of old tensions with the central government of the universal Church, to the point where even its leaders must be careful not to look too ‘papist.’”
The content and tone of the article has created a degree of puzzlement among some inside the Vatican.
“Why has Cardinal Silvestrini decided to speak out on behalf of Archbishop Vincent Nichols?” asked one senior Vatican official, who spoke to CNA on the basis of anonymity.
“After all, the cardinal is an 88-year-old retired Italian cleric who lives in Rome and has no great knowledge of the Church in England, as far as I’m aware. It’s not surprising he seems to have got the story the wrong way round.”
“Anyway, who are these Catholic groups in the U.K. accusing Archbishop Nichols of excessive loyalty to Rome? We’ve certainly never come across any,” he said.
The official spokesman for the Archbishop Nichols told CNA that they did not want to respond to George Weigel’s comments, Cardinal Silvestrini, or the unnamed Vatican official.
The spokesman did acknowledge that “there is a proposal in the U.K. to change the definition of marriage and the Prime Minister has said that he will back it as he believes equality and commitment is to be applauded and that’s why he’s in favor of same-sex marriage.”
“But we’re simply saying that quality and commitment do not equal marriage – marriage is something specific to do with the union of a man and a woman for the procreation and raising of children.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Same-sex civil partnerships became legal in the U.K. in 2004, but the issue of same-sex “marriage” has become more prominent in recent months. The Scottish government is currently wrapping up a public consultation on whether to legalize gay “marriage.” A similar consultation in England and Wales will take place next spring.