Future of Catholic weddings in Britain in doubt, MPs and Peers told


THE future of Roman Catholic weddings in England and Wales is now in doubt because of David Cameron’s gay marriage bill, the church’s chief legal adviser on the issue has disclosed.

Future of Catholic weddings in Britain in doubt, MPs and Peers told (Photo: Alamy)

By , Religious Affairs Editor

Prof Christopher McCrudden said that there are serious questions over whether the 120-year-old legal basis on which 8,500 Catholic weddings a year are performed can even “survive” the passage of the bill currently before Parliament.

He told MPs and peers that, unless urgent changes are made, Catholic bishops may have to reconsider whether priests can carry on performing weddings, in effect, on behalf of the state.

The barrister said his advice to senior bishops is that proposed protections for churches against legal challenges under human rights or equalities laws for refusing to marry gay couples completely overlook the position of Catholics and other denominations.

It means that the entire legal basis for Catholic weddings, operating since the late 19th century, could be “unpicked” with “very uncertain consequences”, he warned.

One possible outcome could even be a complete separation of church and civil weddings, such as happens in France where coupes are married in the town hall with a separate service in churches, he said.

“The stakes could not be higher,” he told the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is scrutinising the bill.

“If we want to keep the current modus Vivendi it is imperative that unintended consequences that may undermine this system should be addressed now and not left until later.

“Immediately the Bill is passed, the Catholic Church will have to consider how exposed to legal risk it is and whether it can continue to work the existing legal system based on that assessment.”

Although the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, and other bishops have been vocal in their opposition to gay marriage, Prof McCrudden’s comments are the first indication that there are discussions behind the scenes about the future of Catholic weddings themselves.

The problem, he said, is that under a system in place since 1895, Catholic priests act as an “authorised person” to marry couples in place of a registrar.

As such, they are recognised in recent case law as a form of public “official” carrying out a function on behalf of the state, he said.

Yet the possibility that they might, therefore, be open to a discrimination claim by a gay couple or judicial review attempts, possibly by campaign groups, has so far been overlooked, he said.

Even if a challenge did not succeed, the cost of fighting it in the courts might be so “enormous” as to force the Church to reconsider continuing to perform weddings under the current arrangements, he said.

“We are concerned not only that with successful claims but also the threat of litigation which would be enormous,” he said.

Professor Julian Rivers, an academic lawyer at Bristol university, agreed that the risk existed and said options might include either forcing priests to call in registrars to supervise church weddings or even a complete separation of civil and religious marriage.

Prof McCrudden agreed, but added: “In that context it looks like the tail wagging the dog.

“This was supposed to be a measure that was relatively quick and relatively uncontroversial and it now looks as if the whole system is being unpicked in terms of the historic compromise of the 19th century that was meant to solve the relationship between religious and civil marriage, if you want to call it that.

“Unpicking it is a considerable process and one with very uncertain consequences.”

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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41 Responses to Future of Catholic weddings in Britain in doubt, MPs and Peers told

  1. Peter Northcott says:

    One thing that saddens me is that the tail IS wagging the dog.
    Why are we always shutting up shop here, in England, rather than going to prison for our faith by just continuing what we believe in – like adoptions to heterosexual couples only – and so set an example?
    Surely Doing Good consistently, rather than signing petitions or going on day-long demonstrations to Westminster (jollies with your mates and a packed lunch), is far more Catholic?

    Catholics blather on about persecution, but at this rate there won’t be any because the dog seems to roll over every single time. It is as if the Monty Python ‘Spanish Inquisition’ sketch is being played out in real life!

    Why aren’t the trendy, ‘right on’, CND-hugging clergy who are now Bishops setting an example, instead of letting the faithful laity take the brunt?
    The Catholic Church in England is shot-through with utter spinelessness: the product of 50 years of the likes of +Vin and the rest of the ‘Magic Circle’. Corruptio Optimi Pessima.


  2. Toad says:

    Well said, Peter.
    It’s high time more of us were literally fed to the lions, like in the good old days.
    Starting with toads.

    “Catholics blather on about persecution…”

    They certainly do, don’t they?
    Toad has noticed this on several occasions..


  3. Roger says:

    We need to understand Our Lords perspective and view in order to see condition responses. Fatima is the pivot public revelation (because the entire circumstances of Fatima were and are Public and were never private) similarly Garbandal isn’t private. Taking these public events we go back 2000 years to the martydom of St Stephen and His vision of the Son Of God at the right hand of the Father!
    Saul in hot pursuit of the Apostles is racing from St Stephens killing on the Road to Damascus (and the poignancy of what is happening in Syria today with respect to mankind and that Damascus Road should not be lost!).
    Now Saul was asked why He Saul persecuted Christ??
    Why is this all so pertinent to Gay marriage? Because in persecuting the Church they are persecuting Christ!! It isn’t a matter of individuals it is Our Lords mystical Body the Church. This is how we should be seeing Gay marriage and its imprications! Marriage is this espousing between Our Lord and His Church. The Espousal of the Lamb!! See in Gay marriage a persecution of Christ and also the deep significance of the world today and the Road to Damascus.
    Understand that marriage (espousal) is far more than a relationship between man and woman rather it is at the highest level of relationship between the Lamb 2 Corinthians 11:2.
    See beyond the Bride and Bridegroom and see rather on the altar the profundity of Marriage.
    Parliament and this government through this enactment have shown that they are still the Persecutors of Christ.
    This is the Persecution of Christianity at the highest and most fundamental level and this in Our Day.
    The Fatima message is the raising of Persecution against Christ (through His Church) as happened with St Stephen and the Early Church. The mockery and denigration of Marriage in this public way through facile Laws is no different from that of Saul persecution of Christ in His Church. This is the visible persecution of Christ (the Church) in our day as fortold at Fatima.
    Once we see clearly what this is from Heavens perspective we see that the response needs to be through the spiritual Authority of the Church.


  4. Toad says:

    “One possible outcome could even be a complete separation of church and civil weddings, such as happens in France where coupes are married in the town hall with a separate service in churches, he said.‘”

    A typically stylish, even chic, French solution – logical, pragmatic and sensible. Can’t fail to meet unanimous approval. Thinks Toad, ironically.


  5. JessicaHof says:

    The flea on the tail is wagging the dog.


  6. Frere Rabit says:

    If this is indeed true, it is dynamite. The intended legislation will be more socially divisive than anyone imagined. The outcome will inevitably be increased prejudice towards homosexuals, as they will have effectively undermined religious and social institutions in order to make their point. In France, opposition to gay “marriage” has been met with police violence.

    All in all, the homosexuals are building up a store of resentment among many people which makes this measure one of the biggest disasters in their half century campaign for fairer treatment. There is a clear difference between prejudice or persecution (which is unacceptable) and proper recognition of natural and unnatural relationships. Many people do not want to have the homosexual lifestyle foisted upon them. Their rights should be recognised as well.


  7. Toad says:

    “This is the Persecution of Christianity at the highest and most fundamental level and this in Our Day.” declares Roger.
    Toad still stubbornly thinks that being flayed alive, crucified, or fed to the lions, as Peter would prefer, is worse.
    Matter of opìnion, though, to be sure.


  8. JessicaHof says:

    Toad should volunteer to test out his assumption. Would you prefer to be flayed alive, crucified or fed to the lions? 🙂


  9. Toad says:

    Like you Jessica, I’d rather be a Sun Page Three Girl, than any of the rather distressing alternatives above. But, I doubt if I’d like that much either, and – unlike you – would probably fail the medical, anyway.

    So – if I had my druthers – I’d sooner just go on being Toad.
    Also unlike you.
    Nice to see you entering into the spirit of CP&S!
    But think again about the Sun job, I do urge you.
    Not your sort of thing, at all, I’m sure..


  10. Toad says:

    No it’s not, Shep.
    Down, boy!


  11. Toad says:

    “The outcome will inevitably be increased prejudice towards homosexuals,”
    Surely you mean ‘against’ , Rabit?
    if so, I wouldn’t worry about that – Gays are used to it. Like Catholics being persecuted all the time.

    I’d like to see anyone try ‘foisting’ the homosexual life style on Rabit! Be kicked to death by maddened donks, they would, before you could say, “Carrot.”


  12. Roger says:

    The comparison with Early Christians misses an important point which is the Promise that over time the Holy Ghost would bring out the greater Truths. The story of Persecution and the growth of the Faith is also the story of changing methods and treatments off Persecution! Flaying!, fed to the Lions and Crucifying are crude physical Persecutions!
    But death and putting to death measn considering physical death at one level and the Death of the Soulo ! the Death of the Soul is the intent of modern Persecution!
    Consider that warfare in 20th century has been about economic destruction using very crude weapons of destruction. So much easy to use money and finance to achieve the same economic conditions! To bring a nation to its knees through finance!
    The modern Persecution aims at the death of the Soul this is an attack on the Mystical Body of Christ! Fatima fortold that this would happen! We are talking of not physical death but spiritual Death!
    Why is this a the persecution of Christ! because its an attempt to ridicule Marriage (espousal) which is at the very heart of Christianity! The Marriage of the Lamb!
    France is a dechristianised nation that hasn’t recovered from the French Revolution. It is the Revolutionary secular spirit of Europe that is at conflict with the Laws of Britain. The Pro Europeans are of course Republicans and Anti Monarchists because Europe is a Republican construction! The deconstruction of Britain into a United States of Europe is part of the agenda of course! Gay rights the method to provoke reactions!
    Make no mistake this is Persecution of the Body Of Christ and strikes at the Heart of the Faith The Marriage Of The Lamb


  13. Roger says:

    Old Shep Forget UKIP Forget English Catholics. Catholics means ALL peoples ALL times. The attack over GAY Marriage isn’t confined to England it is springing up globally! Interestingly in Nations that have the similar Common Law and legal structures! The use of authorised persons has been used to avoid confrontations with Faiths.
    So this is far above a National (unless you subscribe to a National Church mindset?) issues and is at the Root of the relationship between Christ and His Church! The Marriage Of The Lamb and the Espousal Of the Lamb!
    Europe and especially France with its Radical Anti Christian Governments has long been against Christ. These rights and claims to equalities come from the same Republican Mother as did the Refenc and yes Russian Revolution!
    So Old Shep you need MORE Catholic thinking and less Nationalist!


  14. Roger says:

    Hi Shep.
    The best source of information curiously on the French Revolution is Sir walter Scott (his book on Napoleon). It wasn’t a majority revolt (they never are!) it was a few wealthy free thinkers. I am not anti Republicans by the way! The French Revolution and the secular movements in 18th and 19th century led to that weird mini State called Vatican. The point that I am trying to make of course is that there is a deliberate shock value to same sex marriages that is against Christianity. This is a provocation and builds on the same secular progressive ideas whose origins lie not with Protestants but atheists and free thinkers.
    Camerons platitudes over Gay Marriage to placate injured Churchs are clearly undermined by the details emerging now! BUT Gay Marriage is being promulgated globally!
    My point is this is actually a policy of Persecution against the Body Of Christ! Just as was the action of Saul and St Stephen. It was Our Lord who asked Saul why he Saul was persecuting Christ! We should see these above the individual and instead as an Attack on the very roots of the Church!
    France was the eldest daughter of the Church! this was until the French Revolution. There are four countries with express special relationships with the Church. Italy (of course!), France, Spain and until 1534 England. England actually under the Old Councils had precedence over these others. The La Salette messages expressly named these four countries.
    The Anglican Church (subservient to Crown) exists under various names in many countries but we should look at the Protestant Churchs are really sharing this Nationalist background. Sic Calvin (Frenchman!!) and Luther. Presbyterian Church is big in USA!
    Modern Europe is secular and built on the wreck of Old Christendom! Europe as a Nation remember came from the Treaty of Rome! The idea and origins and its embeded human rights do not come from Christianity since this is expressly excluded!
    Today there are only two power groups in the world. The Governments and Global Business. Faith is reduced to private opinions and myths! Politically and economically the Church is excluded from the worlds affairs and solutions. The danger is that with enough Provocation an excuse will arise to outlaw and Persecute the Church! Gay Marriage is just such a provocation.


  15. Peter Northcott says:

    Hello Toad.
    I’m not quite sure I’d prefer that we’re fed to the lions so much as actually stand up and be counted for a change. In other words, I’m not focussing on consequences as much as ‘putting our money where I mouth is’, as they say, rather than doing the equivalent of running away.
    Surely we should be acting before we find ourselves painted into a corner? “Well, you Catholics backed down on everything else…” – and what leg would we have to stand on?


  16. Toad says:

    “Wormwood Scrubs, where Oscar Wilde was jailed.”
    Reading Gaol, surely, Shep? where The Ballad came from? Can’t have him banged up in the wrong nick.


  17. Frere Rabit says:

    I now see that the story reported above is from last week. (The link placed on this page did not work, so I did not find it until much later in the day.) It was in the Telegraph on 23 April. Here is a working link http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10013905/Future-of-Catholic-weddings-in-Britain-in-doubt-MPs-and-Peers-told.html

    What interests me is the lack of follow up, given that the story appeared a week ago. I cannot see any other media references to this story. This entirely disproves my earlier point that this would be “dynamite” if true. The opposite seems to be the case. Nobody cares.The barbarians are inside the gate.


  18. johnhenrycn says:

    Old Shep says :
    “England and Wales are NOT Britain – which is England, Wales and Scotland.”
    Others may beg to differ with that, OS, and may point out that Great Britain and Britain describe different geographical/political areas, with Britain meaning England and Wales, and Great Britain meaning Britain plus Scotland. In Roman times, England and Wales were called “Britannia”, but Scotland was not included in that name because it was never completely subjugated by the Romans.


  19. johnhenrycn says:

    The article says: “…under a system in place since 1895, Catholic priests act as an “authorised person” to marry couples in place of a registrar.”

    What the system was “in Britain” pre-1895? How were Catholic marriages then performed there? I don’t know, which is why I ask.


  20. Frere Rabit says:

    Who cares what the country was called before it became a gay lunatic asylum? The future of Catholic marriage is at stake and all you two seem to care about is Gulliver’s travels!


  21. Frere Rabit says:

    The 1895 date is wrong, as far as I can see: it was the 1898 Marriage Act which permitted Catholic churches to appoint an authorised person, answerable to the Registrar General, to keep a set of duplicate marriage registers and act as a registrar of marriages. I should not think the respected lawyer above got it wrong, but the journalist who quoted him.


  22. Frere Rabit says:

    In fact, it is not specific to Catholics and was more commonly applied in nonconformist chapels. Here is the relevant law: http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Marriage%20Act_0.pdf


  23. johnhenrycn says:

    “Wrong, sorry.”
    Don’t be sorry, Old Shep, just be right. The term “Briton” does not predate the Roman invasion. It is Middle English (c.1150 -1470), derived from the Old French (c.800-1300) Breton, which in turn comes from the Latin Britto. There was also a Celtic/Welsh equivalent Brython, apparently, but whatever the etymology of Briton may be, the word Britain comes to us from the Latin Britannia. And doesn’t it stand to reason that Britain and Great Britain mean two different things, at least before those words became somewhat confused and interchangeable? Of course, Great Britain may include not only the main island, but also the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of adjacent smaller ones; but when referring to that whole geographical shebang, don’t most people say the British Isles? Anyway, many people, including me and John Bingham, the author of this Telegraph piece, think of Britain as consisting of England and Wales, with Scotland being an add-on necessitating the prefix Great. I wonder when the name “Great Britain” first came into use?

    Even your own government (if you’re British) can’t seem to settle the issue:

    Good night.


  24. Reblogged this on 1catholicsalmon and commented:
    Uncertain times…


  25. Giovanni A. Cattaneo says:

    You people are forgetting the most important thing.

    Whatever happens do NOT complain for that will destroy the love of the Church :-/


  26. Roger says:

    England is a creation of the Church and Ireland placed under England because the Faith came with Patrick from England. Wales is a Principality. Scotland actually was treated by the Church as distinct and separate. Leo XIII is a recommended source of letters to Scotland and of course requested the Consecration of England to St Peter (done at Brompton Oratory by the Bishops of England in June 1893).
    Christ wasn’t a Rebel nor a Revolutionary. To understand Christ is to understand Genesis because the Passion is the Reparation to God for Original Sin. Salvific History is the restoration to mankind of what was lost by Adam and Eve. This world is a place where through freewill man determines where he will spend Eternity.
    Christ is the Way The Truth and the Life as St John points Out
    [1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    [2] The same was in the beginning with God.
    [3] All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.
    [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
    [5] And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
    Now FreeWill presupposes choice and this is Gods Gift to Man. But this is a Fallen World with a permitted protagonist the Devil.
    The role of the Church is the Life of Grace (Divine Life) given through the sacraments and most especially the Perpetual Sacrifice (Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the Real True Prescence Body Blood and Divinity ).
    The growth of secularism and Anti Christian is simply the attempt to destroy and reverse the Passion of Our Lord and close heaven.
    So attacks on the sacraments are to destroy souls for Eternity.
    This is what the Saints lived and fufilled and is what the message of Fatima is about!
    I repeat today in the world there are two overiding blocks of Power Governments and Business and these exclude Christ. In other worlds thrust man back into the Fallen State and close the door of Heaven.
    Back to the issue marriage is a sacrament (with Our Lords promise of the Life of Grace to fulfil the fecundity of marriage and populate Heaven). Partnerships are legal contracts in other words treat humans like chattels (slaves bound by contract) ! The Gay Partnership is a chattel contract and is sterile and doesn’t have the promise of the Life Of Grace.
    So I say again that this issue is a Persecution of Christ and the Divine Life in the sacrament of Marriage.
    What is rejected by secular Governments and Big Business is Gods Authority over Creation and His Laws. In other words Caesar is impeding on God! Now Wars are Gods Justice on Man and the 20th century is just war after War after War. In the Middle East right now Wars! So we are seeing before Our eyes Heavens Justice on secular Man!
    There is No Peace without the Prince of Peace!


  27. Frere Rabit says:

    Actually, there is a simple solution that any canon lawyer with a Rabit-sized brain could have worked out ages ago. Homosexuals should be allowed to “marry” in church. At the end of the ceremony they should be asked if they intend to consummate the “marriage”, whereupon they can be immediately excommunicated. Simples.


  28. Toad says:

    “Homosexuals should be allowed to “marry” in church. At the end of the ceremony they should be asked if they intend to consummate the “marriage” “

    To which the reply will be, “Yes, but we thought we’d wait ’til we got home, “

    Very proper, too. That sort of thing in public upsets Toad’s dogs.


  29. Toad says:

    “You may know that in the land of the legless, the one-legged man is king
    Pretty dopey thing to say.


  30. Peter Northcott says:

    The Anglican priest, member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (SSC), and founder of the school I attended, was sent to prison for celebrating the Mass in 1876.


  31. Roger says:

    Peter is seeing the impact which is the sacraments!
    As the celebration of the Mass was a capitol offence so here we here we have the sacrament of marriage being dictated by the State.
    So the clash is between Caesar and God.
    The priest should be God’s servant first Caesar’s second. But this Law is Caesar first and God second. This is why it is a Persecution of Christ!
    Notice the States intervention is centred on human Rights! But the Church is bound to place God’s Rights first (First Commandment). Because we have arrived now at Judges dictating the content and purpose of the Sacraments!
    Forget the Gay Rights that just the excuse!


  32. Old Shep says:

    *I’m sorry JH; and right. You offer an ahistorical opinion, not based in fact. But never mind, There is some restlessness in the ranks over this. I’m content to be correct, in a minority of one. Isn’t it always so?

    *As for the “legless”, blame Private Eye, a long time ago..

    *I must question the use of the word ‘impact’ (above). It is increasingly used and usually wrongly. Impact is for a car crash, for example. I suggest that ‘influence’ and ‘affect’ are more suitable outside of a severe blow. . The universal use of impact is a TransAtlantic habit – and nothing wrong with that in principle, but it is so often misused. So, ‘the influence of the gay lobby’, and not the impact of the gay lobby.

    (It used to be reds under the bed, but now it’s gays under the bed – which I agree is worrying.)


  33. Frere Rabit says:

    “now it’s gays under the bed – which I agree is worrying”

    I was never convinced that there were reds under my bed. If any homosexuals are found lurking under my bed they will get a good kicking, but their presence is also an unlikely eventuality. What is more probable is that I will find dust under my bed, together with a whole bunch of wishy-washy liberals who once enabled the communist plan and now open the gates of the city to the homosexual extremists. I get a real sense that the mood has changed and what we really need now is a witch hunt.


  34. johnhenrycn says:

    “I’m content to be correct, in a minority of one. Isn’t it always so?”
    Well, sometimes it is, ye auld Shep.
    As for there being “some restlessness in the ranks over this”, I don’t think the Britain issue is of much interest here, except to petulant, pettifogging pedants like you and (er) me 😉

    All the best.


  35. Toad says:

    Gays in the bed,” is surely the more pressing problem?

    Toad, as usual, agrees whole-heartedly with JH, What on in God’s name has the ‘Great Britain’ issue, or some incomprehensible gibberish about one-legged men in Private Eye, got to do with perverts getting spliced and pedophile priests?
    Nothing, is what.
    A witch hunt, now – that’s different.Something all the family can enjoy.

    As is this:

    Happy May Day!


  36. Frere Rabit says:

    Ah yes, the rousing song that inspired so many millions to march into a charnel house. Very inspiring. Today is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.


  37. Toad says:

    Surely Rabit is confused as to the popular song that sent millions marching into the charnel house?
    Wasn’t it…


  38. Toad says:

    …And a great hit with the gays under Toad’s bed, they tell him.

    Would scarcely dream of getting married to anything else, they mincingly and gigglingly declare.

    (Except Judy Garland’s Greatest Hits, of course.)


  39. Frere Rabit says:

    OK, now you’ve asked for it. Nobody expects the Spanish Foreign Legion…


  40. JabbaPapa says:

    That video surely counts as “cruel and unusual punishment”, Rabit.


  41. Toad says:

    Didn’t seem to have much of a plot. The tune was catchy, though.


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