England’s five million Roman Catholics are being urged by their leadership to resist Government plans to redefine marriage.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols – the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales – has written a letter to be read out in 2,500 churches this weekend.
The letter, co-signed by the Archbishop of Southwark, says redefining marriage would be a “profoundly radical step” that would “transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage.”
A covering note accompanies the letter, asking all Roman Catholic priests to ask their parishioners to sign a petition in support of keeping marriage between one man and one woman.
Already, over 100,000 people have signed the petition organised by the Coalition for Marriage.
The letter says: “Changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now.
“The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage.
“It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.
“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.”
More than one million people attend Roman Catholic church services each week, out of an estimated five million Roman Catholics in England and Wales.
The Government is expected to launch a consultation on how, not whether, marriage should be redefined later this month.
Earlier this week Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, criticised the Westminster Government’s plans to rewrite the definition of marriage.
Cardinal O’Brien accused the Government of trying to “redefine reality” at the “behest of a small minority of activists”.
Last week Ann Widdecombe, the former Conservative MP, called for the contentious issue to be put to a public vote.
She insisted that Mr Cameron must put the matter to the people saying: “If he insists on pushing ahead then I challenge him to hold a referendum.”