Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has warned about the effect that legalising gay marriage would have on wider society, not just the Church.
The Cardinal said the consequences of redefining marriage are “a diminishment of what marriage means.
“Any legislation that supports the family and marriage, I will support. Anything that diminishes it, I will oppose.”
He also said most “ordinary” people, not just the Church, oppose the introduction of same-sex marriage.
The Cardinal said: “Most people in this country don’t really want gay marriage on the statute book.”
He also argued that the Government “should not interfere” with marriage, since it is a “vital institution” at the “bedrock of our social life and culture”.
He said the Government thinks introducing same-sex marriage is the “politically correct thing to do” but that they do not have the right to do it.
The former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales made the comments in an interview for The Sunday Telegraph to mark his 80th birthday.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor sees a change in the law as “promoting a misuse of marriage”.
He also thinks safeguards the Government has promised to offer churches that refuse to conduct gay weddings will not be “adequate”.
When asked about his reaction to Nick Clegg calling gay marriage opponents “bigots” in a draft speech, the Cardinal said the Deputy Prime Minister’s Roman Catholic wife may have told him he had “gone too far”.
A recent poll of MPs shows that most voters who write to them about the plans to redefine marriage are opposed to the measure.
The poll also shows that eight out of ten MPs want the freedom to vote according to their conscience.