Children need to be brought up in the “key enduring relationship” of a married father and mother, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, warned that redefining marriage to allow same-sex marriage would have “damaging consequences” for society.
He criticised the increasing trend to have children outside of marriage and warned against severing the crucial bond between marriage and childrearing.
The Westminster Government is currently holding a public consultation on its plans to rewrite the definition of marriage.
However, over half a million people have already signed a petition opposing any change to the current definition.
Archbishop Nichols was addressing an event attended by more than 500 married couples, with a combined total of 31,850 years of marriage between them.
He said: “Today marriage is sometimes thought of, and presented, without any reference to children at all.
He added that “marriage, sexual relationships and the generation and raising of children” go together.
“When separated from the bonds of this interconnectedness, these three powerful aspects of human living are driven further apart from each other, with damaging consequences.
Last month Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, became the first Cabinet Minister to openly oppose redefining marriage.
A number of other ministers, including Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond, have expressed reservations.