A bill to redefine marriage – the “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act” – was approved in England earlier in July.
On July 29, Bishop Philip Egan of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, England, released a message about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. In it, he spoke of marriage redefinition as “the inevitable outcome of a process that has been gathering pace since the sexual revolutions of the 1960s.”
He goes on: “Until then, the traditional (that is, the natural and the Christian) understanding of marriage, sexual intercourse and family life prevailed. Sexual intercourse was seen as located exclusively within married family life and having a double end or purpose: the expression of love and the procreation of children. Since the 1960s, however, artificial contraceptives have been widely available, which split these two ends of sexual intercourse, separating the unitive and suppressing the procreative aspect. Lifted from its natural context within married love and commitment, and coupled to pleasure without responsibility, sexual intercourse could now be experienced outside marriage, and thus, in time, take on a new meaning in human relationships.”
It is built upon this “revised understanding of sexual intercourse and family life” that “powerful lobby groups” now advocate for the social acceptability of homosexual activity, including the redefinition of marriage to include persons of the same sex.
Bishop Egan writes, “As Catholics, like Israel in Egypt, we now find ourselves in an alien land that speaks a foreign language with unfamiliar customs. For what we mean by the matrimony, sexual intercourse and family life is no longer what today’s world, the government…and policy-makers understand by marriage, sex and the family.” He identifies the pastoral and potential legal challenges inherent in a disconnect between the State’s new gender-neutral definition of marriage and the Church’s (and others’) long-held belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
“It goes without saying,” the Bishop writes, “that special support needs to be offered to those of same-sex attraction to help them find that inner freedom, chastity and perfection which Christ offers (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2359).” He adds, “Pastors have always been ready and willing, in Christ’s name, to offer mercy, forgiveness and support to those who are struggling and striving to live up to the ideals Christ calls us to. They are, after all, ideals written deep in the human heart, and which in heaven will find their eternal fulfilment, resolution and true flowering.”
Bishop Egan concludes, “It remains my hope and prayer that in time, by God’s grace and by our gentle love and witness, we will recall society to the path of authentic humanism and thus help everyone hear the call of the Spirit within their hearts to true happiness.”