Catholics attending Mass in the Diocese of Westminster's 214 parishes over the weekend of 10 -11 March 2012 will hear a Pastoral Letter about the Coalition Government's consultation paper on a proposed change in the legal definition of marriage.
The consultation paper is expected to open the institution of marriage to same-sex partnerships.
The Pastoral Letter, from Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith, respectively President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, explains the Catholic understanding of marriage.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the letter says: ‘The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.’
The Pastoral Letter concludes by pointing to the dangers of changing the legal definition of marriage:
'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.'
The true meaning of marriage
'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.'