By Hilary White

ROME, September 27, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last Monday, when the head of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CBEW) told a BBC interviewer that the U.K. bishops had not opposed the creation of legal civil partnerships for homosexuals, he was speaking from a longstanding policy that was published in 2005. But a source close to the CBEW has told LifeSiteNews.com that that policy was rejected by the Vatican for not being in line with Catholic teaching. The UK bishops, however, have implemented it without change, ignoring Vatican-mandated corrections.

During last week’s panel discussion on BBC 2, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Westminster archdiocese and reportedly in line for a cardinal’s hat this year, denied that the English Catholic hierarchy is opposed to homosexualist political goals, saying, “We did not oppose gay civil partnerships. We recognized that in English law there might be a case for those.”

His remarks follow two other occasions when Nichols was asked by interviewers whether Catholic teaching could change on homosexuality; he replied, “I don’t know.”

The archbishop’s expressions of uncertainty clash strongly with statements by Pope Benedict, who said in the lead-up to his recent visit to the UK, “The Church cannot approve of legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of married life and family. They contribute to the weakening of the principles of natural law and so the relativization of all legislation and also the confusion about values in society.”

Nichols, however, is not the first or the only U.K. bishop who has set himself in opposition to Vatican and Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Earlier this year Bishop Malcolm McMahon told the liberal Catholic magazine The Tablet that the “backgrounds” of Catholic school employees are not the concern of the Church, and that it is up to the applicants themselves to decide whether they are able to live according to Church teaching.

The Tablet quoted McMahon defending the government’s civil partnership legislation and saying the Church is not opposed to homosexual civil partnerships. “Civil partnerships are precisely what they say they are. They’re not gay marriages or lesbian marriages. They’re simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before,” he said.

McMahon boasted, “We have many gay people in education and a large number of gay people in the Church, at least the same as the national average … A civil partnership is not a marriage, it’s not a conjugal relationship.”

Both McMahon’s and Nichols’ statements reflect the contents of a 2005 CBEW document, published in response to the then-Labour government’s proposed Equalities Bill - which ultimately led to the notorious Sexual Orientation Regulations and forced the total dissolution of the Catholic Church’s work in adoptions – telling Catholics that they must comply with legislation on equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, bisexuals and “transsexuals” in Catholic institutions and structures.

During last week’s BBC 2 television program, Nichols and the CBEW’s position on homosexuality was praised by a fellow panelist, Diarmaid MacCulloch, a homosexual Anglican and Oxford professor of church history, who agreed, saying that the English Catholic Church “has rather taken its own line on this, not the Vatican’s line.”

A source close to the CBEW has informed LifeSiteNews.com that MacCulloch was literally correct, and that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had not accepted CBEW’s Diversity and Equalities guidelines. The CDF, he said, had issued a list of changes to bring the document into conformity with Catholic teaching that “was ignored” by the document’s author, Archbishop Peter Smith.

In their document, the bishops said the first duty of Catholic organizations and institutions is to “to be inclusive, respectful of the human dignity of all and in tune with the spirit as well as the letter of the law.”

Using the language of the homosexualist political movement, the bishops suggested that Catholic institutions should create hiring quotas for homosexuals. It called on authorities “at all levels of the church” to “be more aware” of whether “different groups” are adequately represented in Catholic institutions such as schools, and said that “organisations, institutions and dioceses should consider appointing or entrusting someone with responsibility for diversity and equality.”

Despite allowing Catholic institutions to require applicants to “be broadly in sympathy with the vision, mission and values of the organisation,” the bishops’ policy does not require any private adherence to Catholic moral teaching. This would include requiring doctors or nurses to agree with the Church’s teaching on abortion and euthanasia, or teachers to live according to Catholic sexual teaching.

“In a society in which relationships are increasingly fractured and complicated, it is only to be expected that this may at times be reflected in the lifestyles of those who serve the Church,” the document says.

“Every applicant and employee has a right to his or her private and family life and all Catholic employers must respect that right.”

“As employers, subject to limited and narrow exceptions, Catholic organisations must ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment than another on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. This is ‘direct discrimination’.”

So pleased was the Labour government with the document, that its publication and distribution was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry, the source told LSN.

Significantly, the document was later cited favorably by an EU document on the right to conscientious objection by health care workers that linked the “right” to abortion with similar putative “rights” to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The EU document agrees with the bishops that “subject to limited and narrow exceptions, Catholic organizations must ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment than another on the grounds of … sexual orientation”.

The favorable response from the EU prompted action from the Vatican, LSN’s source said. Last year, Pope Benedict’s two addresses to the UK bishops who were making their Ad Limina visit took a stern tone, with the pope warning them not to compromise on the life and family issues, or to take a soft approach to aggressive European secularism. Referring to the UK’s Equalities legislation, Pope Benedict urged the bishops to present Catholic moral teaching “in its entirety” and to defend it “convincingly.”

This was a direct rebuke, the source said, and was made after information on the Bishops’ Diversity and Equality guidelines had been delivered to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.

Currently, the CBEW, with the Scottish Catholic hierarchy, is formulating a response to the EU’s forthcoming Equal Treatment Directive that adheres to the same principles of “equality” as the UK legislation.

When it comes to the EU Directive, however, the bishops have issued a caution, warning that the Directive could be turned into “an instrument of oppression” against religious groups. Under the Directive’s conditions for equal treatment, they said, the EU “would effectively be dictating to religious bodies what their faith does or does not require: a wholly unacceptable position.”

Nevertheless, Archbishop Peter Smith, chair of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, said, “The Catholic Church supports the underlying moral principle of the draft Directive.”

European Dignity Watch (EDW), a non-Catholic EU watchdog organization, has been more forthright, saying that the “moral principle” behind the draft Directive is in reality erasing traditional morality in favor of a “newly developed”“horizontal” concept of equality, that will “seriously imperil fundamental aspects of freedom of European citizens”.

The Directive, EDW says will “undermine freedom and self determination for all Europeans and subject the private life of citizens to legal uncertainty and the control of bureaucrats.”


Read related LSN coverage:

Archbishop Nichols's Comments on Gay Unions Endanger the Souls of My Children  
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/sep/10091302.html