PARIS, November 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The cardinal archbishop of Paris has pledged that he and other Catholics of France will oppose the Socialist government’s plans to rewrite the marriage law.

Speaking to fellow bishops at a meeting at the shrine of Lourdes last week, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said, “When we defend the right of children to build their personality with reference to the man and the woman who gave them life, we are not defending a particular position.”

“We are recognising what is expressed by the practices and the wisdom of all the peoples since the beginning of time and which modern specialists confirm.”

He said same-sex “marriage” would harm the equilibrium of French society and of children: “It will not be ‘marriage for all’,” he said, citing the government’s slogan, “it will be the marriage of a few imposed on all.”

The cardinal urged the government to focus on urgent economic matters that matter to the people more than ideologically motivated efforts to install “gay marriage”

Critics of same-sex “marriage” have said that the change is driven by political motives, and that it is not in demand by homosexual people themselves. This argument is backed up by the numbers of gay partners entering into civil unions, which have been legal since 1999. Only about 4 per cent of civil unions, which are open to heterosexual couples as well, are between persons of the same sex.

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Jean-Francois Cope, the head of the opposition UMP party, urged the Government to halt the marriage bill, calling it “incredibly badly prepared.”

“There was no dialogue,” Cope said in interviews with France Inter, Le Monde and AFP.

“It is not just about homosexual marriage, it is about a complete reorganisation, deconstruction of the right of the family, with questions surrounding lineage, the removal of the reference to father and mother in the text,” Cope said. “It’s probably the issue that most needs dialogue.”

The Socialist government has hit back at the cardinal’s comments. “I’m shocked by this attitude which I think is a kind of return to a fundamentalism that I find problematic,” said Jean-Marie Le Guen, Socialist senator from Paris.

Party spokesman David Assouline said it was not the Church’s role “to oppose the will of the legislature, especially concerning civil marriage in a secular republic.”

Vingt-Trois responded to what he called left-wing attacks on the Church, saying they show the gay “marriage” campaign does not want a real debate.

“We regret that the government’s choice focuses public attention so much on an issue that’s actually secondary,” Vingt-Trois said.

“The priority concerns plaguing our fellow citizens (are) the consequences of the economic and financial crisis - factory closings, rising unemployment, growing insecurity of the poorest families.”

Whether Vingt-Trois’ vocal opposition to the change will affect the debate remains to be seen. While 83 percent of France’s population still call themselves Catholics on census forms, weekly attendance at Mass, according to 2002 statistics, is about 8 percent. At the same time, opinion polls are showing that 60 percent of the public support President Francois Hollande’s plan to re-define marriage, though this represents a slight drop since religious leaders started opposing it publicly.

Polls also show that while there is broad support for gay “marriage,” the French are less enthusiastic about allowing homosexual partners to adopt children. Hollande said the bill, introduced last week, will be law by mid-2013.