Bishops Distance Themselves from Catholic-Funded, Homosexuality-Promoting Marriage Counseling Group

By Hilary White

LONDON, July 22, 2009 ( - The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued a statement distancing themselves from a marriage counseling service, partly funded by Catholic parishes and dioceses, which promotes contraceptives and whose chief executive last week endorsed the homosexual "family." Terry Prendergast, the head of the charity Marriage Care, told a group of homosexualist activists last weekend that same-sex partners can be as successful as heterosexual married couples in raising children and vilified the natural family as "abusive" and the product of "patriarchal" ideas. 

A spokesman for the bishops said, "Defining 'family' is a notoriously difficult task. Yet the views expressed by Terry Prendergast about the definition of family and marriage are clearly not a reflection of the Church's teaching, nor those of the Bishops' Conference."

Marriage Care's president is the sitting archbishop of Westminster, currently Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and the Church retains a presence on its board of directors in the person of Fr. Michael Cooley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster. Prendergast told LSN in an interview last week that at least £89,000 of its annual budget of £900,000 comes directly from parish and diocesan donations and that its volunteer counselors are largely drawn from the Catholic community.

Founded in 1946 as a Catholic organization dedicated to preserving Catholic marriages, Marriage Care is listed in the most recent edition of the Catholic Directory, an official list of Catholic services and organizations put out annually by the bishops.

The bishops' spokesman said, "Responding to the needs of children is also complex. The Church's vision is that the crucially important quality of stability in family life needs gender complementarity and role modelling too."

The statement did not refer to the funding of Marriage Care by the Catholic Church or whether Archbishop Nichols intended to sever the connection between the group and the bishops of England and Wales.

Prendergast was invited to speak last weekend at the annual conference of Quest, a "gay rights" group that pressures the Catholic Church to change its "policies" on homosexuality. Speaking of "sacred desire and the presence of God in same-sex relationships," Prendergast said, "Traditionally we have talked of the sacrament of marriage and I hope that today you have been able to consider that we might be able to talk about the sacrament of partnerships or relationships."

In his talk, Prendergast disparaged the family as the seat of "rampant abuse." "We have to remember that most violence, and murder as the extreme of that, happens in families. Abuse is rampant, if one can use that term within families yet there is a massive unconscious process that we engage in to deny this."

"There is an image of the lone paedophile, for example, preying on children and whilst these do exist, most sexual abuse of children happens in what we call a family." He added, "We have to remember that family is dominated by patriarchy, or has been, and that marriage itself was about male power and property rights."

Prendergast slammed the Christian image of the Holy Family, of Mary and Joseph and Jesus as the product of "evangelical, right-wing religious thought" and questioned the "helpfulness" of the image for formulating their ideas about the family.

Marriage Care has produced a manual for teachers entitled "Foundations for a Good Life," which, in the section titled "safe sex," gives extensive information on artificial contraceptives, including male and female condoms, diaphragms and caps, and abortifacient drugs. The group also provides links to organizations that offer abortions and contraceptives, including the Family Planning Association, one of Britain's busiest abortion advocacy groups.

At the end of its section describing different contraceptives, the group offers the disclaimer, "In providing this information, it should not be assumed that Marriage Care is recommending the use of contraception."

To contact the Archbishop of Westminster with concerns:
Archbishop's House
Ambrosden Avenue,
London SW1P 1QJ
Phone: (+) 020 7798 9033
[email protected]

To read the full text of Prendergast's talk:

Read related coverage:

Catholic Church must "Rethink" the Family: Head of Church-Funded Marriage Counselling Service to Homosexual Activists

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