PORTSMOUTH, July 30, 2013 ( – The government’s “gay marriage” bill is nothing more than the logical and “inevitable outcome of a process that has been gathering pace since the sexual revolutions of the 1960s,” an English Catholic bishop has said in a pastoral letter.

Bishop Philip Egan, recently appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the diocese of Portsmouth, said that with the legislative and social changes in Britain in the last few years, Catholics now find themselves “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, the NHS and policy-makers understand by marriage, sex and the family.”

At its core, the Sexual Revolution promulgated the rejection of the “intrinsic link between the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse,” that had always been legally protected in natural marriage. 


“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,” Bishop Egan wrote. 

The bishop said that this “has led to the ‘contraceptive mentality’ Pope Paul VI spoke of so prophetically in his 1968 Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae,” the encyclical letter reiterating the Church's teachings against contraception that was widely rejected in the Church, notably by many bishops and national bishops’ conferences.  

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Egan called the government’s attempt to redefine marriage “Orwellian” and said it “radically changes the social context” in which Christians must act. Among the changes proposed in the government’s bill is the requirement that the term “wife” be applied to men and “husband” to women. 

Egan called the legislation a “legal minefield,” and warned that it will have serious repercussions for all Catholics who have anything to do with marriages, from priests to parents attempting to raise their children as Catholics, to teachers in Catholic schools.

Although the full implications of the legislation will have to be fully assessed, he said that the Catholic leadership will “certainly need to review our preaching, teaching and school curricula.” 

“Our Catholic system of meanings and values is strikingly different from what secular culture now deems normal or acceptable.” 

He added that “it goes without saying” that the Church must offer serious pastoral support for people struggling with same-sex attractions. The Church must demonstrate the “inner freedom, chastity and perfection which Christ offers.” 

“Living up to the ideal of Christian chastity has always been demanding,” he said, “even when the cultural context was supportive of Christian values and the pursuit of holiness. 

“Christians are committed to the natural way of life, but thanks to original sin, that natural way of life has always needed the supernatural means Christ offers us, if we are to achieve it. Even so, however demanding, the Way of Christ is truly the way to happiness, and as disciples of the Lord, we have to give witness to this.”  

He urged Catholics to “continue compassionately to warn our society of the wrong turns it is taking”. 

The letter is a dramatic break from the style of most of the English/Welsh Catholic episcopate, who have preferred to maintain silence on the 45th anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. It is not the first time, however, that Philip Egan, appointed to Portsmouth in July 2012, has spoken strongly in support of the encyclical, calling it “prophetic.”

In December 2012, Egan wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron warning, “Marriage and the home” are the “foundation and basic building block” of society. “If you proceed with your plans, you will gravely damage the value of the family, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behavior of future generations.” 

Forty-five years on, Humanae Vitae remains one of the greatest challenges facing the Catholic hierarchy, Janet Smith, a professor of ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote in an op-ed in the National Catholic Register today. The division on moral issues within the Catholic Church, she said, “began with the rejection by many of Humanae Vitae.” 

Smith, who is one of the encyclical’s leading defenders in the North American Church, said, “It is scandalous but true that priests were trained not to teach the truths of Humanae Vitae.” 

“Since dissent spread to virtually every other teaching, Catholics have been woefully ignorant of the teachings of their own Church.” 


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