By Patrick B. Craine

LONDON, England, December 10, 2009 ( – The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have warned that they could be prosecuted under Britain's proposed Equality Bill for refusing to allow married men, women, practicing homosexuals, and 'transsexuals' into the priesthood, reports the Catholic News Service (CNS).

The Equality Bill seeks, in part, to apply anti-discrimination laws to churches and religious institutions, requiring them to hire practicing homosexuals and 'transsexuals' for positions such as youth workers.

The bishops stated, however, in a new brief to Catholic members of the House of Lords, that the bill also defines priests as employees, rather than treating them as officeholders.

While the bill includes a religious exemption for positions involving the celebration of liturgy or the teaching of doctrine, the bishops say that the priesthood would only be exempt if priests spend more than 51 percent of their time in such activities.

The bill will, effectively, make it “unlawful to require a Catholic priest to be male, unmarried or not in a civil partnership, etc.,” the briefing states, “since no priest would be able to demonstrate that their time was wholly or mainly spent either leading liturgy or promoting and explaining doctrine.”

“The bill fails to reflect the time priests spend in pastoral work, private prayer and study, administration, building maintenance, etc.,” the bishops continue.  “This contentious definition was drafted without consultation and has been maintained by the government despite the concerns of the bishops' conference and representations made by most religious bodies in the U.K.”

Contact Information:

Solicitor General Vera Baird QC MP
Telephone: 020 7271 2406
Fax: 020 7271 2432
Email: [email protected]

Rt Hon the Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
House of Lords
Telephone: 020 7219 8652
E-mail: [email protected]

See related coverage:

British Churches to be Forced to Hire Active Homosexual Youth Workers under Equality Bill

“Equality” Bill Will Abolish Christmas in Public English Catholic Bishops Warn