Father Gregory Murphy's First Person column appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Marriage will be weakened by this change
Fr Gregory Murphy explains the churches' opposition to same-sex marriage
Yesterday's editorial on the controversy surrounding the recent proposal to legalise same-sex marriages argued that gay couples should have the right to marry, as representing both a personal expression of their life-long commitment to each other, and the concomitant expression in law of a more tolerant society, concluding that this proposal would do no harm and would remove a manifest inequality.
This stance is opposed by most Christian churches. It is important to recognise that, in opposing this move, the Church is not intending to foster discrimination against same-sex couples (although it may be perceived as such), but rather to challenge so radical an extension of the concept of marriage as to render that concept vacuous. Given that the same legal status is applied equally to those who are in registered civil partnerships as to those who are married, the archbishops argue that our present law does not discriminate unjustly when it requires both a woman and a man for marriage. It simply recognises and protects the distinctive nature of marriage.
Sociologically, marriage is an institution constructed to meet the needs of family and society.
General social conditions are decisively affected by married life and family life; and societies have a legitimate concern for the nurturing and socialising of their newest and weakest members. Marriage then has never been regarded just as the private business of two consenting adults, but has always been fitted into a general social context, and also into the contexts of morality and religion broadly applying in that culture. The Christian understanding of marriage views it under two aspects: as a human (social) reality that is also a saving mystery or sacrament, a locus in human lives of the action of the divine. In their lifelong commitment to each other the married couple reflect the commitment of Christ to his church, and through the creation and upbringing of children they become the source and guardians of the next generation, reflecting God's creative work.
This is spelt out especially by St Paul in the reading of the Genesis creation narrative he gives in his Letter to the Ephesians, emphasising that the relationship between man and wife is theologically set apart from all other human relationships – even that, for example, between children and parents. That is the basis of the archbishops' contention that marriage, in our current law and custom, is defined as an exclusive relationship between a woman and a man; which we can trace in the complementary historical development of both civil and ecclesiastical law. The opposition of the churches to the changes is fuelled by the concern that in so widening the concept of marriage the social and cultural values it currently supports would be weakened, to the detriment of society in general.