Civil Partnerships and the Church. I Theory

Mgr Gordon Read has an article in the June 2006 Newsletter of the Canon Law society of Great Britain and Ireland. He quotes a lengthy portion of the June 2003 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions betwen homosexual persons. An important passage in this document reads:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (n.5)
Mgr Read refers to the response of the Catholic Church, particularly Archbishop Smith's statement in which he said that the introduction of civil partnerships would erode our deeply rooted understanding of marriage and that the Government should "support and promote marriage rather than undermine it".

One problem raised by civil partnerships is that in English law, they are an invalidating impediment to marriage whereas canon law has not yet made such an impediment.

Another problem is raised by the question of whether people who are in civil partnerships should be employed by the Church. Mgr Read points out that canon 1061.2 "reflects common human experience in its presumption that marriage has been consummated once cohabitation has begun." This is also presumed in the case of civil marriages that are not valid. Although living together as brother and sister is possible, the "internal forum solution" allowing such couples to receive communion also requires that there be no scandal. In view of this, Mgr Read comments:
In the case of civil partnership there is a legitimate human presumption that there will be a sexual relationship, even if in some cases this will not be verified. As with civil marriage, a civil partnership makes a public statement that this relationship exists. Those in such a partnership appear to be in a parallel situation to those in marriages the Church considers irregular, and subject to the same restrictions consequent upon their life being publicly at variance with the teaching of the Church.
Mgr Read concludes by examining the question of clergy and religious who might enter into civil partnerships.

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