Two articles concerning this theme were posted yesterday on the website of La Stampa. The first, entitled Storm on the Thames: No same-sex unions in churches, says that Archbishop Nichols has been attacked for his excessive alignment with Rome on the question of same sex unions. It describes Archbishop Nichols as a “bona fide Ratzingerian.”
The second article (for which there is not yet an English translation – but you can use google translate) is headed L'arcivescovo di Westminster su unioni gay accusato di non rispettare la posizione vaticana (i.e. "The Archbishop of Westminster on gay unions accused of not respecting the Vatican position.")
This article links to David Kerr’s piece on CNA giving Archbishop Nichols’ response to his critics and refers to William Oddie’s article in the Catholic Herald (here) and to the follow-up article (here.)
In fact, the Tablet also thought that the Archbishop praised civil partnerships (cf. the 26 November headline “Archbishop praises civil partnerships”) Their journalist, Chris Lamb commented that
His comments mark the clearest support that a Catholic bishop has given in favour of civil unions.This was presumably because the Archbishop said at the press conference (official audio file at 9'36")
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship, a lifelong partnership, can find their place and protection and legal provision.Some support for the Tablet's view could be taken from the response of Archbishop Nichols as reported by CNA:
When Archbishop Nichols was asked by CNA if the bishops of England were contradicting the Vatican's guidelines, he said that the bishops have tried "to recognize the reality of the legal provision in our country of an agreement, a partnership, with many of the same legal safeguards as in marriage." He further explained that while the bishops recognize the existence of civil partnerships, they also "believe that that is sufficient," and that they should not be placed on par with marriage.The extent to which La Stampa understands the issues at stake can be gleaned from the following paragraph (with my comments in red):
On the other hand, if same-sex civil unions were to be made legal, [Err. They have been made legal in the UK] this would mean the approval of a deviant form of behaviour, turning it into a model for society, blurring basic values such as marriage and the family. [What about the "finding their place, protection and legal provision?"] The concept of marriage would undergo radical change, seriously damaging the common good: it would lose its essential characteristics, tied to heterosexuality as a procreative and educational duty. [i.e. legalising civil partnerships would do this.] In as far as gay relationships are concerned, the Catholic Church – in Great Britain as in the rest of the world – is simply asking the state not to proceed with the legalisation on same-sex unions [Again - they have been legalised in the UK. The Bishops are saying that they recognise and respect this.] and to avoid making their legal status equal to that of marriage, with access to those rights that belong to marriage. Thus Mgr. Nichols has only repeated what is a common approach of the universal Church, with the full consent of his colleagues, the bishops of the United Kingdom and Rome.With this paragraph exhibiting a spectacular ability to miss the point, La Stampa concludes an article denying the obvious - something agreed on by both the Catholic Herald and the Tablet - that the Bishops have supported same sex civil unions.