Archbishop Peter Smith has issued a statement clarifying the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales’ stance on civil partnerships following a previous statement the bishops made on a government consultation.
The government review is proposing to dissolve civil partnerships into ‘marriage’.
“The question at issue is one of individual conscience for those who are in same sex civil partnerships and who do not want to enter into same-sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only,” the archbishop of Southwark said on Friday.
The statement follows an earlier statement, issued by the department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales.
This earlier statement said “some lesbian and gay Catholics do not wish to enter into civil same-sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only, but still wish to have the legal rights that are contained in a civil partnership.”
Some have interpreted the statement as an endorsement of civil partnerships.
Archbishop Smith, who chairs the department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, clarified the statement, explained the initial statement was issued “solely in response to a specific government consultation on whether to abolish civil partnerships or convert them all into marriages in law.”
“In requesting the government to respect their consciences by leaving the existing civil partnership law unchanged, I was dealing solely with this issue of conscience which has now arisen given the current law,” he said.
He added that the response “should not be misinterpreted as a wider commentary on civil partnerships in general.”