Catholic Bishops & British Government on Collision Course? Print
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 12 December 2009 06:17
I may have missed this story because of all our website and blogging troubles this past week but an incredible story is coming out of Britain via all kinds of sources. Here is the UK's Catholic Herald:

"Equality minister Harriet Harman will ban the Catholic Church in Britain from insisting that priests remain celibate single men, the bishops have said.

Church leaders will be powerless to stop ordained priests from marrying women or entering into same-sex civil partnerships under the terms of Miss Harman’s Equality Bill.

Bishops would be unable to stop their priests from having sex change operations, living openly promiscuous lifestyles or engaging in any other activities seen as a legitimate form of sexual expression.

Richard Kornicki, a former senior Home Office civil servant who serves as parliamentary coordinator for the bishops, said the Church could also be open to prosecution for sex discrimination if it turned away women or sexually active gay men who presented themselves as candidates for the priesthood. “The Government is saying that the Church cannot maintain its own beliefs in respect of its own priests,” he said.

But if the Bill became law and the bishops defied the Government and stepped in to discipline errant clergy they could not only be sued for sexual discrimination but, in the worst-case scenario, they could also face imprisonment, unlimited fines and have Church assets sequestrated.

Miss Harman’s proposals will inevitably put the Catholic Church on a collision course with the state – particularly in the form of the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission – over the issue of religious freedom if they become law.

Or so warned the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales when they briefed Catholic peers in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

"The Bill says that only those people who lead worship or teach doctrine can be expected to lead lives consistent with the moral teachings of the Christian faith. But a senior QC has informed the bishops that even the wording of this clause makes it “unlawful to require a Catholic priest to be male, unmarried or not in a civil partnership etc, 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, and so on”.

Apparently, you have to be able to prove that you spend literally 50% or more of your time leading worship or teaching Catholic doctrine to not qualify as an "employee". And very few priests would qualify because personal prayer, study, administration, pastoral counseling or visiting, etc. wouldn't count.

This is Just as stunning in its implications for the laity as it is for the clergy. Excuse me? It is unjust to expect lay Catholics to live lives consistent with the moral teachings of the Christian faith?

Apparently this bill has been kicking around for 2 years and the bishops have protested to the government to no avail. The claim is that current British law violates European law. But that is not the case. "The exemptions for religion in existing discrimination law have all been tested by the courts and are all compliant with European law."