There are some 4000 Catholic priests in the United Kingdom, and about a quarter of them have signed an open letter claiming that there will be a revival of persecution against Catholics in Britain if same-sex marriage is made legal. In the letter, they issued the same arguments that they made back when civil partnerships were pushed through and claimed that the legislation would severely restrict “the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.”
Apparently not learning any lessons from the history of their own faith inside Britain, they noted that Catholics were barred from public offices for centuries, and then claimed that the plan by the sitting government to pass same-sex marriage raised specters of the persecutions that began under King Henry VIII and began in earnest under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
The letter claimed that Prime Minister David Cameron’s assurances that such things would not happen were “meaningless”, and was predicated on the idea that Catholics would be forced to accept same-sex marriages.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth at least admitted that the comparison to Henry VIII was ‘dramatic’, but then also claims that “It is quite Orwellian to try to redefine marriage.”
Great Britain has redefined marriage four times in the last three hundred years. From 1753 until 1837, only marriages conducted by Anglican priests, Quaker ministers or Jewish rabbis were allowed. In 1837, civil marriages were enacted and Catholic priests as well as non-conformist Protestant priests were allowed to officiate marriages.
Father Andrew Pinsent claimed “that a network of laws are being put in place which would violate our freedom of conscience.” A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport stated that “We have been very clear that our plans for equal marriage will fully protect the freedom of religions bodies to preach, teach and put into practice their beliefs about marriage.”
It should also be noted that most prosecutions of people discriminating against lesbians and gays are not based on marriage law, but rather upon non-discrimination laws.