Catholic Church | Gay Marriage | Great Britain | Religion

British Catholic Priests Say Marriage Equality Bigger Threat Than 16th Century Reformation

GetoveritWho should be more offended here, gays or protestants?

1,054 Catholic priests, 13 Bishops and assorted Catholic abbots have signed a massive open letter claiming that legalizing marriage equality in England is a greater threat to religious freedom in general, and Catholicism specifically, since the Reformation, the 16th Century split that led to the rise of Protestantism.

Here's a sample of the letter, via The Daily Mail:

After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.

Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.

It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.

It is germane to point out here that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers were protesting what they found to be a corrupt, archaic Catholic church. Their efforts were clearly successful, greatly reducing number of Catholics in England (Yes, Henry VIII played a role in the church's erosion of power by erecting the Anglican Church of England, but for far different reasons, though around the same time.)

So, now we have the modern - well, as modern as it can be - Catholic Church claiming that allowing fellow human beings to marry the people they love will somehow destroy their religion. It seems to be that the only thing destroying their religion is their consistent refusal to adapt to the times.

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  1. where is the letter with a thousand signatures expressing concern that the church has strayed from the teachings of Jesus?

    Posted by: QJ201 | Jan 12, 2013 9:08:13 AM

  2. This is one of the things I don't like about Andrew Belonsky's writing. Here's a perfectly ridiculous story, and lends itself easily to criticism. But why go over the top and say the letter says gay marriage is a bigger threat than the Reformation? It clearly says since the Reformation. This may sound pedantic, but the Reformation effectively ended the Catholic church in Britain, and many of their leading lights at the time were executed or imprisoned. Comparing gay marriage to this near death experience for the Catholic church in England is completely absurd, which is why they don't do it. To say gay marriage is any sort of threat to the Catholic church is ludicrous enough so I don't see what's gained from misrepresenting the letter.

    I also don't see why the church thinks forcing a thousand priests to sign along with the hierarchy adds any weight to the letter. It's like having the entire north korean army sign a declaration by Kim Jong-un. Everyone knows it's a dictatorship, and only one voice counts.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 12, 2013 9:16:21 AM

  3. Brian:
    Excellent comment and spot-on.

    Posted by: nick | Jan 12, 2013 9:29:36 AM

  4. That's the Belonsky for you. Dishonest character.

    Posted by: Yupp | Jan 12, 2013 9:41:19 AM

  5. Do they "teach the truth about [child rape by priests] in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship"?

    Posted by: Tessie Tura | Jan 12, 2013 10:01:50 AM

  6. I think one thing should be brought to light. This is not the Catholic Church teaching... these are bishops chosen by the present pope even while under JP II; and the priests were all formed under the rule and thinking of these men. Therefore, like the rest of Catholicism that has suffered under the dominance of this mind set: it is the Catholicism of these kind of men... and precisely as others have noted: these men have taken Catholicism on a whacko tangent. Little of it resonates with whatever could be seen as the 'best' of Catholic tradition. It has everything to do with a 'recently' corrupt mindset. Vatican II tried to straighten these guys and this kind of thinking. But the conservative forces have overruled the enlightened efforts of John XXIII and the Church of the mid 1960s.

    Posted by: Pierre | Jan 12, 2013 10:07:36 AM

  7. Is it just me or is anyone else having problems with the way Towleroad renders? I use Firefox and things are really jacked up lately.

    Posted by: Mark | Jan 12, 2013 10:14:47 AM

  8. They should cite also Galileo, Darwin who were threats to the Catholic Church. Also Bruno, an Italian philosopher, was burned at the stake because he didn't agree with their ridiculous dogma. Therefore he was declared a heretic and threat to the Church.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 12, 2013 10:37:23 AM

  9. I don't know why you tried to comment on the Reformation if you don't have a good grasp of its history. John Calvin had little to do with the Reformation beginning in England, as he was still in university when Henry called upon Parliament to provide him with an annulment from Catherine of Aragon. Martin Luther, though the main instigator of the Reformation on the Continent, was also less directly involved. If you're looking for a Protestant thinker upon whom to place responsibility, Simon Fish, whose writings were held dear by Anne Boleyn, is a good choice.

    In England, Henry VIII was responsible for ending the Catholic Church in England, separating his realm from the Papacy and creating the Church of England. He began as a staunch Catholic, earning the title "Defender of the Faith" for his public denouncement of Martin Luther (so they were contemporaries, but Martin Luther was in the German States). Through the influence of Anne Boleyn, and her family as a whole, Thomas Cranmer, and Thomas Cromwell, Henry turned toward the Reformer line of thinking in order to gain more control over his realm and to separate from a Pope that limited his powers and refused his desires.

    Henry was still at heart a Catholic, however, as demonstrated by his retraction of many reforms after marrying Jane Seymour. Ultimately, it would be his final wife, Catherine Parr, who would return the realm to the Protestant ideals of Anne Boleyn, and was instrumental in the instruction of Edward and Elizabeth in the Protestant faith. After Henry's death, Edward had his short, but fervently Protestant reign, at the end of which he attempted to remove his Catholic sister Mary from the succession, and designated his cousin Jane Grey as heir. Mary proceeded to take the throne by force and executed Jane. Mary did not reign for long, dying of illness and passing her throne to her Protestant sister Elizabeth. After Elizabeth, the realm remained more or less Protestant (less under Charles I, more during the Interregnum) until modern times.

    May have gone off on a bit of a historical tangent there, but my point is that your placing of Calvin as one of the forces behind the English Reformation and your attempt to discount the role of Henry VIII in the English Reformation betrays your lack of knowledge on the subject.

    Posted by: OddBet | Jan 12, 2013 11:03:07 AM

  10. But wasn't the Church of England created by Henry VIII because he wanted to "redefine marriage"? Catholic church, wrong in the 16th century, wrong in the 21st.

    Posted by: Hue-Man | Jan 12, 2013 11:09:42 AM

  11. Andrew Belonsky's slam against Roman Catholicism ends with an opinion which many people should think about. He says that Catholicism is endangering itself by failing to change with the times.

    Q: To what extent CAN a religion abandon its roots--i.e. undergo change or reform--and still BE the same religion?

    The history of Christianity, as well as its basic, fundamental principles, are most directly embodied in the "Living Ancient Churches." These are groups like the Eastern Orthodox and the various smaller ancient denominations of the East. Roman Catholicism is the largest member of this general family: the member most familiar to us because its cultural/historical roots come from western Europe.

    By definition, the Living Ancient Churches are allergic to change. Their very identity consists of believing and doing everything the way it was done in the first four centuries A.D. That is the period when the Bible and the Creeds were established. In their eyes, if change can be accepted at all, it must be a clear continuation and refinement of what came before. They can see slavery as evil because taking that view is a refinement of the ancient doctrine that God is father to all men equally.

    The liberal Protestant Churches, on the other hand, are bound only by the Bible. They care nothing for the Church that created the Bible . They have little or no concern for what the ancient scholars of the Church believed. Liberal Protestantism can be summarized thus: "Our religion is whatever we want it to be. The Bible, our so-called 'authority', belongs to us to interpret as we see fit. Christianity stands for whatever we say it does. Tradition and history are completely unimportant."

    Obviously, the liberal churches are in a position to please Belonsky better than the Living Ancient Churches. But the $64K question is this: Do the liberal Protestants really present a legitimate Christianity? I say no.

    Posted by: Ernst Rhoem's Ghost | Jan 12, 2013 11:18:32 AM

  12. They pose as victims while viciously attack another group of people who don't agree with them.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 12, 2013 11:19:37 AM

  13. Hue-Man:
    They are not only wrong but also stupid. They learned nothing from history. They are the only ones to blame for the downfall of the Church.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 12, 2013 11:30:03 AM

  14. Well, I'm both, I must scare the blazes out him!

    Of course, being a part of a church that still doesn't accept blame for the largest sexual abuse scandal in history doesn't bother him. Perhaps that's the real threat.

    Posted by: craig | Jan 12, 2013 11:34:59 AM

  15. Ernst Roehm's ghost : You bring up a lot of interesting points with a lot of juice for debate there. And generally I find it perfectly fine for anyone to rip Catholicism or any religion to shreds if they want to (I'll greatly join them) but people like Belonsky (and Towle) are such awful hypocrites and in no position to criticize anybody. As I always say, it would be like Stalin criticizing Mao for human rights abuses. (Thanks for the interesting post).

    Posted by: Yupp | Jan 12, 2013 11:36:06 AM

  16. How dare we stop them from meddling in the lives of others that in no way affect their lives at all.

    Posted by: Michael | Jan 12, 2013 11:40:14 AM

  17. No one is stopping them teaching what they want in their school and charitable institutions;
    but there is another point of view, ours, and we are entitled to civil law equality, no matter whether Catholic or Sharia law differs.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jan 12, 2013 11:44:59 AM

  18. I am by no means a scholar of Catholic Church history, but it seems ironic to call an intractable, calcified, and static organization a "Living" Ancient anything. Like a prehistoric insect encased in amber, it may still look great but it's really quite dead. Maybe one of those fossilized should get its own Twitter account too? Chances are it would be every bit as relevant as the Pope's.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jan 12, 2013 11:50:07 AM

  19. A moribund institution's death rattles- music to the ears. They know they've lost their war; the dust heap of history is waiting.

    Posted by: jr | Jan 12, 2013 12:03:14 PM

  20. "But wasn't the Church of England created by Henry VIII because he wanted to "redefine marriage"?"

    Why yes, Hue-man, you are exactly right about that, and the Catholic Church STILL preaches that divorce and remarriage are immoral (unless you're Newt Gingrich, of course) and does not recognize such marriages as valid. In fact, the Church also does not recognize a whole host of other legal marriages as valid - for instance those married only by a judge or other civil official or marriages in churches the Catholics don't believe are valid (e.g., Southern Baptists and Mormons). Yet they don't ever complain that their hospitals and schools and other institutions are forced to recognize these marriages as legally valid. In fact, the letter itself makes it clear that Catholics operate just fine in a society that recognizes adultery and fornication as "valid lifestyle choices."

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Jan 12, 2013 12:10:41 PM

  21. just goes to show you how idiotic the clergy can be--individually and, perhaps, even more so as a group. This is more alike than different from the condemnation of witches in Massachusetts Bay in the 17th Century.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Jan 12, 2013 12:28:54 PM

  22. actually Henry VIII had the right idea he executed or imprisoned most of the priest and bishops in ENgland. but i still seehow gay relates to that did some gay guy run into church and tell a priest marry us or i'll behead you?

    Posted by: walter | Jan 12, 2013 12:33:28 PM

  23. If only destroying Catholicism were so easy...

    Posted by: boone68 | Jan 12, 2013 12:45:45 PM

  24. Dear Experts: has anyone ever written a good historical novel about Henry's dismantling of the Catholic church - destruction of Abbey's, murder of priests, etc? Or what about a regular history of such events? I would love to read more and some of you are clearly experts. Thanks for the information.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jan 12, 2013 12:53:48 PM

  25. Catholicism and all the other Christian sects/cults along with Judaism, islam and all the other man made religions should be thrown in the ash can of history. They are all primitive beliefs with no basis in fact and they hold back human progress.

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 12, 2013 1:28:32 PM

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