- More or less
The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
- Home News
- World News
- Parish Practice
- Letters Extra
- The living Spirit
- Historic ordination of first woman bishop in Church of England throws down unity challenge
- BBC shakes up religious programming in drive to cut costs that sees religion grouped with history
- Churches warn MPs not to rush into passing ‘irresponsible’ three-parent baby law
- Pope enlists volunteer barbers to give the homeless a haircut in St Peter's Square
- Tainted theology Fr Ashley Beck
- Churches should be safe places for those with mental health issues Katharine Welby-Roberts
- Did we have to lower our flags for the Saudi king? Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has told Catholic parliamentarians that they will not be refused communion if they voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
This move follows comments last month by the Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, who said that these politicians should be denied the Eucharist. He argued that instead of being a punitive measure it was “an act of mercy” that could bring individuals “back into communion with the Church.”
But an email from the bishops’ conference sent last month to parliamentarians and seen by The Tablet, said: “There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs or peers who voted in favour of same-sex marriage legislation last year.”
The email was authorised by the bishops’ conference, whose president is the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.
When he made the remarks about refusing politicians communion, Bishop Egan said he would need to act with his fellow bishops and he called on his confreres to debate the issue. But a spokesman for the bishops’ conference said at the time there were “no plans” to discuss the matter at their next bi-annual meeting due to take place soon after Easter.
The email, written by Greg Pope, the Head of Parliamentary Relations for the bishops’ conference and a former Labour MP, added: “I can see that there is potential for distress to be caused within the Catholic community at Westminster over this.”
Catholic MPs across the political spectrum have reacted with anger to Bishop Egan’s call. These include Conor Burns, a Conservative MP who voted for same-sex marriage and whose Bournemouth West seat lies in the bishop’s Portsmouth diocese. Mr Burns, who is co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, says he now feels unable to receive communion in his local parish. It is understood that he has written to Cardinal Nichols requesting a meeting to discuss the matter.
Forty-seven out of at least 82 Catholic MPs voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill when it was passed in the House of Commons last year.