Family policy should be a higher priority than Brexit for the Government, the Bishop of Shrewsbury will say during a homily at the weekend.
Bishop Mark Davies will say that Brexit negotiations were a “small issue” compared with the urgency of repairing marriage and family life in Britain and he will suggest that policies in support of marriage should be at “the very top” of public concerns.
“There are currently many anxieties around Brexit; yet, even this seems a small issue when compared with the human and social crisis now assailing the institution of marriage and impacting upon the future of the family. This is an issue which should surely be raised to the very top of our public concerns.”
A recent poll by the Centre for Social Justice found that more than 75 per cent of teenagers aspired to be married. Bishop Davies is expected to say that low rates of marriage and high rates of divorce are among trends that undermined “the well-being of society and the health of the family”.
The advance text said: “Generations to come will surely be surprised that we failed as a society, and sometimes even as Christians, to actively propose and defend marriage as it came from the hands of the Creator.
“We cannot be unaware of the disturbing trends. The number of couples entering marriage has reached historic lows; half of marriages end in divorce increasingly facilitated by the state; and, according to the predictions of the Marriage Foundation, only half of today’s 20-year-olds will ever enter marriage, a number which falls to less than 24 per cent among those on lower incomes.”
Bishop Davies will express concern that the Government may “further undermine” marriage as it considers proposals to reform marriage registration for the first time since 1837, including a right of heterosexuals to register relationships as civil partnerships instead of marriages.
The bishop will say that until very recently the state “recognised the bond of marriage and with great reverence sought to protect it as vital to the well-being of society and the health of the family”.
“If the present Government is seeking the greatest shake-up of marriage registration laws for 200 years then it should surely be seeking to strengthen marriage, not to further undermine it,” the advance text said.
Bishop Davies is expected to preach the homily on Saturday during the annual diocesan Mass in celebration of marriage at the Church of Our Lady and St Christopher in Romiley, near Stockport.
He will remind members of the congregation – who this year will celebrate landmark wedding anniversaries – that the Church has for 20 centuries defended and proposed the “greatness of marriage” as a “path to holiness, for the perfecting of human love and as the foundation of the family”.
Catholic teaching on marriage was clear, deriving directly from the words of Jesus Christ himself, the bishop will say, adding that the Church therefore “possesses no authority to change or compromise the promises on which marriage rests”.