Currently Catholic couples in Jersey of the British Channel Islands can get their marriage ratified under both their religion and civil laws in one ceremony but with the rules regarding marriage changing in the island this may not be possible in the future.
Monsignor Nicholas France noted that the proposals to legalise same-sex weddings could result in the Jersey’s Catholic church giving up its privileges to perform a joint civil and religious ceremony available to it under the current law.
If this happens, then Catholic couples would need to have a civil wedding with a registrar before undergoing a religious ceremony in accordance with Catholic canon law.
Appearing before a Scrutiny panel hearing related to the proposed changes to the marriage law, Mgr France noted that the civil meaning of the term ‘marriage’ was changing making incompatible with Christian teachings.
He also stated that he was in discussions with the Bishop of Portsmouth , under which Jersey falls under to decide if the church should opt out of performing civil ceremonies. He added that such a move could come into force by February or March next year.
The States approved gay marriage in 2015 but the amendments necessary to enact it had been delayed. Scrutiny is currently considering it further review
Chief Minister Ian Gorst’s proposals for legalizing same sex marriage include provisions called ‘quadruple lock’, under which religious organisations and officials not in favour of same sex marriage do not have to marry such couples.
Mgr France stated in his address to the panel that “a series of new questions” now needed to be answered with the proposals. He stated that the Church should not claim the right to “carry out the civil side because there are elements of the civil marriage laws that we don’t or can’t agree with.”
He noted while the Catholic Church “respect gay people and respect the laws’ the changed legal definition of marriage was not compatible with the Catholic faith, noting that marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman.
He pointed out that the practice of having a civil wedding followed by a wedding according to religious laws was common practice in Europe and it worked well there.
Mgr France also revealed in the panel hearing that he had not been consulted while the draft law was being prepared.
He stated that there had been one meeting “around two years ago” with Senator Gorst after the Chief Minister revealed his intention to introduce proposals legalizing same-sex marriage but had not been involved subsequently. He also admitted that he had not read the law.
The law changing marriage rules is expected to be tabled before the States for debate and approval on January 30.