Pope Benedict XVI addressing the Catholic bishops of England and Wales earlier this week encouraged them to stand firm against proposed legislation that he said opposes the natural law, and to present the Catholic Church's moral teaching in the face of the acceptance of moral relativism.
Your country Pope Benedict said,
is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth.
Pope Benedict also reminded the Bishops that in a society in which many opinions are expressed that it is only the revealed truth that sets people free.
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.
Pope Benedict’s statement is being interpreted by the British media as being aimed at the current Equality Bill that the Catholic bishops have warned will force churches to violate their religious beliefs on homosexuality, marriage and the priesthood. But others have suggested that the pope was also reminding the Bishops that they must be orthodox in their teaching of Catholic faith and morals
SPUC national director John Smeaton in his BLOG on the issue wrote,
What I have yet to see is a reference to the bishops' 2005 Diversity and Equality guidelines. These guidelines no longer appear on the bishops' conference website, but are listed and replaced with a holding page informing visitors that new guidelines are being drafted to take account of recent legislative changes. The guidelines are a policy statement on British government and EU law on the equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, and bisexuals and transsexuals.
One result of the previous legislation was that many Catholic adoption agencies were either closed down or cut their links with the Catholic Church because they were refused exemptions from anti-discrimination rules that forced them to consider homosexual couples as potential parents.