The old joke about Anglican episcopal consecrations involving the removal of the candidate's backbone has in some ways never seemed more apposite.
However, many bishops, of course, to do them justice, are also concerned not to make statements which could be construed as pastorally insensitive to gay people under their care. But there are surely ways of defending the Church's sacramental theology of marriage and traditional Christian societal norms without being insensitive or insulting towards those who cannot personally experience them.
Here Cardinal Cormac speaks for many who are not in full communion with the See of Peter:
"SIR – Charles Moore (Comment, December 15) sets out with admirable clarity why marriage is and should remain a unique and binding contract between a man and a woman, open in principle to the possibility of generating children. That in the Christian Church it is also a sacrament gives it a special value for Christian believers; but that in no way detracts from its character as an institution of central importance for the welfare of society as a whole, to believers and unbelievers alike.Redefining marriage as simply a contract between individuals irrespective of their sex, without regard either to its procreative function or to the complementarity of the relationship between man and woman, would be an abuse of language. More important, it would weaken marriage by diminishing its implications and its significance. That, and not homophobia, is why many people outside what Mr Moore calls the culturally dominant "minority" are opposed to the Government's proposal – and why more than 600,000 people have signed a petition against it. The state has the right to oversee the administration and legal aspects of marriage, but it has never been accepted that the state can dictate to individuals and society itself what marriage should mean to us. It is clear that many problems would arise if the legislation as now tabled were to be implemented. In the run-up to the last election, David Cameron led us to believe that the strengthening of marriage as an institution was one of his important objectives; and the Conservative Party's manifesto, which made no mention of "gay marriage", included a proposed tax break for married couples. Nothing has been heard of the latter proposal, and instead of action to strengthen marriage we have the proposal to abandon the traditional understanding of marriage on the basis of a "consultation" which explicitly excluded the possibility of a negative result. Protestations that this is all fundamentally "conservative" ring a bit hollow. It is difficult not to wonder how far the Prime Minister is someone whose steadiness of purpose can be relied on. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster London W4 "