A quarter of Roman Catholic priests in England and Wales have signed a letter claiming gay marriage is the biggest threat to religious freedoms since the Protestant Reformation.
The letter, expressing fears that acts of practising faith will be limited, is one of the largest open letters of its type ever written, signed by 1,054 priests as well as 13 bishops and abbots. They say same-sex marriage will threaten religious freedoms and may even lead to Roman Catholics being excluded from jobs.
Their fear is that Roman Catholics, believing in the traditional meaning of marriage, would effectively be excluded from some jobs - in the same way, they say, as Roman Catholics were barred from many professions from the Reformation until the 19th century.
The letter says: “After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.”
The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rev Philip Egan, one of the signatories, said: “I am very anxious that when we are preaching in church or teaching in our Catholic schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it, that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.”