In 2012, the government launched a consultation on changing the legal definition of marriage. Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith, President and Vice President of the Bishops' Conference respectively, wrote to Catholic parishioners to voice their opposition to any change in the law and to encourage participation in the consultation:
"Changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now. The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations."
Supporting the existing legal definition of marriage, they say:
"The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility. This pattern is, of course, affirmed by many other religious traditions. Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself."
The letter was read out at Masses throughout England and Wales on 10/11 March.