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The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has courted Christmas controversy by describing the Government's plans for gay marriage as a "shambles".
Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said the Government had no mandate to push through same-sex marriage laws in England and Wales.
The comments were rejected by gay rights groups who questioned whether they were appropriate for the seasonal message. "We do think it's very sad that an archbishop should sully the day of the birth of Jesus by making what seem to be such uncharitable observations about other people," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.
During an interview with the BBC, Archbishop Nichols said of the gay marriage plans: "There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation.
"From a democratic point-of-view, it's a shambles. George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre, I think the process is shambolic."
Archbishop Nichols also used his Christmas Eve sermon to criticise the Government's plans.
He told the Westminster Cathedral congregation: "There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation."
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