My Lords, 60 years ago, when I was 12 years old, I was prepared for confirmation. In those days, confirmation was taken very seriously. We had to learn the whole catechism by heart and be able to answer the questions in it correctly, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, not just in our own words. We learnt about the sacraments and what a sacrament was: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. We learned that the two most important sacraments necessary for salvation, ordained by Christ himself, were baptism and holy communion. However, there were five other sacraments, not mentioned in the catechism but listed in article 25 of the 39 articles of religion, of which the church seems to have forgotten the existence. They are: confirmation, penance, holy orders, holy matrimony and unction. All these five visible ceremonies have a spiritual dimension.
I contend that it is not within the remit of government or of the European Union to interfere with the spiritual concerns of the church. I bounced these beliefs off my friendly local bishop and he agreed with me, but I am not sure whether the right reverend Prelates in your Lordships’ House do or not.