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The BBC's Peter Gould
"The bishop says children are part of God's will for marriage"
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Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali
"The creation and nurture of the family"
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The BBC's Andrew Verity
"Insensitive to couples who can't have children"
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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 14:51 GMT
Childless couples 'self-indulgent'
The bishop says children are not an optional extra
A senior Anglican bishop has attacked married couples who opt to remain childless, saying that producing children is their basic duty.

The Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, condemned those who chose not to have children as "self-indulgent".

It is very important for the Church to continue saying that having children and their nurture is a basic good of marriage and not an optional extra

Bishop of Rochester
Writing in a diocesan newspaper, Rochester Link, the bishop advised priests to look kindly on those whose marriages broke down because of the refusal of one partner to have a child.

He said that such people should be treated with the same sympathy as victims of "infidelity, desertion or cruelty".

The bishop told the BBC he was not making "dogmatic statements" on marriage but he repeated his views that couples had a duty to have a family.

It is "for the sake of wider society," he told BBC One's lunchtime news.

"Births are falling because of couples choosing not to have children - how will the welfare state cope in the future if there are elderly childless couples?"

The Right Rev Nazir-Ali is the chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's (HFEA) ethics committee.

The authority, set up in the UK in 1991, ensures that all UK treatment clinics offering in-vitro fertilisation, donor insemination, storing eggs, sperm or embryos, conform to professional standards.

HFEA also licenses and monitors all human embryo research.

'Optional extras'

The bishop - who has two unmarried sons in their 20s - wrote: "In an age of excessive self-regard and encouragement on every side to the new religion of the `me', it is very important for the Church to continue saying that having children and their nurture is a basic good of marriage and not an optional extra."

He said children should be regarded as "part of God's will for marriage" and the planning of a family should be seen as "part of our stewardship of creation".

Couples who chose not to have children for the sake of careers or travel would fail to flourish, he added.

"If their intention is never, ever to have children, they will find that the pleasures of career and travel will cloy after a while," he said.

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09 Sep 99 |  Education
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