In a pastoral letter to be read at his diocese's Masses today, Bishop Philip Tartaglia clarified Church teaching in face of the Equality Act 2006, which "will force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples and thereby go against the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church."
The Equality Act generated wide debate in the United Kingdom, and a united response from Christian and other religious leaders.
"For the first time in the modern era in this country, the Catholic Church is facing the prospect of being forced to act against her faith and against her convictions, or else face legal challenge and possible prosecution," Bishop Tartaglia explained.
"This is a deeply disturbing turn of events and it is not yet clear what kind of precedent this may set for other areas of the pastoral and social activity of the Catholic Church," he added.
The prelate encourages the faithful to "defend ourselves by all legitimate democratic means," and write public officials to make the point that "regulations deriving from equality legislation are unacceptable if they damage religious freedom and the right of conscience."