THE leader of Berkshire's Catholics has hit out at Government plans for same sex marriage.

The Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Philip Egan, whose diocese includes Reading and Berkshire, said the proposals will "undermine one of the key foundations of society".

He said: "Such a change is of immense significance.

"By this change, the Prime Minister is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.

"To 'extend marriage to gay people', he intends to impose the will of a tiny minority on the vast majority.

"He will pervert authentic family values, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations."

The Government announced this week that churches and religious organisations in England and Wales would be able to opt in to holding ceremonies under plans which are due to be revealed before the next general election in 2015 - but the Church of England would be banned from conducting same-sex ceremonies under the plans because it stated strong opposition.

Plans to legalise same-sex marriage have divided the Conservative Party and more than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea, although proposals outline that no religious organisations or ministers will be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Bishop Egan, who was ordained in September, added: "The institution of marriage has its ups and downs, but will we ever forget that it was the leader of the Conservative Party who finally destroyed marriage as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between a man and a woman?"

David Cameron said this week he was a "massive supporter" of marriage but added: "I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution."

Reading West MP Alok Sharma said: "In many respects civil partnerships are recognised by the legal system in the same manner as civil marriage and the introduction of same-sex marriage would therefore not, in my view, amount to a revolution in the law.

"However, I will never vote for legislation which forces religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages and I will seek guarantees on this point from the Government."