In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, the most senior Catholic in Scotland, Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, wrote that gay marriage is a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. He has also suggested that same sex marriage will lead to three way marriages.
In the article Cardinal O’Brien wrote “On the surface, the question of same-sex marriage may seem to be an innocuous one. Civil partnerships have been in place for several years now, allowing same-sex couples to register their relationship and enjoy a variety of legal protections. When these arrangements were introduced, supporters were at pains to point out that they didn’t want marriage, accepting that marriage had only ever meant the legal union of a man and a woman.
“Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too. We were accused of scaremongering then, yet exactly such demands are upon us now.”
He goes on to say “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.
“Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.
“But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”
“In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.”
“Their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”
“There is no doubt that, as a society, we have become blasé about the importance of marriage as a stabilising influence and less inclined to prize it as a worthwhile institution.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s words are unacceptable and outrageous. His comments signify how out of touch certain areas of the church are. I believe that marriage should be about one thing and one thing alone – love. Whether that love is between a man and a woman, two men or two women it is still love.
The introduction of gay marriage would change things but for the better. Children in schools need to be taught that a loving relationship can be between any two people. They need to know that society accepts them.
Marriage has not been a purely religious institution for many years. Many heterosexual couples marry in non- religious ceremonies. Those who choose to have the union blessed in a church as part of their faith have that choice and that will remain. It is all a matter of choice, marriage is not for everyone no matter what their sexuality is. Each couple should have the right to choose if they get married.
In response to Cardinal O’Brien’s comments this weekend, The Times has published an editorial stating it is firmly in support of gay marriage.
An article in the paper today says: “When David Cameron told his party conference in October that he supported gay marriage because he was a Conservative, he may not have fully anticipated the range and force of the opposition that he would elicit. He knows now.
Despite “criticism from clerical and political opponents”, the paper says the prime minister’s position is “right” and equality would be a “just and wise reform”.
“It would enrich the institution of marriage, enhance social stability and expand the sum of human happiness. It is a cause that has the firm support of The Times.
“Opponents accuse the Government of undermining the foundations of marriage and abusing the power of the State. It was predictable that some Conservative backbenchers would deride the proposals as (in the words of one of them) “completely nuts”. But more influential figures are deploying similarly heated rhetoric.
“Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, yesterday branded the Government’s position a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has accused the Government of acting like a dictatorship. More temperately, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, maintains that changing the law to allow gay marriage would force unwanted change on the rest of the nation.
“If the critics were to restrict their case to stressing the institution of marriage as a support for stable families and societies, they would be making an important contribution to debate. And, though Cardinal O’Brien and Dr Sentamu have chosen to embellish their argument with absurd and inflammatory invective, Dr Williams, a Christian leader of great intellectual gifts, raises an issue that should give pause to those who support change.
“Reforms to marital law need to be informed by a sense of history, lest they give rise to unintended and damaging consequences. Only in the past generation has the principle of same-sex marriage gained widespread support. It is not a frivolous criticism that the legitimacy of marriage and the social cohesion that it provides might be damaged if the law is rewritten without regard for how most people understand an historic institution.
“The objection is misguided, even so. British society has in 45 years gone from decriminalising homosexuality to introducing civil partnerships. That legislative and cultural distance is immense. Only one of the reasons that such reforms have enhanced the quality of life is their expansion of personal liberty. Recognising the validity of homosexual relationships serves the public good too. It has encouraged gay couples to commit to enduring partnerships, in which many show a devotion, care and disinterested love that do far more to create ordered domesticity than government programmes could ever achieve.
The paper concludes: “Stable gay relationships are a part of national life. If marital law cannot accommodate them, the purpose of marriage will eventually be brought into question. Gay marriage will be a notable but still evolutionary social reform. And the marriage contract has changed historically to take account of shifting mores.
“Earlier ages considered that allowing women to own property was against God and nature. Changing the law abolished a gross injustice and thereby enhanced the legitimacy of marriage. It is time to lift another form of discriminatory treatment. Reforming the law would enrich the lives of same-sex couples who wish to marry in order to affirm by rite that they love and are loved in return. By that commitment, they will enrich the society and culture that their fellow citizens share.”
We can be assured that the comments The Times are more in touch with the majority of public opinion than those of Cardinal O’Brien.