Catholic cardinal criticises gay marriages plan

Cardinal Keith O'Brien Cardinal Keith O'Brien has a reputation as a robust defender of traditionalist Christian teaching

Related Stories

The government's plans for gay marriage have been criticised by the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Britain.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the plans were a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right".

He said the idea of redefining marriage, which David Cameron has said he supports, would "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world".

He said it was wrong to deliberately deprive a child of a mother or father.

'Universally understood'

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Cardinal O'Brien said: "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.

"Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father."

He added: "Imagine for a moment that the government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that 'no one will be forced to keep a slave'.

Start Quote

We're not seeking to change religious marriage and we're not seeking to impose it on religious groups”

End Quote Michael Moore Scottish Secretary

"Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?"

Cardinal O'Brien has become the latest of several senior clergy to denounce what he calls the "madness" of the government's backing for marriage to include homosexual couples.

He accused ministers of attempting to "redefine reality" and "dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage".

In January the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, also insisted governments did not have the moral authority to redefine marriage.

'Wish to commit'

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the government's consultation on gay marriage was not aimed at forcing religious groups to endorse same-sex marriages.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "We're not seeking to change religious marriage and we're not seeking to impose it on religious groups.

"What we are saying is that where a couple love each other and they wish to commit to each other for their life then they should be able to have a civil marriage irrespective of their sexual orientation."

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, a former equalities minister, said she thought it was right to have same-sex marriages.

She added: "I don't want anybody to feel that this is a licence for whipping up prejudice.

"What you're talking about is individual people and their personal relationships, their love for each other and their wanting to be in a partnership or getting married. I think we should support that."

Margot James, the first openly lesbian Conservative MP, accused the cardinal of "scaremongering".

She said: "I think it is a completely unacceptable way for a prelate to talk.

"I think that the government is not trying to force Catholic churches to perform gay marriages at all. It is a purely civil matter."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights organisation Stonewall, said: "When you read the insulting tone to which Cardinal O'Brien descends on marriage you sense an argument already lost.

"If Roman Catholics don't approve of same-sex marriage, they should make sure they don't get married to someone of the same sex."

Consultation launch

But back-bench Conservative MP Peter Bone said he did not know where the government's mandate to pursue the issue came from.

Start Quote

I'm in favour of civil partnerships and equality. But, you can not in my view redefine marriage on a whim”

End Quote Peter Bone Conservative MP

"It wasn't in our manifesto. It wasn't in Labour's manifesto. It wasn't in the Liberal manifesto.

"Nobody in my constituency before this row has ever come up to me and said this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with.

"It came completely out of the blue and it should certainly not be put before the next general election."

Mr Bone said he believed marriage could not be anything other than the union of a man and a woman.

"It's rather like saying a pear is an apple - it just can't be. It's just really the definition," he said.

"I'm in favour of civil partnerships and equality. But, you can not in my view redefine marriage on a whim."

Mr Cameron publicly supported gay marriage at last year's Conservative Party conference, and the Home Office said last week the government believed a loving and committed couple should "have the option of a civil marriage irrespective of their sexual orientation".

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation later this month on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples.

She has said she wants to challenge the view that the government does not have the right to change marriage traditions.

"It is the government's fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future, not stay silent where it has the power to act and change things for the better," she said.

The Scottish government has held a consultation process north of the border and received more than 50,000 responses.

Many church leaders believe gay marriage would represent a further significant step in marginalising traditional religious values in society.

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples, but the law does not allow such unions to be referred to as marriages.

A new law allowing civil partnership ceremonies to be conducted in places of worship in England and Wales came into effect last year.

The Church of England has said it will not allow its churches to be used for civil partnership ceremonies unless the full general synod gives its consent.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    The Catholic Chruch recently lost this battle in America's 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (Perry v. Brown CA9 2012). The Court held that the People of California could not, even by constitutional referendum, remove the right of the LGBT community to call their committed relationships "marriages" merely because of "private [moral] disapproval." Marriage is a civil law and not a religious institution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    Why is deemed to be unacceptable to crticise anything to do with homosexuality but bashing people whi have religous faith is deemed more than acceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Mr. O'Brien, what if your straw man wanted to marry Rush Limbaugh's?

  • Comment number 706.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    669 carrie foster

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.


    And I bet if it was put to a nationwide referendum, it would be defeated.

    >>> Almost three quarters of the 1,136 people polled by Ipsos Mori agreed that religion should not influence public policy, and 92% agreed the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal beliefs.

    This is entirely about the law being applied equally. So it would not be defeated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    "427. dm8192
    The whole point of marriage is to define and protect a relationship within which children can be born and raised, creating what used to be known as a "family". Homosexuals and lesbian's can't reproduce, so there is no point in them "marrying"."

    Heterosexual couples in which either one or both are infertile can't reproduce. What's the point of such people marrying?

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    The issue is not religion or anyone's supposed homophobia. It is about a small minority looking to redefine a well established cultural 'norm' to fit their wishes, and then to force it on the majority. For no real reason too as no one has an answer to how not being described as 'married' harms anyone.

    Put this to a referendum and I'd guess the result would be no, but who is going to do that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    687. Bill
    As always, it’s the libertarian-type comments that seem to go to the top of the ratings. Most ordinary people are opposed to same-sex marriage,
    Can you provide proof for that statement please? Also, are you a Christian? If so, then it's hardly surprising you believe in pro-gay, anti-Christian minorities being actively encouraged within the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    Ah yes, because marriage is defined as 'marriage within the catholic church' right? I mean no-one else in the world gets married? What a poor, self-absorbed man with medieval views. It is not within the right of any church to define how human beings can live their lives and least orf all a church stuffed with individuals who fear and loathe relationships with the opposite sex.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    Given the Roman Catholic church's position on defending paedophile priests against the law, in my opinion this man's bile carries no moral authority.

    Additionally, those who talk about marriage as being one man and one woman for life are ignoring the fact of divorce.

  • Comment number 698.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    The law of the land, of necessity, must be broader than the views of any faith or other special interest group, because those laws must be formed so that we all can live our lives as we choose, provided that we do not harm others. So Jews may avoid pork, Muslims alchohol, Mormons coffee, gays may marry other gays... and I, a Mormon, can sit down to my pork roast!

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    We are all free to make our choices, but there is no earthly reason why my choices should be regarded as second-class in comparison to another's.

    All choices are subjective and have no intrinsic value - unless the law chooses to discriminate.

    A wedding in church might be sacred, but a register office marriage? It is different from a Civil Union, though, from which heterosexuals are barred.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    If the catholic church thinks marriage is such an exalted state and should be for the "chosen few" and not all human beings who live in this country, then explain why so many who marry make a mockery of their vows and are allowed to divorce!
    How can you say heterosexuals are so much better when they deliberately make vows in front of god and so many go on to break them?
    Humans are humans!

  • Comment number 694.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Let the church run the church. And the government run the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    I find it increasingly unacceptable that most religious leaders sit in their ivory towers and decree the terms of the religion that they are representing whilst holding an ever diminishing understanding of society as a whole. Its sad tnat the positive aspects of a religion are lost as these people increasingly marginalise not only themselves, but also the religion as a whole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    I despair at the leftist infiltration of BBC comment boards, oh and of course the fact that me (a nationalist) has been put in moderation queue for any comment I want to make by this anti-freedom of speech marxist organisation.

    Of course marriage should just be between man and women, I don't have much of a problem with gays wanting a civil partnership, but not marriage.


  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Agree with 621.

    A civil union would be the way forward for everyone for legal purposes? If you have a particular religious belief, then you can have a religious 'blessing' on your union if you choose - unless you are excluded of course!

    My mother was catholic and I had to pay her local priest in advance to attend her funeral. At the funeral he said he didn't know her, thus denied her dignity...


Page 15 of 50


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.