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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    It would be interesting to ask all these people who say everyone should be allowed to live their lives how they choose, whether the support polygamy. After all it doesn't affect anyone except the willing parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    So the Bishop accused ministers of attempting to "redefine reality" and "dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage".
    Obviously he has a very different view of reality in the 21st century than most of us.
    And John Sentamu “insisted governments did not have the moral authority to redefine marriage” –Ironic as Catholics no longer have any moral authority at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    Who gave the governement the right to change the definition of marriage - it predates any form of government in this country. The state only got involved so it could tax it. As a priest my right to marry in the eyes of God has nothing to do with Cameron.s cronies. The church has offered marriage outside of state control before and can again, thus totally screwing up their tax and benefits systems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    There seems to be a lot of disagreement around this 'universally understood meaning of marriage.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    David Cameron and the majority of Cabinet ministers who took their oath of office on a bible and swore to God - you need to open that Bible and start obeying God and his direction instead of bowing to a pagan/secular godless social agenda.

    The sex organs male and female are clearly designed to fit together - this is the biological, respectful and God given order - stop this madness please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    How can a man, who's life has revolved around worshipping an imaginary person, have the intelligence to make a real informed judgement about anything?

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Since when does Catholicism hold any moral high ground, on anything? A quick look through the history of the Catholic Church destroys any notion that it does

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Add your comment...

    Marriage is a fool's game. But if they want it, so be it. But children? I've had gay friends for 40 years, but admit to having a problem with the idea of single-sex parents, tho I find it less undesirable if both are women. Prejudiced? Yes, obviously. And very willing to be proven wrong. But kids growing up without a close sample of both sexes just doesn't feel right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world". Oh dear, imagine the horror if the rest of the world looked at our nation and saw a land of tolerance, acceptance and equality, rather than outdated bigotry and irrational spite. Doesn't bear thinking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    Is it just me, but does religion appear to cause more hurt and pain on humanity than it solves?

    Religions preach love and tolerance. Is there any evidence of this in the 21st Century? No, I'm not against religion, just those who run them who have an over-inflated view of themselves as mere men.

    Anyone can join a religion - extremism/fundamentalism is the danger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Sodom was a city and not a culture. The Greek and Roman cultures spread civilization AND Christianity thoughout the known world - not an insignificant contribution for such decadent societies - and contributed to the development of Art, Music, Theatre, Literature, Science, Medicine, Philosophy, Mathematics - need I go on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Marriage is defined as a "covenant", covenants are not signed they are cut. The phrase is to "cut covenant". This is completed between a man and a women at the consumation of the marriage..

    Since it is not possible for two members of the same sex to cut covenant, it is not possible for them to be married.

    Make up some other term for it if you must, but the true definition will remain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    How *touching* to see all the christian concern for the safety & wellbeing of children from gay homes. Perhaps if certain areas of society weren't so bigoted and didn't run their lives according to a load of centuries-old rules designed only to keep the poor *in their place*, these kids would receive much better treatment from the people they encounter outside of their homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    24 Minutes ago
    Speaking as a Gay man with a loving partner of over 15 years, I personally do not wish to be married, for that is what straight couples do, I am not straight, I am Gay and proud of it, I do not want the title of 'married man'

    Well said, but what if we heterosexuals held our own Pride marches?

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.


  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    Marriage is a religious,cultural,legal term-if religions teachings dont accept same sex marriage thats pretty definite-marriage isnt the relevant term.Invent a new one.More attention should be paid to the substance of same sex relationships,less seeking to clothe them in the terminology of heterosexual relationships.Isnt that what all the Pride is about,celebration of difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    It's a free country. If a same sex couple want to make a commitment and the state legalises it then so be it. You can even call it 'marriage' if you like. But you'd be kidding yourself because it isn't the State that instituted marriage, but our Creator. Unpopular though that notion may be, truth is not mitigated by consensus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    Christians do not have a monopoly on marriage... Do you really think that every single person getting married today is a Christian? No. Marriage predates Christianity. A marriage recognised by the law does not need to have anything to do with Christianity. It's not as if gay people are a massive fan of outdated religions that persecute them anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    People of colour were allowed on buses once too, but they had to sit at the back of the bus, they should have been happy that they were on the bus in the first place no? was it not enough? Women couldn't vote at one time in the U.,K, how many equalities should I go without before I'm seen as acceptable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    I class myself as an atheist and have no religeuos belief and I may be misunderstanding this but if I am someone will say...I have no problem with same-sex marriages sorry civil partnerships but if a church or religion objects surely they have a right to refuse them in their places of worship?


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