Cardinal seems to have lost perspective
In calling for a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage Cardinal Keith O’Brien appears, to me at least, to be wanting his cake and eat it (your report, 16 July.
The attendances at Christian churches in Scotland are reliably suggested to be limited to one third of the population; that is to say, more than 66 per cent of the people do not attend any church.
Of the 33 per cent who do attend churches, what percentage attend Catholic churches? Nonetheless, it seems that Cardinal O’Brien wishes to saddle the entire nation with a referendum irrespective of their religious views or lack thereof.
For Cardinal O’Brien to suggest, as he does, that this issue is as worthy of a referendum as the matter of Scottish independence is, I believe, a loss of perspective on his part. It further strikes me that Cardinal O’Brien is ignoring the fact that the proposed legislation will allow any religious group the right to refuse to solemnise such marriages. This would, of course, apply to his church.
This right is broadly analogous to the rights the Catholic faith has and exercises in relation to its communicants who divorce. It is quite possible that the Catholic Church would be joined in refusing to solemnise same-sex marriages by a majority of the other Christian churches and other faiths. If that is the case then so be it; that is their unquestioned right. However, in a society that has recognised civil partnerships for quite some time, it seems strange to me that we should refuse to allow a religious grouping the right to celebrate same-sex marriages if that is their choice.
I find it hard to take seriously Cardinal O’Brien’s opposition to a law putting gay marriage on equal footing with the customary form of marriage involving heterosexuals. He may have encouraged Catholics in Scotland to participate in the official consultation exercise, and I note his claim that the issue for him now exceeds in importance the looming referendum on independence.
But to me, a supporter like him of maintaining the long-standing convention that marriage is primarily seen as underpinning a society based on heterosexual norms (but fully tolerant of gays in a range of civic concerns), I think he is bluffing.
I just cannot imagine that he is serious in trying to uphold a long-standing Catholic tradition when he gives his backing to breaking up knowledge of the story of Catholicism in Scotland.
As the postgraduate history students (Letters, 17 July) point out, understanding of the contribution of Catholicism to Scotland’s story will become “a poor sideshow” because of the decision to break up the central collection in Edinburgh and disperse it to no fewer than nine diocesan centres as well as Aberdeen University.
Church leaders, gripped by hubris and a parochial mentality, ready to confine knowledge of Scottish Catholicism to the shadows in a way that would surely make John Knox and Henry VIII smile, are surely the last people equipped to speak out with any credibility about the need to prevent the ceremony of marriage being dismantled in order to appease political correctness.
If the cardinal restores order to archives which were painstakingly united in the time of his predecessor Cardinal Gray, perhaps he will be listened to with greater conviction on issues of undoubted moral significance in today’s disjointed times.
Emeritus Professor of Politics
University of Bradford
Cardinal O’Brien muddies the water extensively in his comment piece on same-sex marriage. The terms “husband” and “wife” will not be swept from marriage laws.
As it happens, the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 refers to “the parties to the marriage”, not to husband and wife, and that will not change.
But obviously people will continue to refer to married couples as husband and wife – in fact, many same-sex couples will want to call each other husband or wife also.
Catholic schools will remain free to teach the Church’s view on same-sex marriage, just as they can now teach the Catholic view of divorce and abortion, both of which are legally available. Under current equality law, it is unlawful for schools to discriminate against or harass pupils because they are gay, or because their parents are.
It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against or harass employees because they are gay, and for businesses to discriminate against or harass customers because they are gay.
That has been the case for many years, and won’t change.
But religious organisations including the Catholic Church are exempted from these rules, and that won’t change either.
I am sure the Cardinal is not seeking a new right for schools, employers or businesses to discriminate against or harass people because they happen to be gay.
The Church itself will have the right to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, and so their introduction will have no practical impact on the freedoms of the Cardinal or any of his colleagues and their parishioners.
I have supported the idea of Scottish independence for most of my adult life and was a member of Nicola Sturgeon’s campaign team in Govan in 1997.
Less than a year ago the independence so many of us have fought so hard for seemed a very real possibility. Now it seems defeat is likely to be snatched from the jaws of victory.
I predict one thing with absolute certainty should the SNP’s “gay marriage” proposals go ahead. On Thursday, 5 May, 2016 Nicola Sturgeon will lose her Scottish Parliament seat of Glasgow Southside and with it her succession to the SNP leadership.
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