Cardinal: Public needs a moral spokesperson to voice their values

THE leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland has called for a "moral spokesperson" for the general public to be appointed.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he believed that in debates on ethical issues, such as embryo research and the family, somebody should represent the views of wider society.

He made the comments during a meeting with Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray as part of a profile on him for BBC Alba.

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Cardinal O'Brien also said he wanted a "more moral society".

He said: "Basic morality must continue to be taught and handed on to our people in whatever way possible – by our politicians, by our church leaders, by anybody in positions of authority – to say we want a more moral society, we want family life as we used to have family life with one man, one woman and children, not the sort of situations which are legal at this present time."

However, Glasgow University ethics expert Professor Sheila McLean doubted the feasibility of a "moral spokesperson".

"I don't think people can or should speak for other people's morality and there are plenty of people with opinions, including the cardinal, so I don't know where you would find somebody to speak for a moral majority," she said.

Prof McLean said that some countries had created bio-ethic committees to debate issues and publish their results, and that Unesco – the United Nations body which campaigns for good international relations through the sharing of information – had encouraged such bodies, but doubted the value of their research.

She added: "I think if we need anything, we need a better educated public on the issues so they can decide for themselves what they think.

"But it isn't necessarily the case just because the majority think one thing, that makes them right."

A spokesman for Mr Gray, said of the meeting with the cardinal: "The Labour leader did meet with Cardinal O'Brien and had a private conversation, during which they discussed embryology research, which he disagrees with the cardinal, in that he supports it.

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"However, he understands fully why Cardinal O'Brien believes in discussing moral issues in public life and fully supports his right to do so."

During the programme, which is due to be broadcast on 13 April, the cardinal also reveals that he was initially rejected from entering the priesthood on two occasions because he was found to suffer from a heart murmur.

His predecessor Cardinal Gordon Gray advised him to go to university first, stating that if he could survive that experience, then it would be likely he could survive the seminary.

In March last year, Cardinal O'Brien was fitted with a pacemaker for the condition after suffering dizzy spells prior to a Palm Sunday service.