BY ED WEST
SAME-SEX marriage would represent a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said, saying that it would have “huge implications” for society.
The Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews also accused government ministers of being “disingenuous” and of “staggering arrogance” over suggestions that churches would not be obliged to solemnise gay marriages.
In his article for the Scottish a il on Sunday the leader of Scotland’s Catholics said the Church would do everything it could to “protect” marriage after the Scottish government recently revealed it has begun gathering views on whether same-sex marriage should be made legal. A 14-week consultation asks if marriage in Scotland should be allowed for gay people through a civil or religious ceremony, whereas at the moment same-sex ceremonies cannot be conducted in a church or other religious premises.
Ministers and officials say they intend to meet key groups to discuss the proposals, which would ensure that religious organisations do not have to register same-sex marriages against their will.
But in his article the cardinal said that while “this may seem to be an innocuous proposition”, in fact it fulfilled what he had warned the public about when civil partnerships were introduced.
He said: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples through civil partnership and since the number of civil partnerships entered into has been falling steadily for the last three years, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.” The cardinal, who has been an outspoken critic of the Scottish government in the past, also pointed out that marriage had always been defined as being between a man and a woman, and that what was being proposed was a revolutionary step.
He said: “We should be clear that redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools and for wider society. 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?” He said that when “Scotland’s politicians suggest that they might jettison the established understanding of marriage and subvert the meaning set out in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as a relationship between men and women, the response seems meek and muted. Their madness is indulged.” The Cardinal added: “The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is crystal clear when it says that marriage is a right which applies to men and women, it goes on to state, that ‘the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. This universal truth is so self-evident that it shouldn’t need to be repeated.
“If the Scottish government attempts to demolish a universally recognised human right, it will have forfeited the trust which the nation, including many in the Catholic community, have placed in it, and its intolerance will shame Scotland in the eyes of the world.
“As an institution, marriage long pre-dates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by government and should not be changed by them, instead recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society they should act to protect and uphold it not attack or dismantle it.” The Church of Scotland has also expressed opposition to a change in the law and said that it was worried about the “speed with which the government is proceeding on this issue” believing the debate to be “patchy, underdeveloped and exclusive of both ordinary people and the religious community”.
Muslim leaders are also opposed, although five small religious communities are in favour.
Deputy Scottish prime minister Nicola Sturgeon has said all views would be listened to, but added that ministers “tended towards the initial view” that same-sex marriage should be introduced.
The government’s consultation closed this week. Although opinion polls show moderate support for legalising gay marriage, critics argue that polls have tended to use loaded questions.
Cardinal O’Brien and Ann Allen of the Church of Scotland spoke at a rally last week organised by a campaign group opposed to same-sex marriage. It followed the delivery of about 20,000 postcards to the parliament signed by those who do not want same-sex marriage to be legalised.
Adverts will also appear in advertisements and a poster van advertising the campaign group will drive around the streets of Edinburgh.
The petition calls for a referendum on the issue and expresses concerns about the wider implications of redefining marriage.