Cardinal Keith O’Brien, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Britain’s most senior Catholic, has been forced to defend comments he made saying that the British government’s legalizing of gay marriage is, in human rights terms, the same as legalizing slavery, saying he thinks it is “a very, very good example.”
The Cardinal faced a staunch challenge by presenter John Humphreys on BBC Radio 4′s the Today program on Monday, who said he felt that O’Brien’s words risked being “inflammatory” and devisive. O’Brien remained defiant however, saying that the comparison was ”a very, very good example” and that he was just “doing his best” to hand down Jesus’ teachings. You can listen to the full interview segment here, but a transcript of that particular part of the exchange appears below:
Humphrys: The idea of introducing the notion of something as grotesque as slavery, and I use the word there advisedly, the ultimate denial of a person’s human rights, in this context will itself prompt many people to think that this is grotesque, that your notion of it is grotesque.
O’Brien: I’m not saying that it’s grotesque, perhaps to some people it might appear grotesque.
Humphrys: But you’re a Cardinal! Should you be using that kind of language? Equating, even as remotely as this, the notion of gay relationships with slavery?
O’Brien: I think it’s a very, very good example as to what might happen in our own country at this present time and I feel I’ve duty, a responsibility to preach and to teach and this is one of the ways in which I do it.
Humphrys: Sorry, you lost me a little here, what might happen? Legalising slavery and the equivalent of homosexual marriage?
O’Brien: It is a perfectly good example as to what could happen in our own country if we go this way. I’m simply handing on the teaching of the Christian Church down through the years.
O’Brien goes on to say that countries and regions that have legalized same-sex marriage are breaching human rights because it goes against “natural law.” O’Brien also says that legalization of same-sex marriage would be the “thin end of the wedge”, saying: “Further aberrations would be taking place and society would be degenerating even further than it has into immorality” and that legalizing marriage equality is “changing the whole notion of what marriage and what a family is. Children have the right to have a mother and a father.”
The Cardinal, writing in an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph, made a number of baseless claims which we dissected for you here. The comment that has caused the most controversy relates to the Cardinal’s opinion on the British government’s promise of concessions to religious institutions so that the church would not have to solemnize or recognize such unions. Calling this “arrogant,” O’Keith said: “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’. Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?”
Cardinal O’Brien’s attack on marriage equality follows former Archbishop Lord Cary last month making a concerted, if fact-free, assault on the government’s plans to legalize same-sex marriage while helping to launch the campaign group the Coalition for Marriage, a religious conservative group quietly being championed by leaders of The Christian Institute and other such groups who want to prevent the government from legalizing marriage equality.