This is a time for passionate language; Cardinal O’Brien and Dr Sentamu are right to speak as they do about gay ‘marriage’

It would be a disaster almost impossible to reverse: this is the time to put a stop to it

By William Oddie

from ‘The Catholic Herald

This is a time for passionate language; Cardinal O’Brien and Dr Sentamu are right to speak as they do about gay ‘marriage’

Cardinal O’Brien has been accused of ‘absurd and inflammatory rhetoric’ (PA photo)

The controversy over gay “marriage” is increasingly becoming a defining struggle in the culture wars of our times. Those who are opposed to it believe that if legally enacted it would further destabilise both true marriage and – because, in the old cliché, marriage is one of the building-blocks of society – the whole of our social order too. Those who are in favour of it believe, in the words of the Times newspaper, that “so far from damaging marriage, expanding it to same-sex couples shores it up. Stable gay relationships are a part of national life. If marital law cannot accommodate them, the purpose of marriage will eventually be brought into question. Gay marriage will be a notable but still evolutionary social reform. And the marriage contract has changed historically to take account of shifting mores.”

It looks increasingly as though, in part at least, this question is emerging as a struggle between the religious and the secularisers – and (to complicate a complicated situation further), this latter category, of course, includes many who are secularising members of existing religious communities. It goes without saying that Muslims are against it: but so are Catholics (Cardinal O’Brien on Sunday) and Anglicans (Dr Sentamu, Archbishop of York) and even, in his usual nuanced way, Dr Rowan Williams. This isn’t, of course, a cut and dried division; Quakers, liberal Jews and others, are all for it. But the general trend is there, clearly enough.

The least that can be said is that this proposed innovation is not one which has general and whole-hearted support, and for that reason alone it should be opposed, not only by those who are against it but by those who are in favour of it in principle. The Times newspaper, I was sorry to see this morning, has a leader generally supporting it: but this includes a warning against precipitate action, preceded, however, by a crack at two Christian leaders opposed to it for their supposedly intemperate language:

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, yesterday branded the Government’s position a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has accused the Government of acting like a dictatorship. More temperately, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, maintains that changing the law to allow gay marriage would force unwanted change on the rest of the nation.

If the critics were to restrict their case to stressing the institution of marriage as a support for stable families and societies, they would be making an important contribution to debate. And, though Cardinal O’Brien and Dr Sentamu have chosen to embellish their argument with absurd and inflammatory invective, Dr Williams, a Christian leader of great intellectual gifts, raises an issue that should give pause to those who support change. Reforms to marital law need to be informed by a sense of history, lest they give rise to unintended and damaging consequences. Only in the past generation has the principle of same-sex marriage gained widespread support. It is not a frivolous criticism that the legitimacy of marriage and the social cohesion that it provides might be damaged if the law is rewritten without regard for how most people understand an historic institution.

The Times goes on to say that “the objection is misguided, even so” and continues in words I have quoted above. And there is that accusation of “absurd and inflammatory invective”; the implication being that those in favour of the change are civilised and reasonable and those strongly against it are extremists, even fanatics. This is the kind of accusation which despite the fact that I left the county of my birth as a young man, brings out all the Yorkshireman in me (you can take the lad out of Yorkshire but you can’t etc) and prompts me to rejoin that that was clearly written by some right mealy-mouthed southern smoothy-chop milksop (an American would no doubt add “pantywaist”).

Clear, strong language isn’t necessarily fanatical. Take Dr Sentamu’s accusation that to impose this legislation would be acting like a dictator. This is what he actually said, off the cuff but absolutely on the button: “Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are. We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.” Why is that “absurd”? How is that any different from what the Times more suavely accepted, that “It is not a frivolous criticism that the legitimacy of marriage and the social cohesion that it provides might be damaged if the law is rewritten without regard for how most people understand an historic institution”?

That’s just what Cardinal O’Brien argued, too: and it’s worthwhile to consider exactly why he did argue that gay marriage would be “a grotesque subversion of a universal human right”; note exactly where the language of human rights comes from here:

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?

If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?

Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed? Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?

In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.

“Tradition,” said Chesterton, “is the democracy of the dead.” Every generation has supposed itself to be wiser than all its predecessors; and succeeding generations have then rejected their immediate predecessors and as often as not either returned to what they swept aside or at least bitterly regretted that it is impossible to do so, since not every mistake can be reversed. Some blunders are very difficult to reject: a new institution of this kind, once established, is all but impossible to suppress, however dire have been the consequences of establishing it in the first place.

Gay “marriage” is quite simply against the grain of human history and human nature. How can it be denied that true marriage, that between a man and a woman, would be immeasurably emblematically weakened if this travesty were to be enacted into law? Cardinal O’Brien has been traduced for the strength of his feelings on this matter: but what kind of man would he be, what kind of Christian leader, having seen so clearly what a disaster the proposed legislation would visit on our society, if his feelings were more “moderate”, or his language less passionate? As a Catholic, I am proud of him: now, it is time for the Catholic position to be spelled out just as unambiguously south of the border.

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37 Responses to This is a time for passionate language; Cardinal O’Brien and Dr Sentamu are right to speak as they do about gay ‘marriage’

  1. toadspittle says:

    .

    A great many people might well look at the picture above and say…
    “Who is that silly old man in a long red dress and with an oversized walking stick, to tell me whether “Gay Marriage” is sinful or not?”

    Not Toad, of course.

  2. kathleen says:

    Toad, in that case you could tell them that the venerable cardinal is dressed like that because he is just that, a Cardinal! If he were dressed in a layman’s clothes we would not recognise him as being one, would we? He dresses in red as red is the colour of blood; martyrs shed their blood for the Catholic Faith, and every Cardinal must be prepared to do just that if necessary. The ‘walking stick’ is in reality the hooked staff of a shepherd, called a crozier I believe. A Cardinal is a Shepherd of a large flock, a reflection of the Good Shepherd.

  3. Jerry says:

    All things Toad didn’t already know I’m sure ;-)

  4. toadspittle says:

    .

    “He (the Cardinal) dresses in red as red is the colour of blood; “

    Thanks for putting us right yet again, Kathleen. There are those who might think the merry old prelate was dressed in red because he is a United fan, or is inordinately fond of tomato ketchup, or drugs made from poppies – and is wearing a dress because the Church doesn’t like lesbians, and doesn’t permit women priests.

    Not Toad, of course.

    Toad also knows a couple of real shepherds (one called Jesus – he kids you not!) and their comments on the mental capacity of their charges is not complimentary.
    They think very highly of their dogs, though. (presumably the equivalent of parish priests.)
    And the shepherd’s function is to ensure his flock comes under the butcher’s knife in as edible and tender condition as possible.

    Much like a cardinal, Toad supposes!

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    He dresses in red as red is the colour of blood; martyrs shed their blood for the Catholic Faith, and every Cardinal must be prepared to do just that if necessary.

    It is the colour of the fire of the Holy Spirit — though it does have some secondary symbolic meanings, such as the one that you allude to

  6. toadspittle says:

    .
    .
    Beautiful day. Summer on the Meseta. And, during a 3-hour dogwalk, Toad came up with a thought re the Great Gay Marriage Debate, on which the fate of civilisation hangs (it says here.)
    He offers it diffidently and humbly to his friends on CP&S.

    Toad realises he knows, for sure, that at least eight of his “gay” friends will be made less unhappy if they are allowed to “marry.”
    He can’t think of anyone among his many “straight” friends (plus himself, of course) whose lives will be made one iota less happy if that happens.
    So…

    (P.S. Might it be possible that the Cardinal nurses a secret and boyish passion for fire engines? many do)

  7. kathleen says:

    And the shepherd’s function is to ensure his flock comes under the butcher’s knife in as edible and tender condition as possible.”

    Can’t be Good shepherds then, can they Toad? ;-)

    BTW, you say you know eight “gays” ?? Well if, as they say according to surveys, only 1% or 1.5% of men are truly homosexual, you either know a lot of people, or you move in some strange circles! :-)

  8. kathleen says:

    “(Red) is the colour of the fire of the Holy Spirit ”

    Thanks Jabba – I didn’t know this was the reason.

    See Toad, your pal Kathleen doesn’t always get it ‘right’!

    Beautiful warm sunny Spring day in England too BTW :-)

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    BTW, you say you know eight “gays” ?? Well if, as they say according to surveys, only 1% or 1.5% of men are truly homosexual, you either know a lot of people, or you move in some strange circles!

    The statistics provided by studies usually tend to conflate different variables — including crucially, the sex of the person… (for political correctness “reasons”)

    The statistics are that around 1% women are not heterosexual, and 2% men. (which is BTW sufficient in itself to demonstrate that homosexuality has genetic mutation as **A** primary cause (among several), because genetic mutation is inherently more common among males than females) Average : about 1.5%

    However, these are % figures in the *general* population — and the base % is locally variable. Go to the Marais in Paris, or the gay ghettos in San Francisco or Barcelona or wherever — and, indeed, more generally simply compare % between rural and urban environments, and these % will usually be higher, and sometimes even *much* higher.

    The % are also very likely to be variable depending on population factors such as over- or under- population — in the animal kingdom anyway, occurrences of homosexual acts increase in a manner directly relative to the population/resources ratio.

    Having said that — when I myself lived in the Marais in Paris, well, I didn’t know as many as eight gays even there !!!

  10. toadspittle says:

    .

    Yes Kathleen, Toad supposes he does know a lot of people – he’s thinking of four “couples” here, two USA, one Dutch and one Brit.
    None of them as strange as Toad, you will not be surprised to hear. And all nice people. Smart, too, one’s a university professor another a world-class biologist.

    Toad didn’t include his “gay” priest friends for obvious reasons.

    CP&S is a pretty “strange circle” itself, at times.

    Toad is not inclined to tell Jesus he’s not a good shepherd.
    Jesus might set his dogs on him. And they are bigger than Toad’s dogs. And much fiercer.
    Anyway, just what does Kathleen think a Castillian (or any other kind, come to that) shepherd’s function is, then?

  11. toadspittle says:

    .

    It may well be true that Toad has an exceptional number of “Gay” (he doesn’t much care for the appelation, but what else? Queer? some of them call themselves that) friends.
    This is because he actually likes gays. He likes their company and he finds them generally intelligent, entertaining, honest and self-deprecating.
    And almost always better cooks than us “straights” (a term he doesn’t care for either. Oh, well.)
    And he values the massive contribution they have made to enriching all our lives in art, music, writing, theatre, poetry, science… you name it.

    He could name a string of names to confirm this, but there’s no need.
    The point, if you like, of all this, is if they are dopey enough to want to get married, Toad will not stand in their way.
    But, if they want his advice, he would echo Mr. Punch.

  12. kathleen says:

    Toad,
    No one doubts that people with homosexual tendencies can be as intelligent, talented, entertaining etc., as anyone else. Nor is it sinful to be homosexual. Those homosexuals trying to lead a chaste life must be especially dear to God, for they carry a heavy cross. It is the homosexual acts that are sinful and wrong. But then so is any sort of sexual activity (like masturbation, fornication, adultery) outside of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman. That is the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church.

    See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxkN704mHK4&feature=relmfu

  13. toadspittle says:

    .

    You are no doubt right, Kathleen. There is all kinds of naughtiness all over the place.
    All Toad is asking is that we cut the “Gays” a little slack.

    “Those homosexuals trying to lead a chaste life must be especially dear to God, for they carry a heavy cross.” Yes, but that being sthe case, who gave them that heavy cross, Kathleen? And why? And what for? Reasonable questions, surely?

    Toad suspects yet another “God works in mysterious, etc, etc. etc…” is zooming down the ‘pike.
    Not good enough, if so.

  14. kathleen says:

    Toad,
    I don’t know what you mean by “cutting ‘Gays’ a little slack”!

    Everyone, literally everyone, has a ‘cross’ to carry. Only some seem to have a heavier ‘cross’ that others. Why? Perhaps because they are specially singled out by God and ‘asked’ to help others get to Heaven by their suffering for the remission of sins? These suffering souls will then achieve abundant merit. Yet Our Blessed Lord wants us all to humbly ‘pick up’ our crosses and ‘follow Him’. We might stumble, we might fall many many times; but if we never give in to despair, if we persevere with patience and prayer to the bitter end (and very important: with God’s never failing Grace and Mercy) we shall reach our goal.

    (A lot of metaphors above…… but I know Toad is not ‘thick‘ and can work them out ;-).)

  15. Chris Sullivan says:

    Toad realises he knows, for sure, that at least eight of his “gay” friends will be made less unhappy if they are allowed to “marry.”

    Toad’s quote marks around “marry” seem very appropriate !

    I think there is a strong case for state recognition of gay civil unions (or some such thing). Not marriage, for sure, but certainly some kind of relationship the state in justice ought to recognise and grant certain legal rights to.

    The Church once did something somewhat similar.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelphopoiesis

    God Bless

  16. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Toad, I don’t know what you mean by “cutting ‘Gays’ a little slack”! “ says Kathleen.
    Sorry, an Americanism. It means, more or less, “give them a break,” or “allow them a little extra leeway.”

    Toad seems to somehow have become the standard-bearer for homosexuality on here. Very odd. But OK.
    It seems they want parity with heterosexuals on marriage. Toad would let them have it, on the grounds of striving for equality wherever possible.
    If this law is not passed, many people will see themselves as victimised on purely moral grounds.
    Morality is another matter. Nowadays, generally we treat it as a private affair, and rightly so. If Gays are sinning, surely that’s their business. Why not just let them get on with it, and leave it to God to sort the situation out?

    “Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?” ..says Cardinal O’Brien, the Study in Scarlet, referring to the word “Marriage.”.

    Yes. It happens all the time. “Awful” and “Terrible” and “Impertinent” and now “Momentarily,” all have changed, or are changing, their original meanings.
    There are many more such words, as well. So he need not worry on the philogical score, at least.

  17. toadspittle says:

    .
    (It strikes Toad, that the word “Gay” should have been included among those above.)

  18. kathleen says:

    Toad,
    All those words that have “changed their original meanings”, which you’ve mentioned, are totally insignificant in comparison to the whole concept of the word, marriage.
    The whole idea of two men or two women “marrying” – being given the same ‘status’ as true marriage between a man and a woman – would be the world’s greatest joke, if it were not so intrinsically evil, twisted, shattering and dangerous, with long lasting and unimaginable consequences.

  19. toadspittle says:

    .

    Well, if the consequences are “unimaginable” Kathleen, why worry? They might be “unimaginably” good. Toad honestly can’t see it doing much damage.

    However, a little bit off topic, Toad recommends this current blog by his wife, (she would be too modest to do so) which many of you will enjoy, he thinks.

    http://www.moratinoslife.blogspot.com.es/

  20. Jerry says:

    The whole idea of two men or two women “marrying” – being given the same ‘status’ as true marriage between a man and a woman – would be the world’s greatest joke, if it were not so intrinsically evil, twisted, shattering and dangerous, with long lasting and unimaginable consequences.

    Well Kathleen the nature of Catholic sacramental marriage will not change. Essentially secular society is moving towards using the word “marriage” to mean something quite different from what is meant by the Church. Same word, different concept. Marriage under pagan Roman law meant something quite different to marriage as practiced by the Church. Now that the Church is once again living in an essentially non-Christian Europe, such divergences between the Church and secular society will only increase. Best to re-read The City of God and remain calm

  21. Jerry says:

    “Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”

    “Marriage” has by no means been understood the same way in “every society throughout history”. To take an obvious example, the idea that a man should limit himself to just one wife would, in some societies, seem absurd. — The point, the point in favour of Christian marriage, is that it is sets a uniquely high standard with its conception of marriage, a conception radically different from that which has often existed throughout history.

  22. Jerry says:

    Sorry for another comment, but there is a better way to put that. There seems to be a confusion in O’Briens remarks as to whether he is defending the unique concept of Christian marriage or “marriage as it has been understood in every society thoughout history”. — In most societies, including the Mediterranean one in which Christianity was born, the possibility of diovorce has been taken for ganted. Catholic marriage is distinctive in its absolute rejection of divorce. Catholicism rejects homosexual marriage not because it has never existed, but because it is inherently antithetical to the Catholic understanding of marriage. — These are very different grounds for rejection, and that distinction should be kept clear.

  23. teresa says:

    I don’t agree with Chris Sullivan and I dislike his way of distorting historical fact.

    Mr. Sullivan you referred to the so called ceremony of “fraternization” which had nothing to do with same sex union.

    In the Wikipedia-article you linked to is already written:

    “This is contradicted by the Greek Orthodox Church where the practice is translated as “fraternization” and does not mean or suggest a marriage.”.

    But you interpreted it as same sex union.

    Your method, Mr. Sullivan, is typically modernist, by distorting historical records in favour of one’s own ideology. I call it intellectual dishonesty. Sorry to be so blunt, but not serious atheist philosophy makes me angry, I can read Marx or Freud but I can’t put up with your methods which have been so prevalently used by modernists in the Church to destroy our Faith and undermine the Christian morality.

    God bless.

  24. toadspittle says:

    .

    Cripes, Teresa! Poor old Chris! He only said it was “somewhat similar,” and he ends up with half his ear torn off!
    Toad regularly says the most awful things, and everyone just says “Well, that’s Toad for you.”

    …distorting historical records in favour of one’s own ideology. I call it intellectual dishonesty. says she bluntly. Well, it’s something no Catholic would ever do, surely?

    “I don’t agree with Chris Sullivan and I dislike his way of distorting historical fact. “ She says, even blunterly.

    So, next time you feel like distorting historical fact, Chris, do it Teresa’s way. Or else.

  25. Chris Sullivan says:

    teresa,

    My point is that Adelphopoiesis wasn’t marriage, on that we agree.

    Which is the point here – the Church once managed to recognise and bless same sex unions which were not marriage.

    So, in principle, we could again, simply by looking into our tradition on this.

    That isn’t modernist at all. It’s traditionalist.

    God Bless

  26. The Raven says:

    Chris

    “Adelphopoiesis” wasn’t a “same sex union”. The hypothesis that adelphopoiesis is a form of “same sex union” is based on (i) an anachronistic projection of a model of ancient Greek culture onto late antique society (which draws on a view of ancient Greek sexuality that is no longer current among historians) and (ii) a plain failure to understand Orthodox liturgical forms.

    One only has to study Roman norms of adoption to see that we need to be extremely careful in trying to understand the practices of the ancients through the lens of our modern ideas of amicable relationships.

    The idea that the Church has ever blessed sexual unions between persons of the same sex is a ludicrous anachronism.

  27. Chris Sullivan says:

    Raven,

    I don’t mean sexual unions.

    I mean unions of same sex partners ie friends.

    There isn’t anything wrong with blessing and recognising such non sexual same sex unions.

    God Bless

  28. The Raven says:

    Chris

    “Unions” is simply the wrong word: the Greek means “brother-making” and is intended to symbolise a person taking another man into his family as an equal (as opposed to taking him into his family as a child, in the manner of an adoption).

    Adelphopoiesis was intended to be a mark of a friendship that had become so ingrained as to resemble fraternal affection, in late antiquity it symbolised the sort of bond that one makes as a God-father or “κομπανερος” (both are still considered close and intimate bonds in modern Greek culture); it was not a form of surrogate for marriage in the way that ψευτοπαντρεύτηκε arrangements like “civil partnerships” are.

  29. kathleen says:

    (T)he nature of Catholic sacramental marriage will not change”.

    Well Jerry, I agree of course, that in essence it would not. But it will be greatly undermined socially and practically by this abominable “gay” marriage law.
    Yes, there have been slight variations of the form of marriage “throughout history”, but Christian marriage has never been anything other than the union before God of one man and one woman.

    Raven,

    Thanks for that very interesting analysis of “Adelphopoiesis”.

  30. teresa says:

    Mr. Chris Sullivan will tell us Black is white. That is how our lovely modernists try to manipulate the mind of the common people.

  31. toadspittle says:

    .
    “That is how our lovely modernists try to manipulate the mind of the common people. “

    Simmer down, Teresa! As (I think it was Gertrude said) – don’t get your knockers in a twist!. “Lovely modernists” indeed! I’m sure Chris is, if anything, an ugly modernist like myself. We can’t help being modern (or ugly, for that matter.) it’s the time in which we were born.

    Furthermore, your suggestion that the good people on CP&S are “common,” is outrageous.
    Very refined some of us are (Not me, or Chris, of course.)
    Look at that Raven for example – he speaks Greek! How common is that!

  32. JabbaPapa says:

    but Christian marriage has never been anything other than the union before God of one man and one woman.

    erm …

    Actually : one man, one woman, and their children.

    One really shouldn’t fall into this atheist trap of defining marriage in relationship to sexuality, when it is in fact related to the children of that marriage — children are the defining element of what constitutes the Christian definition of marriage ; NOT whomever it may be that you wish to have regular sex with.

  33. The Raven says:

    Toad

    There are at least twelve million Greek speakers in Europe: I’d say that’s pretty common.

    I am, after all, only Corax Corax: the common raven. ;-)

  34. Gertrude says:

    Dear Toad – not exactly ‘knockers’ (blush); I think I mentioned ‘knickers’ and only metaphorically of course :-).

  35. kathleen says:

    Absolutely Jabba. Thanks for pointing out my little ‘slip’ in forgetting the children, who are the obvious consequence of the love and sexual union of marriage between this one man and one woman!!

    I think I had in mind the sacrament or ceremony of marriage when I wrote the above….. and one doesn’t usually take one’s children along to the wedding ;-).

  36. Jerry says:

    Mr. Chris Sullivan will tell us Black is white. That is how our lovely modernists try to manipulate the mind of the common people.

    Ease up on Chris a bit Teresa. I happen to know that my compatriot is a devout Catholic, and sincere, however inapt you found his analogy with resect to adelphopoiesis, he is not the kind to call black white for the sake of sophistry.

  37. toadspittle says:

    .

    Teresa sees things in terms of black and white, Jerry. Not her fault. Colourblind, possibly.

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