Cardinal O’Brien Sends An Arrogant Letter to Scotland’s Catholics

The Catholic Church doesn’t half come out with some nonsense.

Today (Sunday 26 August 2012), the Catholic Church has dubbed ‘Marriage Sunday’, really, ‘[Anti-Gay] Marriage Sunday’. The Catholic Church is stridently opposed to marriage between adults of the same sex (as it was opposed to decriminalisation of homosexuality, and of equalising the age of consent between homosexuals and hetrosexuals). Their argument is that to extend marriage to the gays would undermine the institution of marriage itself.

Cardinal O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, has provided a letter to be read out in Catholic Mass today. In part it reads:

“The Church's teaching on marriage is unequivocal, it is uniquely, the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that governments, politicians or parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality.”

Let's unpack that statement.


Firstly the Catholic Church has not always been opposed to same-sex marriage. In 1578, the Pope’s parish church, St John Lateran apparently married 13 same-sex couples at a High Mass. There’s evidence of other chuch-approved same-sex marriages in history too. Here’s a bit more detail and some other examples:


Secondly this ‘Church teaching’ on marriage is at odds with various biblical definitions of marriage which are usually between one man and multiple wives and concubines. He could at least try to be consistant with his holy book.

But let us grant that the Catholic Church’s current policy is indeed that marriage should be exclusively between one man and one woman.


The Scottish Government are not seeking ‘to alter or destroy’ the Church’s teaching. They are just proposing to change the civil legal definition— which should have no bearing on Church policy.


Cardinal O’Brien seems seriously to be suggesting that legal definitions of marriage should cow-tow to the Catholic Church’s definition of marriage. Or that Catholic Church policy defines reality. This monstrously arrogant.

The Catholic Church like to promote the idea of themselves as perfect and unchanging, but times change and the Church always changes with them (albeit quite slowly sometimes). Ironically the letter itself contains a ray of hope that the Catholic Church will eventually bend to the pressure from society. It states:

“We wish to support too, those who are widowed, separated and divorced and all who need to feel the Church’s maternal care in the circumstances in which they find themselves.”

The Catholic Church’s official position on divorce is, or at least used to be, that it didn’t exist. Surely, as with divorce (which can truly be said to undermine the institution of marriage), tolerance for same-sex couples will eventually become tacitly part of Church policy.

More from O’Brien:

“Finally, we invite you to pray for our elected leaders, invoking the Holy Spirit on them, that they may be moved to safeguard marriage as it has always been understood, for the good of Scotland and of our society.”

Or in other words: “God, please enforce our interpretation of what we think you want upon everybody who isn’t a Catholic too.”


1 thought on “Cardinal O’Brien Sends An Arrogant Letter to Scotland’s Catholics

  1. Tom

    I’ve never understood why opening up marriage to same-sex couples undermines heterosexual unions. There is no change in duties or rights of the partners be they heterosexual or homosexual. If there is any change, it is for the heterosexuals to prove that marriage is a worthwhile concept. And that, I fear, has been challenged by the divorce rate a long time ago.

    I understand that should the politicians allow same-sex marriages, the Catholic Church would not be forced to bless these unions. So, where is the problem? Their internal integrity is maintained. What are they worried about, then? Do they believe they are the “good of Scotland”? Guess again!

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