Equating marriage equality with slave ownership is apparently the coming thing among Roman Catholics. First there was the bizarre newsletter at St. John Neumann, in Maryland. Now, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has articulated the identical idea in the Telegraph, in a long, unlettered screed against David Cameron's recent advocacy of marriage equality. He's apoplectic:
Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.
… 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?
… As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by governments and should not be changed by them. Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they should act to protect and uphold marriage, not attack or dismantle it.
This is a point of view that would have been endorsed and accepted only a few years ago, yet today advancing a traditional understanding of marriage risks one being labelled an intolerant bigot.
… Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.
Disingenuously, the Government has suggested that same-sex marriage wouldn’t be compulsory and churches could choose to opt out. This is staggeringly arrogant … 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”.
What's up with that?
Having read O'Brien on the subject, it's worth revisiting David Cameron's rationale for supporting marriage equality in the first place:
To anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it's about equality. But it's also about something else. Commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other, and we support each other. So I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.
Cardinal O'Brien's screed was well over 1,000 words long — many times longer than the Cameron quote above — but nowhere in it does he even attempt to rebuff the Prime Minister's point.