Dear Keith …

Two rants at deluded elderly christians within 24 hours? Well, it’s Sunday, nothing better to do and Cardinal Keith O’Brien is just being silly!

O’Brien is the 74 year old catholic archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh – Scotland’s only cardinal – and he has penned a little homily on same sex marriage for this week’s Sunday Telegraph. Clicky.

The Twitterati  have been  laying into O’Brien all morning – and quite entertaining they’ve been, too – some small proof that ordinary people are somewhat less than hung up on the issue of same sex marriage than the clergy. In any event what would a celibate know about being in a long-term committed and loving relationship?

I take issue with everything O’Brien has said, especially as he is being disingenuous. He prays in aid the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. It’s an odd thing about human rights law, many people quote it in support of their argument, but few people actually understand what it means. I speak as someone who has spent the last ten years of my working life writing on the practical application of human rights law to the individual.

O’Brien says “In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women.”

No, it bloody well is NOT. Article 16 does not define marriage at all. Go and read it – Clicky.

What Article 16(1) says is “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” It does not state that marriage must be between a man and a woman.

Even Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not define marriage as between a man and a woman. It says “Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.” It is, therefore, a matter for the contracting state to define marriage. The European Court of Human Rights has so far refused to consider this as encompassing same sex marriage, but that’s only a matter of time.

O’Brien then ponders “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?” Well, that’s simple! They can go back to school, as he needs to, and take a history lesson. Forms of same-sex marriage have existed throughout recorded history. It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in ancient Greece and Rome. They certainly were in China. Nero married a male slave, as did Emperor Elagabalus. Same-sex marriages exist in more than 30 African cultures.

O’Brien’s article displays a rather nasty streak of homophobia, but you come to expect that from an organisation that is so increasingly divorced from modern life. I’m not going to dwell on his claims that same-sex marriage will lead to the downfall of society, or his feeble comparison with slavery. These are just the offensive ramblings of a narrow-minded bigotry and intolerance which is now, unfortunately, so representative of the increasingly irrelevant, morally questionable, ossified and dogmatic anachronism that is the “modern” catholic church.

From birth control to paedophile priests O’Brien and his cronies only serve to prove how intellectually and morally bankrupt the catholic church has become.