Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Gay Marriage: Cardinal lobbies against whilst Church of Ireland opens a debate…

Tue 6 March 2012, 9:21am

So Cardinal Keith O’Brien thinks gay marriage is grotesque. His church will be lining up to oppose the enactment by HMG to give civil partnership an equal status with traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

In the meantime, the Church of Ireland, who’s official position is no different from that of the (Roman) Catholic church are, instead of lobbying the government, planning to have a debate:

Canon Ellis said there had been a serious debate within his church since it was revealed last autumn that one of its clergy – the Very Rev Tom Gordon in Co Carlow – had entered into a civil partnership.

The Church of Ireland is holding a conference for members of the synod this weekend on human sexuality, prompted by the revelations, Canon Ellis said.

He said Archbishop Alan Harper set out the denomination’s position on sexuality last autumn, which “only approves and affirms sexual relationships within marriage” and “outside marriage advocates abstinence”.

Canon Ellis said the aim of this weekend’s conference is to “inform the mind” of the church synod, which meets in May. While the conference itself cannot change church policy, its discussions may – or may not – lead to a change in church policy by the synod.

“The Church of Ireland takes a traditional view that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Canon Ellis said.

“The discussion that will take place is on whether or not the church should bless civil partnerships and same-sex relationships in general. There is a very clear division.”

As The Heresiarch (who’s not particularly fond of either communion) notes, the argument is already close to lost, and the Cardinal is not exactly putting up a logical defence over what is viewed in wider society as a sociological phenomenon more than a religious one:

The essential elements of marriage, as most people today understand it, are as likely to be found in gay couples as in straight ones. And those elements of traditional marriage that were specifically heterosexual are either offensively outdated or (like sex, cohabitation and even children) can all be found, without social opprobrium, outside the married state. Marriage has become a choice, in other words.

What is left is a question of semantics. Since the legal implications of heterosexual marriage and homosexual civil partnership are close enough to be practically indistinguishable, the difference in terminology is no more than a polite legal fiction. Same-sex marriage already exists in all but name.

Then again, as Pete has noted on several occasions in the past, in the view of the church under Benedict the rational logic of the scientific revolution is more a case of redemption lost than enlightenment found

But where does that leave the churches with their wider congregation who are having to adjust to a world which is rapidly making social space for gay partnerships within their own families and wider communities?

Perhaps the Church of Ireland have got something

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Comments (34)

  1. Nevin (profile) says:

    Cardinal Keith, in his own words.

    What do you think?
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  2. Gerry Lvs castro (profile) says:

    So if marriage between two consenting adults is ‘grotesque’, how would Cardinal O’Brien describe a religious institution covering up and perpetuating child rape on a global scale?

    O’Brien and his church have forfeited all moral authority and should simply be ignored.

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  3. cynic2 (profile) says:

    “We cannot afford to indulge this madness”

    Well, don’t then – but remember that the rest of us wont indulge your madness either

    Now I know its predictable that I should say this – the Church was happy to indulge and cover up years of the vilest physical and sexual abuse by clergy (*much of it homo-sexual) yet now it baulks at individuals who happen to be homosexual wanting the right to a full and open marriage.

    Why on earth does the cardinal then think anyone sane should listen to his posturings on this? What moral authority does the Church actually have on issues of human sexuality?

    Now the cardinal has a perfect right to make his point – but we have a perfect right to ignore him and he needs to understand how ridiculous it makes the Church look

    Marriage isn’t owned by the Church – its owned by all of society. These days most of us know some Gay people and, shock horror, they are just like the rest of us with all the same feelings and eccentricities and foibles,

    And I for one see no reason at all why gay people shouldn’t benefit from marriage if that is what they want. If one is religious then that is the way God made them so why can they not celebrate their love and commitment in the same way as the rest of us? If you are not religious then its more a matter of rights

    And although a lot of this surrounds the Catholic church the same applies to CoI and all the other denominations. I know one man who is a committed and devout Christian who the found a partner and has since been quietly but firmly shoved out of the CoI family – not wanted here.

    Again, that is the right of the congregation if that is what they want – but the church then shouldn’t be surprised if many of us quietly and simply vote with our feet.

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  4. pauluk (profile) says:

    For millennia, and in cultures all over the world, the institution of marriage has been defined and practiced as a union between a man and a woman, sometimes polygynous or polyandrous, but between male and female, nonetheless.

    Exactly who in the world do 21st Century western liberals think they are in trying to overturn this millennia-old tradition in order to make unnatural sexual acts more acceptable to the more than 98% of the world’s population who do not practice them?

    What arrogance!

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  5. CW (profile) says:

    I’m not defending O’Brien here, but all he’s doing is toeing the party line, echoing his master’s voice. He’s hardly going to say:

    “Actually I have no problem with gay marriage. What two consenting adults do in their private lives is no business of mine or the church’s. And in any case my church is no position to moralise over sexual matters given our history of sexual abuse and cover-ups which involved innocent non-consenting children. I know this is going against what the church says, but I have to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in otherwise the church will remain a corrupt, outdated, sexist, homophobic institution from the middle ages and will never change. And I stand by what I’ve said and I’m fully prepared to face the consequences – because if I don’t take a stand no-one else will.”

    However if he (or any other senior cleric) had the balls to make such a statement he would gain a great deal of support and respect both within and outside the church. He would also no doubt be summoned to the Vatican for a “briefing” with Benny the Bavarian, would be disciplined and probably demoted, if not defrocked. But at least he’d emerge with the honour of having the courage of his convictions to go against the party line.

    I won’t be holding my breath though…

    By the way, this is off-topic, but I’ve been trying to persuade the good burghers of Sluggersville to post a piece on the late great Frank Carson. But my pleas fell on deaf ears, so I’ve posted a tribute on my own blog:

    http://dreamingarm.wordpress.com

    Your comments would be most welcome.

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  6. Framer (profile) says:

    Today’s QUB poll recorded the following responses to the question: “Do you think that gays and homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else, such as the right to get married and to adopt children?”
    44 per cent of people responded “definitely yes”, with 18 per cent saying “probably yes”.
    Just 20.6 per cent said “definitely no”.
    Cardinal O’Brien may be from Ballycastle but Ballycastle appears not to be listening.

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  7. dwatch (profile) says:

    Debates is all the C of I have when they come up against controversial subjects like tyhe one mentioned, to keep the ball in the air hoping it goes away. Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, has made his voice heard.

    CoI ‘backs cardinal in gay marriage row’
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/coi-backs-cardinal-in-gay-marriage-row-1-3591384

    Marriage, Baptism the Eucharist, and Comfirmation belong to the seven sacraments of both the C of I and Catholic Church. Their rules can only be altered from within their religious orders and not by outside political interference.

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  8. joeCanuck (profile) says:

    ..trying to overturn this millennia-old tradition…

    Yes. We used to stone women to death for adultery. Come to think of it, some countries still do.

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  9. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Part of CoIs problem is that its part of the Anglican Communion and Canterbury is desperate to stop a schism between the hell fire breathing, largely but not exclusively third world, hang the Sodomite faction and the rest of us who don’t live in La La land

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  10. Gerry Lvs castro (profile) says:

    Pauluk: ”Exactly who in the world do 21st Century western liberals think they are in trying to overturn this millennia-old tradition in order to make unnatural sexual acts more acceptable to the more than 98% of the world’s population who do not practice them?”

    Assuming your post is not straight forward sarcasm, how exactly would you define a ‘natural sexual act’?
    Are you saying that everyone should only practice heterosexual missionary position at all times, or is there room for more adventurous activities? Are you aware that consenting couples frequently engage in precisely the act you have problems with, and often within the institution of marriage?

    And if gay sex is so unnatural, how come homosexual individuals occur right across the animal kingdom and approx 2% of humans are born gay?

    Isn’t the real problem that people like yourself and the cardinal have a morbid fascination with what consenting adults get up to in their bedrooms while ever increasing numbers of the public regard it as perfectly fine?

    The church is laughably out of step on issues such as sex outside marriage and contraception. It would appear that they are in a similar position on gay sex and gay marriage.

    And given the recent behaviour of the likes of Iris Robinson and the Catholic hierarchy, no-one does hypocritical quite as well as the religious fundamentalist.

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  11. cynic2 (profile) says:

    As we evolved from apes the missionary position is unnatural

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  12. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    It seems to me if you want to join a club then you should probably follow the rules of that club . Otherwise form your own club.
    Speaking as a non believer, I think the church is entitled to its interpretation of the scripture.
    It would be like a rugby player joining a soccer team and complaining that he couldn’t pick the ball up.
    So to be scatalogical about it;
    if you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit don’t join our club!

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  13. Greenflag (profile) says:

    ‘So if marriage between two consenting adults is ‘grotesque’, how would Cardinal O’Brien describe a religious institution covering up and perpetuating child rape on a global scale?’

    That would be the fault of the children .

    ‘O’Brien and his church have forfeited all moral authority and should simply be ignored.’

    Well yes they have forfeited a large chunk of moral authority. .

    ‘Should simply be ignored ‘

    I think not .Told to piss off and practice what they preach might be a better alternative to just ignoring them.

    They’re not listening and the churches continue emptying .

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  14. Gerry Lvs castro (profile) says:

    ‘Speaking as a non believer, I think the church is entitled to its interpretation of the scripture.’

    The church’s ‘interpretations of the scripture’ are, as with most religions, merely the means to perpetuate a control system. Persecution of homosexuals, who were clearly created as such by God, is one of the nastiest aspects of an institution determined to reside in a bygone age where women were dutiful baby machines, homosexuals remained in the closet for life and children kept quiet.

    Apparently it’s still OK for a supposed man of God to verbally abuse minorities and encourage homophobia. The question is why.

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  15. joeCanuck (profile) says:

    Why?

    HOMOSEXUALS? No, definitely not us.

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  16. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Gerry Lvs Castro
    I can’t argue with your characterization of the Churches there.
    But having said all that its their club, their rules and I certainly wouldn’t want to join it.

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  17. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Cardinal O’Brien may be from Ballycastle”

    The Cardinal’s mother was Alice Moriarty, a native of Ballycastle, and Cardinal Keith spent the first eleven years of his life here, attending the local primary school. .. source

    Michael White on ‘noisy bishops’.

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  18. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Woman denied communion at mother’s funeral for…
    being in a lesbian relationship.

    The church’s priorities, manners and PR-nous astound.

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/02/lesbian-woman-denied-communion-at-mothers-funeral/

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  19. carl marks (profile) says:

    cynic2
    Didn’t think i would be saying this. But you have got this one right.
    Here is a idea that might help the churches move into the 19th century (21st a bit too much to ask).
    Any church can refuse to carry out Gay marriage’s but those that do refuse lose any tax or rate exemption’s, in the USA a lot of church’s found they were in error about racial segregation when there tax cuts were removed from those practicing segregation, amazing how a change in the oul bank book can affect your deeply held beliefs.

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  20. melegis (profile) says:

    The sad thing is that the responses are based on misinformation which to his shame the Cardinal is peddling but then spinning is something the Catholic Church has become adept at in the last few years!

    No church is being “forced” to support gay marriage nor to hold ceromonies that they do not wish to hold. What the proposed changes say is that those Ministers/Priests/Rabbi’s/Imams that wish to should be able to celebrate a gay marriage in their particular place of worship, those that do not will not be coerced.

    This is not an issue of morality it is an issue of civil and human rights. The Cardinal talks of re-defining reality… just a tad rich from a man we assume believes in transubstantiation, women having babies without having sex and men rising from the dead….. I won’t do into the moral bankruptcy of the Church as others have done so eloquently but shout as loud as you like your eminence fewer and fewer people are listening.

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  21. Great to see a diversity of thought/opinion on Mr O’Brien’s uttering on gay marriage. We have in western society a very serious case of religion gone Bad. We already have had an input from the Church of England. If either the Roman church or the Church of England were shining examples of Christ-like living then maybe we ought to be concerned about their mutterings, but not until then.

    Remember the Church of England waited until it was abolished by parliament before it freed it’s slaves, and even then it accepted the blood-money compensation for the loss of it’s slaves. 13 years of his life William Wilberforce highlighted the abhorrences of the slave trade 13 years in which the church of England did nothing on its own to free its slaves. And this is only one example where the Church of England illustrated that there was no inextricable link between it and Christ. And just to be brief a more recent example is when a man entered into a sin of Adultery (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9) by marrying a divorced woman, it in the form of Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the couple knowing that couple was going to remain in this state of adultery. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4428161….

    And as for the Roman Church, the Church I was baptised into as a matter of interest, When it addresses the issues raised by the BBC Panorama program entitled Sex Crimes and the Vatican http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programm…, When it appoints only qualified people into its offices of authority, when it returns to God’s word, maybe then can it pontificate of try and impose its will on the lives of ordinary people. There is no scripture for the office of Cardinal. There are strict scriptural qualification for Bishop, that none of the current holders comply with, not even the bishop of Rome. Before being Cardinal Mr O’Brien was a bishop but he was not qualified by the word of God. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage… For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? God’s word says that he MUST be married to one wife, and that he can keep his children in subjection to him.

    Sorry for being so heavy, but theology is one of my specialities, has been for 40 years and more.

    We should not be pondering these mutterings by these people, we should be replying with, “Who do they think they are?”

    Amen

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  22. Is it a Sin?

    Is it a Sin to love another, who happens to me of the same gender?

    Is it a sin to Marry the one you love who happens to be of the same gender?

    If so show me where!

    lets face it marriage is on the decline, the greatest threat to marriage these days being divorce and fornication( having sex outside marriage)

    Are the churches afraid that if homosexuals are given their freedom to marry that they will make a better job of it than heterosexuals have been doing)

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  23. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Procasnow

    “Is it a sin?” Only if you are doing it right.
    There does seem to be a bit of scriptural disapproval of sodomy alright. Of course by that reasoning the church should be refusing to marry a lot of straight couples too.
    However I think the point is if your church says what you do, indeed a central part of who you are, is a sin, maybe you should find another church?

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  24. Eglise en bois (profile) says:

    Couple of points – what is marriage? and why do homosexuals want to be “married”? is it a title, is it respectability, what?

    legally all the benefits of marriage are currently available through civil partnerships, so I can’t understand what the issue really is. Unless you accept the me too position.

    Now clearly homosexuals don’t agree with what the Catholic Church teaches or professes to believe, and yes clearly there is a lot of hypocrisy in the church and evidently the child abuse scandals has rightly eroded the church’s moral authority – if it ever had any, but giving the Cardinal his dues all he is doing is openly and honestly giving the official line. There is no surprise here but what I haven’t heard is a clear articulation of why marriage should be redefined. As as for “marriage” belonging to the church – historically and culturally that might actually be a point worth debating – where did marriage come from – is it not just a religous requirement – a religious straight jacket?

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  25. Gerry Lvs castro (profile) says:

    Babyface: ‘I can’t argue with your characterization of the Churches there.
    But having said all that its their club, their rules and I certainly wouldn’t want to join it.”

    That’s just the problem — most members of religious ‘clubs’ members don’t actually join — they’re born into it and indoctrinated via one-sided ‘faith schooling’.

    If it were a simple choice at say 18 to choose your religion, free from prior childhood indoctrination, I’d have a guess that a minority would become Buddhists while the majority simply wouldn’t bother.

    Eglise: ‘legally all the benefits of marriage are currently available through civil partnerships, so I can’t understand what the issue really is.’

    Marriage is more than a legal contract, it’s a commitment to a partner, made in the presence of family, friends and (if applicable) god. Why the gay community should be denied the right to commit to a partner, particularly at a time when heterosexual marriage is very much on the wane, is the real issue here.

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  26. harpo (profile) says:

    Surely civil partnerships are not gay marriages.

    Mick posted this:
    “His church will be lining up to oppose the enactment by HMG to give civil partnership an equal status with traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”

    Civil partnerships are something that the state recognizes, even if a church doesn’t. Isn’t the RC church free not to recognize civil partnerships if it wishes?

    Why don’t we just let the funny man say what he wants about civil partnerships and then ignore him.

    Nobody is (or should) force his church to provide civil partnerships. The state can do that.

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  27. carnmoney.guy (profile) says:

    Great to see that many took the time not to read the article…
    if loving consential adults want marriage, and its meaning can be redefined by pressure groups, then the cardinal is right to predict how this will play out.
    Why not allow polygamy, its not for us to judge
    one man and two women wanting a loving partnership?
    In Japanese society the keisha has been an accepted influence within marriage, Mormon tradition tolerates polygamy, some African tribes tolerate polygamy, so why not allow a man to have both a wife and a mistress, equal under marriage law?
    If a person is bi-sexual, are you denying them their right to express their natural desires in a loving marriage, so one bi-guy should be allowed a marriage to include one gay guy and one straight woman.
    So you can have historical precedent, cultural precedent, its natural law as it happens at the moment – furthermore it can be argued that it protects the legal right of the third person, typically a mistress who has no claim on the assets if their lover dies.
    so if you can have three in a marriage, why not four? etc etc
    then the Cardinal questions the teaching of marriage within schools..if it becomes the law and all marriages are equal then we would have tolbe legally bound to promote that in our schools. The teaching of only hetrosexual marriage will be treated like those teaching creationism, they will be ridiculed, and remember church schools get huge state funding, so that financial stick will be used so our schools will promote equality of all marriages, and the literature available in school libraries will have to be balanced to reflect this.

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  28. Definition of marriage : Art 12, European convention on Human Rights

    Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right to marry.
    Text

    “ Men and women of marrigeable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this rights ”

    many commentators see this as defining that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, but that is not what it says, it says that men of marriageable age have the right to marry, women of marriageable age have the right to marry, but it stays well clear of stipulating that they are marrying each other

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  29. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    “It seems to me if you want to join a club then you should probably follow the rules of that club . Otherwise form your own club”: the problem with this is that many gay people and their families are already in that club almost from birth, and they have an awful time growing up partly due to the rules of that club (personally that’s one of the reasons I left it as a teenager, but not everybody wants to or feels able to).
    “legally all the benefits of marriage are currently available through civil partnerships, so I can’t understand what the issue really is”: actually, in Northern Ireland, being in a civil partnership prevents people from adopting (there is a judicial review in progress that is challenging this); as for the South of Ireland (or France or many other places), civil partnerships there fall far short of equality. Why gay people as a whole are so much in favour of marriage equality is because ‘separate but equal’ is not equal but maintains a state of ‘apartheid’. It’s part of removing stigma, prejudice, bullying etc.
    “if it becomes the law and all marriages are equal then we would have tolbe legally bound to promote that in our schools”: not really, you will find in both the Equality Act in Britain and the goods and services legislation here that church schools are exempted from teaching an equality agenda if they consider it to be against their creed. This came partly from a judicial review held in Belfast a few years back. Not something I applaud, mind. I still think it should be possible for churches to find it in their hearts / doctrines, ways of getting out of the ancestral homophobia. Many Christians and people of other religions manage it.

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  30. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    “‘Is it as sin? Only if you are doing it right”
    (and other such comments, some less savoury). You’ve had your chuckle.
    As long as you remember that being gay may be about sex but it’s also about love, families and children, identity and culture, and that we are not terribly fond of being reduced to less than who we are. :)

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  31. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Catherine Couvert

    “‘Is it as sin? Only if you are doing it right”
    (and other such comments, some less savoury). You’ve had your chuckle.”
    Well, guilty as charged. Though I only made 2 vaguely humorous remarks. Anyway sorry if I caused offence.
    On the topic, I take the point about those gay people growing up in a particular faith that does not approve of them.
    But if you are challenging what is accepted doctrine, change will be slow.
    Henry the eight’s solution may be the best one.

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  32. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    No probs, Babyface! It did strike me after I had hit the the ‘submit comment’ button that I was being a bit school marmish about this!
    I guess I have been getting a bit touchy from reading some rather appalling posts in other threads.
    Sometimes Sluggers feels like such a boys’ world I feel like throwing a few darts :) But back to the subject, something to chew on:
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/03/08/jack-straw-churchs-marriage-views-imply-im-a-better-person-because-i-was-born-straight/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Pinknews+%28Pink+News%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher
    (I never thought I’d quote Jack Straw)
    and this:

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  33. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    (Now quoting David Cameron): the Prime Minister is a “passionate” advocate of the change, telling his party two years ago he supported gay marriage “because I am a Conservative”.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/cardinal-accused-of-scaremongering-16125955.html#ixzz1obodSVNY

    Now THAT is another interesting angle. I know some gay people who are sick of the marriage equality issue, because it’s also about making us all conform to very traditional values.

    Another conundrum.

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  34. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Catherine
    Thanks for the absolution.
    What I am trying to get at in between the puerile jokes is whether churches are really interested in equal rights.
    Thet seem to take the position that being homosexual is ok (not great, but ok), but doing homosexual ‘stuff’ is frowned upon. So God has made you gay to test you, but you should not give in to such temptation.
    I think to sanction gay marriage would mean they have to accept that it’s ok to act on your homosexual urges.
    I can’t see how they can resolve this without schism.

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