Churches' responses on same-sex marriage
The Scottish Government has launched a 'consultation' on same sex marriage but prefixed the documentation with its preferred view. The following are responses from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland respectively.
Update (05/12/11): Click here for Statement from Free Church (Continuing)
Update (01/12/11): See message thread attaching to this article for Church of Scotland statement
Roman Catholic Statement
Church of Scotland Statement
|Cardinal O’Brien – Same Sex Marriage
Mail on Sunday – 11 September 2011
Just over a week ago the Scottish Government launched a consultation on same sex marriage. Over the next fourteen weeks the Government intend to accept responses from anyone in Scotland on whether or not same sex marriages should be introduced.
On the surface this may seem to be an innocuous proposition. Civil Partnerships have been in place for several years now, allowing a same sex couple to register their relationships and enjoy a variety of legal protections. When these arrangements were introduced campaigners were at pains to point out that they didn’t want marriage for same sex couples, accepting that marriage has only ever meant the legal union of a man and a women.
Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnerships believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too – we were accused of scaremongering then yet exactly such demands are upon us now.
Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples through civil partnership and since the number of civil partnerships entered in to has been falling steadily for the last three years, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.
We should be clear that redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools and for wider society.
But 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?
Last month as rebel forces in Libya moved towards Tripoli, Colonel Gaddaffi was asked if he would be willing to stand down from his position as Leader to avoid violence and bloodshed. He replied by saying he held no such position in Libya as all offices of state had been abolished and he had created a “perfect democracy” in his country where the people of Libya governed themselves. He simply redefined the term democracy to mean what he wanted it to mean. As with most of his remarks, this comment was, rightly, greeted with derision.
Yet when Scotland’s politicians suggest that they might jettison the established understanding of marriage and subvert the meaning set out in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as a relationship between men and women, the response seems meek and muted. Their madness is indulged.
This proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right. Meeting earlier this week, Scotland’s Catholic Bishops undertook to strenuously oppose these proposals. Preaching at a mass for politicians that evening I told the gathering of MSP’s, which included the First Minister, that the Catholic Church would do everything in its power to defend and protect marriage.
There is no doubt that as a society we have become blasé about the importance of marriage as a stabilising influence and less inclined to prize it as a worthwhile institution. It has been damaged and undermined over the course of a generation, yet marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father.
As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by government and should not be changed by them, instead recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society they should act to protect and uphold it 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 being labelled an intolerant bigot.
At the heart of this debate however there is one perspective which seems to be completely lost or ignored, it is the point of view of the child. All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father, the evidence in favour of the stability and well being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal. It cannot be provided by a same sex couple however well intentioned they may be.
Interestingly, in the United States, David Blankenhorn, a prominent supporter of gay rights has drawn a line at same-sex marriage, saying "Redefining marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would eliminate entirely in law, and weaken still further in culture, the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child."
He is of course right. Same-sex marriage means same-sex parenting, and same-sex parenting means that our society deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.
While same sex activists in this country have framed demands for marriage as a personal matter, some oftheir US counterparts have been more frank and revealing about their long term purpose. American activist Michelangelo Signorile has urged campaigners "to fight for
same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely." He sees same-sex marriage as "the final tool with which to get education about homosexuality into public schools."
There is no question, that normalising gay marriage means normalising homosexual behaviour for public school children. In November 2003 after a court decision in Massachusetts to legalise gay marriage, school libraries were required to stock same-sex literature; primary school children were given homosexual fairy stories such as King & King; some high school students were even given an explicit manual of homosexual advocacy entitled “The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century”, which the Massachusetts Department of Health helped develop. Education suddenly had to comply with what was now deemed “normal”.
Other dangers exist, if marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means a man and a woman but two men or two women, why stop there? Why not allow three men or a woman and two men to constitute a marriage, if they pledge their fidelity to one another? Canada has legalised homosexual marriage, and litigation is now underway in one Canadian Province to legalise polygamy. If marriage is simply about adults who love each other, on what basis should three adults who love each other not be allowed to marry?
Disingenuously, the Government has suggested that same sex marriage wouldn’t be compulsory and churches could choose to opt out. This is quite staggering arrogance. Firstly, no Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage. Additionally, 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” would such an assurance calm the fury we would all feel? Would it in any way justify the dismantling of a fundamental human right? Of course not. It would amount to nothing more than weasel words to mask a great wrong.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is crystal clear when it says that marriage is a right which applies to men and women, it goes on to state, that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” This universal truth is so self evident that it shouldn’t need to be repeated. If the Scottish Government attempt to demolish a universally recognised human right, they will have forfeited the trust which the nation, including many in the Catholic community, have placed in them and their intolerance will shame Scotland in the eyes of the world.
“We as the National Church will continue to provide guidance and spiritual leadership for the people of Scotland.”
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, May 2011
Footnote: The above article is in no way an endorsement of the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.