Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Edinburgh cardinal suspends discussion with govt’ over ‘gay marriage’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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EDINBURGH, August 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland has suspended all communications with the government over plans to create “gay marriage” in the province. Keith O’Brien, the Cardinal archbishop of Edinburgh issued a statement yesterday saying that all future discussions on the subject between the government and the Church will be conducted through officials.

In a move the newspapers are calling a “snub” to Scottish premier Alex Salmond, Cardinal O’Brien said through a spokesman that he “is really keen that the perspective and the position of the Catholic church has conveyed to the Scottish government, but he isn’t convinced that he necessarily has to do that in person.”

A spokesman for Salmond denied that he is no longer on speaking terms with the cardinal, saying the two had an “entirely amicable” conversation by phone on Saturday. Relations between the First Minister and the cardinal, he said, are “extremely good,” and Salmond “holds the cardinal in the highest regard and will always do so.”

“The First Minister spoke at some length with the cardinal and had an entirely amicable conversation on first name terms. It is inevitable that government ministers will not always agree with church leaders - this is an honest disagreement about an important policy issue, and we have the utmost respect for the different views expressed in the debate,” the spokesman said.

Edinburgh archdiocesan spokesman Peter Kearney, however, belied this, saying relations between the cardinal and the Scottish Government are “strained”.

“There was never a suggestion that people were not going to talk. Things are definitely strained and more difficult since they made the decision on same-sex marriage.

“It’s difficult to continue a dialogue with someone when they consistently ignore all the points you make. That’s definitely put a strain on the relationship,” Kearney said.

“Having said that, the Church remains committed to dialogue on this subject. It will be dialogue between Church and Government officials as opposed to the Cardinal and the First Minister but there is a feeling of deep disappointment in the Church and a sense that engagement and dialogue is possible but difficult when the Government continually ignores all the concerns raised by the Church,” Kearney continued.

The Scottish government launched a public consultation in September 2011, for which the overwhelming response was negative. Legal experts warned that “gay marriage” and religious freedom and freedom of expression could not co-exist. The government, however, announced that it would be forging ahead regardless of the dangers to civil liberties or the wishes of the majority of the public.

The consultation produced a record 77,508 responses, two thirds of which were opposed on a wide variety of grounds. In response, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the consultation is only one among many factors to be considered in the process. Despite the overwhelming opposition from the general public, the government announced last month that it would be going ahead with the proposal and expect to see the first public ceremonies, including in churches, beginning in 2015.

Holyrood issued a statement in July saying, “The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.”

Despite such assurances, experience in England and Wales with existing Equality laws have left the public in a deeply skeptical mood. The dozens of civil suits, employment conflicts, job terminations, threats, and even arrests of Christians who either share their religious beliefs and opinions or who have directly objected to homosexual behaviour, are frequently cited as reasons for Christians to be concerned over the proposals.

After the negative response, including warnings from legal experts of threats to civil liberties and vast changes to the structure of laws, the government announced it would open another consultation to consider what extra measures are needed to protect freedom of speech and religious beliefs for ministers, teachers and parents in schools.

With the recent appointment of Bishop Philip Tartaglia to the Catholic see of Glasgow, the two prelates have become the most vocal opponents of the political homosexualist agenda in the UK. The Catholic Church, however, is not alone in the fight. In July, the Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland legal questions committee, said, “We are concerned the government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages.”

The push for amending the Marriage Act 1977 came as a direct result of a highly co-ordinated programme of political lobbying by powerful homosexualist organisations. The government announced its plans after a petition was presented to Holyrood lawmakers, drawn up by the lobby group LGBT Network in January 2009. That petition received the support and signatures of various Members of the Scottish Parliament and MEPs, and at least eight Episcopalian and (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland leaders.

The first petition was followed by a second launched by the heavily left-leaning National Union of Students Scotland, who at the same time launched a pressure group, Equal Marriage Campaign. Meanwhile, similar campaigns were making headway in Westminster to change laws regarding immigration, pensions and inheritance law.

In March 2009, the Petitions Committee unanimously agreed to ask the government whether and when it planned to amend the Marriage Act.

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