By Gudrun Schultz

Cardinal Keith O'BrienNEW EDINBURGH, Scotland, January 3, 2006 (Â – In a New Year’s Day homily given at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Cardinal Keith O’Brien called on society to recognize the connection between family breakdown and social degeneration.

“I urge society to look around at the rising rates of sexually transmitted infections and abortions, the levels of family breakdown in our midst, drug and alcohol abuse, and social deprivation,” Cardinal O’Brien said. “I ask all those who care for the future of our society not to be blind to the consequences of turmoil in family relationships.”

“Parents and children remain the basic social unit,” he said,” which needs to be recognized, protected and promoted as the most vital cell of society.”

O’Brien said the nature of marriage goes far beyond society’s current definition of marriage as “a relationship between two individuals.”

“[Marriage] is uniquely capable of providing stability, producing children and providing the complementary roles of mother and father. It is a social institution rather than a private relationship.”

Cardinal O’Brien pointed out the problems associated with family breakdown in society, and blamed the devaluing of human sexuality for the destruction of family life.

“Children without fathers, children emotionally damaged by divorce, wives deserted by husbands, husbands deserted by wives, couples infertile from sexually transmitted infection, children aborted for convenience. These are the consequences of sending out the message that marriage is not for life, that marriage is just another choice of lifestyle, that human sexuality is a recreational pastime.”

Scotland recently introduced legislation to allow same sex civil partnerships, and the Scottish Parliament voted to lessen the waiting periods for divorce.

Cardinal O’Brien condemned the support given to alternative lifestyles in the name of tolerance, although he was careful not to condemn those who find themselves in “difficult circumstances.”

“Tolerance of those who choose to live differently is one thing, the promotion and celebration of irregular relationships is another…Freedom must be used responsibly. Responsible freedom requires [that we] be adequately informed. When we make profound choices we have a duty to understand what exactly we are choosing along with the likely consequences of our choices.”