There has been a tremendous amount of excitement about the comments of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, regarding marriage equality (I refuse to call it 'gay marriage', as that implies that allowing same sex marriage is somehow different). Indeed, some of my own colleagues have been somewhat aggressive in terms of the language of their response.
However, whilst I strongly disagree with his position, and find his argument distasteful and over-emotional to the point where his logic is hard to discern, as a Catholic, I do see the difficulty with which he is presented.
He is a Cardinal, sworn to uphold the word as the Roman Catholic Church apparently deems it to be at the moment, a rather difficult task given its long held position somewhat behind mainstream society. It is, in ideological terms, a slow moving tortoise of a ethics and morals committee, and in a time of rapid social change, responding to that change is extremely difficult.
After all, there are still outposts of the Church that wrestle with the implications of Vatican 2, and given that any expression of sexual orientation other than heterosexuality has gone from being taboo to being, at worst, tolerated by much of the public over a similar period, how well-equipped is it to muster a response, especially given that those attempting to do so are obliged to consider sexuality in the abstract?
From the perspective of Catholicism, the world has it in a state of siege. Science, medicine, education, all of these serve to tease and taunt those who need to have a degree of certainty in their faith, in a world where scepticism is widespread.
And, as a result, Cardinal O'Brien has lashed out and, in so doing, he has exposed the crisis in the Church. When 98% of American Catholics have used, or tolerate the use of, contraception, when the majority of Catholics in developed countries will countenance abortion in cases of rape or incest, and most are willing to tolerate much more liberal abortion laws, the views of a group of old men in rather ornate outfits become less and less relevant. Is, indeed, anyone really listening?
By taking the stance he has, he has acted to reinforce the views of those who are scared of 'different', but more importantly, his over-reaction will have encouraged some who hadn't given the matter much thought previously to say, "It really isn't the end of civilisation, does it matter that much if people of the same sex who love each other marry?".
Funny how a reaction triggers an equal, and opposite, reaction, isn't it?...