The Equality Network, Scotland’s LGBT equality charity, is warning that the Catholic Church risks missing the key lesson of the events of the past two weeks after Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation following allegations of sexual abuse of trust.
The charity says that the fundamental problem facing the Church is its public message on issues of sexual morality, not simply the hypocrisy of any one individual.
The Equality Network points out that the Catholic Church has vigorously campaigned against every major step towards LGBT equality in the UK over the past two decades, including the introduction of an equal age of consent, the repeal of Section 28, Civil Partnerships, same-sex adoption, and now same-sex marriage.
Last year a source in the Catholic Church told the Sunday Times that it was declaring a “war on gay marriage” and intended to spend over £100,000 more on its campaign to fight equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said:
“Many people cannot understand why the Church seems to think that the worst thing for a relationship is for it to be same-sex. People know that what really matters is whether a relationship is respectful and consensual, or abusive. Abuse of young and vulnerable people destroys lives. Abuse of positions of trust and power, for example over students in a college, damages lives too. And there are more than 50,000 cases of domestic abuse reported to police each year in Scotland.
“Concerns have rightly been raised about the priority the Church places on sexual morality in particular, and the tone with which it speaks, but the focus needs to be right too. Why does the Church put so much time and money into opposing loving same-sex couples getting a marriage certificate, instead of campaigning on issues of abuse? Until the Church shows that it understands that consent versus abuse are what matters most in relationships, not sexual orientation, it will struggle to regain its credibility and moral authority.
“We have heard regret from the Cardinal about sexual conduct, and concern from the Church about well-deserved charges of hypocrisy. But we have not yet heard clearly enough that the Church understands that the real problem here was not breaching vows of celibacy, or that the sexual acts were same-sex, but that they were an abuse of a position of power.”