Referendum? On a human rights issue?

At least one of the front pages of the Scottish newspapers is going to be full of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s call for a referendum to be held on Equal Marriage – that being the issue that the Scottish Cabinet is due to talk about and hopefully make its mind up about on Tuesday. I think that there are a lot of people who would feel rather queasy at the idea of having a referendum on the human rights of others in society.

Here’s what I say:

The voice of Scotland’s Roman Catholic Cardinal is sounding ever more shrill as he appears to be losing the argument. These days, many view Equal Marriage as a human rights issue rather than something that one church should be able to rule out simply because of its own moral code. The time has come for the Scottish Government to legislate for Equal Marriage. If religious people do not want to conduct such marriages then that should be up to them – after all, no religious celebrant is ever forced to conduct any marriage currently and no religious celebrant will be forced to conduct a same-sex marriage if the law changes. The Roman Catholic Cardinal is not the moral arbiter of Scottish society. The decision about Equal Marriage should properly be taken by those elected to take it. The sooner that the Scottish Parliament gets a chance to vote for Equal Marriage the better. Marriage as an institution will be strengthened and reinforced as the gold-standard for human relationships when it is open to same-sex couples in the same way that it is currently open to couples of the opposite sex.

The use of the word Catholic

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for suggestions as to what I might blog about. One of the suggestions was this:

the use of the word “catholic” as opposed to what people think, which is “Catholic”, as is the Church of Rome.

Well, OK. Why not?

The word Catholic is one of the things that we ended up talking about quite a lot in a recent confirmation/baptism class that I was involved in, so I know that it is something that does bother people. Why do we proclaim that we are “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?” I was asked. I suspect that simply pointing out that I once was in an hour long seminar on how that phrase should be punctuated will not really help matters.

Last night as I was getting read to close up the church someone came in and declared that he was glad that he had found what he was looking for, told me that he had been looking for a Catholic church and asked whether I could provide him with a rosary.

Where to begin?

Well, we use the word Catholic to imply that we are part of the universal church. So do Roman Catholics, so far as I can see, though I’m aware that more of those I’ve met who are Roman Catholics might think that their denomination actually is the universal church rather than simply being a part of the universal church than Anglicans tend to do.

People of a more High Church persuasion (and I think given the laldy which we gave to the Regina Coeli on Easter Day, that must include some of those present at St Mary’s) tend to emphasis the word Catholic and be quite assertive that they are Catholics, and ones who just happen to be Episcopalian or Anglican.

The word “Catholic” is rather like “Anglican” in that it has both positive and negative connotations in the society in which St Mary’s is placed. Catholic implies universality to me but to the person on the Auchenshuggle omnibus, it will speak also of the sectarian division in the city. That might well mean a sense of injustice as to the way Roman Catholics have been treated in Scottish society. (Remember, the Church of Scotland was advocating repatriating Catholics to Ireland at one point in the last century). On the other hand, it might mean a sense of frustration over perceived injustice over the education system – Roman Catholics having the right to a particular form of education paid for by the state. Similarly, to someone in the know, Anglican might imply connections with a world-wide commonwealth of churches who share a particular heritage or alternatively it might imply a church famous world-wide for being nasty to gay people.

I’m interested to note in passing the protest of St Andrews students against Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien when he went there to preach in the University Chapel at the weekend. It doesn’t seem to have been reported in many places. Such a protest is a significant one. I’ve observed before that the kind of attitudes to homosexuality that the Cardinal has been promoting are becoming less and less acceptable in decent society, something for which we should thank God daily.

There are not that many weeks during the summer when St Mary’s Cathedral does not have visitors who think they are in a Roman Catholic Church who make it to the end of the service entirely oblivious to the fact that they are not. We don’t pass ourselves off as anything other than we are and the stewards are always happy to direct people who need to know, to our friends in St Columba’s up the road. I’ve been intrigued at the number of people from Spain, France and Italy who have got to the end of one of our services believing themselves to be in a Catholic church even when one of my female colleagues has been celebrating.

But that’s the nature of the word Catholic I guess. Different things to different people at different times.

One. Holy. Catholic. Apostolic. Church.
One, holy-catholic, and apostolic church.
…one, holy catholic and Apostolic church.
One holy, catholic and apostolic church.
one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

See what I mean about punctuation?