Scotland Moves Toward Marriage Equality; Archbishop Causes Grief for Late MP’s Family



Last week’s Catholic LGBT news from Scotland was both good and bad, as two stories highlighted the church’s role in politics.

On the good side,  in the first story, it was announced that the Scottish parliament will introduce a bill to legalize marriage between two people of the same gender, despite pressure from Catholic officials not to do so.

“[Government] Ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015.

“Political leaders, equality organisations and some faith groups welcomed introducing same-sex marriage.

“But it was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland.”

The BBC also noted that:

” . . . [the ]government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.”

Official Catholic response to the decision to go forth with the bill was negative:

“A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: ‘The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.’ “

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

On the bad side, in the second story, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the newly-appointed archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland, created a row by claiming that the death of a gay Member of Parliament may have been caused by his sexuality.  David Cairns, 44, a resigned Catholic priest, died of acute pancreatitis.  The BBC reports that during a question period after an address to a university audience, Tartaglia said:

“If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society has been very quiet about it.

“Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age, obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing.

“But society won’t address it.”

Archbishop Tartaglia’s spokesperson claimed that the statements were misunderstood and that the archbishop apologized for any pain that was caused:

David Cairns

“The Archbishop-elect’s words have been taken out of context.

“They were made in answer to an audience question at a lecture he gave on religious freedom in Oxford 14 weeks ago.

 “He had no previous knowledge of the question, which was not related to his speech. In his reply he mentioned a situation he had been closely involved in, namely the funeral arrangements for the late David Cairns.

“The archbishop knew David Cairns, met him regularly at events in Inverclyde, and got on well with him, and was personally involved in his funeral arrangements. He is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgement intended in his words.” provides the context, along with the question that prompted Tartaglia’s response:

“An audience question was posed by Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was censured by the BACP [British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy] for negligence after offering a gay man therapy to help him turn straight. She was seated next to Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, a group which actively campaigns for ex-gay therapies.

“Ms Pilkington said she wanted to speak about why the ‘homosexual agenda has become so powerful’, saying it was ‘intimidating, bullying and generates fear’, and people should ‘stand against it’.

“She drew attention to the case of Bob Bergeron, a gay American self-help author who had committed suicide at 49 having written a book about happiness for gay men over 40.

“Tartaglia welcomed such an opinion coming from a psychotherapist, indicating that as a Catholic priest people would expect him to say such things, but that she brought a different ‘angle’.

“The new archbishop continued: ‘If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society is being very quiet about it.

“ ‘Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so, and nobody said anything, and why his body should just shut down at that age? Obviously he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody.

“ ‘But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won’t address it. You’re right, Lesley, thank you.’ ”

Dermot Kehoe

Dermot Kehoe, Cairns’ partner, told the BBC that the archbishop’s remarks caused added the the grief and pain of Cairns’ family. Cairns said:

” ‘The Archbishop elect brought up David Cairns himself. He wasn’t asked about him, he chose to bring him up and essentially he implied that David’s death was due in some way homosexuality and his being gay.

” ‘This is not only in complete ignorance of the facts in this case.’

“Mr Kehoe added that to take a personal tragedy and to make it political ‘was more than upsetting, it is deeply painful’.

“He went on to say: ‘This has not only upset me and David’s family, but it added to our grief and pain and he [Archbishop elect Tartaglia] hasn’t shown any contrition for doing this.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


No Room at the Inn?

Sad news comes from Most Holy Redeemer parish, San Francisco, a community that has done excellent outreach to the local LGBT community in the Castro district where they are located and throughout the Bay Area.  

The Bay Area Reporter carries a story that Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco has made the parish disinvite three gay and lesbian clergy members  from speaking at the parish’s  Advent services.   The three are Rev. Jane Spahr, a retired Presbyterian minister who has been prominent in LGBT issues in her church; Rev. Roland Stringfellow, a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church and the coordinator of welcoming congregations at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry of the Pacific School of Religion; and retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, former head of the Utah diocese.

Rev. Spahr was gracious in her response to the disinvitation.  The news story reports that she wrote an email to Most Holy Redeemer parish, noting that the community has been

“in the forefront of loving people through HIV and giving us the opportunity to thrive in expressing the fullness of who we are as we integrate our sexuality and spirituality.”

“Your ministry there in the Castro has helped save so many lives,” she wrote. “How sad for the archbishop that he is missing the depth and breadth of your ministry and how he still sees you as ‘one issue’ rather than the fullness of who you are. The heart of your ministry embraces true hospitality and welcome, the kind of ministry Jesus lived.”

She said that congregants at Most Holy Redeemer “do not have to apologize” for the archbishop’s decision.

“We will pray that his heart will open as he experiences your love and grace,” she added.

As we approach the feast of Christmas, the birth of the Redeemer born in a stable because there was no room at the inn, let’s keep the parish in our prayers, that they may be strengthened to carry out their welcome to the LGBT community and not be disheartened by this directive.  Let’s do as Rev. Spahr suggests, and  pray, too, that Archbishop Niderauer’s heart will be opened to welcome those he might think are strangers.  Let’s pray for all in our church who shut the inn door out of fear and ignorance.  Let’s pray for ourselves, when we are the ones who shut the inn door.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry