Cardinal questions loyalty of the Roman Catholic Church to the British Government
He declared: "For my own part, I have no difficulty in being a proud British Catholic citizen. But now it seems to me we are being asked to accept a different version of our democracy, one in which diversity and equality are held to be at odds with religion.”
This is perhaps the most important ‘but’ since the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, since which time Roman Catholic leaders in the United Kingdom have consistently emphasised their loyalty to the British state.
In a direct confrontation, the Cardinal said that Roman Catholics and other Christians and faith groups were going to demand their rights to continue to discriminate against homosexuality, and in particular in the Roman Catholic provision of adoption services. He gave his strongest indication that the church would close their nine adoption agencies rather than take an estimated £10m of government funds to run them in compliance with the new law. He said: “My fear is that, under the guise of legislating for what is said to be tolerance, we are legislating for intolerance. Once this begins, it is hard to see where it ends.”
Other key points in his speech included:
"My fear is that in an attempt to clear the public square of what are seen as unacceptable intrusions, we weaken the pillars on which that public square is erected, and we will discover that the pillars of pluralism may not survive.
"The question is whether the threads holding together pluralist democracy have begun to unravel. That is why I have sounded this note of alarm.
"I am conscious that when an essential core of our democratic freedom risks being undermined, subsequent generations will hold to account those who were able to raise their voices yet stayed silent.
"When Christians stand by their beliefs, they are intolerant dogmatists. When they sin, they are hypocrites.
"When they take the side of the poor, they are soft-headed liberals. When they seek to defend the family, they are right wing reactionaries."
The Cardinal said he feared that Britain was becoming a country where faith-based charity work will not be welcomed. Interestingly, it is the stated aim of David Cameron’s New Conservative Party to revive and encourage such faith-based works, and to acknowledge that the church acts very well in numerous areas of social justice where the state has manifestly failed. Mr Cameron’s problem is that he supports the Government on this issue, and so faith-based charities will be limited or eradicated by their obligation to adhere to legislation which conflicts with the tenets of that faith.
Cranmer therefore agrees absolutely and unequivocally with His Eminence, and he despairs at the deafening silence emanating from the Lambeth Palace. The Government and the Opposition have got this very wrong indeed. The Cardinal speaks not only for his church, but for the whole of Christendom.