Cardinal O'Brien's intervention this weekend on the proposals for gay marriage thrilled all hearts fed up with secular Britain. At last, a cleric speaks like he means what he says, doesn't use one of those girly-girly-I'm-a-nice-man-please-don't-hate-me voices, and cites among other things his duty to speak out. Not bad. Not bad at all.
But then he introduced the idea of slavery... Oh dear. What? Well, okay, it was just about passable as an argument. The subtext was that if something is legal, that does not mean it is morally good. So the government can pass all the laws it wants on gay marriage, and it still won't alter the fact that whatever we call a permanent gay relationship, it isn't a marriage! But when John Humphreys questioned the Cardinal about this yesterday on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, his attempts to explain it were ham-fisted. He kept on repeating that it was 'against human rights' on the somewhat tenuous basis that male-female marriage is defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, I venture to suggest he lost the thread of his own argument - not the first to do so in the teeth of the BBC's Rottweiler who was himself somewhat restrained, I thought.
Now the news this morning is that there is a letter forthcoming from Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Petter Smith. It will be read in 2,500 churches this weekend, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. How did the Telegraph get the story? Well ,the letter has been shown to them ...
I assumed at first it was to begin trying to limit the damage caused by the Cardinal yesterday. Later today I learned that this letter had already been distributed and was hardly under any serious embargo. Anyone who read this blog last week will know where I stand on fidelity to meaning as opposed to success. That said, if you are going to strike hard, you have to strike accurately. Otherwise, you just look daft. I'm not saying Cardinal O'Brien wrecked his own intervention yesterday, but he did turn the story into a story about his own language and fury, rather than keeping it as a story about how silly this proposed legislation is.
So - it may shock you to read - if Archbishop Nichols can combine fidelity and success in his letter on the weekend, I will be among his loudest cheerers. The fact that it comes a few days after a statement on the Soho Ministry which is ostensibly unfaithful to the very principles he enunciates is only one sign of the confusion that sometimes seems to surround his administration.
Still, if the contents of the forthcoming letter are as well argued as the Telegraph report suggests, then all power to his elbow.
Oremus pro eum!