Andy Walton looks at whether there is a "Religious Right" emerging in Britain
A very controversial cardinal
21st August 2012
There are two starkly different ways of viewing the pronouncements of Cardinal Keith O'Brien over the past few years.
From the point of view of mainstream Britain, this is a man on the lunatic fringe of religious fanaticism. When he breaks off talks with the Scottish government over same-sex marriage, as he did on Sunday, compares the reform to the re-introduction of slavery, condemns it as "a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right", or brutally describes Scottish abortion rates as "equivalent to two Dunblane massacres a day", for many people he is completely out of order: a walking, talking demonstration of why we are grateful that religion has moved to the sidelines. This is the hectoring tone, the dogmatic certainty, the arrogant assertion of values we have long abandoned; a tone that deserves to be confined to the pulpits of dusty old churches, bothering the consciences of ever-shrinking congregations.
But viewed from Rome, from the heart of the Curia that rules the Church with an iron hand, the 74-year-old Irish-born Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh is something else altogether: a prodigal son who has seen the error of his (relatively) youthful ways and returned to the path of righteousness; the most senior Catholic churchman in Britain, a man who is uncannily alert to the Vatican's concerns and finds earthy, vigorous language in which to promote its views.