Oh, O'Brien   (3.3.13)

Over the years Keith O'Brien has described gay people as "captives of sexual aberrations", criticised the introduction of civil partnerships, described gay relationships as "harmful", labelled gay parenting "totalitarian", compared gay marriage to "slavery", described gay marriage as "a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right", and as "degenerate". He was awarded "Bigot of the Year" in 2012 by gay rights charity Stonewall for his voice of extreme division and prejudice. During the gay marriage debate, commentator Dan Hodges remarked that "I can't remember the last time I read a more morally and intellectually bankrupt rant from a senior member of the clergy," in reference to O'Brien's remarks.

It seems that, as many would have guessed, these comments were at least in part O'Brien's personal psychodrama: a battle between his nature and his settled moral beliefs, played out in a public political debate. It is a well-trodden path. But, before we all get this wrong: the hypocrisy here is not caused by the conflict between his own homosexual attraction and his negative remarks about homosexuality in general. While that conflict indicates great personal turmoil, no doubt, it is at least logically consistent.

The hypocrisy is between experiencing first-hand "unwanted same-sex attraction" (as the ugly "Christian" set phrase seems to be), and yet using the language of diminishment and sanctimony towards those he should have been especially capable of experiencing empathy for. His words were at the very least a gross betrayal of his pastoral duties, as I remarked at the time. And the deeper hypocrisy is, allegedly, of using a position of pastoral care to attempt to seduce others into the same sexual conduct which he publicly denounced.

I hope and pray that O'Brien will recover from what must currently be a truly horrible experience. But as part of his recovery, he will have to find a way to process the fact that the sadness he is experiencing now is the kind of sadness that he has been inflicting on gay people, and especially gay Catholics, for many years.

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