Cardinal Keith O’Brien has compared the introduction of same-sex marriage to the legalisation of slavery.
He made the comment in an article for the Telegraph in which he said the repercussions of such legislation would be “immense”.
The cardinal said: “Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave’.
“Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?”
In his article Cardinal O’Brien said that “no government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage”.
He pointed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where marriage defined as a relationship between a man and a woman. He argued that same-sex marriage would be a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
He described the consequences of such legislation, saying: “If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?
“Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed? Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?” he said.
The cardinal defended his comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, saying: “I don’t think it’s inflammatory at all. I think it’s handing on the teaching of the Christian Church for more than 2,000 years and I am doing my best to hand it on in a way that many people can hear it.”