Letters: Cardinal condemns our love

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The Independent Online

As a gay couple, we would like to thank The Independent for Jerome Taylor's article "Cardinal: same-sex marriage is just as immoral as slavery" (5 March). It analysed the specious arguments which Keith O'Brien devised to condemn gay unions. We deplore the words of the clergyman as hate speech undermining our democratic entitlement to marry.

As early as 1959 the political thinker Hannah Arendt argued that "the right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right," when she reacted to prejudices against interracial marriages in the US. Back then, the legacy of slavery prohibited the recognition of love; now haters of otherness deprive us of the recognition of our relationship.

The Cardinal turns his religion into a repressive ideology whilst today religions increasingly welcome LGBT commitment ceremonies. It is our hope that it is the acceptance of our love that will prevail.

Dr Pawel Leszkowicz

Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change, University of Sussex

Tomasz Kitlinski


The "debate" on gay marriage is becoming so fraught with emotion that rational argument seems to have been abandoned. The concern of the "anti" lobby seems to be this: if we allow gay marriage, then we give carte blanche to any group (polygamists and paedophiles seem to be cited with monotonous regularity) to claim that they have a right to pursue their chosen way of life.

However, we do not require a traditional concept of marriage to reject polygamy, paedophilia or bestiality as morally wrong – they are all examples of relationships where one side wields all the power. Gay marriage does not fit this description, and legalising it will have no unpleasant side-effects – except perhaps to highlight the increasing obsolescence of the Church as a social commentator.

Charles McQuillen

London SE18

If Cardinal O'Brien thinks that same-sex marriage is just as immoral as slavery, he should ponder on the fact that the New Testament treats slavery as a perfectly normal and morally acceptable part of everyday life. Slaves, especially Christian slaves, are told in Paul's epistles to honour and obey their masters, to treat them with respect, to be submissive, to go about their duties with enthusiasm and not to answer back.

I hope that the Cardinal will accept that attitudes to slavery have moved away from these New Testament norms and that we now live in more enlightened times. That he and other clerics seem unwilling to do the same for sex and sexuality suggests that the Church has a particular and obsessive problem with these areas of our personal lives.

Clive Wilkinson

Rothbury, Northumberland

Cardinal O'Brien is right to raise concerns. The Government has been deceptive on the proposal for same-sex marriage. The consultation that Lynne Featherstone is due to launch is not about the question whether the Government will make the change, but how. Thank heavens for church leaders who have concerns about civil as well as clerical matters.

J Longstaff

Woodford Green, Essex

It really is difficult to take seriously yet another silly outburst about the possibility of gay marriage by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head in Scotland of an organisation that allowed its priests to abuse children with impunity for many years and which condemns women and children around the world to a life of misery because of its absurd attitude to contraception.

Professor Brian Everitt

London SE19

Now we need an inquiry into the police

Your report "The copper, the Lawrence killer's father and secret police files that expose a 'corrupt relationship'" (6 March) represents outstanding investigative journalism that deserves to produce similar results to the press's exposure of the parliamentary expenses scandal and the phone-hacking scandal.

It also flags up that there would be at least as much public interest to be served by a judicial inquiry into the Metropolitan Police as the current Leveson inquiry into the press.

That Scotland Yard should have played down to Sir William Macpherson's inquiry the significance of their own anti-corruption team's report that a leading detective on the case was a "major player" in a group of bent coppers should outrage public opinion. These alarming revelations, combined with the Leveson disclosures about senior Scotland Yard officers, raise major public interest questions that Lord Leveson, for all his judicial skills, won't be able to answer within the limits of his brief.

Public confidence in many cornerstones of society – press, police, politicians, bankers – has hit rock bottom. When it comes to judicial inquiries, Leveson alone may not be enough.

Paul Connew

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Detective Sergeant John Davidson was awarded an ill-health pension to allow him to retire and run a bar in Menorca.

Perhaps some fearless investigative journalist could use the Freedom of Information Act to discover how many Metropolitan Police officers who have been accused of corruption in recent years have been awarded ill-health pensions. It seems that the Met would rather be accused of bumbling mismanagement of sick leave than have to admit that a culture of corruption has been in existence in the force for many years.

John Kenny


A free ride for pensioners

It's great that Steve Richards was able to give free travel for the elderly a good kicking in his opinion piece "Not every pensioner needs a free train ticket" (6 March). It's obviously something he needed to get off his chest. All those rich pensioners whizzing around the capital, waving their Freedom Passes in the faces of honest, hard-working folk like himself!

As for what might replace the current system, Mr Richards was too busy bashing child benefit to worry about that. Presumably, he'd like to see some kind of means-testing introduced. Never mind that it would probably cost more to put such a system in place than it would to let all over-60s travel free. Oh, and with dwindling pension pots and a financial crisis in full swing, means tests would need to be repeated every year or two to prevent eligible elderly from falling through the net.

So why not just junk the whole system entirely? I'm sure that would make Mr Richards very happy. Until he reaches retirement age himself, of course.

Rob Prince (aged 61 and a quarter)

London SE13

Steve Richards argues convincingly against the application of universal welfare benefits. Unfortunately his prime example is not universal, since the majority of pensioners do not get free train and tube travel, only those who live in London. Neither do the rest of us get totally free bus travel, since the times are restricted.

I would suggest that if Steve Richards really feels hurt about the well-off getting the London Freedom Pass, and wants to save the Treasury some money, he might urge that Londoners be included in the same "universal" benefits as the rest of us; that is to say free bus travel only (no tube or train) between the hours of 9.30am and 11pm. Then like us they could all go out for the evening on a free meandering bus, but have to pay through the nose to get home again.

Albert Chatterley


Syria: do a deal with the Russians

There is a way through this terrible situation in Syria, though it would involve stopping the rhetoric and looking at the realpolitik.

First, we have to understand why Homs is so important to Assad that he would butcher his own people for it. Homs stands at a vital strategic point where the road between the two principal cities of Aleppo and Damascus crosses the route inland from the port of Tartus, where the Russian navy has a base, and indeed its only access to the Mediterranean. Assad will unhesitatingly destroy the whole of Homs and its population rather than upset his Russian allies.

So we have to drive a wedge between Russia and Syria. We could do that, if the UN would swallow its pride and guarantee Russia continued access to Tartus irrespective of what regime is in power in Syria. Assad would then lose his unique lever for continuing Russian support.

The Chinese, who have long had a trading relationship with Syria, could probably then be persuaded that peace under a different government would be more favourable to trade than continued turbulence under Assad.

All this, of course, would mean that the international community should stop speechifying and examine the best realistic political way of helping the Syrian opposition.

Jane Jakeman


Santorum's science

I am shocked to read the quotation ascribed to Republican Party presidential candidate Rick Santorum: "CO2, according to this administration, is toxic. Well, go tell that to a plant." Surely such a god-fearing man raised in the conviction that evolution is an atheist myth should not be promoting belief in the dubious "science"' of photosynthesis.

Or maybe he prefers to see a divine hand behind plants meekly mopping up man's CO2 and returning oxygen for us to breathe. I wonder how he thinks that works when deforestation and acid rain have removed the plants.

Dr Ewan Gerard


The world's first computer game?

Your review of George Dyson's book Turing's Cathedral (24 February) mentioned the first peacetime computer developed by the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington.

I joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1950 and was introduced to two computers developed by NPL, nicknamed Gert and Daisy. They were so large that only the airship hangar could house them. I remember the excitement when a programme was developed which showed a small green figure dancing on a tiny screen.

W A Hayday

Freshwater, Isle of Wight

All England

Using the word "England" instead of "Britain" may sometimes be ignorant, incorrect and even insulting to other nations within our United Kingdom (letter, 2 March), but this is often simply an inoffensive synecdoche, just as we might praise the "Russian" war effort without disparaging, or having on every occasion to list, other Soviet participants. Do Canadians and Cubans complain because the people of the USA are called "Americans"?

D L W Ashton

Sheringham, Norfolk


Mary Ann Sieghart (5 March) describes the "meticulous follow-through" approach of Oliver Letwin, Minister of State, Cabinet Office, as he supervises "delivery and implementation" of the Government's policies. I now understand why Mr Letwin was photographed last year in St James's Park disposing of documents in a public bin.

Dr Alex May