Scottish Archbishop: Politician Died Because He Was Gay
The newly appointed archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland, is being criticized for comments he made in April where he linked the death of a Labor Member of Parliament to his sexual orientation, the British newspaper the Guardian reported.
Philip Tartaglia, a conservative Catholic who was recently appointed as the archbishop of Glasgow by Pope Benedict, said the sudden death of David Cairns, a former minister, had to do with his being gay.
In April, Tartaglia attended a religious freedom and equality conference at Oxford University and suggested that there was a link between Cairn’s sexual orientation and his death from complications from acute pancreatitis.
Cairns was a former Catholic priest and a well-respected Scotland Office minister. His death was sudden and shocked friends, family and his peers. He was 44.
The archbishop’s remarks were a response to an audience member’s question about the suicide of a gay U.S. author.
"If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society is being very quiet about it," Tartaglia said. "Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so, and nobody said anything, and why his body should just shut down at that age? Obviously he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody. But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won’t address it."
Cairn’s partner of nearly 15 years, Derot Kehoe and Tom Harris, the Labor MP for Glasgow South and close friend of Cairns, criticized Tartaglia’s comments.
"This is genuinely very upsetting and painful for David’s family and friends. I can’t believe that someone who claims to be a man of God and is seeking to give moral leadership should speak from such a position of ignorance," Kehoe told the Scottish newspaper, the Scotsman.
"I don’t care what his views on gay marriage are, but to bring in my dead partner to justify those views is wrong."
Tartaglia has publicly opposed marriage equality and the Scottish government’s proposals on legalizing same-sex marriage.
Harris wrote a letter to the archbishop and said his statements were "hurtful and ill-informed."
"I was privileged to be one of David’s closest friends. His friends and family have spent the last year trying to come to terms with his tragic loss from complications arising from acute pancreatitis," Harris wrote. "Your public assertion that David’s illness might in some way be connected to his sexuality and lifestyle was not only unsupported by any evidence, but was, I fear, unworthy of your position as a leader in the church."
A spokesman for Tartaglia responded to the men’s sharp criticisms.
"Responding to a question from an audience member, Bishop Tartaglia agreed that the health risks of same-sex behaviour were largely unreported. He mentioned the premature death of a young high-profile gay MP in this context. There was no intention to cause offence and he regrets that anyone may have been upset.
"In the case of the MP concerned, his funeral was conducted in the Catholic church and pastoral support offered to his family and friends."
It was reported on Wednesday that officials from Scotland’s government announced plans to legalize gay marriage. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a law that would legalize same-sex marriage would soon be introduced.
Scotland is part of Great Britain, but under the "devolution" of recent years has its own parliament that makes many local laws. It also sends representatives to London’s parliament and recognizes the queen as sovereign.