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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

Column: Cardinal Rules - On gay rights

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland worries about the support of the Tories and Fianna Fáil for gay marriage but finds a new champion in a Scottish colleague – and relief in Winning Streak.

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

IT HAS BEEN another tough week for the Catholic Church. This time the militant gay lobby reared its ugly head. Bishop Brophy responded in kind, and did his very best to fight back.


We are all in the common room watching Winning Streak. A nice old lady from Athlone called Mary is just about to spin the wheel. The tension, as usual, is unbearable. Suddenly Fr Brennan bursts through the door.

“Fianna Fáil have endorsed same sex marriage and full adoption rights for gays at their Ard Fheis!” he shouts.

There is a collective intake of breath, which is unfortunate, as there has already been a collective intake of breath just as Mary waddled over to spin the wheel.

Fr Brennan looks from face to face looking for a reaction. Finally, there is a great exhalation of relief as Mary finishes her spin.

“That’s terrible!” exclaims Fr Lawlor.

“Yes, it’s a disgrace,” says Fr Brennan.

“She only won ten thousand euro,” says Fr Lawlor.

“Poor Mary,” says Fr Deegan.

“No, no…” says Fr Brennan weakly, “I meant…”

“Shh, Marty Whelan is talking,” says Fr Lawlor.

It takes a few minutes after Winning Streak is finished to get everybody worked up into a righteous state of anti-gay indignation. The indignation dips slightly during Match of the Day, but then “goes off the scale” when somebody accidentally switches on a repeat of the Graham Norton Show. I retire to bed happy in the knowledge that everybody is in the correct frame of mind.


The Tories are now advocating full marriage and adoption rights for the gays. A terrible vista is opening up before us.

“You can’t even depend on a Tory now,” growls Bishop Brophy. “What’s the world coming to?”

Fortunately we discover a new champion. The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’ Brien, has come out in defence of decency and strictly heterosexual values in an article. He uses the phrase “thin edge of the wedge” and “trying to redefine reality.” He even draws a brilliant analogy between the foisting of gay marriage on society and the legalisation of slavery. Some people are unsure about the intellectual rigour of such an analogy, but when one is fighting a war it is the tone of your analogies that carries the strength of your argument.

“He is on fire!” cheers Bishop Brophy reading his column.

“Like a protesting Buddhist monk!” cheers Fr Lawlor.

“That’s an inappropriate analogy,” responds Fr Brennan.


Bishop Brophy appears on Morning Ireland on TV3 to defend Cardinal O’Brien. He chuckles indulgently at Sinead Desmond’s girly questions. Mark Cagney, or as he refers to him, “Mr Night Train”, is suitably polite.

“We can’t just legalise gay marriage willy nilly,” says Bishop Brophy. “It would destroy decent society as we know it. People would be running off with Bangkok ladyboys left right and centre.”

“Now that you brought it up, would you like to talk about Bishop Wally Moran?” he is asked.

Bishop Brophy is rattled. He struggles through, but he doesn’t even put up a fight when Aidan Cooney takes his cream bun during the cooking slot.


We are watching telly that evening when that awful Stephen Fry pops up talking about hippos.

“Sondheimite!” shouts Bishop Brophy at the screen.

“I thought Stephen Fry was more of a Wagner fan,” says Fr Lawlor.

A discussion ensues. It turns out that Bishop Brophy has been misattributing people’s musical preferences for years, under the misapprehension that he is actually referring to their aberrant sexual preferences. This changes everything, including the interview he did on the Late Late Show in 1995 in the presence of Elton John – during which Bishop Brophy’s inaccurate pejorative was met with Elton John’s repetition of “Well if you can hum it I can play it,” followed by the audience’s laughter.

Fr Brennan’s “Yes, but everybody knows the gays have a thing for musical theatre, so in a sense you weren’t that wide of the mark” offers him no consolation.

Later I catch him staring into space in the kitchen.


Apparent musician, one time hopeless drug addict, and blatant homosexual Rufus Wainwright, has launched a verbal attack on Cardinal O’Brien.

“How dare he!” thunders Fr Brennan.

Bishop Brophy is unmoved. He sits at the kitchen table muttering to himself, and looking lost.

“Well his version of Hallelujah is rubbish,” says Fr Lawlor in an attempt to rally Bishop Brophy.

There is a long awkward silence.

“Are we winning?” asks Fr Brennan.

“So long as we have moral authority, reason, and truth on our side,” I tell him.

“Is that a no so then?” asks Fr Lawlor quietly.

Nobody says anything. The silence is broken only by Bishop Brophy humming a mournful version of “Somewhere.”

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(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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