Dermot Kehoe has struggled to move forward since the untimely death of his partner, David Cairns, a member of Parliament who passed away from pancreatitis last May. But grief turned to outrage after the new Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow made a speech suggesting Cairn’s sexuality contributed to his demise.
At a conference on religious freedom and equality at Oxford in April, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia (right) made an unprompted attack on Cairns (below), himself a former priest: “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,” said Tartaglia. “Obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing. But society won’t address it.”
Tartaglia, 61 added, “If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men… then society has been very quiet about it.”
A spokesman for the cleric explained there was “no offense or judgement intended in his words” but Kehoe said they added to the “grief and pain” he and Cairn’s family have endured.
Speaking to BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, Kehoe lashed out at Tartaglia: “The Archbishop-elect brought up David Cairns himself. He wasn’t asked about him, he chose to bring him up and essentially he implied that David’s death was due in some way homosexuality and his being gay. This has not only upset me and David’s family, but it added to our grief and pain and he hasn’t shown any contrition for doing this.”
Most galling is the fact that the remarks apparently came from left field, with the intention of undermining current efforts at ratifying marriage equality in Scotland.
“[The Archbishop] volunteered this information. It wasn’t something he was asked about specifically,” Kehoe said. “He’s taking a personal tragedy, he’s applying a layer of ignorance of the situation and prejudice on the top, and then trying to influence the government of Scotland with it,” against same-sex marriage.