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Sir Ian McKellen takes on homophobic Catholic bishop

Jonas Oliver | August 12, 2008

Sir Ian McKellen
LONDON — A speech given by Bishop Joseph Devine, the second most senior figure in the Scottish Catholic church, has out British gay actors Sir Ian McKellen and Simon Callow hopping mad.

In remarks given at St Aloysius college in Glasgow, Scotland earlier this year, Devine attacked recent advancements in the gay and lesbian movement. Speaking of the Queen�s inclusion of McKellen on the 2008 Honours List which pays tribute to those who have made an outstanding contribution to society, Devine said, �In this new year�s honors list, actor Ian McKellen was honored for his work on behalf of homosexuals. A century ago, Oscar Wilde was locked up and put in jail.�

According to the Times Online, Devine went on in the address to accuse homosexuals of aligning themselves with minority groups to present themselves as people under persecution, citing their attendance at Holocaust memorials.

Devine�s pointedly homophobic comments inspired a strong response from both McKellen, 69, who was awarded a knighthood in 1991 for his services to performing arts, and Callow, 59, who was awarded a CBE in 1999.

In a speech to a dinner for Stonewall, the gay rights group he co-founded in 1989, Oscar winner McKellen spoke directly to Devine�s attacks.

"From the pulpit, homophobia is preached by some arrogant religious leaders who think their beliefs are superior to our inborn and, some would say, God-given nature," McKellan said. �The Bishop of Motherwell addressed his flock and told them how appalled he was that I had received an honor and that 100 years ago I would have been imprisoned like Oscar Wilde. He feels that the Roman Catholic Church is beleaguered in some way.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Sunday Times, Callow was even harsher in criticism of Devine, saying that senior religious figures could not accept the changing attitudes in society towards gay relationships.

�The bishop is in my view a profoundly ignorant and stupid man in his views,� he said. �If he finds it offensive that gay people want to celebrate those gay people who died in the Holocaust�which was a large number of people – then he�s also profoundly unchristian.

�The church is shocked by how quickly attitudes have changed. All churches have thrived on prejudice, it�s a means of keeping people under their control and I think they are really shocked at how quickly the world has moved on, especially as it isn�t the world they would like it to be, so they cite biblical incidents as being the word of God.�

Bishop Devine responded to the criticisms, arguing that there was no evidence he had ever preached �homophobia� and insisting he merely used McKellen�s honor to illustrate the �power and the strength of the homosexual lobby,� according to a Times Online report.

�I was certainly not saying that homosexuality is a crime which requires prison, nothing of the kind,� Devine said. �The focus was on the progress made by homosexuals rather than the suggestion that there should be any draconian laws. It is all very well people in the gay lobby demanding rights, but they are riding roughshod over the rights of others in the process.

�What I am saying is not superior, it�s just sticking up for 2,000 years of Christian values.� Gay Link Content

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