Britain's most senior Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien has said that by legalizing gay marriage, nations are going against the natural law, which would lead to further degeneration of society into immorality.

Speaking in an interview at the Today program of BBC Radio 4, the Cardinal said countries were shaming themselves by decriminalizing gay marriage and their actions shouldn't be considered progressive.

O'Brien's interview with John Humphries of the BBC Radio 4 was close on the heels of a highly controversial article the Cardinal wrote for the Sunday telegraph.

Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right, he wrote, drawing accusations of using inflammatory language.

The Cardinal defended what he wrote during the interview: I am not saying it is grotesque, but perhaps to some people it might appear grotesque.

I don't think it's inflammatory at all. I think it's handing on the teaching of the Christian Church for more than 2,000 years and I am doing my best to hand it on in a way than many people can hear it, he said.

Responding to the criticism the article drew from various quarters, the Cardinal said I think if the UK does go for same sex marriage it is indeed shaming our country.

This is changing the whole notion of what marriage and what a family is. It affects children who are born, who have a right to a mother and father, he said during the interview. The natural law teaching of what marriage is is quite simple. It is natural for a man and woman to be together for the procreation and education of children and for their own mutual love.

I think that it is time now to call a halt to what you might call progress. I do not call what is happening nowadays progress, he said.

Cardinal O'Brien's homophobic article and the subsequent interview rationalizing it were heavily slammed by social networking sites.

If Cardinal Keith were in any other job he'd be sacked. If I said what he's said in my workplace I'd be fired, a Twitter user said.

Responding to the Cardinal's claim that homosexual couples cannot bring up a child the way heterosexual couples do, a blogger, who happens to have two homosexual women as parents, said: The problem for gay kids and children of gay parents is other people's homophobia and the silencing of your experience. The problem is not with your parents or your sexuality. That is why it is so important to end this hate, this prejudice.