Friday 7 October 2011

Gay marriage will be here to stay if Catholic leaders don't witness to the whole moral truth about homosexuality

Bishop Kieran Conry
On Wednesday David Cameron, the British prime minister, backed gay marriage, telling the annual Conservative party conference:
“I stood before a Conservative conference once and I said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a man and another man or a woman and a woman.

You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”
As Mr Cameron said, his conference speech of five years ago made the same point about commitment, in that case endorsing civil partnerships as true families.

If, however, 'commitment' trumps the objective nature (e.g. male or female) of the people making the commitment and the reality of their relationship (e.g. homosexual or heterosexual), then why not allow close relatives to marry? Or several people?

Yet the issue is wider than the criteria for marriage. The fundamental reason why gay marriage is wrong is not only that it would be a false version of marriage, stealing the word 'marriage' and the special place of marriage in society (i.e. faithful and permanent heterosexual unions open to begetting children). The fundamental argument against gay marriage is that homosexuality is disordered, as it is radically at variance with the truth and meaning of human sexuality.* And this argument has been cleverly undermined by Catholic spokesmen by endorsing civil partnerships.

On Wednesday The Telegraph reported that Kieran Conry (pictured), Catholic bishop of Arundel and Brighton:
"stressed that the Catholic Church supported civil partnerships, which confer the same rights to gay couples as marriage, because they give better legal protection to individuals in matters including inheritance."
In fact, the Church has condemned civil partnerships. In 2003, the late Pope John Paul II approved a document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), entitled "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons", signed by the current Holy Father. It says:
"Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens." (no.9)
In January 2010 Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES),  reportedly told The Tablet that "the Church was not opposed to civil partnerships" and that being in a civil partnership was not a bar to being appointed a headteacher in a Catholic school.

Before and after last year's papal visit to the UK, Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, made repeated references helpful to the homosexual cause, including an endorsement of civil partnerships.

And Dr Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, former director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and former deputy editor of The Tablet, has written that "civil partnerships are a fine thing, and should be extended", including to "marriage-phobic men and women" and "people who commit themselves – lovingly, sometimes even sexually".

As long as Catholics tolerate, defend or promote civil partnerships or associated legal protections for homosexuals, the wider world will continue to see bans on gay marriage as pointless discrimination, and any insistence on calling only heterosexual unions 'marriage' as mere semantics. Catholics must proclaim loud and clear that it is impossible for any homosexual relationship to be a marriage because genuine personal, sexual and spiritual union between persons of the same-sex is impossible.

And as long as Catholics, when arguing against gay marriage, fail to argue - or even deny - that homosexuality is disordered, the battle against gay marriage will never be won. As the 2003 CDF document made clear, precisely in the context of the public debate about homosexuality, that:
"In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty ... Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth (no.5) ... Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean...the approval of deviant behaviour" (no.11).
* Why is the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality (and sexual ethics generally) important specifically for the pro-life movement? The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in no. 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

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