Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Same sex marriage debate continues...

The same sex marriage debate, and the tactics the Church and others should take to counter it continue to be hotly debated both here and in the UK.

In Australia and the UK the debate seems now to be focusing on the problem of priests and bishops who either fail to teach all, with the sort of interesting rationalisations offered by Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ in relation to abortion, as well as the consequences of inconsistent teaching and promotion of error.

It is worth noting in this context that while no pope has ever been condemned for heresy, one has been posthumously condemned for failure to teach, namely Honorius I.

Will same sex marriage get the numbers?

On the positive side in Australia, the Opposition seem to be firming up with Shadow Cabinet rejecting a conscience vote, at Mr Abbott's insistence. 

There is some way to go on this yet though, since media reports suggest that at least seven senior Coalition members (note these names to vote against in future elections: George Brandis, Christopher Pyne, Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey, Bruce Billson, Greg Hunt and Nigel Scullion) pushed for a conscience vote.  The matter has to go to the party room next year.

Consequences of inconsistent teaching

But perhaps the most scandalous problem is the consequences of inconsistent teaching on this subject. 

In the UK context Fr Blake offers a powerful story of a convert homosexual couple amongst his parishioners who sought to live chaste lives in accordance with the Church's teaching, and rejected the option of a civil union because of past teaching on that subject.  They suffered severely as a result, with one of the partners excluded from the care of his dying friend, who was even denied a catholic funeral by his family.  Unsurprisingly he now feels deeply upset and betrayed by Archbishop Nichols' apparent support for civil unions.

It is all too possible for similar situations to arise in Australia.  In the ACT, for example, Archbishop Coleridge spoke out publicly against civil union legislation a few years back and took considerable flack for it.  How are those who took that position to heart supposed to interpret the new, apparently official position of the Bishops Conference?   Fortunately on issues such as this, individual bishops are free to take a different position in respect of their own dioceses, to the party line!

Strategy and tactics

Both the UK and ACT situations also indicate just why relying on the argument that civil unions give homosexuals enough is never going to win the day.  In both places, civil unions are permitted in some form.  Yet in both cases it has not been perceived by the homosexual community as enough, with the seconder of the motion at the ALP Conference being the ACT Government Minister Andrew Barr.  The bottom line is that what they are seeking is endorsement of their lifestyle as mainstream and acceptable, and nothing short of labelling their relationships as 'marriage' will satisfy that objective.

The problem for the Church is that where once its values were shared by the majority of our society, and its lobbying power reflected that, secularists are increasingly becoming the majority.  The gay lobby may only be a tiny minority but they are highly organised, well educated and moneyed, and have been effective in swaying a large number of people into thinking that this is a non-issue through the agency of 'useful idiots' such as the Greens.

In these circumstances the Church has to decide whether pragmatism should rule, or speaking out forcefully, even if that alienates much of its own base, might now be the better strategy.

The argument for pragmatism of course is the hope of at least mitigating the worst aspects of any resulting legislation (for example ensuring that priests will not be prosecuted for refusing to marry gay couples), or even holding the day for the moment at least.

Increasingly though it is a tactic that seems to be failing.

Perhaps we need to read 'the signs of the times' and consider whether a return to the intransigence on such issues of the early church might prove more effective in the longer run in the battle for souls even if we lose some major battles in the short term. 

Many bishops, in those early years of the Church, were forced to flee their sees and suffer other consequences for speaking up for truth. 

If we lose some key battles now, persecution will ensure, and the mettle of priests and people will be sorely tested.  It will have consequences for Catholic Social Service provision and many other aspects of life in this country.

But perhaps those times are coming again inevitably anyway, and the sooner we realise it, prepare and act accordingly, the better off we will be in the longer run.

The blood of the martyrs, after all, was the seed of the Church.

3 comments:

A Canberra Observer said...

Ah yes, aggiornamento has served us so well in the Catholic Church ...

bitter and twisted, I know.

And the same-sex brigade are very smart and well organised.

Sharon said...

The book "After the Ball" tells how a same-sex attracted psychologist and a Madison Avenue advertising executive devised a strategy to change the public's perception of homosexuality. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Could the Catholic Church learn something from their strategy? Does the Catholic Church need a public relations person/people in each country to present the truth of the Faith in an accessible way and to give answers to the questions asked of the Church re sexual abuse and all of the moral issues?

R J said...

Here's the neocon / "Catholic" heart-throb Tony Abbott rhapsodising - in a manner which makes Richard Nixon's celebrated 1952 tribute to his dog look positively restrained - about the man who, as we now know, for more than 20 years almost single-handedly turned Melbourne seminary life into the equivalent of a Kings Cross bath-house:

http://www.tonyabbott.com.au/News/tabid/94/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/7058/RONALD-CONWAY-PHILOSOPHER-OF-HOPE-AND-TRUTH.aspx

The "anti-After-The-Ball" strategy recommended by Sharon could well have worked 20 years ago. My own belief is that it is now far too late: that the sodomites' Fifth Column has now made such inroads into the Church itself as to ensure our religious destiny is that of present-day Ireland.