Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Bishop O'Kelly supports civil unions?

I had hoped to bring my run of critical posts of our bishops to an end.

Unfortunately, it seems my assumptions about why our bishops haven't spoken up much thus far on the gay 'marriage' debate is correct - because today over at Cath Blog, Bishop Greg O'Kelly SJ of Port Pirie diocese has a piece that is problematic to say the least. 

On the plus side, it does condemn the ALP's decision to change their party platform and support same sex 'marriage', thus launching what one hopes will be the first of several stages of a campaign.  But on the negative side, it gives overt approval to same sex relationships!

No doubt such a piece will meet with some approval from its target audience of Cath News liberals.  But on the face of it, it directly contradicts Church teaching, and Vatican 2003 guidelines on the subject.

What the laity really want: transparency, genuine pastoral concern, and orthodoxy

I have to say I continue to find the state of the Church in Australia at the moment singularly depressing.

On the plus side, we have the new Missal, and the tantalising prospect of some new bishop appointments at some point.  We have some nice initiatives such as the women's retreat on offer in Sydney next week by the Sisters of Life.

Meanwhile, though, more than a week after the Bishops Conference meeting, still no sign of a press release on what was discussed and its outcomes.  Is even that small step in the direction of transparency made for recent meetings now being dropped?

And then there is the Year of Grace - I keep hoping for some substantive information about what is envisaged in it, and how we can become engaged in it so I can blog on it.  But so far all I've seen and heard are content-free puff pieces.

Above all there is the false ecumenism that still seems to flourish everywhere.  It was symbolised by the fact that Archbishop Bathersby of Brisbane's almost last act in Office was to hold a shindig with the Anglicans with whom there is surely no hope of reconciliation in the foreseeable future. 

And the ACU's interesting dip into 'interfaith dialogue' with a course on Jews and Catholics reading Scripture together this summer - because same words, must mean there is common ground, right?!

So where is the course that actually attempts to recover the Catholic traditon on Scripture?  That engages Orthodox perspectives for example, with whom we actually do have some common ground!

And which bishop has actively engaged with members of the Traditional Anglican Communion (save in the Ordinariate negotiation processes, themselves seemingly being hampered by the hardline adopted by Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, and President of the Australian Bishops' Conference, on AB Hepworth) , or the SSPX? 

On the face of it, Church politics and political correctness seems to be driving out concern for souls.

Will gay 'marriage' get up?

But the biggest catastrophe on the horizon is surely the prospect that same sex sham marriages will be legalized in this country early next year.  Assorted punters are claiming the left/Green alliance don't have the numbers. 

I wouldn't be so sure!  Certainly, if Mr Abbott allows a conscience vote as he is apparently 'open' to doing, they might well succeed.

It is then, deeply disappointing to read Bishop O'Kelly's piece today.

Labor losing its way

Bishop O'Kelly does, it is true, condemn Labor's drift from fundamental principles:

"Where I grew up, a member of a railway family, to be Catholic was to be Labor; to be otherwise was almost an act of betrayal. We were brought up to be trenchantly loyal. The Party stood to defend and support working-class families through ensuring that justice triumphed over economic and political discrimination.

True Labor never envisaged an attack on human institutions such as marriage, through defining an anomaly as an equivalent. A same-sex union is never comparable to a family founded on the Sacrament of marriage.

To equate them is to devalue an institution which is the foundation of society, a vowed communion of father and mother and children.

The ALP is losing its foundation and identity as it becomes peopled and controlled by interest groups who join it in order to have their sectional issues declared as national policies."

The problem is how he then argues the case.  He makes the case about the effects of changing the nature of the institution, and the can of worms it opens in relation to polygamy and other pushes for liberalization.

The problem comes with these paragraphs:

"Most of us know people of same-sex attraction and are proud to name them as friends, or cherish them as members of our family. There is no difference in attributes like kindness and generosity, social conscience and honesty, religious faith. [!I beg to differ here.  The whole point of the Church's condemnation of homosexual practise is that it is a fundamentally selfish act, the pursuit of personal pleasure over the good of society.  More fundamentally, because it is a sin, it is a rejection of God.]

There must never be social or political discrimination against any human being.[We need to distinguish between just and unjust 'discrimination', and between discriminating against a person, and discriminating against what they do. ] There must be legal protection for same-sex couples to ensure appropriate justice in areas like property, inheritance, personal access, and so on. [These legal protections already exist in Australia, but the Vatican guidelines explicitly prohibit support for them.  That is because the protections around property, inheritance, and so forth were originally intended to protect procreation, not its rejection!]

But a same-sex union is not marriage, and can never be. Marriage is a vowed union of a man and a woman in a love from which human life can spring. A same-sex union is clearly not that, so this term marriage cannot be applied."

The clear implication of all this is that so long as you don't actually call it marriage, it is fine.  Civil unions, full steam ahead...

What the Church actually teaches

In the UK, Archbishop Nichols has stepped back somewhat from his earlier position to 'clarify' what he meant.  No wonder given he was reminded of  these statements in the Vatican Guidelines on the tolerance of homosexual relationships:

"Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil."

It would be nice if our teachers actually taught the faith.


A Canberra Observer said...

Well at least he is out there saying SOMETHING (unlike most of his brother bishops).

And if the response at CathNews is anything to go by, he is now viewed as an arch-traditionalist !!

Part of his thesis tells us why we got here in the first place, imo, so many bishops & clergy aligned themselves, uncritcally to and without any critique of the ALP. For its part the ALP has, probably increasingly cynically, counted those died in the wool fish-eaters as part of its voting block.

The light on the hill is now a long way from the cross on the hill. I hope they get wiped out at the next election.

Of course now we have MR LOYALTY (aka Turnbull, a suppsoed Catholic) whiteanting Tony Abbott and agitating for a conscience vote. And I think we already know which way Mr I Still Want To Be Opposition Leader would vote on this - in line with all his other super-wet social views. In fact, maybe he should cross the floor and stay there - he would be right at home it seems.

As you may note, I am a little agitated about this Turnbull stunt. How I wish we had an anathema wielding bishop like Bruskowitz in this country.

Kate said...

CO - I'm not sure why you think the Liberals are any better than Labor!

The reality is that they are not, and never have been, a conservative party in the sense of the US Republicans - they merely gave a brief appearance of being such when the 'drys' briefly got control with Howard.

It is perfectly clear that Turnbull is far from being alone in his views within liberal ranks, he is simply the voice of what used to be claled the 'wets', the liberal equivalent of the Labor left faction (indeed the State MP whose electorate overlaps Turnbull's is actually a practising homosexual as a piece on the 7.30 report this week made clear).

And Abbott is, as always, all over the place on policy issues like this, and looks all too likely to do a Gillard and allow a conscience vote.

As for the Bishop, well yes good to see someone speaking up, but if their arguments ultimately serve to undermine the case who does that help!

He didn't make the natural law argument, because you can't if you oppose all 'discrimination' (as opposed to only unjust discrimination) against homosexuals.

All you are left with is defending the meaning of a word, which in the end is a hollow thing, since the meaning of words is regularly redefined.

What the gay lobby wants is societal endorsement of their lifestyle choices.

The instinctive reaction of most Australians is still revulsion. Yet instead of building on that, Bishop O'Kelly treads a path that will not only fail to persuade anyone, but simply serves to make the arguments against legalisation look thin and hollow.

Anonymous said...

Bishop O'Kelly's comments indicate a deficient sensibility in several ways.

Take the bishop's statment that, "A same-sex union is never comparable to a family founded on the Sacrament of marriage". But the sacramental issue is irrelevant - the objection is that a "gay marriage" is against the basic natural order.