Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gay marriage: time for our bishops to stand up and be counted

Noticeably absent thus far from the steady stream of press releases from last week's Bishops Conference is anything on a key issue dominating the headlines at the moment, namely proposals to legalise same sex marriage.

A critical weekend...

In Queensland, civil-union legislation has just passed after the ruling Labor Party allowed a conscience vote on the issue.  That makes four - Tasmania, the ACT and Victoria have all recently recognised civil unions.

And a bid to change the Labor Party's Policy Platform to support same sex unions is due to go to its National Conference which starts tomorrow.  Prime Minister Gillard has put forward a compromise position supporting a neutral platform stance, and allowing a conscience vote on the issue - but she may get rolled on even this compromise.

There is also pressure within the Liberal Party, according to the ABC's 7.30 Report, to allow a conscience vote.  And even if it isn't allowed, as ex-Senator Minchin has pointed out, some Liberals could well cross the floor on the issue.

And standing behind all of this are the Greens who plan to put their legislation up early next year and think they may even be able to get have the numbers...

So where are our bishops on all of this?

If ever there was a time to be out there lobbying, this is surely it.  Yet thus far there has been a deafening silence as far as I can see.

That's probably because many of the bishops actually support civil unions, as UK Primate, Archbishop Nichols has come out publicly to do.  Indeed, the pro-family petition the Australian bishops put together last year opposed same sex marriage 'noting' that alternatives such as civil unions were available!

It is hard to know whether the problem here is that the hierarchy really doesn't see the practice of homosexuality as both a serious sin and a serious threat to the health and future of our society; are concerned about the consequences of being targeted by the extremely well-organised and extremely vicious gay lobby; or the concern is that taking a hard line might drive more people, especially young people, out of the Church.

But really, the time has surely come to fight.

Normalising homosexuality

The problem for the pro-family lobby is that the gay lobby has used the techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry to get its message across. 

You don't need ads if you can use films (remember those cowboys) and tv shows (think Glee, Modern Family, etc) to present homosexuality as normal and good; practising homosexuals as heroes and role models. 

You don't need ads if you can intimidate the opposition with cries of homophobia, and work to cut off the sources of income of anyone who dares question the PC line, as has occurred in the recent paypal campaigns against various anti-gay power lobby groups in the US, and past campaigns around online advertising in Australia.

But success is possible - why this fight matters!

In the case of big tobacco, dogged campaigners fought the good fight, and continue to make considerable headway.  In the country which has had the most vigorous anti-smoking campaign targeted at youth over the last decade for example, namely Canada, back in 1999, 28% of 15-19 year olds smoked.  By 2010 the prevalence rate had dropped to 14%.  That's an impressive result that shows that attitudes can be changed even in the face of well-organised resistance.

We need that kind of effort here. 

In the end, the issue is not just the defence of the family.  That's important, but in the end, a lot of other things need to happen to claw back the centrality of the family in Australia - action on divorce law, action to reduce the number of sole parents, and to promote adoption instead of abortion for example.

Legalization of same sex marriage would erode the family further, and could be the proverbial straw, but more likely will just continue the process of slow erosion.

We need to be upfront in recognising that the real issue at stake here is, as gay lobbyists make clear, the idea that homosexual relationships are of equal value as heterosexual ones.  They aren't, and we should say so.

Why we should oppose homosexual relationships

Homosexual practice may not kill our bodies like smoking does (unless of course one happens to contract AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases as a result). 

But it certainly does kill souls.  Which is why our bishops should be standing up to be counted on this issue.

And it has serious long-term consequences for society on a number of levels.

It embodies the selfish pursuit of individual pleasure at the expense of the good of society mentality.  This is the mentality (and behaviour) that characterised the Roman Empire in its dying days - we need to learn the lessons of history, not repeat the mistakes!

And it promotes lifestyles and relationships that are far more likely to be fragile, likely to involve poor health, and likely to be promiscuous, as a recent Mercatornet article reviewing the evidence on same sex adoptions points out.

What we can do?

In the very short term, a good start would be prayer!  Even if you are not a Labor supporter, the outcomes of their National Conference will have an impact on all Australians.

Secondly, now is surely the time for a renewed push against activities within the Church that seem to validate homosexual practice.  Yes, Your Eminence, Cardinal Pell, that does mean closing down that 'Acceptance' Mass at Newtown in Sydney.

Instead, perhaps our bishops could consider founding an apostolate along the lines of Courage, which helps those suffering from same-sex attraction live a life of chastity.

Thirdly, it would be good to see some pastoral statements from our bishops on this subject.  And a sermon or two (preferably supported by some solid, orthodox sermon notes) from all priests so we all know the arguments would be good.  Perhaps you could suggest this to your own bishop...

Fourthly, get ready to lobby your MP and Senator again - come the new year, this issue will go red hot.

Finally, we need some activists to get together and develop a real longer term strategy, drawing on the lessons from other successful campaigns, because even if the Greens don't get their way this time, this issue will keep on coming back until we win back the hearts and minds firstly of catholics on this issue, and then of society more broadly.

**Resources on same-sex marriage

In fairness, A Priest Down-Under has pointed to a Melbourne Archdiocesan website on the subject.   If there are other examples of such diocesan initiatives, do let me know...


A Canberra Observer said...

don't hold your breath, at least not without an oxygen bottle nearby.

They are, as a group, weak, utterly weak. Of course they aren't helped, quite the contrary by the great majority of the clergy, religious, or what normally you would expect to be an assistance the ENORMOUS Catholic education aparatus. No, that whole conglomerate is pulling the other way.

So far they have done what really amounts to NOTHING. Even if they do something now will it be an 'Alamo' action. Possibly glorious but completely ineffective.

As to the politicians driving this gaymania, including it seems those supposedly Catholic - they will have there reward. One expects it will be warm.

A Canberra Observer said...

So the ALP have put homosecual marriage in their platform, and now with Sen Faulkner's invocation of 'human rights' bishops and others who hold with the natural law can look forward to punishment at the hands of an increasingly atheistic ruling class.

like the fourth estate - inaction, and in some cases support for the 'labor' aka post-modern heirs of Marx & Engels, have progressed this demise of decency in Australia.

I am reminded of a sermon I heard quoting Engels - the approach was clearly outlined - strip all of the rules of society away to make a new creation. A diabolical one.

R J said...

America's Solange Hertz said it all here (including stressing the Engels programme):