While cooking last night I had the radio on, The Moral Maze. In his intro to the discussion, the presenter said that the Pope had called gay marriage ‘a threat to the future of humanity itself.’
I thought: come on. Benedict XVI didn’t really say that. You’re exaggerating for effect.
Out of curiosity I googled the quote, and it appears to be genuine. His Holiness told the world that:
This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised – one of his senior cardinals, Keith O’Brien, recently compared the legislative changes to slavery.
The whole thing reminded me of Mother Theresa’s Nobel Prize speech, in which – of all the trouble in the world – she identified abortion as the planet’s number one problem.
Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today.
You hear a lot about the charitable work that faith based organisations do, Make Poverty History, community litter picks, the giving of alms and all that. Yet the impression remains that what really stirs our spiritual leaders – what gets the blood pounding – are the activities of lovers behind closed doors.
The Churches have taken an obsessive interest in private intimacy ever since the advent of established religion. They have staked a vocal position on every big argument on sexual and reproductive freedom. And in every one of those instances – every one – they have been on the wrong side.
They have also been on the losing side. They have lost on civil partnerships, contraception, abortion, divorce.
What makes them think they’re going to win on this one?
After all, you can make a moral and humanist case against say, assisted dying. It’s not one that I subscribe to but it is there. But where is the clear and provable harm in gay marriage?
We are talking about two people, who have fallen in love, wanting to celebrate their love in a public ceremony, and to make legal and financial ties to complement the emotional bond. You have to be seriously ideologically or religiously inclined to have a problem with that.
Clerical wailing and self-pity on national media platforms constitute another sign of a nascent Christian right in this country. There are MPs with links to fundamentalist gay-purge organisations, and there have been recent anti-choice demonstrations where activists took photographs of women going into abortion clinics at what could be a very vulnerable time in their lives. But the moral authority of organised religion has been compromised by the scandal of institutionalised child rape, and by other things. Outside senior ecclesiastical and activist circles, is anyone really listening?
A thoughtful debate is happening under the static. Is marriage even religious in origin? Could it predate Christianity and other faiths? Hasn’t marriage already changed with the times as all things do?
Alex Massie – a rare far-seeing writer on the right – has written an op-ed headlined ‘Yes, Gay Marriage Is A Conservative Cause’:
Indeed in many respects gay marriage has more in common with heterosexual marriage now than contemporary heterosexual marriages do with nineteenth century heterosexual marriages. Changing societal norms have seen to that. Women are no longer viewed as property; they have agency themselves. This, in many ways, is just as great a change in the definition and practice of marriage as anything proposed by campaigners for gay marriage. Indeed, one could argue that given the percentage of the population affected by these changes, the twentieth century’s evolving understanding of hetereosexual marriage marked a much greater change than anything proposed now.
Somehow, sun still rises. (Image via Newsthump)