Sunday, March 04, 2012

Godforsaken logic

Preachy prelate plotzes

You know it's a new era when a Tory prime minister in the United Kingdom is firmly on record as supporting same-sex marriage. What's more, it seems that David Cameron is not merely paying lip service. One of Cameron's government ministers—Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister (I didn't know that cabinet position even existed)—is pursuing an investigation into the ways and means to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Not everyone in the Conservative Party is delighted, which is to be expected. It's also unsurprising to hear objections from the First Estate—that is, the British clergy. A particularly interesting demurer was issued by Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Of course, as a Catholic prelate he is not seated in the House of Lords. That is a privilege reserved to the Anglican bishops of the Church of England and various lords temporal. Nevertheless, O'Brien is a particularly high-ranking member of the clergy in the United Kingdom, serving as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. The cardinal shared his views with the Sunday Telegraph:
Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.
Perhaps the padre has a point: the extension of uniform marriage rights to the entire population would be a historical milestone. But is that not a good thing? Let's see what bee is buzzing in O'Brien's bonnet:
If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?

The cardinal is serving up an easy one! The school should consider dismissing the teacher on the grounds of ignorance: The Bible itself (an authoritative source where the cardinal is concerned) serves up numerous counterexamples. Solomon's multiple wives serve as a case in point, to say nothing of Jacob's marrying both Leah and her sister Rachel (plus some dalliances with their handmaidens). Even today there are many nations in which polygamy is permitted, although the United States declined to join in the fun when the Mormons advocated plural marriage. O'Brien is rather severely overstating the case when he declares that “marriage” has never meant anything other than “the union of a man and a woman.”
Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.
The cardinal's deliberate choice of the word “deprive” makes gay marriage sound like a direct assault on the rights of children—as he explicitly intended—but the Roman Catholic Church cares less about children than it pretends. It is perfectly willing to leave children in orphanages rather than let them be adopted by loving foster parents who happen to be gay. It has also demonstrated a perfect willingness to protect child-molesting clergy in its ranks. In brief, the Church has no standing or credibility when it comes to arguing on behalf of children. None.
Why not allow three men or a woman and two men to constitute a marriage, if they pledge their fidelity to one another? If marriage is simply about adults who love each other, on what basis can three adults who love each other be prevented from marrying?
Heck, I'd let them do it even if they don't pledge fidelity to one another. Consenting adults may create such marriage constellations as they wish, depending on their own decisions and willingness to persevere in the face of likely befuddled reactions from society at large. (It would, I know, puzzle me why people would want to do that, but I wouldn't consider it my call.) But the cardinal is sending up a smoke-screen. Does the desiccated old bachelor really think polyamory is going to become all the rage, wreaking confusion on all of society's functions? Hardly. Let the adventurous minority work out their own preferences and issues. O'Brien need not worry about a clamor for Church-sanctioned gang marriages.
Disingenuously, the Government has suggested that same-sex marriage wouldn’t be compulsory and churches could choose to opt out. This is staggeringly arrogant. No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage. Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.
The cardinal has gone all the way from specious argument to offensive polemic. He makes his point with an analogy that would be vapid for its irrelevance if it were not so noisome. But perhaps we should thank Cardinal O'Brien for offering an argument that compares approval of same-sex marriage with the revival of slavery.

It shows the cardinal to be a fool, and such people are seldom listened to. Decent people may now go about their business and pay him no further mind.


The Ridger, FCD said...

I genuinely despise that tired old argument. I presume the government of Great Britain has been forcing the Catholic Church to marry divorced people, or perform Jewish or Muslim weddings in their churches?

Plus, of course, marriages in the UK (as here in the US) don't have to take place in a church at all.

Sili said...

Does the monsignore really think it's a good idea for him to bring up slavery?

Just who did all that slavetrading in the first place?

Anonymous said...

"Universally understood"...I don't think the phrase means what he thinks it means.

Theo Bromine said...

If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?

Good question. What happens to teachers who want to tell their pupils that people with dark skin are inferior to people with light skin, or that women are inferior to men and that their place is (and always has been) in the home looking after the kids (as many as possible) and doing the cooking and cleaning?

Anonymous said...

I wonder where they get this idea that if gay marriage is legalized then bestiality/polygamy/etc. will be next. You'd think that after almost a decade after legalizing gay marriage, we'd start to notice those effects here in Belgium...

The Ridger, FCD said...

If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?

I dunno. What happens to that teacher if a kid brings up Isaac? Or Brigham Young? Or (less likely to be brought up in this country, but still...) the Mahabharata, where polyandry is described approvingly - or at least matter-of-factly? Or various countries like Tibet or Nepal where it's common?

I believe what he means to say is "that Catholic marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman". So I guess the answer is "nothing" except that religion doesn't belong in the schoolroom in the first place.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Ooops. As I hit "publish" it occurred to me that said teacher's also in trouble if a kid brings up Newt. Or a slew of others. Unless he adds "at a time".

Kaleberg said...

I always find it ironic that any Christian church is so against gay marriage when the entire religion was built around enabling slave marriage in ancient Rome. Slaves were not permitted to marry under Roman law, and there were a lot of slaves. One of the big allures of Christianity in its early days was that it did allow slaves to marry, though these marriages weren't recognized by the secular authorities.