Probably the most sensible article on “Gay Marriage”…

…that I have read in the whole debate.

The ABC Religion and Ethics webpage – a truly terrific forum for the discussion of both religious and ethical issues for which the ABC deserves our congratulations and thanks – has published an article from Catholic Voices in Britain, which articulates several key points:

1) Although the opposition to “same-sex marriage” has been almost entirely from religious communities, in raising their objections, religious communities are serving the common, public good, not their own interest

2) That, despite the temptation to do otherwise, when we engage in the debate we should focus on the true nature of marriage, rather than on issues of sexual morality or homosexuality.

3) That we should recognise and expose the conviction held by influential sectors of our Western society that religious communities and individuals should be excluded from debate in the public square precisely because they ARE religious.

I do highly recommend reading this reflective essay, and even more highly recommend the briefing paper which Catholic Voices has produced, including survey results that support the thesis that, in speaking up for the protection of conjugal marriage, the Church is speaking for the silent majority in our society today.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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20 Responses to Probably the most sensible article on “Gay Marriage”…

  1. Matthias says:

    This is a well written piece and i think it is a challenge to all Christians-not just Roman Catholics – to speak up and not let the secularist view ,that religion is a private thing ,go unchallenged

  2. Kate says:

    The ABC debate is certainly a useful one.

    That said, I don’t thnk Ivereigh’s arguments hold water. In the end, as some have pointed out over there, the argument falls apart in the absence of arguments about homosexuality – as someone quoted Vanstone in the discussion over at ABC, we’ve already given up on marriage as an exclusive contract for life, what’s so special about between a man and a woman? Unless we appeal to sexual morality arguments, it all just comes across as an argument about semantics.

  3. Hannah says:

    Kate, marriage is not an argument about semantacs. And society has not given up on marriage and sexuality and children. What society has done is listen to the voices, very loud, of those who would tell us that marriage is a “fossil” and and outdated anything goes.
    Try getting two males or two women (as a couple)to have a child naturally through their complementarity. It cant happen. artifical manipulation might make it happen, but in their own union it cannot happen. Totally barren. male and female are designed to be fertile and carry on humanity through their conjugal act. Again, that this past generation has abused this privilege is not disputed but that is saying we throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
    SS marriage is not about “equal rights” its about legitimsing something entirely death dealing for society…..Imagine 100 years of global ss marriage, abortion, post birth abortion, euthanasia, you wont have much of a society left will you.
    That ss attractions happen is admitted, that they should be legitimised..now thats a different story. Its the same as legtimising abortion first when the mother’s health was in danger, then up to 12 weeks on demand, now to full term. Once the climb on top of the slippery slope has been reached the slide is very fast.
    Marriage has inscribed within it something which ss attractions do not. creation of a new infant which carries into the future society. SS marriage cannot do this and never can.

    • Stephen K says:

      Hannah, I think that if you read Kate’s posting carefully you will readily see that she did not say that marriage was an argument about semantics; in fact she was pointing out that it would become or be reduced to an argument about semantics if the argument did not hinge on sexual morality positions.

      I also think the way you have characterised the problem/issue is a little loose. To say that samesex attractions should not be legitimised is certainly a position one could take of course but do you mean what those words ostensibly mean? That is, did you mean that homosexuality – the disposition – the attractiveness/attraction dynamic – should be criminalised? (For example, do you think one should fine or put homosexuals in gaol because they were discovered to have samesex attraction?) Or did you mean that actual samesex relationships should be criminalised and punishable at law? (Same result?)

      Or did you only mean rather that samesex relationships should not be legally termed “marriage” or endorsed?

      I won’t run the risk of telling you what you meant; but it’s all a little ambiguous.

      However, it brings us back to what Kate said. Is this question merely one of semantics or one of morality? In some ways this is an unfortunate dichotomisation. A semantic question is, in my view, never trivial. It means a question about meaning, and meaning is important and what is at issue here. The meaning of marriage is inextricable from a moral position about it. So, I would rephrase the way Kate has put it because I think she may have meant rather “if the argument against samesex marriage does not appeal to sexual morality arguments, then the meaning of the word marriage is whatever protagonists want it to be, that is, not something, but anything, in other words, nothing”.

      In my view, this is significant, and a question at the heart of the controversy. You may have read George Orwell’s famous “1984”. In that novel, the Party interrogator O’Brien insists that Winston, the hapless dissident, accept that 2 + 2 will equal 5 if the Party insists that it is so. Some supporters of samesex marriage might object that marriage is a social concept and changeable and not equivalent to an arithmetic one which is not. Now, I am not a mathematician, and cannot speak with total confidence, but my impression is that neither proposition is as self-evident as it might sound. We are delving into an epistemological and metaphysical dimension here. My point here is that one of the battlegrounds here is whether what happens when a man and a woman commit body and soul to each other is different from what happens when a man and a man (or a woman and a woman) commit body or soul to each other. This is where the moral status of the elements comes in, but the moral position informs the semantic position while the semantic position expresses the empirical phenomenon.

      So, I agree with Kate that Iverleigh’s article is not persuasive, but to my thinking it is because it inverts this relationship: he has the semantic position informing the moral position and has the empirical phenomenon dependent upon the semantic position. In other words I find him not too distant from those arguing for samesex marriage on the basis that the law determines the reality and the good.

      I am not inclined to accept samesex “marriage” although I am not satisfied I have fully grasped the arguments against it. It is, to my thinking, unpersuasive to argue, as I think you do, that because only men and women (together of course!) can naturally have babies, marriage can only take place between men and women. The first premiss is undeniably true, but the latter is what must be proved. Its logic is of course sabotaged by the historical acceptance of marriages where there is no natural issue. In reality, marriage has been the device for the stabilisation of property and nurture, and this seems to have been the real focus of the distinction between the marriage which many societies have sanctioned as public acts and other cohabitations. (That is, it did not matter so much if the children running round the castle were not the product of the couple but were half-bastards.)

      Christian theology has elevated these arrangements by sacramentalising them, seeing them as channels of grace and personal growth, and the reason why it would never have countenanced the notion of marriage for others is because it has not accepted that these other arrangements can be channels of grace and growth, categorising them instead as sins or occasions of sin. I think that this is what someone like Geoffrey Robinson is challenging in his call to re-visit the whole logic of sexual ethics. At any rate, as I said before, the two, the morality and the meaning, seem inextricably entwined.

      • Hannah Smith says:

        Stephen what I have noticed is that whenever I put forward a post or my idea you are first in to criticise the comment. I stand by what I said. You dont like it? too bad!
        I have no issue with ss relationships and who an adult homosexual/lesbian is attracted to, so long as its not a child. Its their business, but I do have a strong issue with the derailing of marriage. From all time marriage has been between man and woman for the purpose of love, protection, children and society.
        SS attraction has always existed, this we know, but never has there been the demand that it be legitimised and made the “normal” it is not. And no I dont need to see a homosexual person in jail. thats your red herring.
        If I were to heaven forbid speak fundamentalist language, and I wont for “fear of the outrage” I would say that the death dealing nature of ss relationship (no fecundity) is satan’s version of God’s life giving sexuality, man and a woman together with God act in a mysterious way to bring forth a new creation to continue the tree of life. SS attraction, sterile as it is in the normal, cannot continue the tree of life and dies at that point. But this is fundamentalist talking and not nice according to some.
        But I wont say these things because we are too politically correct and the ire of the board and David would fall upon me.

        • Stephen K says:

          I wouldn’t read too much into my responses to your posts, Hannah. You will notice that hardly anyone commented on this one, for example. But your own response to Kate caught my attention because I thought it wasn’t an accurate response at all and it was to that that I thought I directed my own.

          While we’re on the subject of accuracy, allow me to illustrate how I find yet again that you say one thing that is not borne out by something you say a few sentences further on. First you say that you have no issue with samesex relationships so long as they don’t involve children, but then you say that if you used fundamentalist language you would say that samesex relationships are satanic versions of sexuality. And that you hold such a position may be reasonably inferred from the fact that you say the only reason you don’t say such things is because it’s politically incorrect and you don’t want to attract the ire of the board and David!

          How much more straightforward it would have been had you simply stated that in the first place! I’d probably have not thought to respond, since I’m into language and logic more than theology. If you wanted to look at it a certain way, you could see my criticism as a service, to provide free advice on how to mount or express a stronger, more cogent case.

          (Indeed, there may be some part of me that is looking to be convinced by an invincible conservative argument…on lots of things. But so far, I haven’t found many.)

          Anyway, notwithstanding the above, here’s my undertaking: I will not comment on or criticise your posts, your positions or your arguments again.

        • Gareth says:

          Dont let Stephen get to you Hannah. Homosexual behaviour is vulgar and below the animals that makes Our Lord sick – he told Saint Catherine of Siena so.

          You have an expressed a good valid opinion and should stand by it.

      • Hannah says:

        Stephen I am not going to answer because I had answered and it was removed.

        • Stephen K says:

          No worries, Hannah. Let me try to answer on your behalf, putting myself in your position, with the strongest possible slant.

          “Stephen, in picking up on the looseness of my language, you have submerged the force of what I was concerned to say. Firstly, the fact that Amanda Vanstone (and others) assert that society has already “given up” on marriage doesn’t make it so. In fact it seems that though divorces have risen, so have marriages. Irrespective of the motive behind the push for samesex marriage, it appears that the larger part of society, to the contrary, want to be married. The freedom not to marry does not appear to have translated in larger numbers choosing only to cohabit at common law.

          Secondly, the merit of a slippery slope argument must be considered seriously. As the experience of expanding limits for abortion following on liberalisation of laws about it shows, it is reasonable to suppose that the redefinition of marriage to include samesex unions may more easily lead to infringements on religious conscience and the promotion of homosexual practice. Moreover, the issue at stake is not the criminalisation of homosexuality but the legal distinction between lawful marriage between men and women on the one hand and lawful samesex civil partnerships on the other.

          Finally, notwithstanding the fact that a law which purports to redefine marriage cannot change the reality or character of the conjugal commitment between a man and a woman, the enactment of such a law will affect or change over time a general moral attitude, which from the traditional Christian viewpoint would be negative and incompatible.”

          To which I would say, though without indicating endorsement, fair comment. I just think it’s important for Christian apologists to argue strongly and tightly, not loosely.

          • Hannah says:

            You did well for yourself bravo stephen.
            it wasnt my answer but you can amuse yourself with yours.

            • Stephen K says:

              I’m not, Hannah, so amused as sorry my positive spin on your thinking was to no avail. Still, worth a try in the interest of progressing the understanding of the problem.

        • Schütz says:

          No, it wasn’t removed, Hannah, just not “approved” automatically by the system because you used a new combination of your sign in name and email. I have approved it manually now.

          • Hannah says:

            David I sometimes use laptop in my city office. In between appointments as a “debrief moment” before next client I look at db’s and where reasonable,I answer and where LOUD SHOUTING and insulting I move away.
            To me it seemed a removed post.

      • PM says:

        Might I suggest belatedly that what Stephen and Kate are tending to dismiss as semantics is more important than they realise. That great C20 Thomist Josef Pieper points out (e.g. in his classic piece on ‘Faith’) that the classical metaphysicians, including Aquinas, always approach their subject by the clarification of terms. Definitions are our way into metaphysics. Moral language, at least for the Thomistic tradition, is based on the consideration of natures and their realisation (or not) in individual members of the species – ‘metaphysics before morals’ as another great C20 Thomist, Herbert McCabe, put it. Realism and essentialism are class A thoughtcrimes in much of the contemporary academy, but I think the Christian – indeed, any – moral reasoning becomes incoherent without them.

        This bears on the question Stephen raises about the acceptance of infertile marriages. The answer to the objection turns, I suggest, on the distinction Aquinas makes between an ens seundum se (a thing as such) and an ens secundum accidens (possessed of or lacking attributes which do not define its essential nature). To say ‘Jane is a woman’ is to say that she has a certain nature, is an ens secundum se. But ‘Jane is infertile’ speaks of an ens secundum accidens, and does not detract from her being a woman. (Compare ‘George is a man’ and ‘George is a postman’: he would still be a man if he resigned from the post office.)

        Here is my no doubt clumsy and inadequate attempt at de-jargonising this for a submission to the Senate: ‘Infertility and age do not invalidate [the intrinsic link between marriage and the begetting of children] because, unlike maleness and femaleness, they are have to do with the circumstances of particular individuals, not with the fundamentals of human nature as such.’

  4. Gareth says:

    I have never laughed so hard over the weekend to see the look on the incompotent Anna Bligh’s face. Her pathetic stance on trying to legitimise homosexual ‘unions’ and trying to put them on the same level as true marriage played some part in her party’s appaling demise, no doubt.

    Could it be that the Church community should actually stop being politically correct and start arguing that left-leaning radical feminists have no place in our government system 9or our Church) and shoving their extremist beliefs on the rest of us.

    • Stephen K says:

      Gareth, you must have had a relatively mirthless life if Anna Bligh’s demise was what had made you laugh the hardest.

      I myself can think of many things that have really struck my funny bone: moments from “The Red Skelton Show”, Jackie Gleeson on HIS show; the manic dialogue and John Hargreaves and Chris Heywood in “The Emerald City” which I saw last night; tongue-twisting skits from “The Two Ronnies”, some of the characters and skits from the “Catherine Tate Show”, an uproarious Italian comedy from the 1950s called something like “First Communion Day” (can’t quite remember the title), some dry anecdotes from people I knew as well as from Bill Cosby, “The Frost Report”, Marty Feldman, Paul Lind, Harvey Korman and the Carol Burnett Show, Dick Van Dyke and Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam, Hans Conreid from “The Danny Thomas Show”……the list can go on and on! Now that’s what I call “having stitches”!

      (Perhaps though, it wasn’t that you laughed at her demise so much as felt very satisfied and relieved. I can understand that. I myself felt very satisfied and relieved when John Howard lost his seat and government.)

      • Gareth says:

        A tad irreligious, but I laughed at old episodes of the ‘bless me Father, for I have sinned’ tv show from the 70s.

        I will laugh even harder when Australia/Tasmania ditches ‘Ms’ Gillards/Giddings.

        Incompotent feminists from the Emily’s List ilk pushing their agenda on the rest of society, including that of the militant homosexual lobby who viciously hate the God-ordained traditional family model. Good Catholics should be glad to see them go.

        • Stephen K says:

          The image you evoke is, to be quite frank, somewhat incongruous, Gareth. “Laughing hard” seems to me to be something of an oxymoron: if laughter is hard, it’s probably not laughter. I associate laughter with joy in the absurd or exaggerated, not sentiments I would associate with your evident political sympathies…unless, of course, you think the Liberal victory is absurd or exaggerated?

          • Gareth says:

            Stephen – for the record, I (and a good number of Catholics) are no Tory lackeys.

            I have quasi-DLP sentiments and would consider voting Labor if they actually put up decent candidates that support life/traditional family values.

            Sadly, as was highlighted at last years national conference this is less and less the case.

            Parties that support the militant/anti-Chirstain homosexual agenda are forgetting their traditional roots and who build them up to begin with are shooting themselves in the foot.

    • Hannah says:

      Gareth, from my viewpoint of lonnnnnnng time pro life worker, we lost the battle because the Church community as a whole, not small groups, did not stand up and be counted and today we have abortion to 40 weeks. We will soon in the nearest future see ss legitimisation because the Church community is somnolent (drowsy), euthanasia will be brought in not via the expected method i.e. very disabled, very elderly etc. too obvious, it will come in in a different mode and then extended to incorporate the above mentioned.(IMHO)
      We live in a culture of death.
      In the Holy Father’s anthropology of the human person, the individual is imbued with inalienable rights, the highest being the right to “Life” and the right to “dignity” because of man’s reflection of the divine image. (Gen1:27). We need a new vision. We need again to see the human being the way God designed it, and with this vision, the conscience of society can be galvanised towards sharing anew the message of the Gospel. The message that the human being is God’s greatest creation and should not be destroyed in the dimensions it is destroyed today.
      Contraception, Abortion, ss attraction and demands for legalisation of this attraction, demands for euthansia, have lead to a NO to God, and today we can see what this no has actually meant. 53,000,000 abortions pa. drugs culture, violence, abused sexuality, and still we demand more.
      Australia has the highest suicide rate amongst the youth approximately 7 per day every day (2155 pa) why are young people killing themselves in a land of beauty and plenty? Why is there such a sense of disassociation between the young and elders? why is there such need to want to end it all?
      Because like JPII saidwe live in a culture of death in all its forms and it wont change until we stop this political correctness. Until We stop playing God. Until we stop listening to the voice which said “Did God really say that?” (Gen 3:2) putting doubt into every “good” thing that God has created and inserting in its stead a lie.
      The Church needs to get back to evangelisation of the Gospel instead of playing social worker. There is enough of these. The church needs raise the Ramparts again, however, I suspect it wont because we need to be polite.

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