Sunday, 11 March 2012

Gay Marriage Special - Letter from the Bishops **** Updated

As a member of the Roman Catholic church, today I was read a letter from the Archbishop of Westminster on the subject of same sex marriages. You can hear what the Bishop has to say in the embedded video at the end of this blog. I suppose I'd better state that I have rather strange views on marriage, in as much as I never really wanted to get married as a life goal. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife, but in some ways I agree with the Archbishop in as much as that for me personally the reason I got married was to provide my children with a stable home. Had my wife not become pregnant, we'd never had had a formal agreement. I was also pleased in a strange way to hear the views of the Bishop as I'd never really given the issue much thought. As I heard the text of the letter being read out, I thought "How does this affect me, a heterosexual man, with three children, who is married?" The Bishop was worried that if same sex marriages are allowed, my marriage will be devalued. I'd find it strange if someone said they felt "less married" because the two blokes next door got married. The bishop finishes his letter by saying "We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations". I must say that I find these letters difficult. The hardest part is trying to explain to my 11 year old son and 14 year old daughter what it's all about. It is even harder when I don't agree with the point being made. I suspect that there are many households having difficult conversations following todays letter. I have to say I don't think the Archbishop achieved what he hoped with the letter. It may prove rather counter productive.

 Whilst I can't really understand why two people in a same sex partnership would want to marry, I can't for the life of me understand why it should be illegal. As I sat there listening, I wondered about gay friends. Just suppose a gay friend announced they were marrying their partner. How would I react? Would I be repulsed or pleased for them that maybe they've found a bit of happiness, friendship and strength in a relationship. Whilst gay sex isn't really my thing at all, who am I to tell people what they can and can't do, if they are consenting adults. To be quite honest, I'm not really that interested in what any of my friends do in their bedrooms, gay or straight. I don't think that it is Christian behaviour to want people to be dishonest, miserable and unhappy, which is what people were prior to the legalisation of homosexuality. A while back I watched a program about fundamentalist Christains in the USA, chanting "God hates Fags" and one of them pointing out that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Strangely, my first reaction was to think that they'd got their scripture wrong. Firstly Jesus spoke about many things he found abhorrent, homosexuality was never mentioned. As for Sodom and Gomorrah, as I recall it wasn't destroyed because the inhabitants were homosexuals. It was destroyed because they defiled the messengers God sent and there were not 10 honest men in the city.

I was drawn to the parable Jesus told where he chastises someone with the condemnation "don't criticise your brother for the splinter in his eye, when you have a plank in your own eye". I think the bishops have scored a massive own goal with the general populace here. The reputation of the Church has not recovered from the paedophile priest scandal, so to be seen moralising in this way, I believe is highly damaging.  I went to a comedy night at Dingwalls on Friday and the biggest laugh was a joke about paedophile priests. I've known loads of priests, I was an alter server for seven years in my youth and I never personally encountered a paedophile one. The vast majority are decent people who do their best for the community, but the Church really has to think long and hard about how such policies are viewed. You may wonder what appeals to me about such an institution. I volunteer one morning a week for a homeless shelter run by the diocise. I go away one week a year with a disabled charity as a helper. I believe this sort of work is what religion is all about. I believe that there are many policies of the coalition which the Bishops should be rallying the faithfull against. I believe Christians have a moral obligation to stand up for the weak, the dispossessed and the poor.

I would be all for the church railing against the sex industry, where women are bought and sold, kept as virtual prisoners. I'm even in favour of the Church reminding us of our personal responsibility in the area of sex (although not quite in the way that the bishops often seem to want to). Forgiveness is a central message of Christian teaching. I don't see much of that in the "God Hates Fags" brigade. I believe in tolerance. If someone behaves in a way, which cannot damage or harm a third party, I have extreme difficulty in understanding why it is wrong. Sure if people are being exploited, mistreated or abused, then that is clearly wrong. I don't think anyone has yet made a case as to why two consenting adults entering into a private arrangement is detrimental to anyone else. Clearly the Archbishop disagrees. Here's what he has to say.

And here's alink to the hard copy -

***** Updated Monday 12th 8.30am *****
Perhaps to emphasise the point of what I feel the Archbishop to be dedicating his energy to, I received an email from a friend drawing my attention to a campaign by the Archbishop to prevent a British Grandmother from being executed by the state of Texas.There is enough real injustice in the world to provide a weekly letter for the next hundred years.
Here is what his email said

Nichols appeals for death row woman

1 March 2012
Archbishop Vincent Nichols has backed a campaign for a reprieve for a British Catholic grandmother who is on death row in Texas. 
Linda Carty, 53, was convicted of murder in 2002 and sentenced to die by lethal injection. She has always maintained her innocence but the appeals procedure is now exhausted and she is now awaiting an execution date.
In this month's Faith Today magazine, which is working with the human rights organisation Reprieve to save Carty, Archbishop Nichols noted that she "sings Amazing Grace in her cell to keep her spirits up". He wrote: "She can . . . be assured of our prayers and support. We will do all we can to raise awareness of her case in the hope that justice and clemency will prevail."
I urge everyone to support this campaign.


Mrs Angry said...

It has always fascinated me,as a very bad Catholic, the obsession that the church - not just the Catholic church, of course, but perhaps more than most - with sexuality.

There are so many more important issues that need sorting out: the truth is, I suspect, that the subject is compelling and a distraction from the more difficult and rather more boring problems. If two people care for each other, and make each other happy, then it is really no one else's business how they choose to mark their relationship. There is enough misery and hatred in the world without encouraging hostility towards gay couples. And really, the church needs to get its own house in order over the still unfinished business of child abuse, before it should busy itself with preaching on this subject to others. Like you, I never knew any abusive clergy, but the whole business has, especially in Ireland, inflicted huge and possibly irrepairable damage on the reputation of the church.

I was once at mass, years ago, when a similar letter from the then Cardinal was read out in defence of his actions in regard to priests who had abused children. There was not one word of remorse or apology spoken for the victims. I wanted to get up and walk out. Perhaps I should have. The worse thing is that all of this is a distortion of the real message of christianity - one of tolerance, and acceptance.

The end of Mrs Angry's sermon.

ainelivia said...

As a Catholic and an Irish woman, I never ceased to be amazed at the intolerance of the faith I was born into, despite the message of Jesus, love one another, do good to one another etc, my phrasing. Growing up, again and again I heard that non-Catholics would not get to heaven; this I imagine was supposed to be the Church's way of encouraging us to convert as many others as possible. This is a fundamentalist religious position, and I abhor it. Here we are again on the subject of gay marriage and our clergy are behaving as though people who are gay, are some kind of "untouchable caste"; what hypocrisy!

I have come to an understanding with my faith, I attend church and celebrate many religious festivals; however I try to close my ears to the unchristian like edicts that appear to have become the norm. In fact, I believe that Catholicism, along with some other faiths is in regression. So my maxim is simple: I would rather have a mind, opened by wonder, than one closed by belief.

I'm in agreement with all of Mrs Angry's comment above.

Here endeth the lesson.