Sunday, January 13, 2013

In Britain The Sky Is Falling

Add a Roman Collar and a 1000 more and a person would have a picture of the clerical angst over gay marriage.

 I want to thank Rat-biter for giving me the link to this article in London's Daily Telegraph. Although I've reprinted most of the article, I did edit a few paragraphs.  I also happen to think there is more to the 'chicken little' response from these clergy than the threat of gay marriage.  I think it's what gay marriage represents to too much of their theology.

 Gay marriage could signal return to ‘centuries of persecution’, - say 1,000 Catholic priests

The comments are contained in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, signed by 1,054 priests as well as 13 bishops, abbots and other senior Catholic figures.
They account for almost a quarer of all Catholic priests in England and Wales.
It comes as opponents of gay marriage launch a lobbying campaign targeting MPs in 65 of the most marginal seats.
The Coalition is due to publish its Equal Marriage Bill, allowing couples of the same sex to wed at the end of this month.
Legal opinions commissioned by opponents have argued that teachers could face disciplinary measures under equality laws if they refuse to promote same-sex marriage once the change has been implemented.
Hospital, prison and army chaplains could also face challenges if they preach on marriage being between a man and a woman, it is claimed.

Until 1829 Catholics and other religious dissenters in Britain and Ireland were barred from entering many professions or, in many cases, even meeting to worship under a body of restrictions collectively known as the penal laws.

The priests write: “After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.
“Legislation for same sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.

“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.”
Arguing that marriage as traditionally understood is “the foundation and basic building block of our society”, they add: “We urge Members of Parliament not to be afraid to reject this legislation now that its consequences are more clear.”  (I fail to see what those consequences are since no religious entity has been taken to court for teaching against divorce, and Catholic clergy do not marry every heterosexual couple whose relationship violates Church precepts. Nor have they been persecuted for such refusals.)

Last night the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Philip Egan, one of the signatories, insisted that the comparison with the penal laws was “dramatic” but not an exaggeration.
“It is quite Orwellian to try to redefine marriage,” he said.
“This is strong language but something like this totalitarian. (And this is a lie with no basis in reality.)

“I am very anxious that when we are preaching in Church or teaching in our Catholic Schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it – that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.”(You haven't been arrested for teaching against divorce or refusing to marry divorced Catholics.)

Rev Dr Andrew Pinsent, a leading Oxford University theologian, who also signed the letter, said: “We are very sensitive to this historically because of course the reformation started in England as a matter of marriage.
“Henry VIII could have been forgiven for his adultery but he didn’t want to do that, he wanted to control marriage and redefine what was a marriage and wasn’t.(This is pretty simplistic and ignores a whole host of other variables involved in Henry's situation. Not too mention Henry was only interested in his marriage, not every-bodies marriage and he had very specific grounds on which he argued his case.)

“Because the Church would not concede that point, that launched three centuries of great upheaval in English society, and from the Catholic point of view life was very difficult.(The papacy's relationship with Spain had a whole lot more to do with refusing Henry's divorce decree than the Rev Pinsent lets on.)

.....In recent weeks the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, and several other leading Catholics in Britain have stepped up their attacks on David Cameron’s plans, echoing concern in a series of pronouncements from Pope Benedict.
But the letter is the first large scale protest initiated by local priests.
Rev Mark Swires, one of the organisers, said it had taken weeks to compile the signatures but that it showed the strength of opinion in the pews. (No, actually it shows only the level of concern of 25% of the men occupying the pulpits.)
 “This is a grass roots initiative by priests, it isn’t an initiative by the hierarchy of the church.....”


And so now our fearfilled Catholic leadership has degenerated to predicting centuries of persecution if gay marriage is passed.  Since these are supposed to be highly educated men, I can't help but wonder what is it about gay marriage that precipitates such hyperbole.  What are they really afraid of?  

When I look at the acronym GLBT I can't help but notice how little one hears from the pulpit about the "L" and "B" parts. One hears a whole lot more about the "G" and "T" parts. What is it about the "G" and "T" parts that makes them so threatening to Christian clergy, and especially the Vatican.  I think Pope Benedict actually spoke about it in his Christmas message to the curia.  It's the gender bending the "G" and "T" represent, and they do so in ways the "L" and "B" apparently do not, or at least not enough to warrant much mention.  

Gender bending, especially when the latest research in epigenetics is proving the gender bending is a result of genes not starting and stopping their influence on sexual identity and gender development in a normal pattern, destroys the validity of the creation story in Genesis.  We know that Eve did not come from Adam's rib.  All of humanity starts on the Eve pattern until certain genes in the Y chromosome start activating in the 5th to 6th week of gestation.  We also know the brain does not begin it's own gender identification until much later in gestation, at the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth month, and again this neural development is dependent on certain genes operating in the correct sequencing, producing the correct amount of certain amino acids/hormones.  When this doesn't happen you get gender bending in both sexes.  This is a major problem for religions who base too much of their theology on the gender absolutism of Genesis. In God's real world, neither physical gender not it's expression, is absolute--not by any means.

When the Adam and Eve story is no longer absolutely valid in it's gender definition, then all other theologies which are based on this story are weakened.  Rigid gender typing is a false premise and a great deal of theology is based on rigid gender definitions.  The gender expectations for a Sacramental marriage is just the most historically recent in a long line of teachings which subordinated women to men based on Genesis and the Genesis story of Adam coming first and Eve the product of Adam's body.  I would think it would be pretty difficult to maintain Genesis is correct about women's place in creation when embryology is showing the exact opposite of the Genesis creation story.  I would think demanding conformance to doctrines based on physical genitalia for a number of crucial leadership roles is difficult to maintain when epigenetics is proving gender is not absolute and physical genitalia do not always dictate gender expression.  

When the Vatican looks at the real implications of secular society embracing the facts of science and moving well beyond the notions of gender and gender roles assigned in Genesis, they are seeing the end of their own Genesis inspired status as their male god's exclusive male voices.  No wonder there is fear aplenty in Rome and elsewhere--the Truth may very well set them free, but unfortunately for them,  not on their terms.


  1. I think that society and children have more to fear from child sexual abuse than from children growing up with loving parents of either gender. This is a smoke and mirrors campaign, designed to deflect from more serious problems faced by which the Roman Church seems to lead by cover-up. Searcher

    1. I think it's partly designed to take some pressure off the clerical abuse scandal, but I also think it's designed to shore up a whole lot of bad theology based on faulty premises.
      There has yet to be any attempt made to justify an anti gay marriage position on something based on real science. It's no wonder our younger generations are refusing to deal with religions who base their theology of relationship and sex on Genesis.

    2. As against 'gender bending' colkoch could agree with this:
      at the end read the 'David'/'Brenda's story to know how gender is a developing concept.

    3. Interesting story Domics, but the operative point was given by the endocrinologist, sexual identity in the brain is laid down somewhere between the end of the fifth month of gestation and beginning of the sixth. The child will 'know' what gender it is quite emphatically, and most likely already does. The parents unique style of parenting will certainly give this child more options in expressing that gender but whether that is good or bad depends on one's point of view about the importance of cultural conditioning in determining acceptable gender expressions.

      The David/Brenda story was not unusual for children born with both sexual genitalia back in the day. Sex reassignment surgery for boys to girls was the standard 'solution'. Doctors didn't realize the influence of neural development on gender identity. The brain controls the sense of gender identity in the person, not the external genitalia.

  2. The United States government recently disallowed the conscience clause to military medical personnel in cases of abortion. Doctors and nurses who refuse to participate in abortions are being reassigned, or being given different duties to perform. My own brother, an Army doctor and Lieutenant Colonel of some 20 plus years of service, with 4 tours in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan, was told that he and his staff at a military hospital in Washington state would be required to perform and or assist in abortions or be penalized.

    Two of his female staffers, nurses, who were assigned to assist in an abortion, refused and were summarily removed from their duties and forced from their neonatal wards back into the emergency room. My brother decided to retire rather than continue his military career.

    This is the form of persecution that military personnel face in regards to gay marriage, whether in the United States or Great Britain. They aren't necessarily facing prosecution, but they are having to suffer unprincipled consequences. Tolerance appears to only work one way in the realm of social ideology.

    Why would anyone assume it is far fetched to foresee a time, very soon, when Catholic chaplains are forced to make a choice between their careers and their deeply held religious beliefs under modern circumstances? Freedom of choice is only seen as a right when it conforms to the progressive viewpoint.

    It is true that the Catholic hierarchy lack credibility when it comes to moral issues because of their complicity and even participation in the sexual misconduct against children, but that does not change the moral doctrines concerning marriage.

    1. @ Anon
      Persecution of Catholics? You say some were re-assigned and your brother chose to resign.

      As a progressive Catholic I have often felt that as a person of principle and conscience I have been told I have fewer choices by "...conservative ...traditional" Catholics. Those people seem to enjoy judging others as "heretics" and summarily assigning us to hell.

      I sincerely wonder if a principled person can remain RC today. For example, a visiting priest at our church today preached that "God had one son, no daughters!" Those of us down in the lowly pews are not naturally children of God, but can only be adopted. You are so right when you say "the Catholic hierarchy lack credibility when it comes to moral issues".


    2. I don't see the conflict in the same terms you do. Medical staff in the military are direct employees of the government and abortion is legal. If you don't want to perform or assist at abortions you can be assigned to other avenues of service. It's no different where I work in a community mental health clinic. We can not discriminate on the basis of personal religious belief. If we do, we find another job. We know that going in.

      I have yet to read where chaplains in the performance of their religious duties have run into problems with either gay marriage or abortion. I am not one of those people who believes religious freedom entitles me to redefine my job to meet my religious dictates. This is a secular society, not a theocracy.

    3. Anon: Point out the relevant military regulations to your assertion. Abortion was only recently allowed back into military facilities under federal law. I have a tough time believing the regs could have been updated so quickly as to be acted upon as you state. And as a military retiree myself, after a 20+ year career it is time to retire. This is not any sort of 'unprincipled consequence'.

    4. In May 2012 CNS news reported:
      "The Obama administration 'strongly objects' to provisions in a House defense authorization bill that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex 'marriage or marriage-like' ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to act against their consciences, as, for example, in being ordered to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony."

      If you are a Catholic chaplain, how do you reconcile the doctrines and moral theology of your faith with a policy that may force you to preside at gay weddings?

      Although there hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, been a case yet, knowing that the administration whose head is the commander and chief wants to make conscientious chaplains suffer repercussions is a definite warning sign of things to come.

      One might argue that the military is secular, but one could never make the case that the chaplaincy is. It is a partnership between various religions and the military to care for the spiritual needs of our military members. The Catholic chaplain's first allegiance is to God, not the secular military.

      Abortions have been allowed on military bases since 1993 as long as they were funded by private dollars. The funding issue has changed, and for FY2013, publicly funded abortions are allowed. But the funding of abortions on military bases had nothing to do with the point of my earlier post. It was the conscience clause previously afforded to military medical personnel who could not in good conscience perform abortions or assist at them. When enlisting in the service, or being commissioned to serve, many do take current regulations under consideration. When those regulations are changed, and those who have contracted with the military are forced to make decisions based upon conscience, it isn't right to punish them - the military is essentially, though not legally, in breach of contract.
      It's easy to fall back on the notion that people can just find another job if military regulations require them to act immorally, but can you imagine the enlisted person who has served 18 years and had made it his or her goal to retire? The "I was just following orders" argument wasn't seen as a viable excuse during the Nuremberg trials; these Catholics who refuse to perform abortions, or perhaps preside at gay weddings don't think God will see it as a viable excuse either.
      I don't make these statements to offend anyone. This is simply a discussion where this perspective is offered to challenge those who champion conscience over doctrine, and the right to choose. IMHO, and in my life long experiences, advocates for freedom of conscience only afford such a freedom to those who share their own particular values. Likewise, freedom to choose is afforded in the same manner.

    5. Anon: please could you give me a source for "the United States government recently disallowed the conscience clause to military medical personnel in cases of abortion"?

    6. then when Catholics in the first decades of the last century in the U.S. were opposed to forced sterilization and eugenics programs were they wrong?
      When bishops or priests urged lawmakers to change these laws appelling to the Catholic docrine of life were they imposing their moral values to the entire population?
      Would have our host condemned them because they sought to impose their religious views on the secular society (when, inter alia, official science sanctioned such practices as right and beneficial)?
      "This is a secular society, not a theocracy" is exactly what those who favored sterilizations and eugenics replied to the Catholics.

    7. The entire US population was not in favor of forced sterilization or eugenics and no such laws were ever enacted.

      Then there was Germany where the Church was much too busy negotiating a diplomatic treaty with Hitler to mount much of any kind of challenge to Hitler's more draconian laws.

      Maybe that's why I think this is all about politics and not morality.

    8. OK, you could say "no such laws were ever enacted" to the 62,162 people who were sterilized in the U.S. when only 15% of the population (Fortune magazine poll) opposed them.

      To know who were the main opponents of these programs you could read Marian S. Olden, “Present Status of Sterilization Legislation in the United States,” Eugenical News 31 (1946).
      In every State where Catholics were political determinants such a laws never passed or were strongly opposed.

      Regarding Germany where the Nazis were inspired by American laws (see Kuhl, "The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism" ) I quote from the Jewish Virtual Library:
      "Only the Roman Catholic Church, for doctrinal reasons, opposed the sterilization program consistently."

  3. The sky is not falling. There are many other jurisdictions that have dealt with these issues and their experience can be used constructively. I am well aware that Americans don't like to hear what their Canadian cousins do, fair enough. But I think our experience is relevant in this instance, because we are a British Commonwealth country.

    Ten years ago Canadian courts had ruled that Same Sex Marriage (SSM) was legal. Our 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits "discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

    With the "common law" definition of marriage struck down the federal parliament then needed to introduce legislation, a Marriage Act, to amend laws concerning marriage. In Canadian parliamentary tradition the government can address the Supreme Court with "Reference Questions". In other words, Parliament may ask, in advance, about the constitutionality of the legislation at hand.

    There were four questions presented to the Court. The court replied in 2004 that the same sex legislation was
    1. within the jurisdiction of Parliament and
    2. provincial law,
    3. that the proposed SSM legislation was not in conflict with the Charter Rights, and
    4. that the law was not in conflict with the Charter Rights of religious persons who did not believe in performing same sex marriages.

    The Canadian Marriage Act exempted religious officiants from performing same sex marriages as the solution to the conflict between the rights of marriage and the conscience of religious officiants.

    Regarding Anonymous @ 4:12 pm: Human rights are generally defined as the relationship between an individual person and the government. Agents of government, such as the military doctors and nurses referred to above are never exempt from such legislation. In Canada a justice of the peace is required to comply with SSM law as are all other non-religious officiants. There may be some minor validity to the claim that Catholics might be excluded from some positions based upon their conscientious objection to the law. However, the Canadian example will probably be consulted before new legislation is written in the UK.

    It may come as a surprise to many that human rights legislation does not apply to the relationships among and between individuals in most cases. Do what you want in private matters, but not in matters of "...employment, the provision of goods, services and facilities customarily available to the public, and accommodation."


    1. Paul, I wish the US would take a look at what other countries have done, but Americans tend to think we have to reinvent the wheel in good ole American fashion.

      Personally I want to know where it's written that secular governments have to make it easy for Catholics to be Catholics and conform secular law to Catholic doctrine. I have had to make some decisions in my life as to who I was going to work for and how far I would go with certain job requirements. It seems to me, that's just the nature of the beast, and I can't say I'm impressed at all with how our own Catholic institution forces some really horrific decisions on those who work for the Church. Why should a priest be forced to lie about his orientation just to keep his job? Why should a priest be vilified and prosecuted by his Archbishop just because he reported another abuser priest to secular authorities, why should the LCWR as an organizational body be dressed down because the Vatican didn't like how they prioritized their missions. It's hard for me to take the 'religious freedom' crusade seriously when there is so little in the Church itself.

    2. yes, let's look to other countries:

  4. From the article to which domics gives a link:

    "“For me this is a personal case,” explained Pijl. He also told reporters that God opposes same-sex marriages. “As a Christian I learned from the Bible that there is only one marriage, between a man and a woman.”"

    ## Plenty of Anglicans do not care one bit for Catholicism: I remember that an aspiring Tory MP was de-selected because of his un-Catholic-friendly views: I thought then, & still think, that he was treated with disgraceful unfairness. There was no arguing on his behalf that his conscientious opposition to Catholicism should be treated sympathetically. So why, when the issue is gay marriage, should or must a "civil servant fired for opposing gay marriage" be regarded as an argument against gay marriage ? What gives his conscience greater weight or greater worth than the anti-Catholic conscience of some Protestant Christians ? The fact that legal measure X violates the conscience of some members of society whose job is affected by it, is not - if the issue is some other matter - reckoned to be a good reason not to do it. Why single out this issue ?

    The objections to giving legal recognition to Catholicism are no weaker than the objections to giving legal recognition to gay marriage. If the "perversion" that is "Romanism" is allowed legal status in a Protestant country, even though "God hates Romanism" - as the Bible makes clear - what reason can there be to refuse the same status to gay marriage ? Some people think it is worse to be a "Romanist" than to be gay, evil as that is: the sin of sins is "Romanism", not that other thing. But how often do Catholics show any sympathy to the holders of that POV ? Never, so FAIK. They are far more likely to accuse these conscientious, Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians of "bigotry". Haven't these Catholics heard of "tough love" ? True Christians only go on about the Romish sin of idolatry because Romanists are addicted to it, & because True Christians want to save them from the damnation which is the lot of all who do not repent of the abominations of Romanism which God has so clearly condemned in the Bible.

    Point is: the Catholic Relief & Emancipation Acts in the UK in 1778 & 1829, were the "gay marriage" legislation of their time. People rioted in London in 1780 against the 1778 Act: 280 were killed in the rioting, & as many were hanged because of the rioting. To say that this legislation was abhorrent to the religious feeling of many Protestants, is an understatement. And yet, the Government did not back down. The same Protestant loathing of Catholicism has played a considerable part in US history - the burning down by rioters of an Ursuline convent in 1834 goes beyond anything in the UK.

    Today, the US has Pat Robertson & his kind blaming all sorts of ills on gays (among others); this is no different from blaming the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8 on the failure of the British Government to protect Britain from "Romanism". All sorts of woes were predicted to be the result of giving liberty to "Romanists" - just as happened in the USA in the 1840s when there was large-scale immigration of Catholics. And just as are being predicted now, if gay marriage becomes legal in the UK.

    With precedents like this, it is very hard to take the kerfuffle against gay marriage seriously.

    Conscience of the individual matters - but so does the freedom of others. X has the moral obligation to act in conformity with a well-instructed conscience, but the employers of X are entitled to sack X if the exercise of conscience means X is not doing the job X was employed to do. Sometimes, rights & freedoms & obligations collide - that is life.

    1. In England there were penal laws prohibiting Catholics to enter the main professions and to serve as civil employees.
      As far I know in the United States there are no more such laws so I do not see your comparison.
      Anyway you are implicitly saying that Catholic priests are right and that what they fear will happen. But that is life, that is history. This view is understandable.