Catholic Involvement in Saving Marriage

Eric Hester FAITH Magazine September – October 2012

Eric Hester is a retired headmaster of Catholic grammar and comprehensive schools and currently a lead inspector of independent schools. He writes about the practical response that Catholics could make to the current attack on marriage.

The Catholic Church in England has a poor record in opposing governments in the area of sexual morality. There is a consistent pattern here. Despite some resistance to redefining marriage, it is not clear that our tactics are the best - nor is it clear what our angle is. I propose to raise a couple of campaigning issues in this regard.

We have seen every Catholic adoption society in effect closed down because, apparently, the leaders of the Church thought they had a deal with politicians over "gay" adoption. The Catholic authorities were completely out-manoeuvred. As this magazine has chronicled, they largely surrendered in the fight against compulsory sex education (of a profoundly corrupting kind), most especially concerning non-Catholic schools. We were saved only from the worst excesses because the Labour government lost the last election. In schools, the Catholic authorities have meekly handed over to the politicians control over the curriculum, over the admissions of pupils and, in practice, over the appointment of teachers.

Despite the above our politicians do not seem to feel they that they owe us any favours but are pushing ahead towards altering the whole basis of marriage as it has been known in England since the time of King St Ethelbert. It will be a difficult fight against a government-funded campaign (ie one backed by our money), which has daily access to the media, especially to the BBC - which has clearly shown that it intends to push for "gay marriage".

I am not here discussing the morality of homosexuality. The Catholic Church has always condemned homosexual acts as "intrinsically evil", as well as of course distinguishing clearly between wounded tendencies, sin, and sinner. I want to focus upon what should be done politically to stop this proposal from becoming law.

The power of the "gay" lobby can further be gauged by the fact that, on one level, we need to remind ourselves that, in terms of health considerations, homosexual acts are not at all on the level of holding hands and a peck on the cheek. It is just the tip of a health-risk iceberg to recognise that sexually active gay men, and even their female sexual partners, are not allowed to donate blood. Given the amount of rewriting of basic biology going on in this area it is interesting to see the NHS "Who can't give blood" website page.

In considering the practicalities of fighting this frenzied rush formally to separate sex from any specific meaning written into the nature of the human person, in which the Catholic Church seems little more than a bystander, I should remind the reader of one fact: none of the political parties as much as mentioned the "gay marriage" measure in their manifestos.

So the British people are having something thrust upon them, a huge change, on which they have never had the chance to vote. This is wrong. This is not an emergency measure and there is no need for haste. As it is the Prime Minister who is introducing this measure, why was it not in the Conservative Party manifesto?

The reason is obvious: the proposal is massively unpopular. The Tories might well have lost the election had they included this measure in their manifesto.

They now say that they are having a consultation but that whatever the consultation finds they will still pass the measure. Will it, in fact, go through Parliament? Easily. The Tories say they are giving their MPs a free vote, which is nice for them. But those Tories who are part of the Government will in effect be pressurised to vote Yes, and the Labour and Liberal Democrats are keeping quiet. It is marvellous for the Labour Party: something which they desire is being proposed and the Tories are taking all the odium for it. Even if Labour gave a free vote, which is unlikely, the pressure from Labour constituency activists (not Labour voters) would force most Labour MPs to vote for the change: just a few people of principle will hold out. Much the same goes for the Liberal Democrats,whose leader has said that he has no intention of allowing MPs to have a free vote.

When objective histories are written of this era, surely the virtual silence of the Catholic Church in Britain concerning the widening gap between sex and procreation will figure prominently. In this piece I will focus on the tactics of the Catholic Church in England. The Catholic Times of 12 June reported that a prominent bishop has called upon the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats to allow a free vote. But though there is nothing wrong with this, perse, it concedes that the politicians should make the decision and not the people. The bishop quoted in the report made no reference to the rights of the people of Britain. As stated above, a "free" vote of MPs would almost certainly result in the Bill's being passed.

The Catholic Bishops sent a good letter to be read at all parishes (though interestingly it did not directly mention homosexuality, and some priests have kept this secret from their parishioners). But the letter, though good on moral arguments, was weak on tactics. It did recommend that Catholics should sign the petition against the new form of marriage. There is certainly no harm in this, but politicians tend to ignore petitions. How many petitions did we all sign against abortion, all to no avail - as were the demonstrations in London that we attended. The BBC played down the numbers and the politicians ignored what was being said.

This time we can be more optimistic because, for once, we are showing an ecumenical dimension that is useful: we should work with the Church of England. Leading bishops of that Church have spoken against the coming Bill and, more importantly, there is very strong grass-roots opposition, especially from the admirable evangelical Christian Institute based in the North East. This institute is pursuing a hard fight and its website has daily news of that battle. Among other things, the Institute has fruitfully called for a Christian boycott of Tesco, which has been giving money to the Gay Pride march. One would hardly expect this to be a festive family occasion, at least in the traditional sense of family; indeed, it is a highly sexualised pageant.

So what can we do? If one has a Conservative MP then write to him or her but even better go and see the MP, or ask the MP to meet a deputation of a dozen or so people. If you do not mind writing to newspapers, then do that: political parties want bad news to be kept quiet and the Conservative Party is certainly hoping that the fuss will subside. Use websites. Write to the Prime Minister at Downing Street and ask specific questions to which you want answers. In particular, one could ask the Prime Minister to put in writing his personal guarantee that no Church or individual will be forced to perform "gay marriages"; and that it will not be illegal for Christians to teach the traditional and biblical view that homosexual acts are sinful; and that Christians who refuse to perform "gay"marriages will still be able to be registrars.

Parish priests could consider asking any local Conservative MP to attend a meeting with him and a group of parishioners. My advice would be that such a meeting should not be a public one but that about a dozen good people should meet the MP. The meeting should be a private one, but the MP could be told quite clearly that afterwards a clear statement will be issued giving his, or her, views about homosexual marriage with the MP's voting intentions.

I have spoken about Conservative MPs because at the time I am writing no Bill has been produced and only the leader of the Conservative Party has raised the issue directly. Once the matter becomes a definite proposal, and there is a parliamentary timetable, then MPs of all parties should be contacted. Those who live in marginal constituencies are in a very good position to help. They can contact MPs and candidates of all parties. A Conservative MP with a small majority will feel under pressure especially if, say, a candidate for UKIP strongly opposes this measure.

There are different views about political tactics but I feel that we should ask for a referendum. How are the people to express their views on an important and fairly straightforward issue missing from manifestos? Of course, the Government would control the wording and the BBC would push for people to vote Yes. But it is very unlikely that the Government would permit a referendum on this matter - or on any other. First, it is quite likely that it would lose heavily and suffer a great deal of bad publicity. More importantly, the Government is worried that the British people might warm to the concept of referendums and push for one on the EU.

Finally, please do not decide to leave it to other people to resist this evil. I know it is a cliché, but it is a true one that for evil to triumph it is sufficient for good people to do nothing.

Faith Magazine

September - October 2012