Comment on the Comments
William Oddie FAITH Magazine September – November 2012
Spinning away from Sanity
Those the BBC report describes as "sources close to Mr Clegg" (i.e. Mr Clegg himself) said the use of the word "bigot" was "a mistake", and that the "early draft" of his speech should not have been released to the press. While he "stridently disagreed" with those opposing the legalisation of gay marriage, Mr Clegg said he would "never seek to engage in debate in insulting terms". The real point, of course, is that though he wouldn't use that particular B word (which has become politically taboo since it got Gordon Brown into such trouble) it is pretty clear that, whether or not he physically uttered the word in public, it's what he thinks, and probably says, in private.
"Bigots" didn't get into his first draft by not reflecting what he actually believes. One difference between a first draft and a second draft is that what you finally say has ironed out anything that might get you into trouble. But what he did say is worth repeating: "I stridently disagree," he said in his actual speech, with those opposing the legalisation of gay marriage. That means he thinks they are bigots. He would "never seek to engage in debate in insulting terms" because he knows it's politically risky. But the legislation that he and Mr Cameron are cooking up will be constructed on the assumption that those opposed are indeed bigots, and that once the legislation is on the statute book, they will have no more right meaningfully to oppose it than they would have to stir upracial hatred.
That, or something very like it, is certainly the conclusion that Aidan O'Neill QC -described in a Telegraph report as an expert on religious freedom and human rights - appears to have come to. He thinks, for instance, that schools will be within their statutory rights to dismiss staff who "wilfully fail" (presumably that means "refuse") to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex marriage. He also concludes that parents who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will have no right to withdraw their child from lessons.
In a report commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, which asked him to assess the likely knock-on legal consequences of any proposed gay marriage legislation, he writes that any decision to redefine marriage will have far-reaching consequences for schools, hospitals, foster carers and public buildings. The most serious impact is likely to be felt, he thinks, in the churches, where vicars and priests conducting religious marriage ceremonies could be taken to court for refusing to carry out a gay wedding.
They will, he says, be powerless to stop same-sex couples demanding the same weddings as heterosexuals under the European Convention on Human Rights. Churches would be in a stronger legal position if they were to stop conducting weddings altogether: "Churches might indeed better protect themselves against the possibility of any such litigation by deciding not to provide marriage services at all, since there could be no complaint then of discrimination in their provision of services as between same-sex and opposite-sex couples."
They obviously can't do that. But how valid are these alarming conclusions? Isn't he just telling the Coalition for Marriage what it wants to hear? Well, Mr Cameron, despite what he is telling Parliament has, it seems, been telling his constituents in Witney that "religious marriage" will inevitably be affected by his proposed legislation. Inevitably?
Probably. According to Neil Addison, a specialist in discrimination law, "once same-sex marriage has been legalised then the partners to such a marriage are entitled to exactly the same rights as partners in a heterosexual marriage. This means that if same-sex marriage is legalised in the UK it will be illegal for the Government to prevent such marriages happening in religious premises."
"Inevitably" - that's the word the Prime Minister has been using to his constituents - "inevitably" religious marriage will be affected: in other words, whatever he tells Parliament about his proposed legislation affecting only civil marriage, he knows it isn't true.
As for the conclusion of Aidan O'Neill QC, that schools will be within their statutory rights to dismiss staff who refuse to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex marriage and that parents who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will have no right to withdraw their children from lessons, does that sound at all unlikely, given the cases of the Strasbourg four, which were considered by the European Court of Justice in September?
Not at all, surely. After all, our political masters think such people are bigots. Why should they have any rights to exercise their bigotry? That's why the legislation will, in effect, remove those rights. Catholics will be proved right, in the end, as we were over eugenics in the last century.
Hitler dramatically proved us right then, and eugenics went underground. But for most of the first half of the century, only Catholics opposed it: Chesterton was the only leading writer who wrote against it; all the rest were enthusiastic supporters. But the trouble with waiting for history to prove us right is that there have to be so many walking wounded, and worse, first.
As I wrote in The Catholic Herald in 2010 about the enforced closure of our adoption agencies: "We are currently passing through a kind of cultural blip, in which these things go unchallenged (except, as usual, by the Catholic Church). Our descendants will look back and marvel at our gullibility. But in the meantime, in the name of human rights, of liberation from 'outworn shibboleths' (remember them?) there will be many human casualties. 'Oh Liberty,' in the famous words of Madame Roland as she mounted the scaffold, 'what crimes are committed in thy name.'"
Why is the Church against not only gay marriage but all gay unions? It is worth reminding ourselves. It was spelled out by the CDF, in a document (www.Vatican.va/roman\_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc\_con\_cfaith\_doc\_20030731\_homosexual-unions\_en.html) entitled "Consideration regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons": the title indicates that the document was published (2003) before most countries had actually done it. "Legal recognition of homosexual unions", it said, "would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage." And one of the main effects of this devaluation would be in its effects on the children adopted by those contracting such unions. The reasons for this, says the CDF, aresimple enough:
"As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognised also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration inevery case."
Pretty bigoted stuff, Nick Clegg would undoubtedly say: but what, Mr Clegg, if the CDF has got it right? The trouble, as I have already suggested, with waiting for history to prove us right is that there have to be so many casualties first. But already, the evidence that the CDF has indeed got it right is beginning to come in, from the United States, with the first batch of casualties: though those registering the evidence are of course going though the fires of calumny from gay activists, including accusations of academic dishonesty (why is it we can't call them bigots?). As The Baptist Press reported in September:
"The University of Texas at Austin has cleared sociology professor Mark Regnerus of academic misconduct after he was excoriated by some in the media over a study showing that parents' homosexual relationships can have negative effects on children.
"Regnerus made headlines in June when his study was published in the widely respected journal Social Science Research. According to his findings, children raised by homosexual parents are more likely than those raised by married heterosexual parents to suffer from poor impulse control, depression and suicidal thoughts.
"They also are more likely to require more mental health therapy; identify themselves as homosexual; choose cohabitation; be unfaithful to partners; contract sexually transmitted diseases; be sexually molested; have lower income levels; drink to get drunk; and smoke tobacco and marijuana."
How long will it be before such findings are acted on? I fear that it will take some years before public opinion supporting gay marriage (currently, in the US this is a majority; here there is conflicting evidence) goes into reverse, and even longer before gay couples are no longer allowed to adopt children. This is not the beginning of the end - but, as Churchill famously said after El Alamein, it may be the end of the beginning.
In the end, the Catholic Church, not for the first time when it has defied the Spirit of the Age, will be proved right. But what a lot of suffering is caused before finally the penny drops, when the human race gets it wrong as spectacularly as it has this time.