Sunday, February 27, 2011

Commentary on Proposed Changes in U.K. Marriage Laws Permitting Religious Celebration of Same-Sex Unions

And a selection of interesting commentary on the proposed change in laws in the United Kingdom (and here) that would permit same-sex couples to solemnize unions or marriages in a religious context, if a faith community agrees to such an arrangement:

Riazat Butt reports in the Guardian that the Catholic archbishop of Southwark (England) Peter Smith has condemned the proposed revision of the law as unnecessary and undesirable.  And how does Smith handle the fact that some faith communities actually do wish to bless gay unions, and consider it discriminatory for the government to restrict their religious freedom as they choose to take this step?

Smith's argument: marriage does not belong to either a religion or society.  It is a "fundamental human institution rooted in human nature."  It is what it is.  No one can change it.

And so any faith community wishing to bless a gay marriage is asking for permission to change what is, what is natural.  What is pre-ordained, given by God to nature.  Smith concludes that the religious freedom of Catholics and others who oppose same-sex marriage will be constrained if Catholics and others who oppose same-sex marriage are not permitted to block the religious freedom of Quakers and other religious communities who do wish to celebrate gay marriages.

Something like that.

At the Telegraph, Damian Thompson, a Catholic commentator, frankly admits that Archbishop Smith's argument for religious freedom boils down to an argument for the "right" of Catholics to block the religious freedom of other religious communities that consider it discriminatory to bar gay couples from religious unions.  But he wonders why the bishops aren't being more media-savvy and aggressive in sharing this message with the public at large.  And why they won't face the public and discuss their stand on this important issue in a way that permits media questions and public analysis.

Anglican Judith Maltby has a different perspective at the Guardian.  Her take on the debate?  There's enough of God to go around.  Why would any religious group want to restrict God and dole out tiny pieces of God only to an approved group of people, to straight people and not gays?  As Maltby notes, we've been here before, in the Christian churches, when, prior to Luther, marriage was considered a second-class vocation for Christians, an option for the spiritual "also rans" who couldn't quite live up to the seriousness of the Christian calling by entering monastic life.  And then as now, the churches seemed unable to regard one form of marriage (in the past, the marriage of lay Christians) as equal to that of another, more highly regarded form of marriage (in the past, the marriage of a vowed religious to Christ).  We seem to have great difficulty in imagining God as big enough to go around--for all.

Finally, from across the pond, an interesting Catholic perspective on the Obama administration's decision that some aspects of DOMA do not meet the test of constitutionality.  This is from William Oddie writing in the English Catholic Herald .  Oddie's conclusion: Barack Obama is perhaps the most anti-Catholic president in living memory.  Oddie notes that the U.S. Catholic bishops have argued, as Archbishop Smith in England does,  that marriage is marriage.  It is what it is.  It has always been what it is now, and it must always remain what it is now, since it is given by nature and nature is given by God.  (Never mind that our own sacred scriptures show our fathers and mothers in faith practicing polygamy for centuries upon centuries.)

And, though we deplore discrimination, we can't change what is, simply to permit you who are gay or lesbian to feel included and validated.  To feel that there's enough of God to go around.

We certainly don't intend to discriminate.  But we don't make the rules and we can't change them.  It's the rules doing the discriminating, for goodness's sake!

And so any president who doesn't agree with us is the most anti-Catholic president we can ever remember: so sayeth Mr. Oddie.

Interesting, isn't it, to see people twist words like "freedom" and "non-discrimination" (not to mention "love," if they ever get around to talking about it) into something that means the very opposite of what the words actually mean, even while claiming that they are the ones whose freedom is being curtailed, and they are the ones being discriminated against?  And if you ask them to support these twisted ideas in a rational conversation in the public square of a pluralistic, democratic societies, you are an enemy.

An enemy who is attacking them, the holy men of God.

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