The bottom line

A follower on Twitter linked me to some graphic material, produced by the Terence Higgins Trust, which SPUC are claiming is indicative of the type of the material that will be taught in schools if gay marriage is enacted into law.

The booklet is entitled ‘The Bottom Line’ and is a comprehensive guide to ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ homosexual sex. Another friend on Facebook has expressed some legitimate concerns – the booklet, he says, is designed for distribution in GUM clinics and doctors surgeries and is deliberately couched in gay urban parlance, the Terence Higgins Trust are attempting to reach the gay community in order to educate and reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.

Whilst as Catholics we would advocate a more holistic solution involving both body and soul, though I’m uncomfortable with the contents of the brochure simply due to the ick factor (yes I’ve read my Freud, spare me the inevitable comments about repression or heaven forbid ‘homophobia’, I just find graphic depictions of sex as about erotic as a tub of blue play-dough), the Terence Higgins Trust should not be condemned for attempting to improve the health of the gay community.

I’m also not about to, for want of a better phrase, explore the concept of sodomy, other than to note that it’s entirely contrary to Catholic teaching, regardless of the mix of genders who may be engaging in it and it isn’t inciting homophobia to state that it carries greater health risks than heterosexual or ‘vanilla’ sex. According to the latest report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) released in November 2012, the highest rates of HIV were reported amongst men who have sex with men (MSM),  where the diagnosis is 47 per 1,000,  with new diagnoses amongst this community  being at an all time high. That sodomy is inherently a risky business is evidenced by the need for educational material such as that produced by the Terence Higgins Trust. Like most things in life, sodomy, particularly between males, is a calculated risk – despite various precautions one can take in order to mitigate the risk.

As an aside, it’s fascinating to note how the government is attempting to interfere and regulate in other matters of personal health such as putting swingeing great increases on the cost of tobacco, introducing a minimum price for alcohol and mooting a fat tax, but in terms of sexual behaviour, which one could argue has enormous consequences for public health, prefers a laissez faire attitude. Perhaps David Cameron’s push for gay marriage is a disguised attempt at encouraging homosexual monogamy?

SPUC’s point about this booklet, is to be fair, a valid one, but I think some caution is required before using it as an example of the type of material that may be used in schools. They may not be too far off the mark, a quick look at the Bish Training website will give an indication as to the type of material that is thought appropriate and the horrors of the Living and Growing video, which was shown to children as young as 8, will still be fresh in parents’ minds.  The problem is that those who are ideologically wedded to the idea of sexual enculturation as at early an age as possible, will seize on any attempt to portray their opponents as liars. As it isn’t entirely clear whether or not this booklet would be aimed at teens, it not being specifically produced for use in schools, then accusations of deliberate and false scaremongering will fly, along with the usual flim-flam  about inciting hatred.

But SPUC are correct to point out that the teaching of gay sex in schools will be a logical and necessary consequence of gay marriage, simply teaching about hetrosexual practices will be deemed discriminatory. And I’d be willing to bet my bottom (ha excuse the pun) dollar, that most parents, aside from the achingly hip metro-liberal chatterers desperate to wave their progressive rainbow crendentials, would be terribly uncomfortable with that.

Do we really want our primary school children and young vulnerable adolescents given explicit instructions into the mechanics of anal sex, or the sexual practices of anyone, beyond basic reproductive biology? Anyone with same-sex attraction surely figures it out for themselves an at appropriate age without being given the pointers in school, as does anyone with any sexual urges.

I hate writing posts like these with my ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’  sucking a lemon face on, because actually sex is a glorious and joyful thing, which is earth-shatteringly powerful. We shouldn’t underestimate its power, nor seek to neutralise or clinicalise it in soggy grotty latex filled self-satisfying encounters or feats of performance, which are about as stimulating as watching Midsommer Murders with a cup of hot cocoa in a cardi.

Which is one of the tragedies of the ideology of sex education in schools. A fulfilling and joyful sex life should not have to include a mandatory regular health check, nor intricate discussions of the workings of the back passage that would make Kenneth Williams blush. And the sooner people cotton on that the way sex is taught in schools, that anything goes, nothing matters so long as it’s consensual, is an ideology and a damaging one at that, the better.

No laughing matter
No laughing matter

Credit where Credit’s due

One of the valuable lessons I learnt last year is that sometimes it’s better not to air one’s grievances publicly. The internet is still a new tool and all of us are learning as we go in terms of how to most effectively utilise it. This time last year I made some criticisms about SPUC which resulted in a very unpleasant fall-out. Whilst I don’t regret what I said, and stand by many of my concerns, I also accept that I was blogging in a state of anger (never a good idea) fuelled by what I felt was unfair criticism and aided by a huge dose of pregnancy hormones. Hopefully SPUC of all people, should be able to understand that a woman experiencing her third pregnancy in as many years, coming 8 months after the birth of her previously unplanned child, was perhaps not in the best place emotionally and took the criticism rather too personally.

Therefore I ought to apologise for the intemperate nature of those posts, feelings were running high and admittedly I was being cleverly manipulated by a behind-the-scenes agitator, suggesting that I should blog. Mea culpa.

I still have reservations about the wisdom of whether or not it was a wise idea for SPUC to use its resources in defence of  marriage, but in the interests of balance, I ought to admit to an interesting conversation regarding with my father-in-law, who is still technically an Anglo-Catholic and long term member of SPUC. He informed me that he was having a meeting with his MP in the middle of January in order to discuss same-sex marriage. He doesn’t expect to get anywhere, given the MP is a Liberal Democrat, but felt the issue was important enough to make his views known.

I asked him what prompted this, to which the response was “I had an URGENT letter from SPUC, which said that something had to be done, so I straight away phoned up the young girl in their office, had quite a long in depth conversation and then made the appointment to see the MP”. So fair dos really. SPUC do seem to be rallying some grass-roots activism, which is no bad thing.

To be honest, I still believe their campaigning and strategy needs some updating and revisions. The fact that they were successful with my father-in-law is because he is pretty typical of the average SPUC member, i.e. over 65, a staunch Christian, not net literate (he doesn’t use the internet at all) and he tends to get very worked up by the angrily typed letters and edited handwritten slips of paper which look like they have been produced on an old-fashioned duplicating machine, that drop through the letterbox, containing their latest foreshadowings of imminent danger or deadly peril and urging strongly-worded letters and street petitions. I think SPUC’s appeal lies mainly with the retired reactionary Tory voters as well as the young traddie Catholic movement and at some point they will need to broaden their focus, but you know what, fair-play.

How many Catholics reading this have lobbied their MP yet? And if not, why not? I’ve just moved to Hove, so I’m wondering whether or not to have a bash at Mike Weatherly, the Tory Hove MP who narrowly won the key marginal from Celia Barlow, the former Labour incumbent and within a year of his election, lobbied David Cameron to shut down churches in his constituency who won’t conduct same-sex marriages. Modernise or close down was his rallying cry. Is two bites at the cherry (given I met with Caroline Lucas back in October) a little greedy, or is there no point? Incidentally I’m more than a little peeved – a Tory vote was recommended in the key marginals, if I recall correctly and it turns out that Celia Barlow had a much better pro-life record than I should imagine Mike Weatherly will have.

But I do endeavour to be fair-minded, so err yeah, credit where credit’s due. Although quite what L’Osservatore Romano’s reviews of Skyfall, have to do with a secular pro-life lobby group is beyond me. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiments therein, a group of seminarians and priests I know went to see the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. Didn’t someone say something about being in the world and yet not of it? If we want to warn youngsters of the dangers and pitfalls of life as a secret agent, or the false glamour espoused by James Bond, then doesn’t it help if we’ve actually seen the material in order to be able to engage effectively with it and view it critically?

But anyway let’s not go there again.

The finest Basildon Bond
Don’t forget your finest Basildon Bond

What’s the plan, Stan?

So, I said I’d do one final post, before a break of a few weeks, and here it is. As will become obvious I do want comments to continue to pour in as I think that this could actually prove very constructive.

Let’s be honest. There is no coherent pro-life movement in the UK. I have spent hours pouring over pro-choice literature, academic studies, political analysis, I follow them like a hawk on social media and I have to concede they are expert operators with cogent strategies, smooth PR machines who are able to drive headlines and influence public opinion. I know one or two people who have attended their meetings incognito. I’ve thought about doing the same, with the addition of a black wig and my glasses. What I have been told is that the pro-choice lobby are friendly, very well-organised and above all democratic, transparent and accountable.

What do we have to counter that? A disparate bunch of well-meaning squabblers, and I admit in some respects I may not have helped, but it pains me beyond belief to see the mess our side are in; whilst we squabble, bicker and fight, countless die.

I know all the arguments about Catholic teaching, about Christian teaching and so on and so forth, there is a time and a place to evangelise and I don’t simply mean in Church, but trying to base legislation upon Biblical, Scriptural or Magisterial Authority has not worked since before the Enlightenment. I think we have to draw an important distinction between Christian evangelisation and attempting to achieve our goals. Of course the two are inexorably linked and should complement and support each other, but campaigning for the dignity of the unborn and sick and elderly does not necessitate or require theology or biblical exegesis. We can draw on that to other Christians or in the course of general apologetics, but appealing to God, whilst trying to convince an atheist as to the horror of abortion, or why it is not right to put to death terminally ill or elderly people, is simply not going to wash.

It seems to me we have two options:

Option one

We all agree that I am a cheeky bumptious upstart who has no business sticking her opinionated nose into pro-life politics. If I want to do something I can rattle some collecting tins in Church, attend coffee mornings, bake cakes for pro-life charity sales, maybe do a bit of typing for the Pro-Life times or some such, but generally get back to my life of witness by continuing to have as many babies as I can until my uterus falls out.

In the meantime, the internecine squabbling continues, positions are more firmly entrenched than ever before, pro-life groups carry on doing what they’ve always done, groups are as polarised as ever before, John Smeaton retires in ten years time and passes on the family firm to his son, whilst LIFE carry on doing what they do. Both groups do some things well, but no real progress is made, things just tick on as before, it’s all about the damage limitation.

In the meantime, Dorries pushes for the 20 week reduction and fails miserably, much to the cheers of her detractors. Bouyed up by Nadine’s failure, the pro-choice lobby, decide to push on with their agenda, the requirement for the second doctor’s signature is removed, pro-life groups are no longer allowed to present in schools and are barred from carrying out any pregnancy counselling. Marie Stopes and BPAS build more and more clinics, abortion numbers go up, more sex education is thought to be the solution, more condoms and morning after pills are given out and so the cycle continues. Who knows, they may challenge for an overturning of the abortion pill to be administered in a clinic and will probably start hawking mobile abortion services, or even dial-an-abortion whereby a woman can have her consultation over the phone and the pill delivered by courier.

In short, doom and death.

Option 2

How about a meeting? (I won’t come, I promise, I’ll be too busy skulking or giving birth or something, besides I don’t want to be lynched by anyone). I know this seems incredible, I know we aren’t going to get x, y and z to actually sit down together in a room and begin to talk, dear me no, that could never happen could it, because of things that happened 20 years ago.

How about a team of professional mediators and ALL the major pro-life players and when I say ALL, I mean ALL? Not just representatives from SPUC, LIFE, Right-to-Life, but everyone, from people like Peter Saunders, to John Smeaton, Jack Scarisbrick, to Phyllis Bowman, Josephine Quintavelle, Ed Rennie, heck even Lord Alton, EVERYONE, lets get them all together to sit down, agree common goals and talk, to see where we can all go from here.

What I would love to see is a consolidation of all groups, – one huge group with different arms and focuses, say a euthanasia arm, an education arm, an outreach arm, a political arm, a research arm and so on and so forth. Consolidation has to be the name of the game in this day and age. It’s a clunky analogy but look at the airline industry. All the little airlines could not survive single handedly, routes were being duplicated, losses were being made and so we’ve seen some mergers in order to ensure survival. I know that the pro-life movement is not a business, but surely if we had one movement, one that was democratic, transparent and accountable, then certainly Catholics would know to whom to donate in good faith, as would Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, people of all faiths and none. We seem to have so much duplication and wastage and yet no coherent strategy.

I know there are so many thorny issues to be thought through, I know there are many competing egos, but surely with professional mediators and then with the help of management consultants (sorry, but they would need to be a prerequisite) we could take stock of the resources and expertise available, consolidate and move forward? I know there are issues such as LIFE only do non-directive counselling and really Catholics must tell people the truth that abortion is the killing of a baby and morally wrong, but surely there has to be areas of consensus and commonality?

I really don’t think we can carry on as we are, it’s 2012, it’s time to finally sort this mess out, and getting everyone together in a room seems a good place to start. If the Irish peace process can manage to get Gerry Adams and David Trimble around the table, then there’s hope for all of us.

Which brings me to something that I’ve always wanted to do. One of those poll jobbies. Over to you. What do you think? Maybe the first thing we can organise is that long overdue rally?