The face of tolerance

Catholic apologist Mark Shea’s observation that ‘tolerance is not enough, you MUST approve or be punished’ in relation to the same-sex marriage debate is looking evermore prophetic.

Please take a few minutes to watch the following video, produced by Manif pour Tous.  (PSG refers to the riots and subsequent damage caused following the victory of the Paris Saint Germain football team in France’s first league)

The label of bigotry has been bandied about so much that it has become meaningless and yet surely in this context, it is entirely apposite. If we accept that bigotry is someone who behaves towards another with hatred, contempt or intolerance and treats them unjustly on the basis of their beliefs, then there can be no other word to describe what we see here, aside from perhaps totalitarianism.

But language and labels are only helpful in so much as they help us to concretely identify the attitudes, cultural shifts and political forces that are underpinning such a disproportionate response to an overwhelmingly peaceful protest.

This video should challenge everyone, regardless of where they stand on the matter of same-sex marriage or political spectrum, which has now transformed into issues of free speech, rights to protest and religious freedom. This kind of response has absolutely no place in the pluralist, progressive and liberal utopia promoted by those wedded to the politics of identity.

If this video doesn’t cause a profoundly uncomfortable reaction, then one should ask oneself some serious questions.

As for what we as Catholics, or anyone seriously opposed to same-sex marriage should do, the answer lies not in validating the politics of identity and competing victim hierarchies, which only perpetuates cycles of victimhood and oppression, but simply in continuing to quietly, peacefully and yet firmly, protest. And pray. Pray not only for the repeal of this madness, but also for the grace of understanding and forgiveness for those who are so determined to see all opposition crushed. Pray for the future generations who are going to grow up denied the recognition of a biological mother and father and pray that the legislators and activists realise that using force to stamp out groups of political and cultural dissenters is an extremely dangerous road to travel down.

Above all pray for resoluteness of purpose, for fortitude and courage, because we will be seeing an awful lot more of this type of response. As will our children.

 

Leo XIII and legal fiction

A propos of nothing, I was re-reading my way through arguably one of the Church’s finest pieces of social teaching, Pope Leo XIII’s great encyclical Rerum Novarum when the following passage, perhaps providentially jumped out. It  answers much of the argument amongst Christians, not only as to whether or not ‘gay marriage’ is permissible, but also addresses the concerns of those who believe that by stressing family as being the purpose of marriage, apologists and defenders are perhaps being utilitarian and not Christian in approach.

In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie. No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: “Increase and multiply.”(Genesis 1:28) Hence we have the family, the “society” of a man’s house – a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State. 

Also whilst we’re on the subject, a blogger known as ‘gentlemind’ has posted a wonderful Q&A demonstrating how marriage exists to bind procreation to parenting. Crucially:

The cost of inventing the legal fiction of same-sex marriage is that we will have to legally pretend that parents and children are not physically related. That is what happens when we seek to legally redefine nature: nature legally disappears.

Mothers – the missing dimension

There has been a welter of criticism following Archbishop Vincent Nicols’ Christmas homily in which he denounced the forthcoming Government plans to introduce so-called ‘gay marriage’, thereby permanently redefining marriage without the democratic consent of the country. Those of us who are married are about to have their status altered to that of civil partnership without our permission. The state has now decided that it is the supreme arbiter of what constitutes a marriage – namely romantic love and a presumption of commitment only.

Catholic Voices deftly dealt with the Archbishop’s vociferous critics here, both Megan Hodder and Ben Trovato offer sound defences of marriage and Fr Ray Blake in fine barnstorming form offers some ideas as to how Catholics can supplement their support of marriage, aside from fulfilling our moral obligation by lobbying our local MPs.

I won’t revisit the arguments previously made on this blog, but there is a missing dimension to the debate, one that is close to my heart and should concern feminists or those who claim to care about the plight of women and children, and that is motherhood.

I am a mother. I nurtured my children in my womb, they were comforted by my unique heartbeat, the unique intonations of my voice, my unique smell; in short I was, and am, their world. I birthed my children, I fed them from my breasts, I sang to them, when they are tired, unhappy, hurt or in need of comforting, it is uniquely me they want – no-one else, no matter how loved, will do.

That is not to detract from or denigrate their father, whom they are lucky to have, who bathes them, who reads to them, who plays with them, who also soothes them, but when the chips are down, instinctively and intuitively it is mummy they want. Despite the fact that Robin is an extremely involved and hands-on father, there is something visceral, something priomordial about a biological mother’s care, that simply cannot be replicated. I can hear my babies cry and just ‘know’ what is wrong and how to sort their problem, soothe their pain, whilst my husband looks on in bewildered awe. It is with good reason that medics pay close attention to the mother and trust maternal instincts when treating a sick child. If one could only bottle the essences that constitute motherhood, those hardwired responses to one’s own offspring and the emotions that flow naturally between mother and child, one would be rich as Croesus. Mothers rarely need to be shown how to love, even if they do sometimes need some external guidance.

A few years ago, when the 3 year old was a baby, Robin used to tease me for “that weird thing you do pulling faces at her”, thinking that it was one of my many idiosyncrasies. Not long afterwards, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and on his return, recounted how he had seen a Muslim woman in the airport lounge in a niqab behaving in an identical way and pulling the same exaggerated faces. “It was peculiar’, he said, “there was this woman, she looked nothing like you, she had a different colour hair, a different colour skin, she was a different cultural background, was wearing different dress, spoke a different language and yet when I saw her playing with her baby all I could see was you. The mannerisms, the way you hold our baby, the way you pull those faces, exaggerate your speech and intone when you sing, it could have been your carbon copy. I realised that it was obviously something that women instinctively do, this is how they play with their babies. It’s inbuilt and intuitive”. A practical demonstration, if any were needed that the basic skills of mothering are so primordial, so instinctive that they transcend all boundaries and though men can undoubtedly learn and develop such skills, the way women instinctively mother their children is not an ingrained response that naturally occurs in men. This morning, our twenty month old climbed into bed in the early hours and cuddled Robin, as I was feeding the baby. Upon placing the baby back in her bedside cot, the toddler spied her opportunity, climbed over, muttered “mummy” and hugged me tight before falling into blissful slumber. There are no words adequate to describe the contented and satisfied grin on her face as she snuggled in. It was mummy she needed.

So what has this to do with ‘gay marriage’? Put simply, I am not a “Progenitor A”. I am a mother and I will fight to the death to defend not only my children and their best interests, but my right to be identified as a mother. My husband is not simply “progenitor B”, but their father, to which he brings an entirely separate set of attributes.

What “gay marriage” does is undermine and rip away all notions of natural parenthood and paves the way for children to be cared for and brought up by anyone who is deemed to be in a loving romantic relationship.

By stating that romantic love or attachment is the only requirement for marriage, children are then treated as the optional extra. Whilst that may work for some couples, in a world where a misunderstood notion of equality overrides all other considerations, a gay couple is seen as equally worthy and deserving of a child, regardless of that’s child’s rights to be brought up and loved by both of its biological parents. The act of childrearing becomes rooted in selfishness and the desires of the couple in question.

It is an act of supreme selfishness, cruelty and exploitation for a couple to pay a woman to bear a child, to nuture that child in her womb, even if it is not her biological child, to then rip that child away from her, for a sum of money. There can be no excuse for treating women’s bodies and babies as human commodities. Commercial surrogacy consists of trading upon desperation, human misery and is dependent on the commodification of women. Feminists who align themselves with gay-rights activists need to search their conscience.

Once you make all relationships the same, once you strip away the complementarity of male and female, once you define solely romantic love as being the determining factor in a marriage, then you pave the way for babies to be taken away from their mothers and give implicit approval to trading upon human misery. As a woman who has known the highs and lows of pregnancy, who has experienced the agony and ecstasy of childbirth four times, who knows that biological love has the capacity to conquer all, even the most inauspicious of beginnings, the thought of children being deprived of their mothers, sickens me and chills my blood. I guess one could describe it as a type of homophobia because the act of producing children in laboratories and removing them from the women who birthed them, depriving them of a mother to pass them into the care of two men, no matter how rich or well-meaning, does induce fear and concern for women and their children. It is an unnatural thing to financially coerce a woman to produce a child to order, for the benefit of someone else. As a mother, I cannot think of a worse thing to do to another woman than to deprive her of her baby. It is beyond one’s worst imaginings.

Nobody does it better
Nobody does it better

We are already seeing the dreadful consequences of children bred to order, and the impact this is having upon women. Two men artificially producing a biological child that belongs to one of them is seen as socially acceptable and desirable, and in order to accommodate their whims, not only are women being commodified and exploited and children deprived of their inherent rights, but also the law is needing to be constantly revised and updated. Which is why countries like Spain, are dispensing with the traditional titles of mother and father, to be replaced by Progenitors A and B. I am not a progenitor, I am not simply a faceless biological producer of a factory-produced child to order, but I am a mother and a woman whose children were produced in love. And what happens if or when Progenitor A and Progenitor B split up? Child then has to divide its time between two same sex households and potentially acquires two more same-sex step-parents and that is deemed to be in its best interests? Or what is there to stop the State from allocating extra Progenitors such C or D to a child, deciding what actually constitutes a Progenitor, or stripping a biological parent of Progenitor status? If all a child needs is a loving parent of any gender, why are we seeing fatherless children ask for a dad in heartbreaking letters to Santa?

Children do not simply need a parent, but the complementarity of a mother and father. To state that the sexes are interchangeable, strips and deprives women of a key part of their gender, treats them as little more than mechanical breeding machines and denies the unique and wonderful ability of a woman to mother her own child. Study after study demonstrates how babies feed from the stimuli of their mother, right from the moment that they are conceived and study after study demonstrates that though other types of family can and often do an excellent job in terms of raising healthy and well-balanced children, the traditional mother/father in a committed relationship is the ideal.

We change marriage to being solely about a notion of romantic love between two people of any gender, then we further weaken an institution already damaged by divorce laws that constitute an adulterer’s charter. When we say that a marriage is about reaffirming a romantic love or attachment, then there is little incentive to keep the relationship afloat during the rocky times. When marriages or relationships with children break down, it is almost always invariably, though not always, the women who remain the primary carers and who suffer the most.

And this is, though not the only reason by any means, is certainly one of the driving forces behind the fact that I intent to fight this forced change to the definition of my marriage, tooth and nail. Fundamentally same-sex marriage is anti-children, anti-women and anti-mothers.

I will not allow the Government to strip women such as my four girls, of their biological rights to be mothers, without the fight of my life. I am a mother and by definition the best thing that there is for my children. I will not let my motherhood be taken away from me, or from any woman.

Caroline Lucas and the Common Good

I am exceptionally grateful to Laurence England for arranging a deputation of Catholic constituents of Caroline Lucas to meet with her and explain our opposition to same-sex marriage, as well as for including me amongst their number.

I don’t really have much to add to Laurence’s account of how the meeting went, though I don’t think we did much to change her views, we certainly appreciated the opportunity to present our case, and Caroline Lucas certainly came across as a very warm, honest and engaging MP, she did not dismiss our case, neither did she pretend to listen politely, but she actively participated and asked questions as appropriate. Of course one might argue that she was only doing her duty as an elected MP and representative of her constituents, but at least she was gracious and actually took the time to make it seem as if she was genuinely interested! It was a very different experience from when I met my former constituency MP, David Cameron, who was at first dismissive, then had a Damascene conversion once I opened my mouth and he discovered that I’d worked for various Investment banks and had a public school background.

One thing that was very positive about the meeting was that Caroline had an opportunity to see that we were not coming at this from a position of bigotry, we didn’t wish any harm upon the LGBT community and it was certainly helpful that we had at least two of our number who openly identified themselves as being gay or having same sex attraction. Caroline hearteningly said that she had been very supportive of Christina Summers, the Green Party councillor who has been expelled from the Green Party for her opposition to same-sex marriage and that she disagreed with the party’s decision to exclude her; though Caroline’s Green Party credentials are immaculate in this area, she finds it disappointing that someone should be ostracised on account of their sincerely held beliefs.

Of particular interest seemed to be the side-effects of this legislation which clearly David Cameron had not thought about in any depth before going full-steam ahead with his proposal. We explained how Christians and indeed people of all faiths who disagreed with the redefinition of marriage could be affected in the workplace and highlighted the comments of the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, who has hinted that profound philosophical difficulties lie ahead for religious workers in the public sector. Everyone will be expected to recognise the new definition of marriage under law, regardless of whether or not they agree with it.

Another factor was how the redefinition of marriage would necessitate a change in the Anglican prayer book, via an Act of Parliament. Though that may seem irrelevant to a group of Catholics, it would also be a significant step to disestablishment of the church and whatever one’s views on that issue might be, surely such a significant change should not come about as a side-effect of legislation, but should be debated on its own merits or lack thereof.

We also pointed out that the government’s guarantees that religious marriage would remain unaffected would be utterly worthless as there is no distinction in law between religious and civil marriage, therefore if the change comes about it will need to be available to everybody in the same way. Some religious organisations will be unable to solemnise same-sex marriages and the realities of the ECHR and the Human Rights Act will mean that these organisations will have to withdraw from providing marriages if they are not able to offer it to all couples, in the same way as happened with the Catholic Adoption agencies.

As Laurence said, the area that Caroline Lucas seemed most interested in, was that of democracy and the public appetite for change. After pointing out that none of the major parties, including her own had this in their election manifesto, it seemed that a major change was being brought forth which nobody had actively voted for. I mentioned the Catholic Voices Com Res poll, of which she was unaware, suggesting that a significant chunk, some 70% of the population are against redefining marriage as well as the fact that the gay community seem to be apathetic to the change. There is also a risk that those gay couples who choose not to marry but to be in civil partnerships will also be thought of as having second-class unions and face discrimination.

Laurence was particularly persuasive and incisive when Caroline quizzed him on the notion of what constituted the common good. She asked whether the Church could still claim its position was in the common good, that if the poll results were reversed, showing that 70% of people were in favour of the change, surely that could be considered the common good? Laurence used the comparison of pedophilia, which most people find abhorrent, other than Harriet Harman’s friends. Even if public opinion were to change regarding pedophilia or polygamy, legislating for it, would most certainly not be in the common good, regardless of people’s personal views. The common good is an entirely distinct concept to public opinion. We also asked why the state felt that it needed to legislate for people’s private relationships, the only reason that marriage is regulated by the state, is for one reason alone and that is because its main function is to provide children. We explained that as a Church we did not hold the rights to marriage – it is an institution outside of both Church and state.

I don’t think we will have changed her underlying views, however my hope is that we did give some food for thought and that in Caroline’s words, she could see that we were not against equality per se or wanting to degrade same sex couples, but had genuine concern as to the impact of any forthcoming changes in the law.

This for me, is what it means to be a Catholic Voice, not simply a talking head in the media who someone may or may not remember, but actually being pro-active and making sure that the case is coherently and articulately presented in the public square. We did not shy away from our faith, nor did we deny that it affects our conscience, but equally we were able to display that our concerns were not those of bigots who wished to do harm. I do hope and pray that Caroline has a conversion of heart and that our meeting did at least have some impact.

In the meantime, here’s the Janet and John version from the Coalition for Marriage.