Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Faith and the art of compromise

The legal change in the UK allowing gay couples to marry have their civil ceremonies in churches has made a fair bit of news in British media and even a few headlines here in the off world colonies. Recognition of such ceremonies is not uniform across Australia and while some polls support the idea of gay marriage - marriage rather then just a civil ceremony - others oppose it. No surprise in a country where some states still have a significant religious vote and where politicians with strong religious beliefs are pretty common. Nor is it a surprise that in the UK both CofE and Roman Catholic denominations have said that regardless of what the law permits they will not permit it in their buildings. Fair enough too - since they own the buildings they get the final say on what can and can't be done in them. What is a bit of a surprise, although less so given the individual concerned, is that a very well known Melbourne based Roman Catholic priest is taking the side of gays on more or less those terms. At a time when the world leader of his church is denouncing the idea of gay marriage as dangerous, insidious and against the common good, in South Melbourne Father Bob Maguire is being far less Old Testament about it.
Fr Maguire said he does not have a personal view on gay civil unions.

The 75-year-old said he understood Catholic leaders would not want a gay ceremony in a Catholic church so he would arrange a private event.

"I'd probably consult the bosses and then I'd go back to the clients and tell them we can't do it in here - it's not personal, it's institutional," he said.

Fr Maguire said it was "his duty" to help people in need, including gay couples.

"Not only do I have an administrative responsibility but I have also pastoral responsibility and pastoral care would be taking care of the two people involved and their friends and their associates," he said.
I'm as lapsed as they come and this won't change that, but I can't help but admire the man. I've never quite got my head round how Christians who say they're libertarians (or Muslims who say they're libertarians, come to that) manage to square that circle but I've generally accepted it at face value and assumed that they've found a way that they're comfortable with, which for a libertarian should be all that matters. And really there's not much doubt possible when a priest comes out with what is basically the most libertarian approach to gay partnerships possible with the law we have right now and the policies and teachings of his Church. I mean, doesn't it tick nearly all the boxes? The property rights of the owners of church buildings are being respected, as are the desires of a couple who care for each other enough to want to remain partners for life but who happen to have the same set of chromosomes. Fr Maguire has even said he'll go ask the church higher-ups despite everyone knowing that he and the clients will be knocked back.
The Catholic church yesterday reiterated its opposition to gay civil unions.

The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Bishop Les Tomlinson, said civil union ceremonies involving homosexual couples were not allowed in any of its Melbourne's churches.
In fact as far as I can see the only remaining fly in the ointment is the government, who still insist on defining marriage the same way the churches do, which in turn means they've taken a side instead of sensibly remaining out of it. Repeal of the Marriage Act, as I've said before, would allow people to define it for themselves without obliging anyone else to agree with their definition. The most demanding section of the gay marriage lobby would have to get to grips with the fact that the Bible and other religious books say what they say about homosexuality, and the reality is that nobody else has any right to tell believers which bits of those books they may and may not agree with. In turn those believers need to understand that they don't get to dictate terms to everyone outside their churches, or even to fellow believers who wouldn't lose sleep at the idea of two gays getting a contract drawn up or something and calling that marriage, especially if they're not actually asking the Vatican to recognise it as such. And for those who want a religious element, regardless of whether they call it a wedding, a partnership or what, there is always the option of looking for someone of the cloth who is willing to bless it, do a Bible reading, make some kind of sermon or whatever that couple need for them to feel like the thing's been done right. They don't have the right to to be able to find someone, but they do have the right to look and ask, and if they're happy with, say, the Quakers (I found this out via a recent QOTD by Deusexmacintosh at Skepticlawyer) or the compromise offered by Father Bob then what's the problem? The last remaining hurdle to the fairest possible solution is for government to become truly neutral on the matter and restrict itself to insisting that both sides agree to disagree and that neither restricts the liberties of the other.

Not everyone will be happy of course. There will always be someone demanding that the government enforce their brand of dogma as the law, and there'll always be someone demanding the right to be married to their gay partner in St Peter's Basilica. The answer to both is simple - tough. Everyone else, including members of the clergy with, shall we say, a Maguirean approach, is in the middle ground. Join or not as you please.

PS - just to get the Journalistic Crap tag in on this one, the Herald Sun's headline was originally "I'll Do Gay Weddings" (as suggested by the URL of the link). Father Bob, who for a guy in his 70s is a pretty connected technophile, blogged and tweeted that that wasn't actually what he said:
''Spread the word, comrades. I will not do gay weddings. I cannot do gay weddings. The H/S headliner is wrong.''
Thanks to Father Bob we see that Christians can be libertarian and that there's something in old cliché: is that true or did you read it in the Herald Sun?
Related Posts with Thumbnails