What gay parents are worth

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The same sex marriage debate is not going away in Australia or the US. It may be delayed in the UK, and it is concluded in Canada. It is not a debate about what restrictions church communities might continue to impose rightly on church weddings. It is a debate about what recognition the civil law should give to committed monogamous partnerships which may or may not involve the nurturing and education of children.

I remain committed to legal recognition of civil unions while maintaining the distinctive institution of civil marriage as the bond between a man and a woman open to bearing and nurturing each other's children. I am aware that the maintenance of this distinction is causing hurt to some people, while others think it is too compromising.

It was a galvanising moment in the same sex marriage debate when audience member Ross Scheepers asked Joe Hockey on Q&A to 'tell us and Senator Wong why you think you and Melissa make better parents than her and Sophie'. Hockey replied: 'I think in this life we've got to aspire to give our children what I believe to be the very best circumstances and that's to have a mother and a father ... I'm not saying gay parents are any lesser parents but I am being asked to legislate in favour of something that I don't believe to be the best outcome for a child.'

Compere Tony Jones then asked Penny Wong for her opinion.

'It is sad', she replied, 'that some families have to feel that they have to justify who they are because when you say those things, Joe, what you're saying to not just me but people like me is that the most important thing in our lives, which is the people we love, is somehow less good, less valued. And if you believe that then you believe that, but I have a different view.'

When asked if it was hurtful Wong replied, 'Of course it is but, you know, I know what my family is worth.'

When Wong's partner Sophie Allouache gave birth to daughter Alexandra a fortnight before Christmas last year, many Australians delighted in the front page photograph of the newly founded family. Allouache and Wong are not married but they are committed in love to each other and they have now committed to bringing up their child.

Like all children, Alexandra has a biological father. Unlike the children of Hockey and his wife Melissa, Alexandra will be brought up and nurtured primarily by a couple not including her biological father. In future, couples like Allouache and Wong may have the option of producing a child who does not even have a biological father.

The essence of equality is that things which are the same are treated the same and things which are marked by relevant differences are treated differently. If things marked by irrelevant differences are treated differently, there might be a breach of the principle of equality and there might result an unjustified act of adverse discrimination.

It would be wrong for the state not to recognise mixed race marriages. The marriage of a mixed race couple should be treated in the same way as the marriage of a couple of the same race. Race is not a relevant difference when it comes to marriage. On the same reasoning, I've argued that the time has come for the state to recognise the unions of same sex couples who are committed to faithful, supportive, long term exclusive relationships.

The state has an interest in seeing such relationships supported even though some citizens for religious or other reasons may have reservations or objections about the sexual relations and sexual acts which might be entailed in such relationships. Basically that's none of the state's business, nor is it the business of religious persons whose views about the good life are not being sought by people living in such relationships.

I have continued to draw the line at civil unions. If a same sex relationship was to be treated exactly the same as a heterosexual marriage, then the couple in a same sex relationship recognised as marriage should have exactly the same entitlements as the couple in a heterosexual marriage. I have two substantive reservations, which could be held in good faith by people of any religious conviction or none whatever.

Couples who are unable to bear their own children can avail themselves of medical and scientific assistance. Naturally couples would like to be able to bear and nurture children who have their genetic imprint, and only theirs.

I am enough of a 'natural lawyer' to think that all persons have a natural right to a known biological mother and a known biological father. The idea that the state would routinely authorise state assistance for the creation of children without a known biological father and a known biological mother concerns me. It will not be long before scientists will be able to create a child from the genetic material of just two men or two women. Such children and their advocates would need to concede that but for such a technological breakthrough they would not exist.

But some of these children will undoubtedly face existential challenges of novel dimensions when they realise that they do not have a known biological father and a known biological mother. I am very wary about the state writing a blank cheque in the name of non-discrimination committing itself to the development and provision of artificial reproductive technology such that children with these challenges will be routinely created.

Though I have no objection to adoption being available to same sex couples when the child for adoption is related to one of the couple (and that is usually the case), I do think that a child who is not related to any prospective adoptive parent should be given in adoption to the available couple most suited to bringing up the child. All things being equal (which inevitably they are not), the state acting in the best interests of the child should be able to show a preference for a family unit including an adult male and an adult female.

Can we have 'marriage equality' while maintaining a ban on reproductive technology using the genetic material of just two men or two women, and while maintaining a state entitlement to choose adoption in the best interests of the child who has no adoptive relations? 

If not, then we should settle for civil unions which remove all adverse discrimination against a same sex couple by virtue of their relationship while maintaining state preferences for all children having a biological mother and a biological father and for adoption of any unrelated child into a family with an adult male and adult female.

When the matter comes on for debate, all political parties should provide their members with a conscience vote. While some conservative religious groups in Australia support Tony Abbott's denial of a conscience vote, the shoe is on the other foot in the UK where the Liberal Democrats want to force their members to support a vote for same sex marriage.

The Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Archbishop Peter Smith, has said: 'The Government's proposal to change the definition of marriage is a profound legal reform which, if enacted, would have major longterm consequences for our society. It is very important in my view that MPs of all parties should be given a free vote on an issue of such major significance. It is an issue of conscience because fundamental moral questions are at stake about the true meaning of marriage and how the common good of society is best served.'

This principle should apply whichever foot is shod. 


 

Frank BrennanFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University.


Topic tags: Frank Brennan, same sex marriage, Penny Wong, QandA

 

 

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Frank: the answer to your question [which I presume was more than rhetorical] is "Yes, it's immediately possible to have marriage equality while maintaining a ban on the cloning of children and making adoption decisions on a "best interests of the child" basis". Therefore ...
Terry | 07 June 2012


Why can't all Australians be granted a conscience vote in this matter - after a well managed (Parliament) information process, outlining such matters as Fr Frank has, and all the othe rmatters as well> At the moment the process is one being managed by "activists" on both sides and the majority of Australians are being overlooked as good, thinking and capable people. A national plebiscite is the way to go in a true democracy.
Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 07 June 2012


Each child carries a genetic inheritance that our society does not yet understand. Attributes reemerge across the generations and a child, adult - a human fells fully alive in the context of family stories and relationships with family members. Life if fully lived in the expertience of one ancestors. The monarchs distinguish themselves by knowing the heritage. Yet while women are the undeniable ancestor of their child, the paternity is an act of faith. Literature is full of stories of the angst of misplaced faith in ones paternal line. Fathers frequently abandon their genetic offspring and publicly resist responsibility for them, often in front of the child. A fundamental freedom of abandoning ones child was accepted with Artifical insemination. Suicides have resulted. As a society we are avoiding a much deeper question about the rights of the child to, not just a superficial father and mother, but to family history and identity. The sexual orientation of parents is irrelevant to this question.
Kerry | 07 June 2012


Fr Brennan hasn't specifically answered the question posed in the title of this piece. However it can clearly be inferred from his text. Indeed, Brennan's answer can be expressed with one word: Less.
Jim Woulfe | 07 June 2012


Frank says:"I am enough of a 'natural lawyer' to think that all persons have a natural right to a known biological mother and a known biological father. The idea that the state would routinely authorise state assistance for the creation of children without a known biological father and a known biological mother concerns me." It wasn't so long ago Churches of all stripes, supported by government bodies, coerced young unwed women into signing away all rights to ever knowing their biological children & creating for many of their biological children enormous & sometimes insurmountable 'existential challenges'. Its a crying shame churches didn't have concerns for children's rights to known biological fathers and mothers back then!!!
Helen | 07 June 2012


not all adoptees sail thru. we wonder why we have to be grateful for family when non-adopteds do not, there are risks of genetic inherited diseases left untreatable for ever that need the biological family for treatments and cures, we're up-rooted sometimes quite painfully, that's the gist, see many adoptees saying the same thing on this website > http://?about-orphans.blogspot.com.
Angela | 07 June 2012


As Kerry says, paternity is a matter of faith. The proportion of children in whom this faith is unfounded is surprisingly high: in some studies as high as 25%. All this worry about knowing the source of one's genes looks silly in that light. And, Joe Hockey might be right that it is better to be raised by an opposite-sex couple, but the studies on this can be interpreted to show that it is better to be raised by a loving couple. Possibly the worst case is to be raised by a mixed-sex couple where only one is heterosexual - and such marriages could be expected to be less common if gay marriage were to be normalised.
Michael Grounds | 07 June 2012


I think Fr Frank's having a bob both ways, and, to mix metaphors, walking both sides at the same time. There is no justification for inequality, which seems to be a part of this discourse and I don't say that lightly as I am a great admirer of Frank Brennan. Joe Hockey's comments are arrogant and display a superiority that is annoyingly patronising; a trait displayed by [some] heterosexuals who show how empathic they can be to the less fortunate, less equal homosexuals. Unfortunately, Fr Frank's article has elements of that.
Jeff Kevin | 07 June 2012


Need I mention the stolen generation and the church's role in that? Or is our church memory too short for that?
Meaghan Paul | 07 June 2012


I think it is a happy juxtaposition that Father Frank Brennan's article appears in the same edition of Eureka Street as Father Andrew Hamilton's tribute to the recently deceased French Jesuit, Father Pierre Ceyrac. Both Father Brennan and Father Ceyrac exhibit to me what I consider to be the hallmark of the Jesuit order - their dedication to finding God in all things. Father Frank in the arcane halls of academe and public social policy and Father Pierre in the Cambodian refugee camps. I have neither the intelligence nor the legal knowledge of Father Brennan to express so lucidly and succinctly the arguments in favour of gay marriage. At the same time he does not undermine the Christian belief that marriage between Christian is a sacramental covenant. I do not have the courage, dedication and trust in God that Father Ceyrac had that drove him to work among in the refugee camps of South East Asia. But I recognise both men as priests working for the greater glory of God, despite their completely different environments.
Joseph Quigley | 07 June 2012


Marriage is between a man and a woman in order to procreate and educate children. It is fashionable to make out that they are in full agreement of same sex marriage and unions and homosexual and lesbians having children. I find this mind set to be completely outside the Divine Law and Catholic Church Teaching. God gave marriage to men and women so that their children can be brought up in love with the lawful ordinations of the natures of both the man and the woman. It is not Catholic to suggest IVF or any form of cloning is legitimate. Both are against the infallible teaching of the Church. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is intrinsically evil and a Mortal Sin by means of which many souls are lost to Hell unless these Sins are sincerely repented of. I would like to think that any and every Catholic priest would defend marriage between a man and a woman and teach that any other use of our sexual features is a Mortal Sin that ends up in the death of the soul for eternity.
Trent | 07 June 2012


As understood up to this time in this country the Law recognises marriage as the union of a man and woman, civically registered and carrying both obligations and benefits (eg, married pension payments, parental responsibility for children, inheritance etc). Also, the Law has recognised heterosexual unions outside formal marriage, with long-term committment to each other and to children born in that union, in the same civil way that it has recognised formal marriage. These "unmarried" unions we know as "de facto" relationships. Thus, there already exists in this country the mechanism through which de facto enduring relationships, whether with parental obligations or not,are equal under the Law for practical purposes. The prime example by definition of a de facto relationship is the enduring relationship of homosexual couples. ["de facto = existing in fact, whether by right or not" ref: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English]. Such relationships should be recognised under the existing laws recognising de facto relationships. Such recognition would immediately remove the perceived inequality, bestow civil rights,abolish discrimination based on nothing other than sexual preference, would eliminate this unnecessary debate, preserve marriage for that great majority who which to choose it as currently constituted, and, presumably, achieve all that those homosexuals who wish to live in a long-term relationship are crying out for. Further, adoption of the validity of the de facto rights established in our law as being acceptable by the homosexual community would remove all the childish non-sense that engages our politicians in argument over conscience voting and new legislative drafting. In todays piece, I think you have sorted it out in one sentence,Frank. "THE ESSENCE OF EQUALITY IS THAT THINGS WHICH ARE THE SAME ARE TREATED THE SAME AND THINGS WHICH ARE MARKED BY RELEVANT DIFFERENCES ARE TREATED DIFFERENTLY" The sentence following this states, "... that if things marked by irrelevant differences are treated differently, there might be a breach of the principle of equality ..." Thus, treat de facto marriage in homosexuals as we treat de facto marriage in heterosexuals and equality will be served justly.
john frawley | 07 June 2012


I am surprised at the numbers of posters who have raised the issue of past unfair and unjust treatment by churches to argue that Frank's position is invalid. The Church and the State have done some terrible things to children. There is no getting away from that. Yet should we allow terrible things to continue to be done to children just because adults want to exercise their rights to be free from what they perceive to be unjust discrimination? I support civil unions and I also support same sex adoption, provided the best interest of the child is always the most important test, yet I do not support the destruction of marriage and the inevitable outcome that will flow from that; that children are not entitled to a mother and a father. I am currently researching surrogacy in India,the new country in the international reproductive tourism market. It's a booming industry. Weathly (and some not so) individuals, including heterosexual and same sex couples and single of either persuasion, can travel to India, buy anonymous reproductive material in a completely unregulated market which require the keeping of NO records, to make a baby which is then carried by a impoverished surrogate mother and once born, handed over to the social parents. Even though the Australian government has outlawed commercial surrogacy, adults claim that such laws are unjust and interfere with their liberty. Do a website search on surrogacy in Australia. There is even a lobby group set up openly encouraging the breaking of Australian laws. The families being created, are there for all to see and while I cannot support the system that allows (or ignores) this, I hope that they do live happy and loving lives. . I understand parents of children created through commerical surrogacy arrangements love their children, but what about the rights of these children to know their biological parents. In some instances one piece (or both) of their genetic history will never be known. Sam Everingham an activist who promotes this practice and himself has 2 children through a surrogacy in India openly admits that his daughters will NEVER know their mother. This breaks my heart. I hope these girls are alright, we won't know until they are older. I wonder how these parents will respond to their own children when they plead with them for information about their identity. Tragically, I see a repeat of the stolen generation and the hurt and trauma experienced by children in closed adoption. We need to really think about what we are doing to future generations. The Federal government's report into donor conception practices and the hurt expressed by donor conceived individuals should be a compulsory reading for all of us.
Supporter of children's rights | 07 June 2012


"It will not be long before scientists will be able to create a child from the genetic material of just two men or two women." Sorry Frank, this is cloud-cuckoo-land stuff, such a prospect is very many years away, if ever, and as such is a complete red herring. Your argument is essentially the same is Joe Hockey's when you state that "maintaining state preferences for all children having a biological mother and a biological father and for adoption of any unrelated child into a family with an adult male and adult female". This still clearly suggests that the love and care of same-sex parents is inferior to that of opposite-sex parents. The weakness of this argument is that long human experience shows that many opposite-sex parents are terrible parents capable of physical, sexual and emotional abuse that causes damage that is often inter-generational. I am not contending that same sex parents would be better parents, but you present no evidence to the contrary. And you also make no mention of single parents; are they by your logic at best only half as good as a heterosexual couple? Do we have a hierarchy of parenting quality that should be quantified by the state? In the end this is an issue that will disappear within a generation; just look at the figures for support of marriage equality in the under 30s. Younger people have grown up in an environment where homosexuality is legal and discrimination is becoming more socially unacceptable; my experience from talking to younger people about this issue is that they just don't 'get' the debate.
chris g | 07 June 2012


The legal aspects of marriage are not about children, love, God or any of that. It is a legal construction on which there are certain rights and responsibilities. Many of these rights and responsibilities have been conferred onto de facto couples, including same sex couples. On top of the legal construction of marriage, society builds meaning. In my opinion, Governments should get out of the business of "marriage" and move solely to civil unions. Religious institutions, and society more broadly, can then use the term "marriage" to relate the meaning that they choose to impose on it. So for example, I could get married in the Catholic Church and the priest, in his government authorised capacity, then registers a civil union with the government. The weekend my wife and and I were married in the Catholic Church, the Canberra Quaker Meeting married a gay couple. My union was made legal, their union was not. On that weekend the Catholic Church celebrated with me the the love I have for my life long companion and lover. The Quakers did the same for the couple married under their auspice.
JB | 07 June 2012


As a gay Catholic, I have no problem with the understanding that gay marriages should have different expectations regarding family structure to that of traditional marriages. While gay marriage is "equal" - no marriage has the right to children, so fertilisation technology that's unethical (ie discarding unwanted foetuses etc) is not an option for gay OR traditional marriage. Unfortunately there has been no debate to this depth from either end of the spectrum because most of the focus follows the usual political/superficial tone of being either outright homophobic, misusing Christian teachings to disguise what is really just bigotry - and the gay marriage lobbyists have used all their energy focussing on this ignorant view.
AURELIUS | 07 June 2012


Traditional ideas of sexual activity wereinevitably linked to producing offspring. When Omar Khayyan wanted to bestow a blessing on Aboud Ben Adhem, it took the form: ”May his tribe increase.” Psalm 127 reflects this. “Sons are a bounty from Yahweh, he rewards with descendants Like arrows in a hero’s hand Are the sons you father when young. Happy the man who has filled his quiver With arrows of this sort. In disputes with his enemies at the gate, He will not be worsted. When the resources of the earth seemed unlimited, and children were seen as security for the future, any sexual activity incompatible with having children was regarded as unnatural. Now, with the realisation that the Earth’s resources are limited , and with an exploding growth of population, concern has moved to restricting population growth to sustainable levels. This must result in greater acceptance of practices that run counter to what, under very different circumstances, was seen as "what is natural" The Ideal is often an enemy of What is Good.
Robert Liddy | 07 June 2012


Kudos to Fr Brennan for getting it right about children in this debate. It's curious that the outrage that drove the Stolen Generations affair is missing here, in which the creation of a new kind of stolen generation is more calculated and deliberate - was that expressed concern for aboriginal children genuine, or was all it just politics? Joe Hockey's statement was entirely a propos. Penny Wong's reply was just the kind of cheap verbal stitch up we've become accustomed to in these matters : Nothing in what Hockey said implied that people Penny Wong loves are to be less valued or loved. One thing I take issue with is Fr's assertion that the state has an interest in supporting committed gay unions. Why? What is the common good being promoted here? What difference does it make to society if a gay couple end their union after one day, or maintain it for sixty years? What elevates a gay exclusive supportive long term friendship above all other friendships, gay or otherwise, exclusive or otherwise, supportive or not, such that the state? Suppose a gay person in a relationship comes to the view that what he/she is doing there is wrong or inappropriate. Does the state have any interest in keeping that person in the relationship?
HH | 07 June 2012


Frank Brennan wrote: "I remain committed to legal recognition of civil unions while maintaining the distinctive institution of civil marriage as the bond between a man and a woman open to bearing and nurturing each other's children." Which means that he does not think that an infertile woman, or one past child bearing age, or an infertile man, should be allowed to marry. He should make that clear. But marriage does not necessarily have to involve children. That's why his statement that "The essence of equality is that things which are the same are treated the same and things which are marked by relevant differences are treated differently." is meaningless. Frank thinks that the ability to have children is a relevant difference, but thankfully, most people don't. Many people thought race and religion relevant differences for treating people differently ... it's time to move on Frank.
Russell | 07 June 2012


There is no evidence that suggests children have decreased quality of life and wellbeing when they are raised by same sex parents. Jesus never spoke out about this. If anything He would have wished to include and make space for diversity. Come on, let's act a little more Christ like on this issue.
Tim | 07 June 2012


"A national plebiscite is the way to go in a true democracy", what, should we follow the way of the Church in this, with all the democracy displayed therein? Every issue is run by 'activists', always. This is no different. And the biggest 'activist' is the Christian Church, particularly the Vatican. But I do agree, Father Mick Mac Andrew, that we could all get along better without the white noise that booms out of your crew's speaker system.
Andy Fitzharry | 07 June 2012


Tim your gratuitous assertion "There is no evidence that suggests children have decreased quality of life and wellbeing when they are raised by same sex parents". is far from infallible aside from catholic magisterium interventions: "The International Journal of Epidemiology reported that among homosexuals, there is an increased incidence of suicide, depression, multiple sexual partners, and domestic violence compared to the heterosexual population." From this, it is concluded that "problems endemic to the homosexual lifestyle make these relationships inherently unstable, and thus unsuitable for the raising of children. [Adopting Premises:The sneaky debate over legalizing adoptions by gay couples. By William Saletan]
Father John Michael George | 07 June 2012


I think this article would be more helpful if Fr Brennan explained in more detail *why* he thinks children need a known biological mother and father, despite all the psychological evidence demonstrating the absence of this information does not in itself impact on wellbeing. If you want to make an ethical claim, you need to defend it. Fr Brennan is normally much better at this.
Justin | 07 June 2012


Tim-Unfortunately, your statement about "no evidence" is incorrect. While there are some studies which have looked at small groups of lesbian parents and their children and may support evidence of no harm (though you would be aware that there is considerable debate about the validity and reliability of these findings), we really just do not have enough evidence to support the statement that you are making. I hate to come over all Weberian on this, but I believe that science alone can never give the only answer to this question (possibly generations down the track, it may be different). If science is the only answer it will leave us cold and unable to grapple with the deeper issues. Society is not just governed by "scientific" findings (or indeed measures that researchers decide to test for). You may be interested in how the American College of Pediatricians summed up the evidence recently: "Over thirty years of research confirms that children fare best when reared by their two biological parents in a loving low conflict marriage. Children navigate developmental stages more easily, are more solid in their gender identity, perform better academcially, have fewer emotional disorders, and become better functioining adults when reared within their natural family"
supporter of children's rights | 07 June 2012


Not all heterosexual people get married for the purpose of having children - in fact, many make a considered mutual decision to remain childless. The same is true for same-sex couples. Age old prejudice, good old-time religious bigotry and the unedfyingly populist propensity for human beings to shun, malign and marginalise those they perceive as being different, therefore less moral, less entitled to respect and compassion - all the halmarks of discrimination - remain at the bottom of even this most eloquent dissertation in support of denying the legitimate equality and value of our fellow human beings.
Michelle Golsmith | 07 June 2012


Tim, "...children of homosexuals will (1) be more frequently subjected to parental instability (of residence and sexual partners) and (2) have poorer peer and adult relationships. Also, ... homosexuals' children will be more apt to (3) become homosexual, (4) be unstable (have emotional problems and difficulty forming lasting bonds) with reduced interest in natality, and (5) be sexually precocious and promiscuous." P.Cameron "Homosexual Parents: testing "common sense" Psychol Rep. 1999 Aug;85(1):282-322. What of studies purporting to demonstrate the contrary? Sociologist Steven Nock - an agnostic on same sex marriage says of these studies: "All of the studies I reviewed contain at least one flaw of design or execution; and 2)not one of studies was conducted according to general accepted standards of scientific research." (Affidavit to Ontario Supreme Court, 2001.) Stacey and Biblartz (Am Soc Rev 66, 2001) sociologists who support the homosexual agenda, assessed 21 psychological studies and found "conceptual, methodological and theoretical limitations in the psychological research on the effects of parental sexual orientation ... and challenged the predominant claim that the sexual orientation of parents does not matter at all" Beyond this, there is a veritable mountain of research showing that children do best in a biological, two parent household cemented by marriage. Bill Muehlenberg's "Strained Relations" is an excellent, scholarly and fair - statement of the traditional position on marriage and homosexuality.
HH | 07 June 2012


Fr Frank, why do ;you use the term 'marriage equality'? We have marriage equality. Every adult who is not already married has the right to marry any person (except a close relative) of the opposite sex who is not already married.Some people might renounce the right (for example, to become a priest) and some may choose not to exercise it (for example, to live in a enter relationship outside marriage, whether homosexual or heterosexual), but the fact that some choose to not enter into a heterosexual marriage does not make heterosexual marriage a source of inequality. Using the term 'marriage equality' to mean something other than what we have now can be taken as an admission that what we have now is unequal and should be changed.
Gavan | 07 June 2012


Father Brennan on same sex union gains persepective from cdf notification re Sr Farley's opinions "Sr. Farley writes: 'My own view ... is that same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities'. ... This opinion is not acceptable. The Catholic Church, in fact, distinguishes between persons with homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts. Concerning persons with homosexual tendencies, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” . Concerning homosexual acts, however, the Catechism affirms: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”". "The Church teaches that the respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of ... homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognise, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. ... The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it".
Father John Michael George | 07 June 2012


As Fr Brennan states, the "gay marriage" debate is indeed concluded in Canada, where it was legalized in 2005. And it's there that the persecution of those holding to the traditional view marriage is the most vicious. If you want to know what "toleration" means in the context of the gay marriage debate, have a look at the stories coming out of Canada.
HH | 07 June 2012


Amid some fine, incisive comments and analysis, Frank, you have dropped a couple of "clangers". First, the "essence of equality" - not so simple! Depends what kind of differences we are talking about, doesn't it?. Left-handed folks are different from right-handed folks, people with dark skin are "different" from people with white skin. In these cases you would suggest the differences are "irrelevant" - but in the past many would have disagreed. Who gets to decide which "differences" are "irrelevant" and which are not? The way you have put this matter sets up the possibility for, say, apartheid, to claim it embraces equality. Second, if infertile couples and elderly couples can marry, for their good and the good of society - why not same-sex couples? I have yet to hear any intelligent argument around that. Third, you muddy the waters with paternity matters. This affects straight and gay couples alike. It is a different issue and could be easily resolved. Adoption? Surely the "right" to a stable and loving home is more basic than ensuring a male and female run it. Also, many abandoned children of all ages have been fostered by gay couples. They should be able to adopt these children.
Michael B Kelly | 07 June 2012


I think, Frank, it's the new non-traditional reproductive technologies - all of them, current and future - which create all these potential moral and legislative nightmares. Those traditionalists who, in my opinion, still focus on the old moral battlegrounds - same sex union and abortion - are missing an important boat here. I find Margaret Somerville's writings on the whole area of reproduction; reproductive technologies and their social, moral and legal ramifications immensely informative. The Brave New World is already there. How will we, as humans, cope with it, now and in the future?
Edward F | 07 June 2012


The gay lobby will not give up until they have exactly what everyone else has. Make no doubt about it: It IS about 'equality' and NOT about truth and children.
Stef | 07 June 2012


Let us not forget what happened to the Cardinal for having the courage to do what his God, priesthood and Church required of him. Few have yet to exhibit courage in this crazy debate. Doesn't much matter how socially just one wishes to be betrayed it is highly likely that genders are different for a reason! Strewth, I'm in trouble now!
john frawley | 07 June 2012


So the option of marriage rather than civil union should be withheld by Church and state for two heterosexual 60 year olds, given that procreation is unlikely to be their agenda? If yes, doesn't that seem odd? If no, then.....
PJ | 07 June 2012


It is a shame that Fr Brennan has conflated two separate issues, and I agree with Justin that he is usually much better than this. It is dishonest and illegitimate for respondents (e.g. Father George, HH) to cite research that is decades out of date. If work based on these data were presented to a peer-reviewed journal today, it would not be published. For their healthy development children should have probably have contact with same-sex role models. However, that does not perforce mean they should be “biological parents”. What of children who have been adopted, brought up by single parents because of widowhood and so on? The major non-physical elements required by children are love and acceptance. Homosexual parents can also offer those in abundance. As for their marrying – the purported focus of Fr Brennan’s piece – we are exhorted to “love our neighbour as ourselves”. Surely in an age when we have a deeper understanding of the human condition, we should recognise our homosexual brothers and sisters as worthy of the right to proclaim their love in any way they see fit as does the rest of society.
Patricia | 07 June 2012


Patricia, this year is 2012. 1999 and 2001 are 13 and 11 years away. So even as a matter of simple arithmetic, it's simply inaccurate to say that studies made then are "decades" out of date. And, by the way, would that mean all pro-gay adoption papers from that time back are to be disregarded too, on the same account? Let's be consistent. Also, contribute substantively to the debate by providing citations from recent studies in peer reviewed sources (not "pal"-reviewed, note) that refute those I cited. Michael Kelly, according to the Church (and natural law) infertile (but not impotent) couples can marry because they can perform the marital act - ie, natural intercourse, which of itself is the unique act naturally ordered to the generation of children, even if, for exogenous reasons (as in their case) that end will not be attained. Homosexual couples, for obvious reasons, cannot perform this marital act. They are "relatively impotent" and so they are unable engage in "family-making" sexual acts, even on that minimal level.
HH | 07 June 2012


Patricia's vague attack on valid research misses the point - morals are not decided merely by research - persuasive though it be. Catholic Ethics derives from revelation interpreted by Catholic magisterium.
Father John Michael George | 07 June 2012


Hey, aren't we missing something here? The coming together of male and female to produce offspring is a basic force of nature! Alright, I know that we need to reduce population, that marriage is about love and companionship and not just reproduction, that not all hetero couples have children, that homosexual behaviour is found in nature, etc, etc. Nonetheless, the union of male and female is the basic, central principle that enables the natural world to continue. Like Fr Brennan, I'm in favour of same-sex civil unions, and I have no problem with gay people being parents. But I think we still need some social mechanism that honours, aknowledges and helps us stay in "sync" with the unique and centrally important natural principle of male-female union. Keeping marriage as a union between a man and a woman seems the obvious way to do this. And let's face it, aren't we facing the present environmental crisis because people in the past thought that human values and human technology put us "above" the natural world?
CathyT | 07 June 2012


Dear Patricia, Do you imply that penicillin clearly is ineffective for treating infection because Howard Florey's research which gave us penicillin was done 70-odd years ago?
john frawley | 07 June 2012


Edward F, I can appreciate why you have compared the issues in the proceeding article to The Brave New Word- and have thought a little about the similarities between the two despite the differences which may separate them. Though to me it seems the biggest distinction between that which Fr Frank has affirmed as his beliefs and The Brave New World you are suggesting we are already in, is- Huxley describes an archetypal dystopia, essentially a loveless society- where both romantic love and love of family are taboo and family itself has been abolished throughout the civilised world...
Myra | 07 June 2012


I totally agree with Trent's contribution. Catholics should be proud, that Tony Abbott is the Leader of the opposition and hopefully our next Prime Minister. He has the courage to strongly defend our Christian values "Marriage is between a man and a woman" not like some Catholic politicians who shy away when they are asked where they stand on same-sex marriage. Sadly too many priests avoid offering guidance to parishioners or water down subjects like euthanasia, abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage. Catholics who are prepared to stand to save our Christian heritage: Keep up the good work.
Ron Cini | 07 June 2012


Articles written in the past rely upon even older research. That is what I meant by “decades out of date”. Ethical behaviour stems from understanding what is “right” or “wrong”. Inter alia, it is research properly carried out that provides insight into how human beings work at both physical and psychological levels, and the “right” and “wrong” ways of treating each other. I believe it is not “right” – un-Christian even - to discriminate against those who have had no choice about their sexual orientation, race, colour or anything else. In time, further research may well show unequivocally the genetic basis of homosexuality. Then what? Will Catholic magisterium continue to hold its current position if sexual orientation is shown to be a God-given state of being.
Patricia | 07 June 2012


Aurelius, I commend your point that unethical fertilization technology should be denied to all and sundry. I think it wrong, though, to suppose that it's only come up as an issue against gay couples, and that this opposition betokens homophobia. In her magisterial pronouncements, the Church, taking tons of flak from enemies without and traitors within, has been thoroughly consistent, logically and theologically, on this issue at every point of the debate, regardless of the sexual orientation of the relevant couples. She has put her perennial position to all and sundry that, in short: "sex should always be open to babies, and babies should only come from sex." Thus, enduring waves of ridicule and derision, she has radically opposed artificial contraception (and of course, abortion) on the one hand, and IVF, AIH, and donor insemination on the other. Her stance on marriage itself is equally unprejudiced: anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is free to marry, regardless of their orientation, and genital sexual relations are forbidden to everyone, regardless of orientation, except when they are between a wife and her husband.
Hh | 07 June 2012


Edward F, I can appreciate why you have compared the issues in the proceeding article to The Brave New World- and have thought a little about the similarities between the two despite the differences which may separate them. Though to me it seems the biggest distinction between that which Fr Frank has affirmed as his beliefs and The Brave New World you are suggesting we are already in, is- Huxley describes an archetypal dystopia, essentially a loveless society- where both romantic love and love of family are taboo and family itself has been abolished throughout the civilised world...
Myra | 07 June 2012


"I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member!" Thus spoke Groucho. Why do some gays and lesbians want to join the marriage club? I remember sitting through Marion Lake's history lectures at Melbourne University in the 1980s being interminably harangued about the fact that marriage was legalised prostitution and a patriarchal institution. What is the feminist perspective on gay marriage? Does it cease to be patriarchal if it is between two women or two men? Enlighten me, please! On the up side, it's lovely that so many people now see marriage as something worthwhile. But why? What is it about marriage that is so attractive that people are marching in the streets to be part of it? Part of me suspects that some are motivated by nothing more than the fact that currently there is a rule that says they can't be part of it. It's as if someone said, "You can't have a lollipop", and that makes them want it even if I don't like it. "We won't be denied!" But perhaps that suspicion is too uncharitable. So what other motivation could there be? "We want our love recognised!" Civil unions do that, don't they? "It's our right!" A right to what, exactly? Are the marriage equality activists so enamoured of marriage that they want to give some special protection and status, such as restricting the right to leave a marriage just because someone more attractive comes along? A the "marriage equality" activists in favour of no-fault divorce? If so, why? How can marriage be at one moment so wonderful that people have to have the right be get married, but at the same time so terrible that people also have to have the right to get unmarried. Too confusing. I give up. The whole world's gone mad, except for you and me, and I even have my doubts about you.
Felix Randall | 07 June 2012


Frank Brennan, I note you support civil unions. The LNP in Queensland looks about to repeal civil unions, so if you support civil unions then speak up and demand that they are not repealed by the new LNP qld government.
Jasonb84 | 07 June 2012


Definition of marriage I wonder who knows???. According to the bible it was a free for all. Many wives, concubines, slave girls and don't forget the perenial "must" of a virgin younger is better. An enlightened age? 2 persons wish to tie the knot because they wish to commit to each other but also wish to be treated equaly in the eyes of the law as they should, causes an upheaval of great proportion. Causes real & imaginary are trotted out to create all sorts of obstacles.Ignorance and hatred a field day. Advanced the world onto the road of ignorance,instead of compassionate enlightenement.The children,yes the children!!!!!
Fred. | 07 June 2012


"I believe it is not “right” – un-Christian even - to discriminate against those who have had no choice about their sexual orientation, race, colour or anything else." So how does this superficially unobjectionable maxim apply to pedophiles, Patricia?
HH | 07 June 2012


My son Dmitri and his partner Sean (who are married) were selected as the best possible parents for a lovely 3 year old boy by a Canadian Childrens' Aid society. There is no doubt in my mind that Papa and Dad have given their son the love and care that he was in dire need of, and that they have grown themselves in the process. Best is not necessarily a mother and a father - in my family it is PapaDad.
Marianne McLean | 07 June 2012


"A virtuous priest who does not meddle is a godsend...". - Fleury (French eclesiastical historian). Frank must know that human reproductive cloning has been declared to be contrary to human dignity by the UNRESCO "Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights"and by the World Health Organisation and is prohibited in the Council of Europe, Canada, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Denmark. In Australia only Victoria,South Australia and Western Australia up til now have prohibited it. Frank's main worry about artificial reproductive technology seems to be that it may yet be legalised on the basis of law makers applying the principle of "non-discrimination" to support it. Surely our ethicists and law makers can do better than that.
Claude Rigney | 08 June 2012


What a sad and confused article - life denying and love denying.
Malcolm McPherson | 08 June 2012


Fr. Frank, I commend your article in debating the issue of the treatment of gay people in our society. However, I believe there are a number of flaws in your argument. The large number of comments about this issue, especially from bigoted Catholics, is bemusing and only demonstrates a lack of humanity and charity. The most important thing about parenting is that children are brought up in a loving and stable environment with either one or two parents, regardless of sex, who are good role models for good standards of moral and ethical behavior.
Mark Doyle | 08 June 2012


HH, to remind you of your own argument, children are not sexual beings capable of “performing ... natural intercourse”. No society on earth condones the sexual predation of children by paedophiles. The latter DO have a choice; children do not.
Patricia | 08 June 2012


Patricia-it is a pity that this has descended into pedophilia discussion. That said, I just wanted to comment that I have almost finished reading Brave New World again. Erotic Play amongst children is encouraged and lovingly observed by "adults" in charge. It's a scary book and scary society in Brave New World.
Pel | 08 June 2012


What's wrong with Catholics? Why are so many of you so fascinated, or rather obsessed with sex and sexual activity? Get over it. It's natural, it's fun, and it's important in many relationships. Frank makes a reasonably and rationally argued case for his position which invites similarly argued responses, yet most of the responses (54 to date) are the predictably formulaic broadsides from fundamentalists that preclude consideration of anything outside their mindset.
Ginger Meggs | 08 June 2012


Thanks Patricia. I agree with you that paedophilia is wrong, but perhaps not for the same reasons (deplored in most societies/predation). Sex is a tremendously mysterious, powerful force in our lives that can be associated with great joy or great despair depending on how it is handled. To play with it is to play with fire. That’s one sufficient reason why adults should not have sex with children, and equally why children should not perform sexual acts on each other. That’s also why society, contra your rule above, has indeed discriminated, morally and often legally, against the indulgence of orientations to all manner of sexual acts: paedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, rape, voyeurism, sexual acts in public, incest, sexually-related arson etc, etc. Some of these deeds involve predation, exploitation or coercion. Others do not. But they are all misuses of the sexual faculty, and as you put it, people with these orientations simply must choose not to indulge them. Where you and I differ is as to whether or not homosexual acts between consenting adults involve a misuse of the sexual faculty, regardless as to whether that the misuse stems from an embedded orientation, a whim, or curiosity.
HH | 08 June 2012


The elephant in the room is the fact that no one can say what the long term consequences of gay adoption are. We can say for certain there is an imprinted given desire in children to know their origins as this is central to their sense of identity.
Skye | 08 June 2012


Skye, why must 'gay adoption' preclude 'children know[ing] their origins' any more than any other form of adoption?
Ginger Meggs | 08 June 2012


Claude, Frank has not advocated or supported 'human reproductive cloning'. His article is about why he does not support gay marriage'.
Ginger Meggs | 08 June 2012


Comments here have predictably moved into discussion of paedophilia and bestiality, but it seems to me the very first comment by TERRY hit the nail on the head, but no-one seemed interested in engaging with such a simple, unbigotted,approach to the issue. When it's all said in done, whether you think the Scriptures condemn same-sex marriages or relationships, the first fact is that homosexual people exist - God made them (the nature/nurture/choice debate is no longer relevant) and the second fact is that God didn't make all homosexual people to be celibate or to live a life of monastic solitude. These two facts when contemplating heartfully, are enough. Someone marriage can work, and someone these couples can have a valid, loving family if they enter into it in the spirit of giving.
AURELIUS | 08 June 2012


Thanks Myra. One of the fears I have is that, as Fr. Frank Brennan says, we have no real idea how far reproductive technology can be taken by scientists. These days people constantly affirm their putative rights to anything. I'm not sure how far any person has the "right" to demand the creation of life outside the normal process. IVF for a husband and wife, using their own genetic material, who cannot conceive normally, would seem logical and acceptable to me. Other than this I have grave concerns about the social engineering we seem to be entering into, whether we realise this is happening or remain unaware of it. I am concerned that we are trying to re-engineer the traditional human family and that there are a number of reasons people wish to do this. Traditional families can, at times, be both dysfunctional and damaging, but I think the answer to this is to attempt to mend them. I have some concerns about children, often the product of artificial insemination from an unknown donor, or born to an exploited Third World surrogate mother, being born and raised in heterosexual or same sex families. Not enough research into the long term effects of these practices seems to me to have been done to justify them. Perhaps we need to call a halt to them till it is done?
Edward F | 08 June 2012


Funny that some Catholics should be so hung up on the notion of a heterosexual couple as the best kind of parents...I remember this middle eastern fella, born in a stable....couldn't trace the father, but the mother said there wasn't one...just an Angel of the Lord...the usual thing...... Or, just maybe none of us really believe it??????? Maybe we just say we do?????
Philomena van Rijswijk | 09 June 2012


Social research, John Frawley, has moved on. Continuing scientific research has led to increased understanding of the mechanism underpinning the effectiveness of antibiotics and other drugs and vast improvements in the treatment of disease. To get back to the original point, we may eventually learn that "homosexuality" is truly part of the natural order, and that homosexual parents can lovingly bring up decent and well-adjusted children. Time will tell as it has in other areas of social research.
Patricia | 09 June 2012


Obviously if the same-sex marriage is officiated within the Catholic Church, then all the normal teachings on reproductive technology, contraception, chastity and willingness to bear children would apply. If it's merely a civil union, then whatever is legal, available and affordable would be the guiding factor.
AURELIUS | 09 June 2012


I can only presume then,PATRICIA, that you are familiar with the vast body of medical and social science literature that exists over the last 60-odd years in the quest to define and understand homosexuality. The great sticking point is that despite numerous advanced genetic studies, a genetic factor has not been identified, (although some reseach indicates that occasional gene mutations may occur rarely and influence orientation) a fact which negates the growing perception, heavily promoted by the homosexual lobby, that sexual orientation is a normal inherited aspect of human sexuality (part of the "natural order" as you suggest). I detect from your comments here that perhaps you work in the worlds of psychology or social science and, if that is the case, you would know that current opinion indicates that sexual orientation is acquired and, apart from that grey area of genetic determination still being researched,in over 60% of cases is attributed to environmental influences, and not part of the "natural order". That does not of course justify in any way the vilification of those of a homosexual orientation. But equally at this time in the evolution of science, the available research does not justify the imposition of unproven beliefs or opinions on those of other sexual orientation which does conform with the 'natural order" as defined by genetic inheritance and characterising the vast majority of humankind. We as members of a community which depends for survival on social cohesion are obliged not to discriminate against minority sections of our community. Equally we are obliged not to discriminate against majority sections either (reference, for example, this crazy debate on same-sex marriage). Its time some in both these sections of our community realised that. It is time the homosexual community stopped promoting untruths regarding the origins of their orientation in the face of known and valid scientific and social research. The time might well come when a genetic mutation or other currently hidden genetic influence accounts for some homosexual orientations and when and if that happens then speculation can cease and the true genetic influence will be defined. Current knowledge, however, indicates that the proportion of homosexuals who will fall into the genetic category is likely to be minute but will, of course, fall within the definition of the "natural order".
john frawley | 09 June 2012


John Frawley are you talking about human beings here? There's no genetic test for love and decency either. In the end the argument is a nonsense. Sexuality is natural, not a result of neurosis or disability. Whether our orientation is from nature or nurture is irrelevant. Do black people need to defend themselves with genetic testing to validate why they are not white? I choose to be gay.
AURELIUS | 09 June 2012


Mr Frawley, I mentioned the possibility of a genetic basis of homosexuality, not as a member of the homosexual community (I am not gay) aiming to promote untruths, but to leave open the possibility that currently received wisdom might very well differ in the future. The introduction and later validation of the pathogenic theory of medicine (“germ theory”) is one cogent example of such a phenomenon. It is we the heterosexual majority who currently oppress homosexuals, not the minority discriminating against the majority as you suggest. At the end of the day, it does not matter why homosexuality exists. It does, it has and it will and we have nothing to lose by granting the same rights and responsibilities to the gay community and much to gain as a society by compassionately “loving our neighbours as ourselves”. Vade in pacem.
Patricia | 09 June 2012


Thanks Edward.. I think therefore I am - I think due to 'God Being' and by His will I am here, regardless of how I came into being via my mother and father or in any other way.Ultimately it is God, I believe according to His desire and will who is 'running the show- our existence here- whether we comprehend this or not- and He does it in such a superbly wise -ever merciful and intelligent way- that even when we ( humans) do His will (a)- love one another- give food to the hungry comfort to the needy and so forth or do our own will - ( b)- live basically and egocentric hedonistic life - or do both, inevitably which we do, do at times- because we are human-...He still uses (b)- our will which may be working in opposition to His will(a) as an instrument for carrying out His will . Because He who Is above all, Eternal Goodness, can turn something into good even that which may be considered bad or morally bad. He knows the desires of each and every one of us- and can clearly see our hearts and hidden intentions .And all His works are Great- because in a very strange unspeakable and wonderful manner even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done did He not permit it nor would He being All Good permit a bad thing or morally bad thing to be done only that in His omnipotence He can turn a bad thing or morally bad into a greater good.( Oh happy fault -the loss of the Garden of Eden, being in accordance with His Eternal plan of salvation ) How many scientific pursuits have acutaly been successful and how many have failed and how was penicillin discovered?... God Never changes, it's only our interpretation of Him- that does. It's the interpretations of ourselves and others in relation to each other and in relation to Him that does- at times.To see God in all things is simply to see Love in all things- the scariness / creepiness in Brave New World is due to the absence of Love the absence of God .Love is dead in (The)Brave New World .To the best of our ability- I think at this moment in time (as always) we should give as much attention to the meaning of Love and all it implies and always hope to do good according to His good pleasure and will.
Myra | 09 June 2012


Michelle Golsmith, re Catholic marriage: "Someone who intends to exclude the possibility of children does not validly marry. (Those who cannot have children due to age or infertility are NOT meant here, but only those who could bear children but intend to avoid this marital responsibility completely.)"
Father John Michael George | 09 June 2012


Reading through this piece and the comments I'm struck by two things: one is the Church's continuing disastrous obsession with sex. Given the institution is now notorious for the sordid and peverted sexual issues it created for itself, you might think they would have the sense, and shame, to stop lecturing others until they've had a complete re-evaluaion of how they came to make such mistakes. I know of a couple in my own family who married when they were already very old - I would guess, though it's none of my business, that sex wasn't a part of their relationship. They were friends and wanted the companionshp of each other. They didn't have to get married, but they wanted to be like everyone else, Mr and Mrs .... Frank Brennan and many commenters seem to have to be in every marital bed, checking that the rules of the Catholic Church are being observed. Any couple, homosexual or not, may NOT have a sexual relationship as part of their marriage. Most people see marriage these days as a private and public declaration that two people have chosen each other as their special partners. Therefore to exclude people from being able to do that is a really cruel discrimination. When Frank Brennan says that civil unions should be good enough for gay people he shows that he doesn't understand what discrimination is, or does. The second thing to notice here is how un-Christian the piece is. My time in the Church was comparatively short but it was long enough to know that Christ's message was not about identifying 'relevant differences' between people, so that we could think of them, and treat them, differently. The message, the much harder thing to do, is to see that God made us all as brothers and sisters, and the challenge is to see past apparent differences and to love the other. I'll just have a guess about what's behind the attitudes in this piece: fear and power.
Russell | 09 June 2012


Thanks Edward...I think therefore I am - I think due to 'God Being' and by His will I am here, regardless of how I came into being via my mother and father or in any other way.Ultimately it is God, I believe according to His desire and will who is 'running the show- our existence here- whether we comprehend this or not'- and He does it in such a superbly wise -ever merciful and intelligent way- that even when we ( humans) do His will (a)- love one another- give food to the hungry comfort to the needy and so forth or do our own will - ( b)- live basically an egocentric hedonistic life - or do both, inevitably which we do, do at times- because we are human-...He still uses (b)- our will which may be working in opposition to His will(a) as an instrument for carrying out His will . Because He who Is above all, Eternal Goodness, can turn something into good even that which may be considered bad or morally bad. He knows the desires of each and every one of us- and can clearly see our hearts and hidden intentions. And all His works are Great- because in a very strange unspeakable and wonderful manner even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done did He not permit it nor would He being All Good permit a bad thing or morally bad thing to be done only that in His omnipotence He can turn a bad thing or morally bad into a greater good.( Oh happy fault -the loss of the Garden of Eden, being in accordance with His Eternal plan of salvation ) How many scientific pursuits have acutaly been successful and how many have failed and how was penicillin discovered?... God Never changes, it's only our interpretation of Him- that does. It's the interpretations of ourselves and others in relation to each other and in relation to Him that does- at times.To see God in all things is simply to see Love in all things- the scariness / creepiness in Brave New World is due to the absence of Love the absence of God. Love is dead in (The) Brave New World .To the best of our ability- I think at this moment in time (as always) we should give as much attention to 'The Meaning of Love and all it Implies' and always hope to do good accordance with His Good Will.
Myra | 10 June 2012


FrRank Brenan continues to display a more nuanced nderstanding of same sex parenting than Joe Hockey. The latter is still in a time warp. Would he really believe that abusive hetersexual parents are morally superior to loving same sex partners? Frank's concerns about non-biological parents may have some psychological justification. But what about my foster niece who discovered that her biological hetero-sexual parents wanted nothing to do with her when she arrived on their doorstep in adulthood? Unfortunately ethical arguments cannot protect innocents from human betrayal. Conventional heteronormative conception is no guarantee of psychological safety. Frank's argument needs to recognise such contingencies which abound in our fractured world.
John Collard | 10 June 2012


Fascinating discussion. Can someone answer the basic question as to why gay people want to get married. In fact, can someone answer the question as to why anyone would want to get married? or to put it another way, what social function does the institution of marriage fulfill? Why does society invest it with any value? Or maybe we don't value it at all. If we do, how do we signify that valuable status? Do we privilege or distinguish it any practical way from de facto relationships? No. So why bother? Could an answer be provided from someone who supports gay marriage?
Felix Randall | 10 June 2012


Felix Randall: "Do we privilege or distinguish [marriage] any practical way from de facto relationships? No." Searching questions, FR. But the state OUGHT to clearly distinguish marriage from de facto (heterosexual) relationships. In contrast to its interest in the traditional family, the state has no interest whatsoever in supporting the formation and existence de facto relationships qua de facto. It should actually deter them. And if a de facto couple has children, then the state ought to support the conversion of that couple's de facto relationship into a marriage: ie, a public, permanent exclusive commitment dedicated to raising the children well. As for childless de facto relationships, if anything, the state, in the best interests of any children that might accidentally result from their sexual congress, should send a clear message:"use it or lose it" ie, get yourselves married, or break up. As far as non-heterosexual couplings (or triplings, etc) go, no-one to my knowledge has made a substantive argument as to what interest the state has in making them exclusive and permanent commitments. Why should the state value and privilege lifelong friendships (apart from natural marriage)? Does the state privilege, say, long term business partnerships over short term arrangements? Would the state seek to reduce the gaol sentence of a band of thieves because they had admirably sworn to be bound together for life, "all for one and one for all" in their thievery?
HH | 11 June 2012


Felix - I would have thought the answer to your questions was obvious. But first, Frank Brennan says he is committed to "maintaining the distinctive institution of civil marriage as the bond between a man and a woman open to bearing and nurturing each other's children." But that's not what civil marriage is. Most people live together before they get married, many people in relationships don't get married, some get married after they have children, of those who marry, half will leave that marriage, and some of those will marry again. People marrying at any time or stage in their lives may plan on having children, or not; they mostly don't include any religious element in their marriage - they choose a civil celebrant to marry them in a park or restaurant or wherever. So what is marriage? It's the private and public formalisation of a relationship where two people choose each other, above others, for a relationship of love and support, which they intend will last for the rest of their lives. Naturally gay people don't want to be excluded from that relationship / status. People generally don't want to be marked out as different, because different easily becomes 'not as good as', 'not one of us'. Isn't the holocaust the biggest lesson of the twentieth century? It's not difficult to mark a group out as different, and then, because they're different, they can be treated differently ... and we saw where that led. Felix, you know that there has been and still is a lot of prejudice against gay people (and here I could cite the suicide statistics for young gay people etc). Maintaining discrimination and exclusion, where there is no reason for it given that civil marriage is what it is, just means that gay young people will continue to grow up internalising that "not as good as" message. And to do that to them, is a sin.
Russell | 11 June 2012


Yes, Felix Randall, gay people would want to get married for the same reason heterosexual people do. (Is that not enough reason?) We all have a desire to love and be loved and be open to the possibility of a family - not just in an unofficial de fact sense - but to declare it in a public and official way not just to friends, family etc - but unashamedly everyone AND in the context of religion/faith if that's the person's choice.
AURELIUS | 11 June 2012


You've gotta laugh .... HH writes: " ... no-one to my knowledge has made a substantive argument as to what interest the state has in making them exclusive and permanent commitments. Why should the state value and privilege lifelong friendships (apart from natural marriage)?" Remember how often we've heard people of HH's persuasion claim that gay men were naturally promiscuous sluts. Now, when gay men ask for formalisation of their long-term loving relationships the argument changes to 'what good does it do us to recognise their relationships?' And here HH can be referred to the author the Vatican has just made a best-seller - Sister Farley and her concept of fruitfulness in a relationship (doesn't have to be just procreational) and the benefits to the community of fulfilled people living in happy, just relationships. It really is such a peculiar question "why should the state value and privilege lifelong friendships?". Umm, because people value lifelong friendships more than almost anything else in their lives?
Russell | 11 June 2012


Aurelius - an honourable effort, but a couple of points in response: (1) civil unions allow gay people to declare their love publicly. Why not have civil unions for everyone, so that the gay people can express their love publicly on equal terms with heterosexual people? (2) Based on your reply to my question, your answer would be, presumably, "Civil unions are not in a religious/faith context, and if the couple choose to have their love marked in a religious/faith context, they should be able to?" OK, but a "religious/faith context" is a communal context. There is such a thing as "faith community", that would need to support that commitment. But the Church's teaching does not do so. So are you arguing that the state should not only change the law about marriage, but also force faith communities that do not support such marriages to change their teachings? And interesting line of argument, indeed. What other precepts would characterise that state religion? Russell, my question to you is similar. Your argument is based essentially on the importance, for mental health reasons, for gay people not being excluded from an institution that everyone else is involved in. And I agree with you, that civil marriage is not what Frank says it is,with his emphasis on children. But you overstate the case, I think when you say that civil marriage is "the private and public formalisation of a relationship where two people choose each other, above others, for a relationship of love and support, which they intend will last for the rest of their lives". It's that last bit that is incorrect. The final clause, to be accurate, should read "which will last as long as both partners remain committed." "Till death do us part" is nothing more than a romantic fantasy, as is seen as such by the law, ever since the 1975 Family Law Act, a watershed in the process of emptying marriage of any genuine significance outside the faith context that sees it as a sacrament. So, again, my response would be, why not just make all such arrangements civil unions, and leave marriage to those whose belief system sees it as a sacrament between a man and a woman?
Felix Randall | 11 June 2012


This is a fine article that covers the essential territory in this 'debate'. Like Fr Brennan, I believe in the civil unions of couples who love each other--unions guaranteeing basic human and legal rights; and, like him, I do not believe in gay marriage. My own reasoning is no different, in essence, from his. For the record: my family of origin background is Jewish.
Dr Susan Reibel Moore | 12 June 2012


To FELIX RANDALL - I am already a member of a supportive faith community. The church does not need to change its teachings, but to be clear what's its teachings are. I have still not been given a satisfactory interpretation/explanation of what the church's teachings are on same-sex marriages.
AURELIUS | 12 June 2012


Russell, friendship is a good thing, but people become friends for good - or bad - reasons, and they end their friendships for good - or bad - reasons. Unless we're in "1984", it's certainly not the role of the state to butt in and urge any friends to remain that way for life, and to promise rewards if they so commit. The friendship which is that of a traditional married couple is unique: its flourishing and endurance directly involves the lives of actual or possible dependent offspring, and the survival and well being of society itself is at stake there. That itself is sufficient reason for the state to be involved, albeit at a due distance. BTW your definition of marriage is inadequate. Why do you insist on just two people? Why can't more that two bond themselves together for life and call it "marriage"? Aren't you thereby arbitrarily discriminating against polyamorous relationships?
HH | 12 June 2012


Felix asks: "why not just make all such arrangements civil unions, and leave marriage to those whose belief system sees it as a sacrament between a man and a woman?" Because those who see it as a sacrament are a tiny minority now, and the word marriage belongs to the whole community. You can change your word for whatever religious thing you want to do, but the rest of the community has a concept of marriage that really doesn't exclude gay people marrying. It'll happen, you'll see.
Russell | 12 June 2012


Excellent examply a logical fallacy - the false dilemma - here, Russell: "Remember how often we've heard people of HH's persuasion claim that gay men were naturally promiscuous sluts. Now, when gay men ask for formalisation of their long-term loving relationships the argument changes to 'what good does it do us to recognise their relationships?' There is an alternative you've overlooked: namely that ALL people - homosexual, heterosexual, etc - abstain totally from genital sexual relationships, promiscuous or otherwise, except those couples who are husband and wife in a traditional marriage, for whom the use of the marriage act is restricted to each other. ie, the traditional natural law/Catholic position.
HH | 12 June 2012


I'm guessing HH's argument is based on the fact that nowhere does the traditional marriage act between husband and wife stipulate that husband and wife have to be of opposite sex.
But abstinence of all genitality outside marriage would also mean that masturbation is forbidden and this would put 99% of the population at peril of mortal sin (and the rest guilty of the sin of telling a lie to boot).
AURELIUS | 12 June 2012


"The friendship which is that of a traditional married couple is unique: its flourishing and endurance directly involves the lives of actual or possible dependent offspring, and the survival and well being of society itself is at stake there." . Wrong. There are plenty of wonderful marriages that have nothing to do with children, and plenty of relationships that produce children that aren't marriages. Don't worry, HH, we're not running out of children yet - the Japanese are, but it's not because of gay marriage. . I wouldn't mention polygamy if I were you HH because all the examples of it that I've heard of were heterosexual! Strangely enough in those countries that do have gay marriage it hasn't led to the legalisation of polygamous marriages ... that might be because they are totally different things. That's also why the changes to our family law will be quite small when gay marriage comes in, whereas polygamy is a totally other thing. "There is an alternative you've overlooked: namely that ALL people - homosexual, heterosexual, etc - abstain totally from genital sexual relationships ....". I didn't overlook it, it's just that I live in the real world. I enjoyed those old TV programs too, "Father Knows Best", "Leave it to Beaver" etc but when we are about making laws, we need to deal with people as they really are.
Russell | 12 June 2012


Aurelius, the "marriage act" is the act of natural sexual intercourse, which in the natural law and hence Catholic morality, is reserved to husband -a man and wife - a woman. Also, masturbation is indeed grave matter. And in news just to hand, the sun rises in the morning and the Pope is a Catholic.
HH | 12 June 2012


Russell:1. "There are plenty of wonderful marriages that have nothing to do with children." Really? If that's the case then there's no reason for the state in principle to value those particular "marriages", because the traditional motivation of the state has been to privilege marriage precisely because of the interests of the possible or actual offspring. The reason the state in our regrettably pluralist society recognises those marriages publicly set against children probably and reasonably goes to issues of identification of such - for example: whether the couple might subsequently change their minds, or even while maintaining this mindset, accidentally produce offspring, as I suggested above. Of course, the Church would not recognise those marriages not open to procreation as valid marriages at all, which is the ideal position. 2.Russell again: "And plenty of relationships that produce children that aren't marriages." Well, obviously ... but equally obviously, you've missed the point: a priori, it's a publicly vowed exclusive lifelong relationship - marriage - between parents that coincides with the best interests of their children.3. Provide the substantive argument distinguishing justification of same sex marriage from one justifying polyamorous relationships. Senator Hanson-Young couldn't give one the other day. 4.And I don't know what was going on in your head, but your argument on this blog certainly overlooked the alternative of abstinence, which conveniently enabled you to caricature the anti-gay position. I respectfully invite you to consider more seriously the abstinence alternative, as many people, homosexual or otherwise do in this real world.
HH | 12 June 2012


I don't support 'gay' marriage or civil unions. Period.
Peter in Canberra | 12 June 2012


"there's no reason for the state in principle to value those particular "marriages", because the traditional motivation of the state has been ...". There you go again HH, living in the past. Haven't you noticed that what people think marriage is has changed? The state/community now values marriage not only because stable, loving relationships are worth promoting as a model, but because we still need that formal status - married - signified by a ring etc to say to other people 'don't try to hit on me, I'm already committed'. Your second point has the same weakness as the first: relationships have changed HH, there are now more and more couples with children, excellent parents, who never married. Your third point is absurd - read what I wrote again: today's concept of marriage, and our present family law, can easily accomodate same sex marriages, whereas it has nothing to do with polygamy or marrying your dog. Finally your 'alternative' of life-long abstinence isn't an alternative but a cruel, life and love denying fantasy. Let's look at the institution where your alternative is practiced, the Church .... oh, they seem to be having a few problems with their sex lives of abstinence!
Russell | 12 June 2012


This is being over-thought far too much. A child has a mother and a father (naturally) so marriage is an established convention for the family. As to comparing same sex with race discrimination, this is just ridiculous.
Michael | 12 June 2012


Russell, you are right: HH is living in the past. But aren't you also living in an imaginary world if you assert that society "needs" marriage to have a special status with the ring and the ceremony,etc, etc. As I mentioned before, it seems to me that no-fault divorce makes a mockery of your assertion. Civil Marriage now is nothing more than a charade. Your argument would carry much more weight if you also argued that marriage - straight or gay - should be protected by law reform that actually invested it with special significance by making the breaking of the commitments publicly professed in the marriage bond a serious matter. But ever since 1975 in Australia, society has said the breaking of such bonds is of little or no consequence. Aurelius, a question of clarification, if I may. Does the supportive faith community that you are part of support gay marriage? And when you for a satisfactory interpretation/explanation of the Church's teaching on gay marriage, what kind of explanation would satisfying? Do you mean satisfying in the sense that it is clear and unequivocal as to what the what Church teaches and why (without any expectation that people will agree with that)? Or do you mean satisfying in the sense of persuasive to you personally? Finally, if gay marriage were to be legislated, would you defend the right of the Church not to gay people, or should that be considered an instance of criminal discrimination? If you would defend the Church's right not to marry gays, on what grounds would you do that? If not, what sanction or punishment would be appropriate to apply to the Church?
Felix Randall | 12 June 2012


Just released [10/6/O2] Regnerus study from University of Texas concluded: "When compared with adults raised in married, mother-father families, adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative outcomes in 19 categories." 'Findings such as these do not support claims that there are “no differences” between gay parenting and heterosexual, married parents, said Mr. Regnerus, who helped develop the New Family Structures Study at the university.' Instead, “children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day,” he wrote.
Father John Michael George | 13 June 2012


Felix, I can't believe that you are referring to weddings as a fantasy! Don't you think there's a case for retaining the community enhancing traditions like marriage? Societies have always had rituals for marking stages in life, adding importance to them, and embedding individuals further into the community. Civil marriage has now become flexible enough to include same-sex couples, and flexible enough to be dissolved, rather than become a prison for a couple who have become unhappy in the relationship. You say that civil marriage is now a charade, but it's only that if you're comparing it to some ideal that people can't measure up to. Marriage is changing, and will soon include same-sex couples.
Russell | 13 June 2012


"To achieve perfection, one must first begin by not understanding many things! And if we understand too quickly, we may not understand well." Fyodor Dostoevsky
AURELIUS | 13 June 2012


Aurelius, you are the personification of your Dostoevsky dictum. There is much you need to understand. Further you never understand too quickly,and of course,not always well! Fyodor is proud of you son!
Father John Michael George | 14 June 2012


Russell, yes marriage is "flexible" and changing, a point I have been stressing, but is this broader, more flexible marriage an indication that it is changing for the better? Is it still meaningful? Does it's legal status make it really any different from de facto marriages? I suspect that the answer to those questions is no, and that after gays get the "right" to marry, many will wake up up one day realizing that the having their status in law "upgraded" from civil union to marriage has been a pointless exercise, an empty gesture, and possibly even counter-productive in terms of community acceptance. I suspect that this will be something, Aurelius, that we will have understood well by the time the realization comes upon us.
Felix Randall | 14 June 2012


"Is it still meaningful? Does it's legal status make it really any different from de facto marriages?" Felix, there wouldn't be all this fuss if it weren't meaningful. And it isn't just legal status, but the status of being considered equal as elgible for the social institution of marriage; that you and your relationship is as legitimate as the neighbours', your friends', or siblings' married relationships. I don't believe, from the experience of countries that now have same sex marriage, that you have reason to suspect it will be 'counter-productive' here. Wishful thinking? I think it will quickly become just ordinary. Not long ago I heard a Radio Netherlands program that had a panel discussing the high cost of weddings - one panel member was a lesbian and she remarked, "If you think weddings are expensive, wait 'till you try divorce" as she had. And she sounded just like anyone else who had been through the experience.
Russell | 14 June 2012


Russell, it's been an interesting discussion, and this will be my last contribution. Feel free to have the last word. To your last post, my response is "That is exactly what I am talking about." But I fear my points has been made effectively to you, as you seem to think that the only change to marriage that will occur as the result of it being extended to gays is that is will be inclusive. And so it will, but the very nature of marriage will change as a result. The marriage that gays want to be part of will change by virtue of the fact that that are now part of it. The marriage they join is not the marriage they will be part of. You can add water to wine, and if you add enough of it, the liquid is no longer wine, but water. To draw on a Greek myth, Midas was granted the gift of a golden touch. Gold was a valuable quantity precisely because of its specialness. He touched everything he could, turning it all to gold, and in the process reducing the value of the gold. In the end he wished he had never been given the gift. So be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I don't begrudge gays marriage, and I hope that those who end up getting married are happy as I hope all people can be happy. But as your story of the lesbian divorcee illustrates, the emptying of marriage of any real significance has already reached a point where leaving a marriage is as mundane as entering one. That, to my mind, is not progress, though it might be considered progressive.
Felix Randall | 14 June 2012


Michael Grounds correctly adduces one painful scenario which Catholic marriage law must notionally deal. (It appears more appropriate for the Church to employ a variety of pastoral and contextual theologies, including John Paul II's own theology of the body, before passing judgment on such a complex issue as marital breakdown). Michael's 'worst case' scenario, relating to a mixed-sex couple where only one is heterosexual and, presumably, children forced to confront the breakdown of their parents' marriage (being notionally relegated twice-over to a kind of paternity-limbo) is all the more tragic when both sets of parents face the absurd non-choice of either a binding marriage (because sexual preference does not constitute the basis for an annulment) or an annulment, based on other grounds, but without the freedom to contract a Catholic marriage that respects one party's sexual preference. Having heard Fr Brennan's rationale for supporting civil unions but not marriage, and found his public policy ideas in this regard fallacious, I now wonder about his public policy positions on other matters, such as Mabo, a cause he so passionately championed two decades ago and which is under sustained attack from his three colleagues at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University.
Michael Furtado | 15 June 2012


The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has released a statement on same sex marriage (at http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Home/News-Releases/Latest/Catholic-Bishops-Conference-of-England-and-Wales-Responds-to-the-Equal-Civil-Marriage-Consultation) . In a jurisdiction which already recognises civil unions, the bishops observe: “‘Equality’ should not be confused with ‘sameness’. Various professions require strength or fitness tests for their members. The tests are not the same for men and for women, but they do provide a fair and equal test for both sexes, recognising their differences. That is equality in its true sense; a just provision for different groups which takes appropriate account of their differences. For same-sex couples, equality in that proper sense has already been fully provided by the Civil Partnerships Act." “A key part of the present government’s argument for legislative change to the legal definition of marriage is on grounds of equality. The Catholic Church is opposed to all forms of unjust discrimination and affirms the importance of treating everyone, whatever their sexual orientation, with equal dignity and respect. There should not be unjust discrimination against homosexual people. But to restrict the institution of marriage to a voluntary union of one man and one woman does not constitute unjust discrimination since it is simply the consequence of the specific characteristic of the institution.” I agree.
Frank Brennan SJ | 15 June 2012


Felix - it has been a pleasure discussing the topic with you. I'll reply just to round the comments up to 100 and to say that I'm tempted to agree with you, but won't. My argument on this thread has been to say that the general population, having changed the concept of marriage to where it is now, has opened it up enough to allow same sex couples in, and that not letting them in just homophobic discrimination. Because the deed has been done already, the mind-set has changed. Whether the current understanding of what marriage is, is worth much, is another topic. I think the benefits of a more inclusive society - for everyone in it - are the main game in the current debate. I understand your disappointment at the trivialisation of committment, but the Father Knows Best ideal was never the only reality. There was always Peyton Place.
Russell | 15 June 2012


"Various professions require strength or fitness tests for their members..." Not the best example since those tests are varied in the interests of including people, whereas you seek to exclude. "a just provision for different groups which takes appropriate account of their differences" - an un-Christian and dangerous scheme for creating 'us-and-them' minorities which can be treated differently, where there is no need. The Catholic Church does NOT treat gay people with equal dignity and respect - it says that gay people are disordered and so must not have the sex life natural to them. Frank, I think you are denying what, in fact, civil marriage has become. Most people have walked away from your religious conception of marriage; you can stay stuck where you are in the Church, but civil marriage is becoming open to same sex couples because there is no reason to exclude them from it, only prejudice remains.
Russell | 15 June 2012


I think that homosexual couples are missing a point of principle. A child cannot be conceived without female ova and male sperm. At some time that child will want to know the missing parent. The post-modern concept of family and marriage is very distorted by 'positive and popular usage of these terms' in many situations, including business and yes, even in some religious communities. I don't know why homosexual couples choose this relationship rather than a heterosexual one if they want a nuclear family. Yet it has happened in history during certain periods of sociological pressure. During wars many a family was reared by females, often sisters or cousins, without necessarily being homosexual. These unmarried or widowed women were available due to wartime deaths of spouses and affianced or the stud pool. Genetic inheritance is very important. I would think that people like Senator Wong would have data of a child's gene pool, whereas a majority would not. Medical history is not a 'now' situation. I find Senator Wong a highly profficient woman, yet she is very much embedded in her generation who want to make our world. This is not representative of the many generations of Australian society. just perhaps there is wisdom, knowledge, understanding and courage among other generations. To put the questions to the vote of all Australians would require a Referendum I believe. Do we also include in changes to the Marriage Act people who commit to one another informally among friends at some gathering; or hold nameing events for a child? What the Christian and others churches who acknowledge a One True God, first acknowledge c.1800 BCE, are claiming is that Marriage is a long-standing Sacrament, as is the Baptism of a child. As for Equality! As a descendant of pioneer Australians I have often in my life been 'unequal' and sometimes this still occurs that also affect my grown children due to some of the social changes demanded by Senator Wong's generation once they achieved power.
mary | 15 June 2012


Yes, Father John Michael George, I admit there are still many things I need to understand, but in the face of doubt and disagreement over this issue, I can say with fully informed good conscience that my views are sincere and not influenced by any selfish political agenda, religious or otherwise.
AURELIUS | 15 June 2012


Father Brennan ought note that the English Welsh Bishops appeal to those most authoritative CDF rescripts to support its argument against same sex marriage. Ironically Father Brennan rejects the highly authoritative CDF opposition to same sex unions within in said EWCBC CDF citation[nb.footnote 13:Equal Civil Marriage Consultation: CBCEW Response]
Father John Michael George | 15 June 2012


I have followed this discussion with great interest. As some might guess from my chosen no de plume, I am fascinated by how the law mediated the relationship between Church and State. And on that basis was looking forward to seeing Aurelius' reply to Felix Randall's challenge as to whether he would seek to protect the Church from state laws which migh force them to marry gays once gay marriage is introduced. Aurelius' response was as cryptic as it was evasive. So perhaps other supporters of gay marriage would care to offer their answer tom the question: if, once gay marriage is introduced, church communities, in fidelity to their traditions and beliefs, refuse to Marty gays, should they be subject to legal sanction? If so, why? If not, why not? Should their refusal to compromise on matters of conscience result in their decapitation, as it did for their saint, and my stubborn adversary, Thomas More?
Thomas Cromwell | 15 June 2012


There are too many variables in this debate not being considered and some completely ignored, so any "conscience" decision would need to be explained in terms of what moral basis.
I don't think the church is mature enough for gay marriage so I wouldn't wish to force its hand.
Through tough experiences "coming out" to family and friends, most gay people realise that homophobia is not a religious issue, but a social one and religion also follows social norms.
Religion and exclusive arbitrary codes of belief are based on exclusion, while inclusion is the realm of spirituality/humanity which Jesus was on about.
AURELIUS | 16 June 2012


Aurelius, in the other current article on homosexuality you were quite happy to have the Church toe the line. Now you are saying that you were not want to force its hand. Which way do you want it?
John Ryan | 18 June 2012


Aurelius... Justice, Civilization and Morality, are considered good, so far as they go but they are not perfect. Being halfway as they are corruptible by sin ( products of disorderly desires) and Good.Christ teaching on marriage and divorce illustrates this. Marriage is sacred and divorce is wrong because it seeks to abolish marriage. And yet marriage is finally abolished in Heaven- were we reach the Eternal Good ...St Paul's antithesis of the Law , or what you seem to be referring to when you say "exclusive arbitrary codes of belief '" and the Spirit, or what you seem to be referring to when you say, " realm of spirituality / humanity which Jesus was on about", is another example.The Law is good and yet it is not the Good. Sin is contrary to the Law, but the Spirit is contrary to the Law in another way and so surpasses it...- Mark 12 : 18- 27 certainly clarifies Christ teaching on marriage- and the Resurrection... the ultimate goal of those who live in accordance with the Spirit.
Myra | 18 June 2012


Myra, the morality Mark refers to is the morality of the dead - the angels. Unfortunately I am neither dead nor an angel, so I am still affected by "disorderly desires" in common with the rest of humanity, gay or straight. "When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."
AURELIUS | 19 June 2012


Aurelius, John Ryan has asked you a fair and straightfoward question. What say you?
Thomas Cromwell | 19 June 2012


I've responded but the moderator didn't upload my response. Anyway, why not follow your own conscience, or ask yourself what would Jesus do? Why does one individual's opinion count so much in this?
AURELIUS | 20 June 2012


"I remain committed to legal recognition of civil unions [of two people of the same sex for the purpose of sodomy] while maintaining the distinctive institution of civil marriage as the bond between a man and a woman open to bearing and nurturing each other's children. I am aware that the maintenance of this distinction is causing hurt to some people, while others think it is too compromising."

You omitted to mention that among those "others" are the current and former pope who have taught unequivocally that civil recognition of such unions is immoral and have directed authoritatively that Catholics, especially those who are in a position of influence, must not under any circumstances support moves to create any type of official civil recognition of homosexual relationships. (OF course every other pope before them would have also done so, if they had dreamt that it was even possible that anyone would one day suggest such an absurd thing).

Peter Kennedy | 20 June 2012


Aurelius, you are not one individual.Your sympathies are widely shared, I expect. I am interested to know whether there is likely to be a push to use anti-discrimination legislation to impose on church communities a practice they regard incompatible with their teaching and practice. That is a question which is of general interest and is within the range of my particular interest, as previously indicated. I note your reference to conscience, and the fact that you rightly suggest that some external reference point is important here: "What would Jesus do?" Let us take his response to "woman caught in adultery" as a relevant text. Jesus was certainly disapproving of those who sought to condemn the woman, and his love for her resulted in a conversion on her part. After sending the potential stone-casters away, he did not turn to the woman and say, "Let us initiate a campaign to legalise adultery." On the contrary, he said to her, "Go, and do not sin again." This exhortation was not grounded in hatred, but love. Perhaps you might try to rephrase you initial response in a manner that does not incur the moderator's censure?
Thomas Cromwell | 20 June 2012


My initial response wasn't censured for any particular reason so I can only guess the moderator thought I had posted too many comments. In the hypothetical situation that I had a partner I wanted to marry in a church context, my "feeling" is that I would consider forcing the matter legally, but my head tells me that I would not - simply because there are too many misunderstandings. Also I do not agree that Jesus' sayings on not condemning the adulterer and telling us to sin no more, is actually relevant to the issue of homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a sin. At the moment the church teaches that any genital expression of homosexuality is sinful. Eventually the church will need to find a way to come to terms with this.
AURELIUS | 21 June 2012


Thomas Cromwell, your manner of inquiry is more akin to tactics used in medieval Spanish Inquisition rather than the trial of Thomas Moore. It seems you are trying to establish an adversarial situation here, establishing the catholic clergy as the victim of a looming injustice at the hands of homosexual members of the church. I assure you, the cause for which you advocate seems motivated by desire for spectacle and drama rather than dialogue to reach justice.

Read Matthew 13:17:
I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn't see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn't hear it.
AURELIUS | 21 June 2012


If we heed advice from the wisdom of Jung re the healthy growth of children into reasonably balanced adults ,we should accept that both require nurturing from male & female mentors ,be they parents or uncles, aunts etc .He based his theory on study of several ancient cultures where often initiations were in fact directed by elders other than parents .However in our fragmented society how available are such mentors & do parents have to do it alone .So I wonder how much effort same sex parents make to seek the help from other gender mentors . Is my observation that same sex partners experience higher breakup rates than hetrosexuals correct and if so are the children in these situations exposed to much,much higher levels of trauma when more parents ( including donors & surrogates etc ) begin to fight over the spoils (the children )
john kersh | 22 June 2012


What is the difference between Prejudice and Discrimination?Could my husband and I be considered part of the gay community? Would we have to be non practicing Catholics to be accepted? Would we be disqualified because of our sexual orientation? Would being of opposite gender and having procreated children the traditional way also disqualify us? Would some same sex couples feel offended by our desire to be part of their community and not welcome us- and refuse to 'love us' as their own?I know not what to answer .Though I know for certain, the 'Catholic church' welcomes 'all men' the human race in all its varieties of rank and circumstances— kings, noble , high, low, learned, and unlearned; the healthy in body, the sick, the clever, the dull, the foolish, the rich, the poor and those of middle circumstances; gay, males, females, infants, boys, youths; young, middle-aged, and old men; of every tongue, of every fashion, of all arts, of all professions, with all the innumerable differences of will and conscience, and whatever else there is that makes a distinction among men.Why?- because God Will's is 'all' men should be saved in all nations through His only-begotten Son, and 'His' teachings.
Myra | 22 June 2012


Jung's approach to homosexuality was also one of social acceptance and tolerance and being gay did not in any way devalue anyone as a member of society. He was against any laws being passed against it. Jung also recognised that homosexuality was a feature of all times and cultures around the world. And as far as parenting break-ups are concerned, how can you make any valuable judgment on this when society does not even recognise the partnership to begin with?
AURELIUS | 22 June 2012


Myra, you would be very welcome as part of the gay community, whatever that means. As a gay Catholic man I still have not discovered where the gay community is located - but I did go to a drag show once, attended by both gay and straight married couples so I'm sure you'd be welcomed too. Also, homosexual people are still the same genders as you and your husband, so you would still be a member of either the male or female communities.
AURELIUS | 22 June 2012


My apology if it seemed otherwise but I believe that rather than judge ,I asked the question ,if my personal observation of gay friends relationship failures was accurate .Aurelius seemed to choose to debate Jungian opinion I made no reference to yet failed to comment on the very serious issue of balanced mentoring & high potential for increased trauma for any children involved .
john kersh | 23 June 2012


Relationship failure is a universally human phenomenon, but the catholic church teaches that divorce is wrong. So if same sex marriages were conducted within the catholic church, the couple would thereby be agreeing to the same "till death do us part" conditions as traditional marriages.
AURELIUS | 23 June 2012


With all due respect to all gay couples and their love for one another. Hypothetically speaking, how do we suppose gay couples could ever be permitted to marry in the Catholic church? On what grounds would their marriage be considered more valid than many Catholic married couples- who's marriages having been declared Null- Void- Non Existent, entitling them to an Annulment, via their marriage not having been consummated and consequently precluding the procreation of offspring ?
Myra | 25 June 2012


The homosexual Catholic marriage would be willing and open to accept children. But as you may realise, Myra, they are unable to produce offspring, similar to a 65-year-old heterosexual couple who may wish to marry.
AURELIUS | 25 June 2012


I hear so much of civil unions are ok but marriage is not.

All of this is supported by religious beliefs, most of them catholic .

Who has the right to tell others what to believe? We've had enough of that when the church demonized Jews for a millenia . Cathoolic teaching that led to the holocaust.

CAtholic teaching that justified the kidnapping of about a half million kids in Spain and Au. See links at the end.

America had Cus in a sense re black people. It was 2nd class citizenship called segregation. Also generally resulted in lynching if the black person eg whistled at a white woman. All of this was justified by religious teaching (mostly evangelicals)


gays get equal legal rights. If you want to change all civil marriage instances to CUs (gay or str8) thats fine. Let the churches do what they want with the word marriage., but insure that if you want state sanctioning and benefits, the couple gay or str8 must go to the legal authorities for their CU. Total separation of church and state.

And the biz about kids is a red herring. Lets not worry about a small % of the kids being brought up by a couple gays, of which 1 may not be a father or mother.

Lets instead do something about all the kids being brought up by one parents. In America - > 50%

And what else do we do with the unwanted kids who never know who their parents are at all - bring them up in orphanges?

the whole scene her re the antis reminds me of the battle of the bulge - which the conservatives will surely lose.

As they have already in most of Europe and its happening in Latin America and elsewhere.

And you can bet your last $$ that if you go for national civil unions, the antis will come up with their next set of objections.

As they did with inter-racial marriage - which was banned for so long "to protect the sanctity of the white race."


stanJames | 26 June 2012


Surely Stan James as one who can freely express your anti-catholic myopia, re Jews. on a catholic website, you can't begrudge RCs democratically expressing their doctrine. Beware of nazi censorship[in fact not all my posts have been published[so you get a pretty good go.]
Father John Michael George | 28 June 2012


I think ES doesn't deliberately upload comments or responses to comments that may disenable further debate, especially answers that are the most orthodox in regards to Catholic Canon Law- So Aurelius, my reply to your last comment- hasn't been uploaded for this reason- and not because I have had no intention to- sorry.
Myra | 28 June 2012


Thanks for informing me, Myra, that you are in possession of some knowledge about Canon Law that is helpful to gay Christians struggling with their lot. I'm sure you have the greatest concern for their wellbeing.
AURELIUS | 29 June 2012


Aurelius,I have also been denied a form of justice in regards to thing that is very close to my heart, by Catholic Canon Law- Ultimately I just place my faith and trust in God in all things , knowing that any road I go down- He is always with me- Just as He is with all those who truly struggle in the name of Love, in this world. One of my dearest friends would like to get a sex change- I was the very first he 'came out to' about his inner struggle with who he is . He confessed to me,'He could never live with the idea of hurting his Catholic parents- if he did'...So he has chosen to live a life according to what Jesus was ultimately about- a life based on- 'self sacrificial love', He is a beautiful soul. One of the most beautiful I have ever meet.I love him dearly.
Myra | 29 June 2012


Myra, you are getting into very complicated psychiatric matters there and you are confusing three different elements - is a very dangerous and disingenuous way.
1. Transexuality is not the same as homosexuality (Transgender people can be either homosexual or heterosexual)
2. Neither homosexuality nor transgender identity is a sin.
3. If you are giving advice to a transgender person to help their Catholic parents - first rule of thumb - even if you can't help, don't do any harm.
I also place my faith in God above as you do and Canon Law is not the bottom line.
AURELIUS | 29 June 2012


As an appendage to your comment on Canon Law, Myra, I am wondering if you would have supported Pope Gregory IX's version of Canon Law in the 13th century which supported slavery and the whole slave trade?
AURELIUS | 30 June 2012


Aurelius exemplifies a highly unnuanced approach to history of slavery redolent of scriptural literalist fundamentalism. Basically, there were two categories of slavery, just and unjust. The latter "is the form known as symbiotic slavery, master and slave worked together for their mutual good as human beings. In this form, there was, on the part of the slave, fidelity, devotedness, and willing service, all in keeping with true human dignity; and, on the part of the master, kindness, respect, and even true charity, while between master and slave there often existed real friendship. The slave was part of the household and was treated as such from the moment, he came into the service of his master until he died."[New Catholic Encyclopaedia] Neither Christ nor apostles opposed symbiotic just slavery . No doubt Aurelius confronts the buying and selling of football players globally widespread among clubs, being contrary to his promulgated freedom decretals. Further firebrand Aurelius would globaly empty prisons of rock cracking unpaid prisoners.[yes even oposing court decreed weekend community work painting park benches and raking park leaves-sheer slavery.
Father John Michael George | 30 June 2012


Yes, Father. Once again you are correct. Let's bring back slavery - you make it sound so wholesome compared to homosexuality.
AURELIUS | 04 July 2012


Aurelius you are wrong again! Slavery to homosexual acts has no special status. It is more evil than historical unjust slavery, as unrepentant it leads unto eternal damnation[cf St Paul].
Father John Michael George | 05 July 2012


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/world/americas/pope-francis-old-colleagues-recall-pragmatic-streak.html?src=se
Frank Brennan SJ | 20 March 2013


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