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Rudd's gay marriage backflip fires church-state debate


Article from A Plus portrays Kevin Rudd and his wife Therese Rein above a headline that declares gay marriage is 'A Matter for the State, not Church'Most responses to Kevin Rudd's conversion on same-sex marriage have inevitably focused on whether it will change Australia's political dynamic on the issue. Equally predictably, more cynical members of the commentariat have chosen to see Rudd's announcement as his latest round of jousting with the woman who deposed him as prime minister.

Well, yes. Rudd's addition to the ranks of those advocating a change in the law is a reminder, if one were needed, that by opposing same-sex marriage Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are adhering to the view of a shrinking minority of the Australian community. Polls regularly indicate that more than 60 per cent of voters now favour change, with support rising to more than 80 per cent among those aged 18–24.

The momentum is almost certainly irreversible, and the question is not whether, but when, there will be legal equality for same-sex relationships, including the right to use the 'm'-word.

On this issue, the prime minister and the opposition leader have, to use the apt if cliched phrase chosen by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, placed themselves on the wrong side of history.

That's the politics. Those who bother to read the lengthy blog entry in which Rudd announced his change of heart, however, will be drawn into a broader debate about the relationship between church and state, a debate of a kind that takes place too rarely in Australian politics.

We are familiar with sloganeering — from partisans of both church and state — about what that relationship should be, and with the invective that gets hurled whenever legislation is mooted on issues such as reproductive medicine or the hiring policies of church institutions.

But Rudd's argument does not descend to slogans or invective, and may profoundly discomfit those who think civilisation will somehow be imperilled if church teaching on marriage and family is not enshrined in secular law.

Rudd accepts the traditional Christian understanding of sacramental marriage as an exclusive relationship of one man and one woman, and insists that a change in the law should not impose on religious institutions any alteration in their own practice. But he argues that the churches' teaching and practice can and should coexist with a secular law that acknowledges same-sex as well as heterosexual marriage, and with various models of parenting — heterosexual, same-sex, and single-sex.

These assertions should not even be contentious. The Catholic Church has always taught that marriage is a natural institution, properly regulated by civil law, and that not every natural marriage is necessarily a sacramental marriage. Rudd is essentially saying little more than that, or more precisely, he is drawing out the implications of a distinction between natural and sacramental marriage for living in a secular, pluralist society.

In earlier societies, shaped by a more or less uniform profession of Christianity, the natural/sacramental distinction may have been a notional one. In the secular societies of the modern West, however, the distinction has become a practical challenge: we should live by it if we do not seek to impose our faith on others.

Nonetheless the argument Rudd is making is contentious to many adherents of Australia's various faith traditions, and among the clerical leadership of the Catholic Church in particular.

Conceding the reality of same-sex relationships, they may accept 'civil unions' but baulk at describing any but a heterosexual union as 'marriage'. Asked why not, the usual response is that if the legal definition of marriage is broadened to include same-sex unions the heterosexual family would be undermined.

It is never explained just how that would happen, nor is it acknowledged that the horse has bolted long ago: there are many different kinds of family in modern Western societies, some with heterosexual parents and some with same-sex parents, but there is no evidence that children being raised by the latter are therefore growing up as deficient human beings.

Why are so many of the churches' leaders afraid of accepting the consequences of living in a pluralist society? Why is the tolerance they all publicly profess too often belied by the expectations they have of the state?

There is a long tradition of theological reflection that acknowledges the autonomy of both church and state. Indeed, it is no accident that modern liberal notions of tolerance emerged first in Western societies grappling with the experience of religious diversity.

It cannot be denied, however, that the Catholic Church came to terms with that diversity slowly and reluctantly. Until the Second Vatican Council, when popes and bishops spoke of 'religious freedom' they typically meant freedom for the church to spread its message.

The council's Declaration on Religious Freedom was substantially the work of an American Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, and it reflected his experience of American liberal pluralism. The declaration did not shrink from proclaiming that freedom was an inherent part of human dignity. It was not a message some people in the church wanted to hear, and to this day those who want to wind back the achievements of the council usually start with the declaration on religious freedom. They will say it has been 'misinterpreted'.

In Australia, one measure of whether Courtney Murray's vision survives, or whether the revisionists have prevailed, may be in the response that Catholic prelates make to Rudd's argument for same-sex marriage. 

Ray Cassin headshotRay Cassin is a contributing editor. 

Topic tags: Ray Cassin, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Vatican II, Church and State, gay marriage



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"There is a long tradition of theological reflection that acknowledges the autonomy of both church and state." True or not historically speaking, so what? The absurdity of such a proposal is shown up in the issue of abortion. The Catholic Church affirms the natural law recognition that a conceptus is a human being with all the rights of born humans. Many regimes today deny this, including Australia. But the Catholic Church is right. According to natural law, innocent human life is inviolate, born or unborn. And regimes which disagree with this proposition, regardless of their intentions, are wrong. Murderously so. States such as Nazi Germany were objectively wrong about the rights of Jews, homosexuals and gypsies. Not just wrong as a matter of taste. Not just wrong because they didn’t adequately reflect the will of a majority. Not just wrong because they happened to guess wrongly with respect to those rights as such. But, much more importantly and fundamentally, as the jurisprudence of Nuremberg indicates, because they erroneously presumed it was within their gift as autonomous states to arrogate the demarcation of those rights to themselves.[So, had they said "We've chosen to concede to the Jews the right to live" they'd still be wrong: it was simply not for them to decide!] There is no coherent harmony between what these “autonomous” states purported to do and what the Catholic Church claims. There is, in this respect, no palsy-walsy demarcation of “autonomy” between church and state. So any theological "reflection" which maintains otherwise, whatever its number of adherents, is just plain heresy, where it’s not just logically incoherent. The Catholic Church insists, rightly, that states which claim they are in principle “autonomous” with respect to the Church and the natural law, are in grievous error. States have no more authority in defining what marriage consists of than they are in defining whether or not Jews, or the unborn, have the same rights as every other human beings. To assert otherwise is to open the door to tyranny. Christ IS King, regardless of what the world and its lackeys may think.

HH | 21 May 2013  

I fear that Kevin Rudd has hijacked both debates - Religious convictions and other diverse convictions operating positively together in elected democracies, and, the populist push for the redefinition of marriage. Before the 2007 election when Kevin Rudd, leader of the ALP was elected Prime Minister, he put out a discussion paper comparing his views on religion and politics with those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 1930's German Lutheran Pastor (executed just before the end of World War II on Hitler's express orders), imaging a positive communal role for religion and religious groups in the wider society. It was Rudd's assertion then that there would always be tension, but the interplay between the two was vital for the health of a culture and that sometimes, religion and religious ethics would need to win out over and against secular mores. That Kevin Rudd has now seemingly ditched that idea, my reading of his present position is fuelling my suspicions that Kevin has joined the "let's wedge Tony Abbott" ALP campaign.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 22 May 2013  

Excellent article on a very important topic.

Jim Jones | 22 May 2013  

We should have a referendum on the issue. Why aren't the supporters of change calling for this?

Chris Howard | 22 May 2013  

'The Catholic Church has always taught that marriage is a natural institution, properly regulated by civil law, and that not every natural marriage is necessarily a sacramental marriage.' Well, that's not true. If it had been true, I would have known about it. I was a convent boarding school kid for nearly all of my school-life. There was no recognition whatsoever of any such thing as any other kinds of 'love'. If you had really wanted to get yourself behind Gay Marriage, you haven't - not yet.

Kate Ahaerne | 22 May 2013  

I do wish St Kevin didn't seem to fancy himself as so much of a commentator on this issue. He was bound to speak: he can't help it. To me the issue of Church/State separation is a given. In our pluralistic society I think you need to some extent to separate your personal moral stance from what others are permitted, under the law, to do. There are obvious exceptions such as if you live under a fascist or totalitarian regime. I wish to leave these aside because we do not live in either a fascist or totalitarian state. To get back to sexual morality - and to me opposition to the gay marriage issue hinges on that - I am quite conservative in my own sexual belief and practice. For instance I don't believe in adultery or promiscuity. Neither have I ever practiced them. Nor would I condone their practice by anyone. However, I don't believe they should be illegal nor should their practitioners suffer any legal consequences for these acts. The word "marriage" in regard to same sex couples is one that ignites great emotion on both sides of the debate. Were the legal commitment - and marriage is primarily that - to be termed "partnership" I think much heat would go out of the debate. We need that heat out on both sides. I am very much afraid this issue is seen as a crusade by both sides. We Australians are a contentious people and always want to win. Sometimes it is necessary that neither side "wins" but that an acceptable compromise, however painful to all parties who don't get their way 100%, is reached. I think we have that sort of issue here. I regard this issue as being fairly unimportant in the light of other pressing national and international issues. My own gut feeling is "Give it to them and let's get on with life". Obviously Churches and other religious groups should not be forced to celebrate gay marriage. Reactions amongst them will vary. I suspect many Anglicans and more liberal Protestants, if permitted, will marry a partner of the same sex. I would include some clergy here. Catholics, Muslims and the more conservative Protestant and Jewish groups will not. There need to be clear guidelines and protection on this. These to me are the relevant political issues.

Edward F | 22 May 2013  

Rudd's so-called "backflip" describes the situation well. When a gymnast does a backlap correctly, they do a 360 spin and finish facing the same way they started. So in reality, Rudd's position hasn't changed - it's all just politicing. Same sex couples will always be with us just as the poor will. Whether their marriage is recognised by the church or secular government is just a matter of time (just like recognising sex abuse victims was a matter of time - and tiring people out)

AURELIUS | 22 May 2013  

Ray Cassin, you have followed the 'broken chains' of though, and provided a missing link. Are you also a chunk thinker? as only the best chess players are?

Game Theory | 22 May 2013  

There is a growing number of Australians (among others), who favour social acceptance of gay marriage, without being clear about the details of what such marriage would entail. Similarly earlier there was a growing number of Australians who favoured Austalia becoming a republic. John Howard managed to split the supporters by insisting that only one model of a republic could be put to the vote, and the momentum floundered. I wonder if the same would occur if only one definition of marriage was allowed to be voted on for legislation. Most of the concern about marriage is not so much about what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but about the likely consequences of such activity. In earlier times such activity was the natural and only way to build up ones tribe or community, which was seen as highly desirable. Now with diminishing resources and worries about sustainable population, new thinking is required.

Robert Liddy | 22 May 2013  

Just another example among the growing litany of examples of Rudd's shirking the "too tough" issues,such as leaving the Catholic church, leaving the discipline of Ashgrove College, refusing the Labor Party leadership in the early days of the Howard years, abandoning the "greatest moral challenge of our times", backing off challenging Gillard despite senior members of the parliamentary party backing him and being led to believe that he would indeed challenge, and now backing away from the difficult issue of homosexual "marriage",

john frawley | 22 May 2013  

When you join a club, organisation or religion, you abide by its regulations or rulings. Whilst most of us are hypocrites at various times, this latest from KEVIN RUDD smells of political hypocrisy as well as a stain on this man's relationship with God. How can a devoted Christian (who did political door stops every Sunday when Prime minister) lend his support to gay marriage. What has served us for 2000 years and what God said when he spoke the words ''what man and woman have joined together let no man put assunder'' now goes out the window because he wants to be different to Julia. he may as well join EMILYS LIST because any credibility he once had has just blown me away. The silent majority does not agree with same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia or similar. One would think Eureka Street would make better reading if it confirmed Christian ethics rather than support non christian ethics

PHIL | 22 May 2013  

PHIL, same-sex marriage would in no way affect the church's teaching on divorce. I don't know how you can possibly confuse the two issues.

AURELIUS | 22 May 2013  

This argument continues ad nauseum without possible solution. The arguent is a semantic one. What is a marriage? Surely we cannot grant Institutions/ Organisations/Governments etc the authority to change the meanings of words willy-nilly according to a popularity index, where then would society be? Could Law, Justice, man, woman, infant, family (or any other contextual word) be placed on the same popularity index? How then could society trust it's systems? Of course meanings of words can be changed but it requires authoritative discussion/consideration/declaration and then publication to do so. Not just a popularity index. Edward F's referrence of 'partnership' may be useful but as it has a defined meaning maybe 'partnering' could be used by those who do not wish or cannot undertake a marriage. I would suggest here that many so-called marriages today do not fulfil all requirements of marriages so would be better so termed. I am very pleased that more frequently the red flag of inequality has been dropped as by law some years ago legal equality has been in place for unions which fulfil the stated requirements of a marriage.

Michelle | 22 May 2013  

Thank you, Ray. An important and timely line of argument. I would love to see church leaders without fear - a veritable Pentecost!

vivien | 22 May 2013  

I would like to know from Phil who and where are the silent majority and why are they silent if they are the majority? He also quotes with assurance what God said but the quotation is something put in the mouth of Jesus by an evangelist. It may and possibly does echo Jesus' thinking, but I am afraid I see scripture as the product of humans trying to understand the divine. Anyhow there are much more serious issues facing us today than who can marry whom.

Brian Poidevin | 22 May 2013  

After reading some of the comments here, it's obvious there's a misconception that passing same-sex marriage legislation means that all current marriages will become gay. This is not the case. Married heterosexual people will continue to be married and will continue to be heterosexual (if they so desire).

AURELIUS | 22 May 2013  

HH is right. Abortion is unnatural, so it's against the natural law, so it's immoral. Same-sex "marriage" is unnatural, so it's against the natural law. Artificial contraception is unnatural (as the term makes clear) so it's against the natural law. Whether any of these things should be against the state law is another matter. Abortion should, of course, because it infringes against another individual's most basic right, but this does not apply to the other things. Michelle is right too. The meaning of a word is set by usage, not by prescription. It's not for a government to change.

Gavan Breen | 22 May 2013  

Contrary to some of the commentators' opinions, there is no one Christian view on same sex marriage. Many of us clergy would be very happy to celebrate same sex marriages once it is legally possible. This is not because we have not studied our Bibles, but rather because we have and we see that the texts point us to a God who made everyone different in myriad of ways. That people vary with their sexual preferences is once again a sign that God both creates and loves diversity. Rather than pick on some texts in books that we would rightly be imprisoned if we followed their teachings (eg Leviticus) we see and know a God who loves everyone. This love spills out in our various relationships, and because love is holy these relationships are holy too. If marriage was about procreation then I should be forbidden to celebrate the marriages of 80 year olds, who could not have children. The reason that I am most firmly in favour of same sex marriage is that of youth suicide. Young people look around them and worry about their future: if they feel unique, will they be valued? How does society value those who are different? Until same sex marriage is legal and there is no discrimination then youth suicide will continue to increase.

Helen | 22 May 2013  

There is one thing all those talking about natural law are forgetting - natural law is only valid when the motivation/intention for it are righteous. In this case, what valid moral reason do you have for preventing a person from marrying someone of the same gender? ARe you trying to help/save them?

AURELIUS | 22 May 2013  

Phil, you got to get the words right...Jesus said, "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." Who's to say that God hasn't joined some people of the same sex together in a loving relationship?

Bernadette | 22 May 2013  

It may be argued that same-sex marriage is a threat to society as we have known it, but less convincing is the belief that it threatens the Church. For centuries we Catholics have had our Christian religion supported by common culture and secular authorities, where in essence Church and State agreed with each other. That unanimity no longer exists. Church and State are separate. We stand supported only by our own beliefs and practices in a society that is pluralistic in its own culture. This is the logical consequence of a democracy within which we too strive to influence others in many issues and especially now in this matter of marriage and matrimony.

Brian | 22 May 2013  

Phil is correct to say "The silent majority does not agree with same-sex marriage". This is why supporters of same-sex marriage want legislation in Parliament to achieve their goal. It is easier to manipulate 150 (sorry 149 not including Tony Abbott) example 'Kevin Rudd'. And they do not want a Referendum, where the silent majority rejects same-sex marriage. Remember the Referendum on the republic

Ron Cini | 22 May 2013  

Let's face it, early marriages were made to join powerful families, take over countries and subjugate women as pawns of men. Today who cares.

Marilyn | 22 May 2013  

This is a thought provoking article. I don’t know if Rudd is trying to wedge Abbott, or Gillard for that matter, or if he simply just changed his mind on gay marriage. Whatever his reasons he does make some valid points. I have no argument against gay people who want to marry. It does not impact on my marriage at all, nor on the institution of marriage in general. The nature of the relationship is the important point – who would deny a loving, committed, mutually supportive adult couple the right to be married? Where is the harm? Under a “live and let live” philosophy this should not even be an issue... and yet it is. A friend who is a conservative Uniting Church Minister said he would never officiate at a gay marriage ceremony. His concern is the legalisation of gay marriage would potentially put him in breach of anti-discrimination legislation. I have some sympathy but it is limited on the point of a person with a religious ordination performing an activity sanctioned by the state. Avoiding the issue as some in the church still want to do just denies a gay couple the opportunity to have their union blessed by God.

Brett | 22 May 2013  

Mr Cassin's basic premise is that freeing secular society from the hypothetical binds of religion gives secular society a religion-less, carte blanche,despite society ironically stacked with religious adherents! Even pagan 5th century BCE Greeks recognised a fundamental natural law[conflated as the source of civil law]independently of religion,let alone Sinai decalogue anachronism]pace Charlton Heston!. Fundamental reasoned tenets flowed from natural law: tightly reasoned axioms common to human nature,-a 'decalogue' without Sinai tablets [Dont steal, murder, rape, abuse kids,scud nations etc Of course,Sinai had promulgated inbuilt perennial natural law[but the latter transcended religion, in pagan Rome and Greece, while slowly conflating/underpinning civil laws. Natural Law upholds heterosexual marriage as in accord with human nature [respecting natural rights of progeny for a mum and dad.] And Natural law rejects homosexuality [an intrinsic disorder in nature,thus gay marriage adoptions are against nature e.g. in depriving offspring of rights to mum and dad!] States can ostracise the Church but natural law in individuals, national and international entities,stubbornly defies and transcends political expediencies [Nuremberg was natural law's revenge!] . Obstetric labs have found homosexuality derives from unnatural prenatal pathology whereby a pathological hormonal anomaly due to maternal stress, rewires the intra-uterine brain resulting in anomalous ante and postpartum homosexual disposition!

fr john george | 22 May 2013  

Thanks Gavan. Let's set aside contraception - because many forms are also abortifacient, at least part of the time. But "gay marriage", fully applied, invades children's natural rights. Children don't only have a right not to be killed before or after birth. They also have a priori a right to be brought up in their natural family. That was the whole point about the so-called "stolen generations" issue, even if in that case it was, I'd argue, misapplied disastrously on purely ideological grounds. No one has in principle the right to deprive a child of their right to live in their natural family. If the parents so deprive that child, then they are failing in their obligations. Sometimes, because the relationship between parents is so fraught, then the parents must split up. But the rights and interests of the children must remain paramount in considerations as to how that happens. But recognizing gay "marriage" a priori precludes this right of the child. Continuing the bizarries of legalized donor insemination, it pretends that children's rights to being raised by their natural father and mother together are zilch. This is not just sub-optimal. It's a coercive invasion of the highest order of a child's fundamental rights.

HH | 22 May 2013  

It is sad to see a Eureka Street article referring to an important public figure changing a stance on a policy position as a backflip. The headline attributes base motives for the change rather than indicating others may have been present. In doing so Eureka Street lowers itself to the level of popular journalism which emphasises sensationalism over considered analysis. People, including politicians, may change views based on reason and thoughtful consideration. The possibility this occurred on this occasion should be applauded and encouraged rather than derided.

Dominic Melano | 23 May 2013  

The word 'marriage' is very elastic. It means different things to different people. Normally at a marriage two people agree to live together. They 'marry' each other. If there is a celebrant, it is not the celebrant who marries them. the crlebrant is merely a witness and a recorder. There were 'marriages' well before Church or State came into being. Then each enacted regulations in accordance with their own concerns regarding the likely outcome of such marriges. But properly, marriage is in the hands of the partners.

Robert Liddy | 23 May 2013  

Some people are mixing/confusing separate issues - the rights of children. As far as I know, gay couples are unable to reproduce. Another fact is that heterosexual couples also engage in adoptions and sperm donation practices or surrogate mothers to produce "unnatural families". This is a separate issue to same-sex marriage, and it's a non-issue politically because it's already a common practice (ethically/morally I agree it needs discussion) . Also natural law would demand that we look after our own needs first before we attend to another's needs/welfare (which is basically the OHS policy of most workplaces - don't put yourself in danger in order to help someone else) But Jesus showed us another example that transcends pagan natural law and leads us to courageous acts of self-denial for the sake of our fellow humans.

AURELIUS | 23 May 2013  

There is an unfortunate confusion of marriage and children in this discussion. Heterosexual marriages are not all made with the intention of raising children. There are many reasons – choice or circumstance – why this does not happen. Some couples may adopt, some cannot adopt and others simply do not want children. Yet there is never a debate that couples who cannot have children should not marry. That would be nonsense. Similarly, not all gay couples who want to marry want to raise children. Yet some still want to deny them the opportunity to express their love through marriage. Some gay couples will want to raise children and there is nothing wrong with that. Discussion of a child’s natural rights should include the right to be raised in a loving, supportive family. Suggestions that gay marriage will deprive children of their right to live with their “natural family”, whatever that may mean, do not take account of the love parents have for their children, a love which is not limited by the gender of the parents. It is a poor reason to oppose gay marriage. One might even think the opposition to gay marriage is itself based on purely ideological grounds

Brett | 23 May 2013  

Aurelius dont minimise Natural Law![viz a viz gospel imperatives],Natural Law is rightly invoked for 'just war'[viz the right and duty to lay down one's life in defense of others;similarly in defense of individuals eg suddenly attacked by terrorists.] Sinai promulgated not simply decalogue 'revealed law' but Gods Natural Law perennially in the heart of man.[Romans 2:14-15]. Similarly Jesus' morality confirmed and promulgated Natural Law,'in fact', if not by explicit 'intention'. The laws of Christ never abrogated,nay rather they supplemented Natural Law, and Revealed Law[Keep the Commandments][John 14-15]. The Catholic Church authoritatively proclaims Decalogue,Natural Law and Beatitudes etc

fr john george | 23 May 2013  

i would suggest that this very clearly stated article should be sent to media outlets in the interests of better-formulated debate in the public arena. How good it would be if the ABC at least were to pick it up and open it for informed insights

Rosemary Grundy | 23 May 2013  

"The word 'marriage' is very elastic. It means different things to different people." So here we all are, through the looking glass: "I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'?" Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'?" "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all." Alice was too much puzzled to say anything ...

HH | 23 May 2013  

The Declaration on Religious Freedom has ruined the Church in Latin America, where Protestant fundamentalists now flood the terrain, and in other countries. Does a man (or a woman) have a right to the wrong opinion? Irrespective of the consequences??

arturus | 23 May 2013  

Re HH's comment: We're all of us influenced by Freud, I guess. I've been a Jungian for a long time...Painting is a state of being...Painting is self - discovery. Every good artist paints what he is. Jackson Pollock. Don't forget to click as you paint: http://www.jacksonpollock.org/

Game Theory | 23 May 2013  

Phil: "When you join a club, organisation or religion, you abide by its regulations or rulings.".. The first Community, according to Acts 2:44, "all lived together and owned everything in common: they sold all their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves acxcording to what each one needed. They went to the Temple every day..." Evidently a great deal of evolution has occurred, since we don't do those things now. but suddenly we should stop evolving? Why should we stop now? It is evident God intends evolution. Even the Universe evolves. According to the Big Bang Theory, for which there is converging and convincing evidence, at the beginning of Time there were only a few kinds of atoms, mainly hydrogen. The other atoms such as carbon, that are essential to life evolved within they stars as they themselves evolved.

Robert Liddy | 23 May 2013  

What name do we now give to that relationship which God has joined together and no man put asunder. The word marriage has a meaning which is important. Its not just another word Look how the word Gay has changed our concept of joyfulness and lightheartedness

Bede Hickey | 24 May 2013  

Is it evident, Robert Liddy, God intends evolution? The mystery of God’s existence is a more satisfying mystery than the mystery of how can all this arise out of a particle. There is no need to invoke any concept of evolution at all. To do so, is to subordinate God to something other than Himself. We might say that God is Himself "the now", in that everything we do is done 'inside' Him, but certainly not that God lives in any form of "now". In other words, He just is, and therefore lives in nothing other than Himself.

Bernstein | 24 May 2013  

It's amazing how God's word can be manipulated to justify the use of drones in warzones, but demonise two people of the same gender making a lifelong emotional commitment to one another.

AURELIUS | 24 May 2013  

Children have an a priori natural right to live in their natural family. And parents correspondingly have a natural obligation (and right) to raise their children. People who are not the child's natural parents may love and care for a child in many ways. But to suppose that that love can correspond in every respect to the bond between parents and children in a natural family is totally without foundation. When a child is deprived of that natural parenting by chance or (even more) by intent, the child invariably suffers. There are scores of studies documenting the suffering of adoptees, children from donor insemination and children of broken families as they question their identity and self-worth, etc. There is, correspondingly, a mountain of studies that show that children do best when they are raised by their married biological parents. This should be blindingly obvious, even if one merely considers how nature (God) has designed conception of a child as the function of sexual differentiation between the parents. The notion that sexual differentiation might be crucial to the event wherein a child comes into being, and all through natural pregnancy, but have absolutely no role to play on any level as a child is being raised in the world, is preposterous. Yet this is what the supporters of gay marriage & parenting would have us believe - unless of course, they regard a child rather like a pet, whose welfare is subordinate to the interests of the same-sex couple concerned.

HH | 24 May 2013  

There is no unified "supporters of gay marriage & parenting" doctrine or set of beliefs/values. Homosexual people are just as diverse in their beliefs as non-heterosexual people - and even just as virtuous (ie, I do not regard children as "pets" - because I am a son of heterosexual parents)

AURELIUS | 24 May 2013  

Readings of thoughts in the Ignatian, Franciscan and Benedictine traditions do not suggest any dangers of winding back to mythical interpretations of the essential human "freedom". The interpretation since Thomas has not changed. Conspiracy theories are at best "premature". I agree, however, let Caesar decide what Caesar gets. Both sides need to learn to live and respect the other. We learn someone who had made it to Bishop in USA, is about to descend on us and give us his spiel on the subject. Amazing!

Roy | 24 May 2013  

It is axiomatic that children should be raised by their parents. But there seems to be confusion in some minds between gay marriage and raising children where there is no reason for conflict. It is not totally without foundation to say that adoptive and gay parents, or single parents for that matter, can develop the deepest bonds of love and devotion with their children. I know that for a fact. It would be interesting to see the scores and mountains of studies that apparently show children raised by adoptive or gay parents are never as well adjusted or balanced or whatever as children raised by their two biological parents. Anyone who has seen the severe effects on children of dysfunctional biological parents would not make that generalisation. The quality of parenting is the important point, not the gender of the parents. It is worth noting children raised by gay parents are often raised by one biological parent, much like a blended family or a single parent family, which does water the point down somewhat. Biological parenting provides a basic family unit, but let’s not use it to rubbish and discriminate against other family models. Using children as an argument against gay marriage is just using children to make an ideological point.

Brett | 24 May 2013  

> "and insists that a change in the law should not impose on religious institutions any alteration in their own practices" I'd give it ten years. Fifteen, tops. If I really did think same-sex marriages advocates believed their own "Don't like gay weddings? Then don't have one" rhetoric, I'd have fewer misgivings. But the experience with, for example, Victoria's compulsory abortion-referral laws doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence that those who want to be left alone by the state to live their own lives according to their own moral values will be granted that liberty by the tolerant pro-choice civil libertarians among us.

RG Blaine | 24 May 2013  

I wrote: “There are scores of studies documenting the suffering of adoptees, children from donor insemination and children of broken families as they question their identity and self-worth, etc. There is, correspondingly, a mountain of studies that show that children do best when they are raised by their married biological parents.” Brett writes in response: “It would be interesting to see the scores and mountains of studies that apparently show children raised by adoptive or gay parents are NEVER as well adjusted or balanced or whatever as children raised by their two biological parents. Anyone who has seen the severe effects on children of dysfunctional biological parents would not make THAT GENERALIZATION.” (emph. added. HH) As someone who specialized in logic in a philosophy (hons) degree, I instantly see a flaw in this response. I presume others on this intellectually weighty blog can, too. This type of verballing is a depressingly routine move committed by advocates of same sex marriage. The point stands undefeated by the riposte. The other fallacies in the reply I'll respond to later.

HH | 25 May 2013  

HH23 May 2013 "The word 'marriage' is very elastic. It means different things to different people." So here we all are, through the looking glass:....... HH is here trivialising important aspects of what are the essential elements of 'marriage'. It is not the WORD 'marriage' that is important but the institution, which existed well before churches and states came into being. It was God who made them of 'one flesh', not Church or State. the partners marry each other. Church or State are simply witnesses or recorders. Both the Church and State recognised the importance of the institution as being the normal and natural way of producing the next generation, and later drew up legislation accordingly. "Populate or perish" was once important, and 'gay' unions which threatened to vitiate this were seen as repugnant and even made criminal offences. When many people vote in favour of gay marriages, what they mean is simply that they should be allowed to live together in peace. Many simply want them to have the same legal entitlements as heterosexual couples, regarding taxation, inheritance and leave entitlements. Does anyone want them to have the same legal restrictions such as divorce procedures? ?

Robert Liddy | 27 May 2013  

If I can respond to HH please without tying up the blog in a two person discussion, HH was not verballed, as most readers will see. HH also wrote “But to suppose that that love can correspond IN EVERY RESPECT to the bond between parents and children in a natural family is TOTALLY WITHOUT FOUNDATION.” (emph. added B). I merely questioned the validity of the alleged evidence supporting HH’s generalisations by asking about it. Someone who specialised in logic would see the exaggerations in their own statement were open to question and not be offended by this. HH also wrote “The notion that sexual differentiation might be crucial to the event wherein a child comes into being, and all through natural pregnancy, but have ABSOLUTELY NO ROLE to play on any level as a child is being raised in the world, is preposterous.” (emph. added B). I merely questioned the validity of this exaggeration which HH used to inaccurately describe the views of people supporting same sex marriage. My point is well made. As HH’s arguments against same-sex marriage centre around children, can I take it there is no objection to same-sex marriage where children are not involved?

Brett | 27 May 2013  

Brett says 'Using children as an argument against gay marriage is just using children to make an ideological point.' Does that mean that if we think children are disadvantaged by having same-sex parents we shouldn't say so because Brett or someone else might think we were making an ideological point?

Gavan Breen | 27 May 2013  

Brett, you asked me to supply evidence for a generalization I didn't make. I said there were scores of studies documenting sufferings children have undergone as a result of not being brought up by both their biological parents. I didn't say there's a heap of studies proving there's never been a single child of same sex parents who has managed to turn out well-adjusted. Yet that's what you demanded. There's an important logical distinction here between "some"/"most", and "all" you're overlooking here. To say that children generally speaking do best when they're in their natural family is not to say some children will cope with other circumstances. But it is sufficient to justify not a priori depriving children of their right to the well-documented benefit of living in their natural family, which is what legalized same-sex "marriage" (and donor-insemination parenting) brings about. And your next point only supports my case. Anyone acknowledging that sexual differentiation of the parents (ie mum and dad) does play SOME role in the raising of a child after birth, is conceding that ss parents can't fulfill ALL the roles of rearing that a child's natural parents can. Finally, you're asking in effect if I object to marriage being defined as an institution either in which two people of the opposite sex unite for the purpose of having children, or in which two (why not more?) people of the same sex unite with NO intention of having children. Not being Humpty Dumpty: yes, I do object.

HH | 27 May 2013  

HH did make that comment. He (assuming male, could be wrong) was writing about the capacity of people who are not a child’s natural parents to love and care for them and his use of “in every respect” and “totally without foundation” was to compare them negatively with natural parents (HH 24 May). That is a generalisation. I think the term “biological parent” is more accurate than “natural parent”, but that’s just my opinion. It is a pity HH did not include my next sentence when he quoted me earlier: “The quality of parenting is the important point, not the gender of the parents.” If HH is saying same-sex parents are incapable of raising their children with an understanding of sexual differentiation I believe he is overstating his case again. By “sexual differentiation” does he just mean gender role models, which vary between different heterosexual families, or the physical differences between men and women? Just as some gay people were raised by heterosexual parents, so some heterosexual kids will be raised by gay parents. I also wrote “Biological parenting provides a basic family unit, but let’s not use it to rubbish and discriminate against other family models.” Seems that is too much to ask for.

Brett | 27 May 2013  

In answer to Gavan Breen’s question, it is making an ideological point and I would never think of trying to stop anyone making it. Debate is a foundation of democracy. Opposition to same-sex marriage based on a religious belief is ideological. Support for same-sex marriage based on fairness, equality and sharing in God’s love is also ideological, just a different ideology. Not all same-sex marriages will want children, so this opposition is invalid for them. Where marriages (any marriage) involve children, the welfare of the children is the most important consideration. If Gavan thinks children are disadvantaged by having same-sex parents as opposed to poor, bad or negligent parenting (which he didn’t mention and which is the greater disadvantage), then he is making an ideological point. The gender of the parents is not the most important consideration and this is where generalisations become difficult. In terms of children’s welfare, the quality of parenting is more important and relevant than the gender of the parents.

Brett | 27 May 2013  

More logical confusion, Brett. To say "It won't rain EVERY day this week" doesn't imply that "It won't rain on ANY day this week". So, when I say that ss "parents" can't form a bond with their children properly in ALL respects compared to natural biological parents, I'm in no way implying that therefore ss "parents" can't rear them properly in ANY respect. Of course they can - they can feed them, clothe them, bond in certain ways, etc. But they can't be a mother-and-father parenting team to them in a host of significant ways. Eg: How many men can suckle their child at the breast? So yes, of course I'm comparing the ss parents as parents negatively to natural parents (and also by extension to the mother and father which adopts children) in many areas. That's what the studies show. Children do better in their natural family than in other circumstances. (Adoption is of course sometimes a necessary recourse and works best when the adopting parents are a husband and wife team.) We should never enshrine in law the deprivation of a child's right to live with their natural parents as we've done with donor insemination and could to with ss "marriage".

HH | 27 May 2013  

Much of the debate on this topic seems to me to be the "skeleton" on Christian/Catholic doctrine - but I'm left wondering what it really means - ie, it lacks soul and therefore there is no compelling moral reason to be convinced either way.

AURELIUS | 28 May 2013  

HH’s logical confusion is self-inspired and I’m sorry if other readers are bored by this. HH’s words concerning the sexual differentiation of parents are “Anyone acknowledging that sexual differentiation of the parents (ie mum and dad) does play SOME role in the raising of a child after birth, is conceding that ss parents can't fulfill (sic) ALL the roles of rearing that a child's natural parents can” (emph. HH). To me “can’t fulfil all the roles of rearing” means he is saying they are incapable of fulfilling all the roles of rearing. “Incapable” is accurate in the context of the sentence and the “all/any” nonsense is not what I wrote. I’m not knocking the traditional family. It has worked well since the first humans stood upright and gained self-awareness and will continue to work just as well. It is not the only way to raise children. At the risk of boring people myself, let me repeat it is the quality of the parenting that matters, not the gender of the parents. Let’s not eliminate potentially great parents because of ideology.

Brett | 28 May 2013  

The number of same-sex couples who want to marry and have children is a subset of the number of same-sex couples who want to marry. Getting back to the overarching issue, would one of the opponents of same-sex marriage explain how two same-sex adults in a loving, committed, mutually supportive relationship can possibly be a threat to someone else’s marriage in particular or the institution of marriage in general. How is it any less worthy of recognition as marriage? I don’t have the answer to that one but it seems to me that any couple that has to fight so hard for the same right to marry as others have would only enhance the institution of marriage.

Brett | 28 May 2013  

I think you make a good point that we live in a pluralist society and that whatever occurs at a secular law level, this will not change the Church's stance or teaching on the sacramental nature of marriage. However my view is that where you legislate and say something is "ok", the law assists in confusing morality with law (as law is in theory founded on morality)- and for young impressionable children/teenagers who are forming their own identities in an ever complex world, this may be a confusion that would best be avoided. The majority view is not always and has historically been proven to not always be right. Truth is eternal and absolute. Why shouldn't the church raise it's voice?

Vasco | 29 May 2013  

I lived for years in an adult, same-sex, loving, committed, mutually supported, till-death relationship. Was it a marriage? You see, I was carer for my father in his final years. Decades earlier I was in another relationship answering to the same description: I was for a time in a religious order. Was that another marriage? These are not questions in jest. Unless the metaphysical question "What is a marriage?" is coherently addressed, the "right" to marry of this or that combination of people can't be established. This metaphysical task is yet to be accomplished by supporters of same sex "marriage", or any other marriage model other than that defended by, among others, the Catholic Church.

HH | 29 May 2013  

Marriage is a contract. It is an unusual contract, in that it is a contract that makes “relations” of the contracting parties. A man and a woman are made “spouses” of each other through marriage. Relations last forever, with the exception of the spousal relationship, which ceases at the death of one of the spouses. Moreover, they can’t be ended by human fiat. No human law or deed can dissolve the relationship between mother and son, or brother and sister, etc. Relations in the natural order are predicated on conceptions, stemming, typically from acts of natural intercourse. Thus, my relationship to my grandfather arises from the generation of my father (or mother) by him and of me by my father (or mother). The spousal relation doesn’t arise from HISTORIC acts of sexual intercourse. Nevertheless it is still contingent upon an act of natural intercourse in that it arises at the moment of marriage when (among other things) the parties grant to each other the right to engage in acts of natural intercourse together in the FUTURE. This fact alone suffices to prove that, despite the best of intentions, a couple which can’t perform natural intercourse together can’t become the spousal couple, husband and wife. That includes same-sex couples, along with all other absolutely or relatively impotent couples (but not merely infertile couples). No human law can change that fact, any more than it can, for example, create a relationship of motherhood between two human beings. The family and the relations it creates are institutions of nature which are prior to the state.

HH | 29 May 2013  

If nuns are brides of Christ, then perhaps a male in a religious order is in a kind of marriage as well, although I would not push that argument myself. Two people in a same-sex, loving, committed, mutually supportive adult relationship will not necessarily want to be married, as HH’s examples clearly show. That is their right and their choice and I doubt even the most strident supporter of same-sex marriage would want to make it compulsory. “What is a marriage?” is a good question. The nature of marriage has changed over the centuries and with a few exceptions has been a heterosexual arrangement. But why does it have to stay that way? I look at the other side of the issue about the right to marry. If two adults want to be married, where is the harm in that? What right do others have to object, based on a personal faith or their ideology? It seems to me a bit more “live and let live” would not go astray.

Brett | 30 May 2013  

Now it seems that a couple which can’t perform “natural intercourse” together can’t become a “spousal couple”. I don’t want to get into the sex lives of “spousal couples” to see what “natural intercourse” means to them. I do not seek to impose the understanding of intercourse that is “natural” to my wife and me onto other couples who may have a different understanding of what is natural. It seems a bit intrusive to apply a narrow definition of “natural intercourse” to all couples to determine if a couple can be married or not. We cannot escape the fact that marriage is a human union, whether blessed by God or not. There is a Marriage Act definition of marriage. That definition of the human union can be changed.

Brett | 30 May 2013  

So who says our current understanding/interpretation of natural law is conclusive?

AURELIUS | 03 June 2013  

Hey, wouldnt it be awesome if Rudd's wife was Prime Minister? It's just plain weird not having a woman at the top now. All those faceless men in blue ties... ugh. All ego no vision.

Val | 27 June 2013  

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