Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gay marriage debate: agressive posturing by Church serves no one

Fr Martin Boland, Dean of Brentwood Cathedral
The Tablet (UK)
18 January 2013

Although I am opposed to the coalition Government's plan to recognise same-sex marriage in law, I have, nevertheless, been left feeling uneasy about some aspects of the debate surrounding this subject, and in particular by the manner and terms in which the problem has been discussed.


However, there have been those within the Church who have chosen to employ intellectually blunt and confrontational arguments when discussing this matter. As the temperature of the debate rises, so there is a danger that their voices will become more strident. I wonder how helpful this is?

Although the polemical sound bite may capture the attention of the media, I wonder if it helps us address the complexity of the issues raised in a mature and informed way? Is an adversarial approach to those who disagree with us, the correct way to appeal to the reason and consciences of men and women? Whether this Government finally succeeds in introducing this legislation, what many people both within and outside the Church will remember is the language and demeanour which was used to present our arguments.

These questions are also of more general concern and are particularly pertinent to those who hold any teaching position or claim any theological competence within the Church. Responding to the issues of our age with a militant defensiveness, or a prescriptiveness that oversimplifies issues will not serve us well. The frustration the Church might feel in the face of liberal modernity should not be used as an excuse for a kind of latent ecclesiastical aggression. Sabre-rattling may make us feel manly, but it also deafens us both to the truth of people's lives and God's will for us. If those who teach in the Church choose to communicate in an idiom which alienates significant numbers of people then the liberating message of Christ risks being either treated with suspicion, received selectively or completely rejected. Seeking to patronise or infantilise the laity in this area can only serve to weaken the teaching authority of the Church.

Good teaching depends on a profound humility. None of us possesses a complete, final knowledge of all things. For example, our understanding, as many commentators have made clear, of the nature and meaning of the homosexual orientation is, at this point in time, incomplete. We may have a greater understanding of this sexual orientation than a century ago, but there is still more for us to know, to question and to understand. We should therefore hesitate to offer lapidary judgements about those who possess this orientation and humbly recognise that simplistic readings of natural law in this regard may not be entirely helpful.


Full article at the Tablet Blog

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