Tuesday 18 October 2011

You can’t believe THAT???

The ordinary, decent person's view of Catholic teaching and spokesmen: bizarre and a little scary

One of the problems with the current debate on same sex ‘marriage’ in Scotland and elsewhere is the blank incomprehension that Catholic views on homosexuality and marriage produce. Quite often, either the view itself is misunderstood or the reasons behind it are regarded as incomprehensible.

The results of this incomprehension tend to fall into two camps. The first is that of angry rejection: homophobic, out of date, misogynist etc. The second is that of marginalization: it’s their religious thing so of course it doesn’t make sense outwith their faith.

What both these approaches fail to grapple with is that the moral teachings of the Church are not (in any straightforward sense) religious, but are based simply on a view of what is good or bad for human beings. This is usually put by Catholics as the claim that such teachings are based on natural law. But such a description itself merely reinforces the existing two sorts of prejudices against it. The first camp will say, ‘That just shows it’s all nonsense. Darwin (or Dawkins or my Uncle Fred) has shown that there’s no such thing and it’s just a leftover of homophobic, women hating nonsense.’ The second camp will say, ‘Well, that’s fine, but since it’s based on the law of God or some peculiar Catholic stuff, while we can let them get on with it, we can’t take much notice of it living in a modern, go ahead Scotland.’

So for a start, it’s incredible difficult to get a hearing for Catholic views because of a) their (counter cultural) conclusions, and b) their being branded as based on some strange Catholic background. And given that the normal spokesmen for the teaching are Catholic Bishops, not normally particularly telegenic and given to wearing strange clothes and having strange titles, the impression can only be reinforced that at best this is the squawking of a strange, marginal world view.

But fine. Let’s assume we can even get so far as a hearing. (Our Bishops are getting good at this even if the reception of their comments by the media is often akin to gawping at the antics of circus freaks.) We then hit the final buffers of modern culture: can you sum up your view in two minutes? The pro same sex ‘marriage’ campaign has a simple slogan: Fairness. Marriage for one group, marriage for all. Those opposing it have slogans too: It’s against God’s law. It’s rewriting tradition. But none of these slogans has anything like the immediate resonance of the pro same sex ‘marriage’ side. (In a modern go-ahead Scotland, we don’t really do God, and in a modern go-ahead Scotland, we certainly don’t do tradition.)

So here’s the nub of the problem. How do we express a long, counter cultural case in the two minutes of the media window?

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