The weakness of any argument is often revealed in the reversion of its advocates to the ad hominem mode – which is just another way of avoiding the issue at the heart of an argument. While not exactly ad hominem, more a question of ad institutionem, the media onslaught on the mild but clear utterances of the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales over Christmas did little more than betray the shallowness of the gay case for the redefinition and ultimate destruction of the institution of marriage.
As the British media response group, Catholic Voices, points out on its blog today, “references to the threat to marriage in Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ Midnight Mass homily were brief — a matter of a few lines in what was mostly a gentle meditation on the meaning of the Nativity. He referred to “the love of husband and wife, which is creative of new human life” as being “a marvelously personal sharing in the creative love of God who brings into being the eternal soul that comes to every human being with the gift of human life.” Later — following a paragraph about businesses failing to respect people, and other examples of “corrosion” of human dignity – he added: “Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life. Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young.”
The blog notes that he also made forthright, heartfelt and thoughtful comments to the BBC, broadcast on Christmas Day, about the shambolic and contemptuous way in which the Government was going about the implementation of same-sex marriage.
But these mild and surely legitimate expressions of authority as a teacher in a law-abiding Church were enough to provoke what Catholic Voices termed “some stern sermonizing from same-sex marriage advocates, who rather than engage with his points, declared that Christmas was about ‘peace’ and ‘love’ which was being hijacked by the Archbishop of Westminster’s attempt to mount a political rally.”
The problem about peace and love is that one man’s peace is another man’s war and for King Herod the arrival of a particular baby in the world was about anything but peace. Archbishop Nichol’s reading of the significance of the event was true to its entire context. The reading of the media advocates of the gay lobby’s argument had more to do with the schmaltz with which the 20th century has smothered it. In the whole gay “marriage” campaign, the hi-jacking of language is rampant. The message which came into the world in the aftermath of that event in Bethlehem has for two thousand years consistently and persistently moved hand in hand with the message that marriage between a man and a woman is central to the well being of humanity and human society. Surely the outrage should be provoked by those who try to suggest that Christmas would be celebrating anything as contradictory as proposing that a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex be described as a marriage and be somehow consistent with the moral tenets of Christianity. If so it was not to be found in the British press this week. The campaign which can only result in the destruction of marriage in any meaningful form has far greater affinity with the world which Herod was seeking to protect than it has with the new world heralded by the arrival of the child he sought to destroy. He also was deceitful about his intentions. Gay lobbyists paying lip-service to Christianity are no less so.
Catholic Voices surveyed the press reaction to Nichols’ words:
There was Graeme Archer in the Telegraph, who claimed that “real men and women woke up on Christmas Day with nothing but love in their hearts, switched on the radio, and heard Nichols’s message to the planet. The bit about Jesus and love was cut from the headlines, in order to give him space to push his political agenda.” There was Ben Summerskill, head of the multi-million pound gay rights lobbyist Stonewall, who thought it “sad” that “an archbishop should sully the day of the birth of Jesus by making what seem to be such uncharitable observations about other people”, before adding, with an extraordinary mixture of pseudo-piety and acidity, that “some of us are mindful of Luke 2:4, which reminds us that Christmas Day is a day of peace and goodwill to all men. Perhaps Archbishop Nichols should have spent a little more time in bible study.”
Catholic Voices then raises the question: if a Catholic bishop cannot raise the alarm over the destruction by the state of the most essential civil society institution in society and history, one founded on the God-created fertile complementarity of man and woman; and if he cannot do so on the eve of the Government bringing it before Parliament; and if he cannot express, when he does so, the mind of the Church — which is pretty much made up on this — then he would hardly deserve to be entrusted with the office. Summerskill seems to think that the Church should render unto Caesar everything and shut up shop.
Equally patronizing was Ian Birrell –tellingly, a former speech-writer for David Cameron — in The Independent, who suggested that the opposition of the Churches to gay marriage was evidence of their ‘irrelevance’ and ‘diminishing importance’. In other words, we don’t need to bother with their arguments or concerns, only to reassure ourselves that these are institutions which belong to the past. But because they persist, they must be dealt with harshly by the law. Thus ‘churches should no more be allowed to ban gay people from marrying in church than those who are black and disabled’, he rules, adding: ‘With luck, a rapid appeal to the European court of human rights will remove any opt-outs given to hostile religions’. As in China, revolutionary Mexico, or Soviet Russia, the remedy is simple: abolish any right the Church may have to govern itself; the ‘progressive’ state is limitless.
Birrell also tries to claim that the Archbishop has no right to criticize the undemocratic nature of the Government’s consultation because the Church is not a democracy. ‘For an outfit headed by someone who proclaims infallibility to complain about the lack of democracy when an elected government seeks to pass a law on a free vote in parliament takes not just the biscuit, but the entire packet,’ he writes, echoing Minette Marin in the Sunday Times: maybe the Government’s plans are shambolic and undemocratic, she says, ‘but the Church of Rome is hardly known for democracy or political accountability itself.’
Leaving aside the misunderstanding of the idea of papal infallibility, the stupidity of this argument is obvious. Almost no organization in society is run as a democracy: not businesses, not civil society bodies, and certainly not newspapers (when was the last time an editor was elected?), which, let us remember, have been in the dock for ignoring the law and fleeing public scrutiny. If the Independent, Telegraph or the Sunday Times do not run on democratic lines, with what justification – according to their columnists’ reasoning — do they slam the Government every day?