- Conscience and the Commons
Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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Peter Standford (“Surely these two men's love can only strengthen the institution of marriage”, The Tablet, 26 July) asserts that “gay marriage can only strengthen the institution of marriage”.
The union of a woman and a man is profoundly different from that of a same-gender couple. Yes indeed, love between gay partners can be strong and lasting, but there is far more to it than that. Not just in that the heterosexual relationship does not repudiate procreation while a homosexual relationship of its very nature does, but more.
It is on that sexual relationship that all humanity depends, without which there is no future humanity. To put the gay relationship in the same category reveals the most superficial understanding of the human being. “Male and female he created them.” As actio sequitur esse God shares his Trinitarian, even in a sense procreational, nature with his creatures.
To apply the word “marriage” as the same for both unions is just not fair. And the first group of people who should give recognition to it, loudly and enthusiastically, should be the gays. Yes, the gays. They owe it to their parent couple. After all, it was heterosexuality, not homosexuality, that gave them their existence.
Michael Knowles, Congleton, Cheshire
I was irritated by the condescending tone of Peter Stanford's (The Tablet, 26 July) celebration of “gay” marriage, if not by the pointlessness of his arguments. His friends’ marriage was a joyful affair for all, he claims, if not for the Church and, by implication, plebeians such as me. He condemns the Church for teaching against this harmless little "reform" and describes the difficulty he had in striving “half-heartedly” to answer for the Church against the jibes of the people present at the celebration.
He then proceeded to deal with other general arguments used against “gay” marriage and effortlessly swatted away the objection that marriage should be for procreation since people can marry at any age; and he then rejected the notion that a word's definition cannot be changed. He concluded by turning to the God of love who made us to love one another and so to love him and be loved by him in recompense. Surely he must approve love between people of the same sex.
We love in so many ways, which differ with the kind of relationship we enjoy. We love as parents and children, we love as friends and, of course, we love as man and wife. We show our love in as many ways as are appropriate to loving relationships and there is surely no reason why two people of the same sex should not love and live together just as friends; but must the love always be expressed sexually?
John Holland, London W5
I think the elderly man in Peter Stanford’s article was stretching a point. Homophobia is defined by the OED as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”, and I don’t think that making a distinction between gay and straight people falls within that definition, after all, if gay/lesbian people want to have children it has to be done by adoption/artificial insemination – this is an issue of simple biology, not equality. The problem is that the line the Church draws will always blunder into apparent (or, some might say, actual) homophobia because the Church condemns all sexual activity that falls outside heterosexual marriage, so homosexuals can never be treated in the same way. Thus the paragraphs (2357/8/9) in The Catechism of the Catholic Church give an impression of ‘having one’s cake and eating it’: homosexual action is explicitly condemned and homosexual people are pitied! It then states “[They] must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Is the key word here ‘unjust’? Or would the elderly man consider all discrimination unjust? Yet, not all gay people regard “gay marriage” or “gay adoption” as an essential component in the striving for sexual equality. There’s a world of difference between the dreadful, lethal homophobia of certain Islamic or African or other retrogressive states such as Russia, and a sense that a child may require, in most cases, parents who are a man and a woman. That last sentence may be regarded by some as homophobic but I cannot see it as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”.
Fr Julian Shurgold, Sutton, Surrey
How good to read Peter Stanford’s column in The Tablet. His friends' commitment to honour, love and cherish one another for life makes one wonder why the Catholic Church cannot bless such relationships which benefit the whole community.
Alan Gerrard, York