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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Andrew Brown ...

writes If lay Catholics now accept remarriage, why not gay marriage? in the wake of UK Cardinal Keith O'Brien's bizarre comments on same-sex marriage. Here's a bit of it ....

[...] Archbishop Vincent Nichols ... runs the Catholic church in England and Wales. He's not, one notes, a cardinal, as archbishops of Westminster usually are, and as O'Brien is. Some people say this is because he had a reputation as a liberal, others that his ambition was too open. In any case, he seems to be riding the waves of secularity rather more gracefully than the ironclad cardinal. Only last week, he gave permission for the "gay masses" in Soho to continue for another five years, though naturally it is assumed that no one who goes there could possibly be having sex, or, if they are, could feel good about the practice .....

Nichols went out of his way to mention the similarities between remarried Catholics and gay ones. Neither can really be married, in Catholic teaching. Nor should either group have sex, according to the Vatican. This will come as bad news to prominent Catholics such as Cristina Odone (married to a divorced man) and Clifford Longley (on his second wife). Yet both of these journalists are quite rightly regarded as adornments to the English Catholic church.

Admittedly, there is for straight people always the option of having the first marriage annulled, which for some reason gets easier the richer and more powerful you become. This is one of those loopholes that makes the surrounding law look even more unjust.

But apart from that, the condition of gay and of remarried Catholics is pretty much the same and the scriptural warrant for rejecting divorce is quite a lot stronger than the evidence for damning all gay people. I think it's pretty clear that the authors of the Bible would have been horrified by gay marriage, but it is nowhere explicitly denounced the way that Jesus denounced divorce.

Despite this, the policy of the Catholic church, in England and Wales at least, is the eminently sensible and humane one of doing everything possible to keep divorced and remarried couples as part of their parishes, attending church regularly. It may be that this is driven more by necessity, or horse sense, than humanity: if only Catholics who fully accepted the church's teaching on sex went to churches they would all empty. Nonetheless, the argument from humanity would be widely accepted. In Christian language, remarried couples can be a means of grace to one another.

And, if remarried couples can, why can't gay couples, too? .....


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