Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

A post I have been thinking about all week

There seem to me to be several important points that arise from the whole messy row about the attempts to create an exemption to equality law so that Catholic adoption agencies can refuse to consider lesbian and gay couples, and the first of these is that almost none of the principal players in the row are concerned with that issue and that issue alone. For example, the major player on the Catholic side seems to have been the Archbishop of Birmingham, Nichols, who, however sincere he is, is also trying to position himself as the obvious successor to the See of Westminster by doing what Rome wants in this matter. Rowan Williams, who does not seem in his personal friendships to have any particular problem with gay adoptors, is positioning himself so as to be able to do business with homophobic African bishops in the ongoing row about the American church. Alan Johnson, who seems to have been the organizer of the party against exemption in Cabinet, is positioning himself as the person who belled the cat by stopping from happening something that Blair wanted and demonstrating that Blair can no longer impose his will automatically. Blair at the same time is trying to suck up to the Catholic Church for reasons best known to himself - possibly the state of the soul of a man who took us into an unjust war on the basis of untruth. None of these ambitions has much to do with the welfare of children, or even with equality.

What really does amaze me about the whole issue is the way that the defenders of the Catholic position are putting this as a matter of defending the rights of the individual to act in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. What is actually at stake is the right of the individual to do what Rome tells them, which is not quite the same thing. When has the Roman Catholic Church ever been keen on the individual conscience in the sense in which that term is standardly meant ? The whole point of Rome is that there is someone in authority who tells you what to think.

We are not talking about the rights of the individual conscience, but rather about the competing rights of two ideologies. I was struck by this point, and the spuriousness of much of the argument, when listening to the head of one of the Catholic Adoption Agencies defending his position, and explaining why he believed himself not to be homophobic. While making it clear that he believed adoption by LGBT people was wrong (because the Pope says so), he also said that he would regard parents as unfit to adopt who could not sincerely say that they would be accepting of a child who turned out in adolescence to be gay. Now, either he was being disingenuous, or he was failing to think this through.

As I understand it, the official position of Rome is that homosexuality is 'intrinsically disordered' and that homosexual acts are intrinsically sinful. So, good Catholic parents are supposed to tell their lesbian and gay teenagers that they are intrinsically disordered and must never have sex with anyone they love ever - which is not what I would call acceptance. (They are also supposed, presumably, to tell trans adolescents that to act on their feelings is to place themselves in a position of perpetual sinfulness that cuts them off from the love of God and the sacraments of the Church until they repent.) You will note that, in this scenario, there is not much room for the individual conscience of the LGBT teenager, who is supposed to listen to the doctrine on sexuality coming from Rome and suck it up. Nor indeed for the parents who are supposed to demonstrate their love for their child by engaging in quite intense and hurtful moral bullying.

So, either Catholic parents place the spiritual welfare of their children, adopted or otherwise, ahead of their physical and mental health, or they are not acting as if they were Catholics in good standing. I make this point because it seems to demonstrate an essential paradox about the Catholic adoption agencies that extends well beyond the situation that would arise in the unlikely event of lesbian and gay couples wanting to adopt via a Catholic agency - which is how can a faith-based agency linked to a faith that regards LGBT people as more than usually sinful ever act in accordance with the interests of LGBT children and adolescents?

I suspect that, because most of the people actually working in those agencies are actually more motivated by professional duty of care than they are by the minutiae of faith, that the problem does not in fact arise. When people of faith are working for secular agencies, they presumably act professionally, or at least one would hope so,(probably against the odds).

We all denounce religious fundamentalists who want to kill sinners as painfully as possible - whether they are imams or American preachers - but the religious among us who do not subscribe to those murderous doctrines have to think through their positions. Either homosexuality is an abomination which deserves death, or it isn't. Either it is possible for a homosexual person to be a devout believer, or it isn't. Either it is wrong to discriminate against LGBT people, or it isn't. Either texts that call for capital punishment of LGBT people are the unerring word of God, or they are not, and if they are not, why should they be treated as having authority in the face of logic and reason? (I will say that again in respect of Christians and leave Muslims to sort out their own position - the grounds for regarding homosexuality as sinful are for the most part texts in the Old Testament and the Koran which regard it as capitally sinful - if you are going to discard the capitally part, why keep any of it. And once you have ditched the Old Testament stuff along with all the stuff about two sorts of textile, or selling your children into slavery, why listen to Paul on the subject any more than we do when it comes to the rights of women?) Weasel words that say we are intrinsically disordered in the eyes of faith but equal in the eyes of secular law just are not enough.

On the basis that we are sinners who deserve to die or be punished, Christians and Muslims have persecuted LGBT people for centuries. If they still think that to be the case, believers are our enemies and should be fought tooth and nail; we have the right to defend our lives and welfare.

If, on the other hand, they do not think that, it is time that they accepted that believers have committed colossal sins against LGBT people - killing us and imprisoning us and smashing up our lives. Apologies are cheap and meaningless - what is called for is acceptance of guilt and a firm purpose of amendment. Or perhaps it would be a good idea for the religious simply to shut the frak up about the whole issue for a century or two.
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