Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Times: The same-sex non-marriage debate
Sunday, May 20, 2012 by Fr Joe Borg

By an overwhelming majority (61 per cent to 39 per cent), North Carolina voters approved an amendment to their constitution declaring that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognised in this state."

This prevents the legalisationof civil unions as well as same-sex marriage.

Then a few days later US President Barack Obama told ABC television interviewer Robin Roberts: "I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

President Obama has consistently been supportive of gay-rights causes, but the present position represents a clear reversal of his 2008 presidential campaign stance that "my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

More recently he said that his views on the issue were "evolving". Not only cynics would marry this position with the poll results showing growing support for same sex marriages in the US. However President Obama, a member of the United Church of Christ, which has formally supported same-sex marriage since 2005, invoked his Christian faith to justify his position: though shall not discriminate.

US House Minority Leader the self-declared "devout Catholic", Nancy Pelosi, spun a similar argument: "My religion compels me - and I love it for it – to be against discrimination of any kind in our country, and I consider this [banning same sex marriage] a form of discrimination."

This argument does not go down well with everyone. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, for example, responding to questions raised by reporters after Obama's statement, said she plans to vote against a bill for same-sex marriage pending in the Australian parliament. "I believe what I believe," the Australian leader declared.

Would a country be in any way guilty of discrimination if it does not legalise same- sex marriage?

Last March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that European nations which define marriage as the union of a man and a woman are not guilty ofdiscrimination.

"The European Convention on Human Rights does not require member states' governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage," the court said.

This decision pulls the carpet from under the feet of those who claim discrimination. Their claim has no legal basis.

In my commentary of April 15 I reproduced a quote from an article in The Tablet by Fr Timothy Radcliffe, a former master-general of the Dominican Order of Preachers. He wrote that the Church is against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage is not about gay rights, he went on to state.

It is about a redefinition of marriage in a way that does not respect a wonderful truth about our humanity: "Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility. Without this, there would be no life on this planet, no evolution, no human beings, no future."

Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage.

The term same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. "It is impossible because it attempts to cut loose marriage from its grounding in our biological life. If we do that, we deny our humanity," Radcliffe said.

This does not mean that rights and duties do not emanate from the cohabitation of same-sex persons or that these same rights and duties should not be regulated by law. The civil consequences of such unions should be well catered for and are still sadly lacking in our country.

Radcliffe's statement does not imply that the dedication and love that one finds in several same-sex relationships should be shunned or considered to be of no value. There are many such relationships which are both humanly rewarding and that enrich the community to which they belong.

However, it does not make sense to try to re-write nature or re-define what it means to be human. As Radcliffe wrote in the above-quoted article, one cannot make a cheese soufflé without the cheese, or wine without grapes. Nor can one make a marriage without a man and a woman. By all means regulate same-sex unions, but do not call it 'marriage'.

• Miracles never cease to happen. That villain of all villains so gruesomely portrayed in Jaws movies is not such a baddie after all. (Films, like the rest of the media, show us reality as it really is, don't they?) Signs that the creature of thestuff of nightmares might be redeemable were already visible.

There are, after all, 400 different species ranging in size from the 17-centimetre lantern shark (Etmopterus perryi) to the approximately 12-metre whale shark (Rhincodon typus). They cannot all be that bad.

Researchers then noticed another important redeeming factor. The species was the proud upholder of intra-professional ethics so much so that sharks never attack lawyers. Slight as they are, these signs are nevertheless positive and heralded stronger proofs yet to come.

The Times (May 15) provided us the mother of all proofs: the first vegetarian shark. Faced by succulent fish and boring lettuce (not of the Marsa type), this shark always chooses the latter. Scholars flung far and wide are considering myriad hypotheses as I write.

But few know that the shark's change of heart probably happened after it devoured a copy of The Book of Living and Dying passed on to it by an honourable Maltese gentleman. This magnum opus of Buddhist philosophy holds many a good counsel, apparently also for sharks sporting fins; though humans would be stupid not to benefit from its teachings.

• "It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place bet­ween people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other.

"Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – in­deed, it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression.

"Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, re­quiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved."

Pope Benedict's Message for World Communications Day, May 20.

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