Catholic Bishops over-reach on marriage equality

It’s not a surprise that the NZ Catholic Bishops have chosen to oppose Louisa Wall’s Bill for marriage equality. After all, they opposed Homosexual Law Reform, they opposed human rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and they opposed Civil Unions. I’m beginning to sense a theme.

The Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter  is addressed to ‘Kiwis of Generation Y’ and is entitled “From the Beginning of Creation”. I won’t take apart the whole letter but believe it could charitably be described as confused. Essentially the Bishops assert that the Church should not be able to define marriage, but then proceed, as the Church, to tell not only Church-going Catholics but also (explicitly) the entirety of Generation Y what they should think about the issue and the Bill. They also assert that it is not for legislators to define marriage, saying instead that “civil law reflects and protects human nature”.

I respond by saying that there is overwhelming evidence that ‘human nature’ is, in fact, a very broad spectrum, which includes homosexual and bisexual orientation. 

The Bishops argue that it is, instead, tradition that should determine what the law says. Well, I accept that there is a relationship between the two, but a causal relationship is nonsensical. Consider, for example, some of the Catholic Church’s own traditions. Let’s take torturing and burning heretics as an example. Ought the law to provide for this? Of course not, because the tradition violated fundamental human rights, and because the social culture and values that sustained the tradition have changed.

Overall, twice as many New Zealanders support this change as oppose it. But for Generation Y, to whom the Bishops’ letter was addressed, four times as many support as oppose it.

Yesterday a conservative wing of the Presbyterian Church also came out in opposition to the Bill, and I’m sure other churches will have members who oppose it, although I have no evidence that the proportion of Christians who oppose the Bill is any larger than in society generally, where scientific public opinion surveys show it to be around 30%.

A significant group of Church leaders who support the Bill were so concerned by the letter from the Catholic Bishops that they published their own letter in response.

For me the Bishops’ position wasn’t a surprise – after all, notwithstanding the extraordinary sexual diversity of the natural world – their Boss in Rome believes homosexual acts to be “intrinsically disordered”. Even though the Church also apparently believes that:

“Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexual persons] regard should be avoided,” (2258 in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church)

the New Zealand Bishops have nonetheless opposed every initiative proposed to reduce or eliminate discrimination. How refreshing it would have been if the Bishops had, instead, said “marriage is both a civil contract and, in the eyes of the church, a sacrament. It is our constant belief that the latter has to be between a man and a woman since the validity of sacramental marriage has to be established by consummation. However, over the years theidea of marriage as a civil contract has developed in many ways (the easy availability of divorce for example). Any opposition to gay marriage, therefore, should be debated on its civil merits without regard to the Church’s religious position which will not be directly affected: is it necessary for justice to all? Is it in any way damaging to the civil contract? We have in the past made clear that while the church disapproves of homosexuality, the individual homosexual must not be discriminated against in any way.”

They say a picture says a thousand words. I don’t believe any number of words I could write would respond to the Bishops better than this video. Love is love.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TBd-UCwVAY']

27 thoughts on “Catholic Bishops over-reach on marriage equality

  1. Needless to say, we shouldn’t be listening to anything any church/religious organisation has to say on any kind of civil rights or moral issue..

  2. Well, sometimes they can be very good, even the Catholics, which I say as an ex-Catholic of 35 years. Some of the work the local clergy did in central America on human rights abuses, for instance, was courageous and cost their lives, so the record is not all bad. Unfortunately, when it comes to sexual issues, many churches simply lose their minds and the Catholic church is about the very worst.

  3. Thank you for this insight into the bishops letter. While addressing generation Y, they are effectively disenfranchising all those of that generation who are struggling with their sexuality. I put myself in Gen Y’s shoes and felt ignored, even eliminated from the message, as of I didn’t matter or exist. They are so out of touch they should just stay out of the issue.

  4. The reality is that the catholic church doctrine come from the Bible (2000 years old?) & their leaders follow traditions from the middle ages. Its the 21st century & time to move on.
    Its interesting that many people oppose the so-called ‘nanny state’ & yet on so many issues they follow along like sheep.

    Kia-ora

  5. The Bishops’ letter seems to not only reject extending marriage, but, by defining marriage as a institution for people with, or planning to have, children, to call for its restriction.

  6. I don’t understand how they expect anyone to take them seriously on any ‘moral’ issue, considering they thought it was ok for priests to fuck children.

  7. @Sylvie: “thought”?
    You mean “they think it IS OK”. They still actively cover up their pedophile priests..

  8. Some comments are a little unfair, like any organisation there is the practice of cover up of internal corruption – while keeping children at risk is “unforgiveable”, the churches fear of any clerical association with sexual acts is pathological and provides the context.

    The problem is the Papal declarations on matters of morality that derive from biblical passages. It is apparently more difficult for them to concede ground that it was/is for some other churches to accept a limitation of the authority of the bible word across time. Their positions become unchanging theological certainty associated with the Pope being the vicar of Christ and any change is seen as a betrayal. The sort of betrayal they associate with other churches – because of a rebellion against due authority.

    On divorce, the bible does not ban it. It was available to Jews, Christians were allowed it too, what was proscribed for the latter was a divorced person re-marrying. Some churches will not marry divorced people – Prince Charles did not re-marry in a church wedding.

  9. This debate should revolve around a ‘cost to benefit’ ratio in redefining marriage.
    i.e. Would the government redefining marriage cause more harm than good to society?

    I argue that it would, it would tell every young heterosexual couple that there is nothing particularly special about a committed relationship that involves genetic offspring that your government should uphold your exclusive tradition.

    Bearing in mind that young heterosexual couples will always bear the majority of the burden for producing strong, healthy NZers, you have to be crazy to accept redefining marriage is a good thing.

    This will cause erosion of the very relationships that our government should be encouraging, it is absolutely ridiculous that this aspect is not being discussed and we are still concerned about what the most discredited church in the world has to say.

  10. “Cost to benefit”. What kind of garbage is that? You’re talking about peoples rights and you want to do a “cost to benefit” analysis?

    How does equal marriage stop straight couples from getting married and breeding? All it’s doing is recognising that gay couples can be in the same kind of loving relationships as straight couples.

    Basing an argument for keeping a group of people second class citizens on “tradition” is a bullshit argument. “We’ve always done it this way, therefore we’ll stop anyone from changing it”

    You know what “erodes” relationships? Divorce. Lets ban divorce. Problem solved.

  11. shunda, oh the irony – for your argument line (in relation to civil law) is the same as being made by the church that you think we should simply ignore.

    They also assert that “it is not for legislators to define marriage, saying instead that “civil law reflects and protects human nature”.

    … many partners rearing older children will be happy to be called young couples.

    However, demographics being what they are, many children are raised by de facto couples, sole parents and with “second” partner families.

    Society has an interest in the successful rearing of children and helping families, but determining that this can be done via proscription is divisive.

  12. “Cost to benefit”. What kind of garbage is that? You’re talking about peoples rights and you want to do a “cost to benefit” analysis?

    It was in reference to Kevin’s previous post on this issue where his concern was for how the current marriage law made young gay people feel inferior, I am arguing that changing it could actually trigger the same issue for a much greater proportion of society.
    There is no such thing as a perfect law.

    How does equal marriage stop straight couples from getting married and breeding?

    It won’t, but it could weaken the value it has for young heterosexual couples.

    All it’s doing is recognising that gay couples can be in the same kind of loving relationships as straight couples.

    But they can’t be in the same situation as my wife and I with our 4 genetically related children, my genes, her genes, male/female, fundamentally different relationship and a fundamentally different relationship dynamic.

    Basing an argument for keeping a group of people second class
    citizens on “tradition” is a bullshit argument.

    Well it’s just as well that is not my argument then isn’t it. The state has a responsibility to ensure legal equality (civil unions), not perceived equality. I don’t believe the state has any business in redefining the traditions of it’s citizens.
    If there are issues regarding adoption, then lets deal with those issues independently.

    This debate should never have been about religion at all, it should have always been about whether it is ok for heterosexuals to have an exclusive tradition.
    I think it is ok because the tradition has value in providing a stable element for child rearing which will always primarily be done by young heterosexual couples. The state has an interest in this for obvious reasons, so in my opinion an exclusive heterosexual tradition is entirely reasonable.

    Heterosexual couples have a different and essential role to play in society, and it looks as though they need all the help they can get from my vantage point.
    An exclusive recognition of this is extremely helpful.

  13. However, demographics being what they are, many children are raised by de facto couples, sole parents and with “second” partner families.

    Referencing a minority component of ‘the breeding stock’ is irrelevant.

    I could argue that a higher proportion of children in these situations have issues with abuse, deprivation, and poverty, which only strengthens my argument for a state sanctioned stable relationship to help solve these issues.

    Kids do best in a stable loving environment, traditional marriage ideals provide the best chance at attaining such an environment.

  14. Having the existing “state sanctioned” relationship coincides with the abuse, deprivation and poverty.

    And proscription against families not seen as ideal – such as a denial of access to WFF tax credits to beneficiary parent children families is harmful to children.

    Bandying terms like majority and minority component of child rearing is also a divisive approach – and in any case the majority of children are being raised up by de facto couples, sole parent families and in second (marriage) families.

  15. What have ideals to do with state marriage law? Ideals are not imposed or legislated.

    What your real concern is I am not sure – the number of children raised up by heterosexual couples (in marriages or marriages that last for life) will not change if others can also marry.

  16. Shunda,

    “But they can’t be in the same situation as my wife and I with our 4 genetically related children, my genes, her genes, male/female, fundamentally different relationship and a fundamentally different relationship dynamic.”

    What a bigot you are. Because I have a foster child who is not genetically related, does this make my family less worthy than yours, and my relationship not worthy of marriage? What about heterosexual couples who cannot have children (or choose not to have children) for whatever reason? Does this mean they shouldn’t qualify for marriage either?

    In any case, marriage is between two people (we’re not talking about polygamy here). Maybe God enters the relationship if you are religious. So how on earth does the nature of the relationship between other people you don’t know impinge on the value of your marriage? Its a bit like saying the existence of other religions somehow devalues your own religion … this is patently not true. So let people get on with their own lives how they want to (it’s not like anyone is getting hurt) and basically mind your own business.

  17. and basically mind your own business.

    Mind my own business?

    Well gee whiz samiuela, that’s exactly what I’m doing, (being a signed up participant of marriage and all), perhaps you need to learn to be a bit more tolerant of other peoples opinions instead of ignorantly shouting them down and screaming bigot at the top of your lungs.

    You crated a magnificent straw man though, biggest in the thread so far.

    Clap clap.

  18. Samiuela is a great example of the “shout em down and push em out” crowd, desperate to create ridiculous straw men (to cover for a lack of a considered opinion) and then smash em to bits in one hard hitting post.

    It works well for your peers sam, but don’t for a second think your approach is any different to what drunken football hooligans do.

    Perhaps you could consider for a single second that generalisations actually do have a place and a purpose.

  19. What have ideals to do with state marriage law? Ideals are not imposed or legislated.

    Marriage is only about ideals for goodness sake. The state simply recognised them on behalf of it’s citizens.

    Once again, now we are touching on what this is really all about for most ‘redefiners’.

  20. Shunda,

    You were the one who wrote that you and your wife with your four biological children have a fundamentally different relationship with fundamentally different dynamics which entitles yourself to special treatment (being able to get married) that others shouldn’t get.

    Well if that’s what you think, fine. But I stand by my comments that I wrote earlier. The type of relationship and family I or anyone else has is none of your fucking business, so don’t try and tell us what we can or cannot do. And I object strongly to your unwritten implication that your particular type of family is somehow better and more deserving. If two men or two women want to get married, that is their decision, and it has nothing to do with you, just as I would not expect a gay couple to say that me and my wife’s relationship is not as valuable as theirs.

  21. Sam, you have your bigot radar running on such high friggin voltage that you completely misunderstood the point I was making.

    I can’t be bothered with angry people like you anymore, I used to thrive on that on these blogs (due to my own unresolved issues) but I don’t like doing it anymore.

    I never claimed I was superior to you or anyone else.

  22. It’s interesting that I hear the media talking about churches bashing homosexuals while I have seen the other side of the coin as well. I am not denying that the unfortunate bashing has and is taking place from some churches but also exists is the bashing of the church as a whole. Not all churches approach topics and issues the same. I only wish that there was not so much painting with the same brush when it comes to describing the church. Those who preach intolerance are often some of the most intolerant people I have ever seen. Just saying.

  23. @Destiny Church: Look at history.. look at who started the which hunts?

    Oh, turns out it was the various churches! Oh and look, the destiny church is anti-gay. How is it surprising that gay people are bashing you for it?

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