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Churches Unite In Rare Show Of Inter-faith Co-Operation… Against Gays.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007 at 16:19 by Stephen Ball

Cardinal Murphy-O‚??Connor, the Catholic Cardinal of England, made a statement recently supporting the exclusion of Christian businesses from the upcoming equal rights bill. Now the Anglican Church has taken the same stance, bringing about a sweet moment of unity between the two institutions.

This bill ensures that businesses can‚??t refuse to serve customers solely because those customers are gay. It has started several arguments: the first is from people who think that the Church shouldn‚??t expect to be able to influence UK law in this way, or find it easy to succeed. The second is that, by saying it‚??ll close Catholic adoption agencies if they have to consider gay parents, the Church is essentially using children to blackmail the Government and public.

And the third is between Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, and everyone else in Government. He backs her proposal to let Catholics off the hook, and she doesn‚??t see why this conflict-of-interest immediately makes her unfit for her job as Equality minister (as it has done from her first day). It emerges today that it may actually be Cherie Blair (a committed Catholic) pushing for this, and not Ruth Kelly at all, which would be hilarious. If true, it would make Kelly a hypocrite as well as completely unsuitable for her post, and frankly I‚??d laugh.

I could almost be sympathetic to the Catholic Church if they‚??d used different language. After all, it would be unreasonable to make them to rent out the Church hall to Satanists who are planning to defile it in a ceremony involving the blood of virgins, because that would be deeply offensive to the Christians‚?? religion. Well, Cardinal Murphy-O‚??Connor is arguing that this is a similar situation: that it would force Christians to provide for behaviour that is against Christian principles. As far as the religion is concerned, Homosexuality is against the rules.

The exact words used by people protesting the debate in the House of Lords recently casts a much nastier light on things, and they are why I have no sympathy at all for the Church‚??s position. The phrases we‚??re hearing state that Christians should be free to ‚??follow their conscience, act according to their morals and not have to tolerate behaviour that the Church teaches them to disapprove of‚?Ě. The Vatican declares that homosexuality is ‚??wrong‚??, which by definition means they think it goes against God‚??s plan. The debate about whether being gay is a lifestyle choice or genetic in origin isn‚??t even looked at ‚?? Leviticus says it‚??s wrong, Paul makes a generally-misunderstood comparison mentioning it, and while Jesus isn‚??t on record as having an opinion, the Vatican says no. So there‚??s nothing to talk about. The Pope is, after all, infallible.

All these statements imply that the Christians would be stopped from taking the more moral option, the right one. The alternative (ie: businesses having to cater to homosexuals) is therefore less moral, eg: damaging and evil, and the Church wants it’s members to be able to ‚??discourage‚?? gay behaviour if they choose.

As an ex-Catholic (albeit a heterosexual one), I feel I can shed some light on all this, and should do so in the most provocative manner I can think of. Bearing in mind that I now officially rate as ‚??heathen scum‚?Ě, here is the completely exaggerated version:

“The usual approach from the Church is to see being homosexual as deeply unfortunate, but still recoverable as long as you decide to never do anything about it. We‚??ll overlook that you‚??re an ungodly deviant, provided you never act on it because that would be Bad. Sure, if we‚??re truly born gay then your soul is somehow inferior, and you‚??re probably destined for Hell, but we don‚??t look too hard at that. After all, ANYONE can be forgiven for their failures and faults, even you! What‚??s important is that Homosexuality is a ‚??Sin‚?Ě, and therefore by going around being homosexual you are actively spreading evil in the world, and doing the Devil‚??s work. You are inherently less holy and further away from God. It‚??s a taint, really. As long as you feel suitably guilty and ask for forgiveness every time you have any sexual thoughts, and never, ever act on them, it‚??s possible you‚??ll be okay.”

And here‚??s the tricky part: while most modern laity and clergy will soften this message with realistic modern attitudes and compassion, as far as the Church is concerned none of the above paragraph is technically incorrect. People can be reasonable, lovely, caring and open-minded, and most Christians I‚??ve met (at every level) are just that. They‚??ll ignore some parts of Church teaching or Scripture they feel are outdated and irrelevant today (eating shellfish being a sin, for example, or how to sell your daughters into slavery, etc) but that doesn‚??t mean the official version doesn‚??t still say it. The Cardinal has to uphold what‚??s written in the rules, and nothing else. The Pope decreed what the stance would be, and he has a direct hotline to Upstairs, so he can‚??t be wrong.

I don‚??t object to the fact that such policies will make gay Christians guilt-ridden and afraid for their souls (that seemed to be the preferred approach for everyone) because while I might not agree with the Church on… well, anything at all, everyone has a right to believe what they want. I do have a problem when it affects UK law - see, the government has decided that being gay is allowed. Therefore, it absolutely must pass this equality bill with no exceptions, because modern criminal law is not Church business. Catholics are free to say ‚??our faith tells us this is wrong‚?Ě, but they‚??re not allowed to take those prejudices into the world and discriminate based on them ‚?? that‚??s what the law protects against. (Again, most Christians of any denomination I‚??ve met would never do this anyway, I‚??m just illustrating a point.)

I‚??m not limiting this to one Church ‚?? the Anglicans are in on it too and they‚??re properly following their faith‚??s rules in just the same way. Their official message should be the same, for the same reasons. I just have more experience with the branch who first decided they needed to take a stand against equal rights for gay people.

I actually knew Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O‚??Connor years ago, back when he was a Bishop. He bought me a beer several times while he led a group of us on annual Pilgrimages helping disabled and terminally-ill pilgrims in the south of France, and he didn‚??t seem to be a bad guy. True, he‚??s had some scandals since then (possibly moving a paedophile priest around instead of reporting him, being a bit hard-nosed and political, that kind of thing) but I‚??d guess you‚??d have to be. As far as this week‚??s story goes, he could have done nothing different: the Church‚??s mind is already decided on this, and he should have been fired if he took any other position. He‚??s the Cardinal, and he has a duty to protect the Church and do what the Pope says.

Sure, I could focus on the fact they’re essentially saying “Gays are bad because a book told us so”, and how I personally consider large parts of the Bible to be an appallingly misunderstood mistranslations of a translation of a transliteration, copied under duress, of a Paulian misinterpretation of a Gnostic Allegory… but as I already said about Leviticus above, the Book isn’t the point. Church leaders could issue an edict on homosexuality if they wanted to, but the fact is that the Pope doesn’t want to.

Chances of Pope Ratzinger changing his mind about gays anytime soon = Zero.

This is a test for the Government: to ensure that the law doesn‚??t read “treat gay people equally‚?¶ unless you think they‚??re evil”, to see if they can actually rule against something Tony supports, and to finally show that Ruth Kelly is rubbish and should resign.

Sorry, that last one slips out whenever I type her name, because she‚??s rubbish and should re- doh, there it goes again.

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4 Comments on “Churches Unite In Rare Show Of Inter-faith Co-Operation… Against Gays.”

  1. Matt Freeman Says:

    I also think it’s ludicrous that the Church are seeking an exemption because they say a book says it’s all right for them to be discriminatory.

    Harriet Harman has also spoken recently on this, saying “You can’t be a bit against discrimination”.

    Discriminating against homosexuality is illegal, and I don’t believe anyone should have the right to avoid that (unless, say, they own lots of land and have pots of cash - hmmm, maybe I’ve hit on something here…)

  2. Stephen Ball Says:

    I think you’re absolutely right - discriminating is illegal, and that’s what this is.

    There have been several cases of the Church saying “but we don’t want to condone this ‘behaviour’ and you making us is oppressing our religion.” (One girl in the US actually tried to sue her University for not letting her protest against the Uni gay society, because she was christian and her relgion told her not to tolerate gays.)

    Whether it’s from a book (and apart from Leviticus which has it’s own problems, it’s not actually very clear in that book) or just something that a lot of people with Christian views find agrees with the general direction of the teachings anyway (sex isn’t that popular with the church at all, really) it’s still down to the current pope to rule on it.

    And since that’s Ratzinger, there’s NO WAY AT ALL it’s going to change :) He’s *hilariously* against homosexuality.

  3. Matt Freeman Says:

    “One girl in the US actually tried to sue her University for not letting her protest against the Uni gay society, because she was christian and her relgion told her not to tolerate gays.”

    Actually I don’t agree with that. The Uni has no right to stop her protesting - but neither does it owe her any protection against retaliation. Heh.

    I think she can protest all she likes - she’s going to look pretty silly.

    The whole “the Pope is infallible” thing is a piece of absolute genius, by the way. I can’t express my admiration for someone who managed to think that one up AND get it approved.

  4. Stephen Ball Says:

    It wasn’t so much the protesting - she has a right to any views, as long as they don’t incite violence/hatred etc. But she basically DID want to incite extreme intolerance of the gay club, and claimed that she wasn’t allowed to express her religion when the Uni told her to tone it down.

    As for looking silly… well, it depends on the part of the country. Another story this week about a school expelling a girl when it found out she had lesbian parents, etc.

    I’m quietly impressed by the “Pope talks directly to God” bit, it really can’t be beat. I like how they announced that “Limbo” no longer existed a while back. My Mum was made to pray for all the unbaptised babies who could never go to heaven, but would be stuck in limbo forever. Now apparently the church has ruled in never existed. Gotta love that Papal infallibility.

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