A plea to Catholics: Stand up for equality

I passionately believe that most people are basically decent. I know from experience that people often disagree violently with the official views of their chosen denomination. I know what it’s like to be a member of a church which often stands for things you don’t agree with, and I know what it’s like to be caught in a difficult situation where you’re caught on the hop by a surprisingly unpleasant, reactionary comment in church. There are many times I wish I’d made a point of objecting to some form of ignorance or bigotry from the pulpit, but ended up sitting tight and quietly seething.

So I hope that Catholics in England and Wales are prepared for this weekend. We know that a letter from Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is to be read out at every Catholic church, and we know what it will say. As a result, we are also in a position to check the facts and consider the issues beforehand, rather than having to assess the situation as it arises.

It is possible for every Catholic to verify some important facts. Many countries have gay marriage without any noticeable effect on their culture, marriage rate, or the wider nature of marriage. The church will not, despite some ignorant or dishonest claims to the contrary, be obliged to marry gay couples, nor will they be obliged to recognise these civil marriages, just as they are not obliged to recognise the marriages of divorcees, or even people married in other churches. And this is a simple question of equality, applying perfectly Biblical principles of treating others as we would like to be treated.

It is also possible to question why, if the church’s understanding of marriage is to determine the legal status of certain acts, there are no similar campaigns to ban the remarriage of divorcees, to abolish civil partnerships, or to make adultery a criminal offence. And to wonder what it is about gay marriage in particular that is causing such a vociferous reaction.

Make no mistake – when the letter is read out, it will be a declaration of war on equality. It will be a statement that the church believes it has the right to tell Catholics that some people should have lesser rights than others. And the church has the nerve to compare their opponents to advocates of slavery! I have no doubt that many decent Catholics will disagree with the church’s position. And those Catholics have the perfect opportunity to make their disagreement clear.

So here’s my plea to all Catholics – before attending church, examine your conscience. Ask yourself whether you genuinely support this letter. You may object on grounds of equality. You may object to the selective nature of this complaint, the way it is made, the interference of the church in a civil matter of administrative definitions, or anything else. But if you disagree, please make that disagreement known.

When the letter is read out, don’t sit there and allow yourself to be treated as a captive audience – stand up for your beliefs, and walk out. You don’t need to make lots of noise or create a stir. You know this is coming, so you can sit in a place where you can easily escape. You can leave with dignity, albeit pointedly, and you can return as soon as the letter is finished and the service proper continues. But please, do this to register your protest.

I understand that this may go against the grain. I understand that you may feel a strong connection with the church, even if you disagree with much of what it stands for. But if no one objects, the church will simply carry on doing the same thing. By remaining silent out of loyalty, you are damaging the church in the long run, just as enabling behaviour harms alcoholics. By way of contrast, imagine what would happen if everyone who disagreed with the church on this issue took this simple step to register their protest.

Even the longest journey begins with a single step. Please, take that first step.

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

10 responses to “A plea to Catholics: Stand up for equality”

  1. 2012 and all that says :

    The problem with the Catholic Church, perhaps unlike any other faith, is the depth to which it tries to control its followers. It has a leader who makes no attempt to hide that he is a dictator, it uses guilt to suppress actions and thoughts and threatens temporal and spiritual ostracism for any of its followers that publicly speak out against it.

    I applaud you, but we all know that the Catholic Church will use fair means and foul, tantrums, blackmail and threats to get its way.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I think there’s a parallel with Dawkins’ survey of Census Christians. There are a huge number of Catholics, even regular attenders, who disagree with the church on this matter and many others. And while Rome is more monolithic than any other church, it’s still possible to prompt small, incremental changes. At any rate, there’s no harm in trying.

      Of course, I’m not going to make a difference – I’m just a guy with a blog – but I can’t help dreaming. Imagine if everyone who disagreed with the church on this were to walk out – what proportion would actually be left?

  2. AnotherChristianBlog says :

    I question the use of “equality” in article. I am not fan of the Catholic church but they have every right to stand up against the redefinition of marriage. When you redefine marriage you need to give a basis for doing so.

    Why should we redefine marriage?

    Why does gay-marriage only account for the wedding of two people instead of more?

    Can multiple consenting adults marry?

    Can one consenting adult marry his adult consenting daughter?

    Can a consenting 14 year old marry a 30 year old?

    Why not to all of those? If you deny them the “right” to marry then you aren’t allowing for equality across the board. Do you see the absurdity of your use of “equality”?

    Travis (AnotherChristianBlog.org)

    • AnotherChristianBlog says :

      I meant: I question the use of “equality” in your article. oops

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Awww, why didn’t you mention animals? I had polygamy, incest and paedophilia on my card, and just needed bestiality for a full house.

      To be absolutely clear, are you arguing that all of these are equivalent to gay marriage, or that we’ll end up with them thanks to some sort of slippery slope? I find it very amusing that Christians are so worried about polygamy, when the great heroes of the OT were almost all polygamous, and even in the NT, it’s never prohibited, apart from an insistence that elders (but only elders) should have just the one wife.

      Marriage has been redefined over and over again, even within Christianity, but in the last 2,000 years, it has overwhelmingly been a civil, private matter. So according to the “weight of Christian tradition” argument, gay couples should be free to marry if they want to.

      But the point here is actually very similar to what I was saying in my previous blogpost – it’s easy to seize on sex as a reason/explanation for doing things differently, even when it’s entirely irrelevant. There are no additional complications of consent, inbreeding, inheritance rights or anything else – in every respect apart from the sex of the participants, gay marriage is exactly the same as straight marriage.

      So why should sex make a difference to whether two people can marry? It can’t be children – most churches don’t consider breeding to be an essential element of marriage, and even the Catholic church will marry infertile couples. So what is it, exactly, that makes it so impossible for two gay people to mary each other?

      • AnotherChristianBlog says :

        I was questioning your use of “equality”. Which you still haven’t answered. It is only “equal” if you allow every single person to marry however they want. But you don’t think that should be the case so on what basis should gay marriage be allowed?

        Also, you said “why should sex make a difference” in marriage? Well, it does. Heterosexual couples bestow the benefits of responsible procreation upon society. Homosexuals can’t do that. Thus the government only has an interest in acknowledging marriages that can bestow benefits on it.

        Travis (AnotherChristianBlog.org)

      • Recovering Agnostic says :

        No, not at all. There should be a presumption of equality, but that doesn’t mean everything should be accepted. The point is that you need to actually provide reasons why gay marriage shouldn’t be equal to straight marriage.

        Your argument from procreation might work, if the church refused to marry, and even opposed the civil marriage of anyone who is infertile, or postmenopausal. But that doesn’t happen, does it? Try again.

    • 2012 and all that says :

      Your argument would only work if Christianity invented marriage. The act of union predates Christianity as the tradition was celebrated in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

      Or perhaps we should not consider those proper marriages because they were without the officlal Jesus stamp of approval(TM)?

      • AnotherChristianBlog says :

        If you want to look to the Greeks then you should be willing to accept pedophilia too. God created male and female. You may not accept that but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is simple biology. A man’s penis fits with a female’s vigina. You argue against God but you also argue against science.

        Travis (AnotherChristianBlog.org)

      • Recovering Agnostic says :

        “A man’s penis fits with a female’s vigina”

        A man’s penis also fits with a man’s mouth, hand or anus, and similarly for women’s hands and tongues with their vaginas. But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether their relationships should be recognised by the state.

        Seriously, is that all you’ve got?

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