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September 05th 2017 print

Alistair Nicholas

The Jesuitical Case for Gay Marriage

In making his case for same-sex marriage, man of the cloth and the Left Frank Brennan calls on reason to genuflect before sophistry. He should heed a fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis, who rates homosexual unions not even 'remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family'

marriage IIWe shouldn’t be surprised at Frank Brennan’s announcement (made at the 2017 Lionel Bowen Lecture) that he would vote “yes” in the same-sex marriage postal survey. After all, Brennan has long been given to Left causes – former Prime Minister Paul Keating, a prominent Catholic, once referred to Brennan as a “meddling priest” for his activism on behalf of native title claims in the 1990s.

Nor should we be surprised to see the legal academic and Jesuit employ Jesuitical casuistry. I am aware of the tautology in that sentence, but Brennan seems to have taken Jesuitical slyness to a new level that justifies reiteration.

His reason for voting ‘Yes’ was that recognising same-sex marriage would be in the “common good” because:

  1. Civil marriage in Australia is already in a parlous state, thanks to no-fault divorce and the ability to remarry ad seriatim;
  2. To ensure gay couples coming to Australia from countries that allow same-sex marriage can continue to enjoy the same legal rights they did in countries that recognise “marriage equality”; and,
  3. The rising number of children being brought up by same-sex couples have a right to public “respect and affirmation of their family arrangements”.

Interesting arguments. Let’s look at them more closely.

It is certainly true that civil marriage is in a parlous state in Australia, as it is in many countries of the world. Couples can separate and remarry as often as they like without much forethought as to the consequences of their actions for themselves, for their children, or for society. Indeed, not even adherents of Catholicism are immune to this social epidemic. But it seems a strange argument – indeed a leap of logic — for supporting gay marriage. It amounts to Brennan throwing up his hands and saying, ‘we can’t stop slipping down the pole, so let’s just let go and see where we end up’. Where we will end up, Father, is at the bottom of the heap.  Should we also legalise marriage for consenting adults in polygamous and incestuous relationships because traditional marriage is in an uncertain predicament?

The second argument, which is to allow immigrant gay couples to enjoy the same legal rights they had in their home countries, is equally absurd. Taken to its full extent we should recognise the polygamous marriages of migrants from jurisdictions that recognise polygamy. That, of course, could ease a problem for many Muslim men whose second, third and fourth wives do not enjoy the privileges of state sanctioned marriage in Australia. In fact, let’s go all-out on this one and  establish an immigration programme to attract traditional Mormons and polygamous animists, not to mention China’s polyandrous Tibetans and Mosou minorities.

And then there’s that final argument about the rights of the children of same sex couples to “respect and affirmation of their family arrangements”. I would have thought that a more fundamental right is that of every child to both a mother and a father. But let’s leave that aside lest I be accused of homophobia. If we take Brennan’s argument to its logical conclusion, don’t other children have an equal right to “respect and affirmation of their family arrangements”? In fact, why not extend this right to children of polygamous relationships? And what about children of incestuous relationships? What about their rights? Don’t all children have the right to respect and affirmation of their family arrangements?

Brennan, as a professor of law, should understand that the rights of children do not stem from legal recognition of the status of their parents, otherwise we would have to legalise a range of crimes so children are not stigmatised by their parents’ actions. Rather, human rights flow to individuals because of the Judeo-Christian principle that we are all created in the image of God. On that basis, children of gay couples deserve protection from bullying and other forms of harassment (as do the children of criminals), and the right to equal opportunities that all children should enjoy regardless of who their parents are or what their parents believe or do.

It’s not about their parents; it’s about each of them as people and the concept of human dignity.

You see, Fr Brennan, once you get on that slippery pole, gravity does the rest. Ethics, morality, and law have to be based on firm, objective principles. Subjectivism and moral relativism eventually drag you down to the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps Fr Brennan should pay attention to fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis, on this important issue. In Amoris Laetitia, Francis stated “there are no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”.  No equivocation or compromise there, Fr Brennan. Faithful Christians and other conservatives expect the same principled stand from you, not sophistry.

Alistair Nicholas is a Sydney-based public affairs executive and a conservative writer

Comments [10]

  1. Blair says:

    “Should we also legalise marriage for consenting adults in polygamous and incestuous relationships’
    If marriage includes same sex relationships, should two brothers (or two sisters) be legally allowed to marry each other? If not, why?

  2. Richard H says:

    Children have a right to public “respect and affirmation of their family arrangements”, says Brennan.

    But it’s not the children’s “family arrangements”, it’s the “family arrangements” of the two adults, of whom only one (at most) is actually a parent of the child.

    What Brennan is actually arguing for is “respect and affirmation” for homosexual relationships, not for children’s rights as he pretends. Jesuitical indeed.

  3. Doubting Thomas says:

    I cannot understand how anyone can take Fr Brennan seriously on this same sex marriage issue. As an Australian adult citizen, he is as free as any other to hold a view about same sex marriage, and to vote in the plebiscite according to his conscience. However, he is a Roman Catholic priest, albeit a typically Bolshie Jesuit, and as such he is surely duty bound to adhere to the Church’s official policy in his public utterances. The Church lost me for good in the wake of Vatican II, so it is many years since I examined Roman Catholic doctrine in any detail, but I’ve neither seen nor heard of any change in the Church’s policy in relation to homosexuality. If Alistair Nicholas has accurately reported Pope Francis’s statement in Amoris Laetitia, the Church seems to be holding firmly to that policy in the related same sex marriage question.

    A former priest of my acquaintance was effectively “defrocked” by his Bishop (a distant relative of mine) for speaking publicly in favour of positive birth-control for Catholic women. That Brennan can pontificate with apparent impunity on such matters is a measure of how the Church’s discipline has been eroded in this post-modern age, particularly when there has been no detectable change in doctrine.

    Whatever the objective merits of Brennan’s stated rationale, if any, his position is hypocritical and he should retract or resign his priesthood.

  4. Warty says:

    And now Greg Sheridan, of all people, is arguing for SSM. His dry as dust argument arises from the head (ideology) as opposed to the heart (conviction) and is at odds with his purported conservatism.
    Janet Albrechtsen, a journalist I’d greatly respected, has been persuaded by her now twenty year old daughters to vote Yes. I have a dim memory of myself as a twenty year old and I was as mad as a cut snake. Looking back, it’s as though he was another person, so I feel no need to feel embarrassed, but I can’t think of such an excuse for the allegedly mature Greg and his colleague Janet. I mean, why would Janet allow her daughters to do the thinking for her; and why would Greg turn his back on his Christian principles?

    • pabloAU says:

      Agreed. Life experience of teenagers, twenty-something does not qualify them to decide on changes affecting aspects of a civilization. J.A. followed advice of her daughters who are in their 20s? Well well. On the other hand, this is a sign that the left can now claim not only arts and public institutions, but also education. J.A. also promotes libertarian conservatism… Is there such thing? Her stand is simply libertarian. Is it because she does not want to anger some people/colleagues from IPA? What is her conservatism conserving here if she supports ssm?

    • Salome says:

      Albrechtsen has misinterpreted the meaning of ‘freedom’. People should realise that same-sex marriage isn’t banned–it simply isn’t provided for, that is, it isn’t possible. But the law doesn’t restrict the freedom of same-sex couples to set up their households and the bedrooms as they choose, and most States and Territories will allow them to register their relationships (which very few bother to do) in order to enjoy all the presumptions that there is a committed domestic relationship in place. Marriage is marriage, however, and extending its definition to encompass other arrangements is a nonsense. As for Sheridan’s ‘argument’–perhaps he espouses the ‘nice heresy’–you know, the one that believes that Jesus was always nice and never criticised anyone an never offended anyone. Nice, inoffensive people get crucified every day, of course.

      • Warty says:

        In actual fact Greg would know better (with regards to Christ being merely ‘nice’). He actually went to Saint Clement’s Junior Seminary, in Galong (Riverina). He’d also be familiar with Christ’s injunction to the adulteress, whom he saved from being stoned to death, when he said ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Before allowing her to go on her way he said ‘sin no more’. There was sufficient open mindedness to prevent her death sentence, as custom allowed, but that was not a capitulation to the contemporary sin of adultery.
        Greg, and Janet have meekly accepted a decline in community standards, which would be akin to Christ sending the young woman on her way with a wink, whispering ‘have one for me’. For those who repeatedly say ‘SSM is inevitable’ are also meekly capitulating. Nothing is inevitable, unless people keep on saying it is.

  5. Warty says:

    On other difficulty in conducting the sort of argument Alistair Nicholas does is that we are living in an increasingly secular world, hence the rise of moral relativism. If you reject Christianity you have to resort to whatever it is the contemporary legal system provides, but then that in itself is subject to change, and has done enormously since the Declaration of Human Rights that seeks to implement an essentially Marxist concept of equality.
    For a Christian, and one that takes the laws of Moses seriously, the understanding is that this world is transitory and that the individual is a mere traveller. He or she acknowledges that one’s actions, one’s beliefs amount to a preparation for the world to come. The practise of that, which Christian doctrine considers to be sordid, has a profound effect on the individual, regardless of whether or not that particular individual considers it to be sordid: the individual becomes those things he practices: just as a doctor perfects his skill and knowledge base by immersing himself in the literature, conferences and training courses aimed at increasing his knowledge: he becomes a skilful practitioner. An aside . . . ‘sodomy’ is a word ‘Yes’ campaigners never use, perhaps because it resonates with the very taint incurred by the practice.
    The individual that believes that this world is all that there is, and that there is no life after death, no consequences following the things engaged in the here and now, feels little or no inhibition in doing or saying anything he or she likes, and the worse it becomes so long as he believes there are no consequences. Unfortunately the truth of the matter operates regardless of what the individual thinks about the matter; and as the saying goes right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right, and everyone in society is affected regardless. In the end there is no lust, there is no sin and there is no degradation: it is all a matter of moral relativism: one man’s sense of disgust is another’s indulgence.

    • Homer Sapien says:

      Yes, the word “sodomy”, plus the ensuing health risks I might add, are avoided like the plague by our “yes” campaigner friends who seem to be smarter by a country mile.