Principle, conscience, beliefs

Well, it’s difficult for nice Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, clearly, but – but he does fall back on a lot of emotive but undefined terms, doesn’t he. As do Sentamu and Williams. They all do – because they have to, because they have nothing else to say. What else are they going to do? Just say ‘we hate poofters, they’re icky!’? Say they just can’t stand the thought of men humping each other, it makes them come over all trembly, so they have to dig their little episcopal heels in and say No? Apparently not. So instead of that they just say resounding nothings, that don’t mean anything until the meaning is specified, which it never is. It’s all conscience, and principle, and church teachings, and beliefs, and sensitivities, and morality, and the family, and a man and a woman.

We don’t believe in discrimination – homosexuals should be treated with respect and sensitivity – but the best way of bringing up a child, and the government says so, too, is having a mother and a father.

That’s as concrete as the Cardinal gets. But even if it’s true, it doesn’t cover the subject, because 1) there are more children needing adoption than there are mother-father couples wanting to adopt them and 2) there is more than one thing to compare with the mother-father option: there are gay couples but there are also single gays (which the church does allow, making the cardinal’s remark irrelevant), single straights, potentially (I would suggest) other adult groups, and – last but decidedly not least – institutions. Even if mother and father is the best option, what the cardinal fails to address is the question whether institutions are better than gay couples – and everybody who’s not stark raving mad agrees that responsible loving couples of any kind are better than institutions. So the cardinal’s comment there is beside the point on at least two counts. And that’s his best effort.

Moral views may be changing but our view is rational and has been held for many, many years in this country as the normality. Shall we leave it there?

No. Here’s why. Your view is not rational, for the reasons cited above among others, and the fact that it has been held for many years does not make it so, as you and anyone who pays attention ought to know perfectly well. All sorts of hateful views get held for many many years as normality; it happens all the time; that doesn’t magically make the hateful views nice or okay or acceptable or moral.

We’re not talking about huge numbers. It’s a principle…This is about the rights of the government to legislate, but is also about the rights of conscience – the rights of large numbers of citizens to live according to their beliefs.

But what kind of principle? What kind of conscience? What kind of beliefs? They’re only as good as they are, Cardinal.

Catholics are obliged to obey the law, just like any citizen, but I believe there is such a thing as conscientious objection. On adoption, our beliefs in the primacy and the foundations of family life are a matter of conscience to us.

One that justifies you in a priori excluding gays from being considered for adoption? My conscience says no. It’s a principle.

11 Responses to “Principle, conscience, beliefs”