Michael Kelly: Church that refuses to deviate from doctrine
CLAIMS that a gay lifestyle leads to early death are now to be supported by evidence from the Catholic hierarchy, writes Michael Kelly
Welcome to the world of politics, Your Grace. Yesterday morning the Archbishop-elect of Glasgow was given a brutal introduction into what life is like in the hot seat. No sooner had he finished serenely posing for pictures in the renovated St Andrews Cathedral than he had to defend himself from a barrage of accusations of homophobia and of making “hurtful and ignorant” comments about the late MP David Cairns.
The fact that his suggestion of a link between a homosexual lifestyle and early death was made some months ago and not in a prepared speech but in a spontaneous retort to a question has in no way lessened the impact of his views.
Labour MP Tom Harris has generously suggested that these were not Bishop Tartaglia’s considered opinions and has urged him to revisit and revise them. Critics agree that unless he was alluding to identifiable diseases such as Aids it is difficult to believe that a well-educated intellectual like Philip Tartaglia could imagine that there was any evidence of such cause and effect. “What”, they ask, “Is the argument that is being made here.” Is it that the moral obscenity, as the Church sees it, of homosexuality imposes such a mental burden on practitioners as to cause their bodies to shut down. If so, surely burglars, violent thugs and drug dealers would feel the same effect. Or is the argument that the physical acts involved are so unnatural as to cause long term damage? Both hypotheses seem equally unsustainable to defenders of lesbian, gay and bisexual lifestyles.
Watching the video (available on the Scotsman’s website) of the archbishop-elect’s answer he is hesitant. He introduces several caveats and cites only anecdotal evidence. In such circumstances, it would seem on the face of it that his best course of action would simply be to withdraw his remarks and avoid further controversy. However, anyone consulting Church sources over this prospect will discover that he has no intention of doing so.
The Church claims that there is concrete medical evidence to support his stance and that it will be developed, expanded and clarified over the coming months. There are a number of strands to the evidence. First, it is claimed, that homosexual sex is guaranteed to increase vastly the risk of acquiring a number of serious infections. Secondly, it is said that the physical damage caused leads to long term adverse medical effects.
Then there are the claimed psychological side effects. The Church claims, for example, that suicide among young gay men is higher than in similar “control” groups. Supporters of the lesbian and gay communities claim that this is due to the pressures put on such young people by homophobic societies. The Church refutes this explanation arguing that suicides in countries like intolerant Saudi Arabia are lower than in liberal California.
Other things may not be equal here, but that is no reason to refuse further investigation. The Church also suggests that fear of telling the “facts” about gay lifestyles suppresses some doctors’ desires to be more open. “What GP,” they ask, “Could in today’s climate suggest a change of lifestyle to a homosexual patient presenting with depression – even when that was professionally considered to be part of the treatment?”
The key point that Bishop Tartaglia will develop once he is consecrated and settled in his new role is that there is already evidence to support his view, evidence which society refuses to acknowledge, evidence which should be confirmed or denied by more scientific and medical research in these areas.
It is hard to argue with that logic. Any objections can only be on the ground that the opposite is so self-evident that these theories need not be explored. Indeed, to do so is homophobic in itself and an attack on human rights. In this way it can be presented as obnoxious as research into, for example, the connection between race and intelligence. However when the main criticism of religion is that it is based on faith, not facts, it is illogical to refuse the Church’s demand for more objective examination of a cause which it believes is at the core to its own ethics and vital to the good of wider society.
All of this is given clearer focus by the Scottish government’s announcement that it is to press ahead with its plans to introduce legislation to permit gay marriages. While it is strange to hear the SNP talk of working closely with the Tories at Westminster to protect religious freedoms, the suspicion still remains that this is Machiavellian buck-passing.
If the two governments are unable to agree timetables for the different bills through the two parliaments conflict Mr Salmond will have the perfect excuse to postpone the redefinition of the meaning of marriage until well after his one-question referendum.
No matter how that scenario unfolds it is clear that the conservative, traditionalist Philip Tartaglia will persist in his attacks, not only on gay marriage but on gay lifestyles in general.
Yet this out of step with some of the Catholic community. Especially among the young, there is a feeling that older clergymen are out of touch with the evolution of society and that a more liberal view on social matters should be taken.
Thus little notice is now paid to the Church’s caution on “mixed” marriages which were anathema in the 1950s. And many Catholics rejected Paul VI’s pronouncement in 1968 on birth control. They stayed in the Church but went their own way on that one.
Unfortunately for them, and for Church members who support gay marriage, Catholicism is not a pic ‘n’ mix religion. The strength of the Church as a moral force is that it takes doctrinal positions and sticks to them no matter the outrage they cause. The Archbishop-elect has committed himself to do precisely that. I just hope he knows what he’s in for.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east