Earlier this year, in Faith magazine, I asked this question: “Are ‘gay rights’ now the most prominent defining issue delineating—at least in Europe and the US—the gulf between the Catholic Church and the modern world?” This was a rhetorical question inviting the answer, yes: and in the months that followed, I have, it seems to me, been proved right. Related issue after related issue has arisen in public life, in Parliament and in the courts of law, both national and international: here in the United Kingdom, both North and South of the border, the debate has centered on the issue of gay marriage: so I don’t apologize for returning to the subject yet again, so soon after writing about Nick Clegg’s accusation that those opposed to it are bigots.
It is one of those questions that currently seems more and more to be proving, a secularist would say, how out of touch Catholics are with the modern world. To which we would reply, well, not out of touch at all: but certainly, in many ways, and not for the first time, diametrically opposed to contemporary values—though we are hardly alone this time: as I write, the Coalition for Marriage petition against gay marriage has reached a total of 600,783 signatures and by the time this is in print, that total will be considerably higher—you can check its current level and sign the petition while you are about it if you haven’t already done so. I am not sure, but I think that this is the highest ever total for an online petition, and is many, many times the total of the equivalent pro-gay marriage petition, which exists but which keeps a very low profile for that reason.
We will be proved right, in the end, as we were over eugenics in the last century: Hitler dramatically proved us right, and eugenics suddenly went underground. But for most of the first half of the century, only Catholics opposed it: Chesterton was the only major writer who wrote against it, nearly all the rest were enthusiastic supporters. But the trouble with waiting for history to prove us right is that there have to be so many walking wounded—or worse—first.
As I wrote in this column in 2010 about the enforced closure of our adoption agencies: “We are currently passing through a kind of cultural blip, in which these things go unchallenged (except, as usual, by the Catholic Church). Our descendants will look back and marvel at our gullibility. But in the meantime, in the name of human rights, of liberation from “outworn shibboleths” (remember them?) there will be many human casualties. “Oh Liberty,” in the famous words of Madame Roland as she mounted the scaffold, “what crimes are committed in thy name!”
Why is the Catholic Church against, not only gay marriage but all gay unions? It is worthwhile to remind ourselves why. It was spelled out by the CDF, in a document turgidly entitled “Consideration regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”: the title indicates that the document was published (2003) before most countries had actually done it. “Legal recognition of homosexual unions,” it said, “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.” And one of the main effects of this devaluation would, said the CDF, be in its effects on the children adopted by those contracting such unions. The reasons for this are simple enough:
As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.
Pretty bigoted stuff, Nick Clegg would undoubtedly say: but what, Mr Clegg, if the CDF has got it right? The trouble, as I have already suggested, with waiting for history to prove us right is that there have to be so many casualties first. But already, the evidence that the CDF has indeed got it right is beginning to come in, from the USA: though those registering the evidence are of course going though the fires of calumny from gay activists, including accusations of academic dishonesty (why is it we can’t call them bigots?). As the Baptist Press reports:
The University of Texas at Austin has cleared sociology professor Mark Regnerus of academic misconduct after he was excoriated by some in the media over a study showing that parents’ homosexual relationships can have negative effects on children.
Regnerus made headlines in June when his study was published in the widely respected journal Social Science Research. According to his findings, children raised by homosexual parents are more likely than those raised by married heterosexual parents to suffer from poor impulse control, depression and suicidal thoughts.
They are also more likely to require more mental health therapy; identify themselves as homosexual; choose cohabitation; be unfaithful to partners; contract sexually transmitted diseases; be sexually molested; have lower income levels; drink to get drunk; and smoke tobacco and marijuana.
How many years will it be before such findings are acted on? I fear that despite the academic evidence (this is not the only such study), it will take some years before public opinion supporting gay marriage (in the US, currently, this is a majority: here, I’m not sure, evidence is conflicting) goes into reverse, and even longer before gay couples are no longer allowed to adopt children. This is not the beginning of the end: but as Churchill famously said after El Alamein, it may be the end of the beginning. In the end, the Catholic Church, not for the first time when it has defied the Spirit of the Age, will be proved right. But what a lot of suffering is caused before finally the penny drops when the human race gets it wrong as spectacularly as it has this time.
This column first appeared September 18, 2012 in the Catholic Herald of London and is reprinted with permission.