Saturday, October 24, 2009

Civil Unions Bill

We reported last week on the accelerated push by the Irish Government to enact a civil unions bill and we promised to report further on it.

The first thing that needs to be said is that all of the binding international treaties Ireland has signed proclaim the need to protect the family based on marriage between a man and a woman they declare the family to be the natural and fundamental unit group of society. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms this in article 16.3 "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.", and similar Articles appear in two covenants that make up the bill of rights.

The new Bill is a blatant attack on marriage and the family as we know it and will give almost all marriage rights to same-sex couples who register their unions (e.g. shared home protection rights, succession rights, inheritance rights, pension rights, and maintenance rights).

The Bill also includes provisions that could lead to prosecution of, for example, a photographer who may refuse for conscientious reasons to work at civil partnership ceremony or a parish committee which decided for religious reasons not to allow a parish hall to be used for a reception after such a ceremony, or indeed a hotelier who for reasons of personal conviction did not wish his premises to be used for such a purpose. The Bill would allow for the prosecution of a civil registrar who declined for reasons of conscience to process same-sex partnerships. Court cases like these have already been taken in Canada and the US. A case was also taken in Sweden against a pastor who gave a sermon on the biblical understanding of homosexuality.

We commented last week on the position of Catholic politicians and include an article published by the Rev Dr.Vincent Twomey in the WORD Magazine in 2006 on the issue

Can a Catholic vote for ‘Civil Unions’?

The Church has, from the beginning, based her teaching on marriage on the fact that it is neither an accident of history nor something invented by man. Marriage is rooted in human nature, in our bodily, emotional, personal and spiritual make-up.

Marriage, in other words, is God-given. The life-long, complementary union between one man and one woman is by its very nature intrinsically orientated to the conception and education of children. It is part of our God-given human nature as men and women to form such a union in one flesh. It provides the optimum conditions for rearing children. In Christ (that is for the baptized), marriage is a sacrament. The fact that man and wife now share in God's divine life transforms their union into an effective, grace-filled sign of the union of Christ with the Church (cf. Eph 5: 21-33).

But ever since the 19th century, free thinkers have been trying to convince the public that marriage is simply a cultural artifact, something man-made and so to be changed according to felt needs. Their secular view was offered in order to redefine marriage. To a huge extent, it has succeeded.

Its success produced a number of radical transformations in society, most obviously the introduction of divorce as well as the widespread acceptance of contraception and IVF. Divorce denied that marriage was an indissoluble, lifelong union between one man and one woman. Contraception severed sex from the begetting of children. IVF separated children from the conjugal act. With a certain strange inner logic, now a ‘union’ of people of the same sex is recognized by secular states as the equivalent of marriage. Everything is now artificial in the most radical sense possible. Everything is cut off from God's creative plan.

When states attempt to redefine what is part of God's nature, the state is in fact implicitly claiming to be greater than God. The state is claiming to be divine. It is one of the marks of a totalitarian state to consider itself to be unlimited.

Only God is unlimited.

Man cannot play God – or play with nature, His creation – without future generations paying a huge penalty for it. This is the lesson to be learnt from the damage to the physical environment caused by ignoring the demands implicit in physical nature. When, however, man tries to redefine human nature, he does untold damage to the moral and spiritual environment. The first casualty is marriage itself, which will no longer be seen as nature's chosen context for the rearing of children. The well-being of future generations is thus put at risk. Once the primary cell of society, marriage, is undermined, society will in time simply implode. The end result is the law of the jungle, when might becomes right because man does not recognize his God-given limits, the moral law.

Civil unions between people of the same sex have not been described officially as ‘marriages’, but already such bastions of public opinion as the London Times is referring to them as such, albeit in inverted commas. This is understandable, since the difference appears to be just a matter of words. The secular philosopher, Roger Scruton, once defined marriage as the public recognition of private intimacies. It is an inadequate definition, but it does highlight something central. The nature of private intimacies within marriage is such that of their very nature they make it possible for children to be conceived; marriage thus gives society a future. For this reason alone marriage must be given civil recognition.

When the state recognizes civil unions between people of the same sex, it gives public recognition to private intimacies that by their very nature cannot produce children. To ask a Catholic politician or citizen to vote for civil unions is to ask them to give public recognition to acts which the Church has always taught are, objectively speaking, gravely sinful, since they constitute a misuse of our God-given sexuality.

One of the main reasons for giving civil recognition to such couples, on a par with marriage, is to grant them legal entitlements, such as inheritance rights. There is some justification to giving lasting friendships (whatever their nature) some legal entitlements similar to those of the next of kin. But these are rights that can be otherwise regulated by legal contracts. Redefining marriage is too high a price to pay.

Supporters also argue that to deny ‘civil unions’ is to offend against the principle of equality. But equality is based on our God-given human nature, rooted in the fact of being created in the image and likeness of God, not on sexual orientation. Each one has a right to marriage, but not all can marry. Some cannot find a suitable partner; the circumstances of life prevent others from marrying. However, some have an impediment that makes marriage impossible. One such impediment is the incapacity to relate in an appropriate way to a person of the opposite sex.

Any argument in defence of marriage on the part of the Church must first of all address the fundamental assumption behind this tide of public opinion. That is the denial of God's existence and the rejection of the claims He makes on us through His creation, our human nature. Only by recognizing God and his claims on us can we understand the nature of marriage. The negative developments of the past few decades will in time spur Catholics on to a recovery of the human depth and the spiritual richness of the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage.

In sum, a Catholic citizen or politician cannot vote for so-called ‘civil unions’ between people of the same sex.

There have been suggestions that this bill could be amended to limit the damage it will cause however this means that the basic principle of legal recognition of same sex relationships would remain. We believe that complete rejection of this bill in its entirety is essential. It is necessary to appeal to the consciences of each Dail deputy and to demand that the Government do not apply the whip but accept a free vote in this case

Once again we recommend that all TD’s in Dail Eireann (The Irish Parliament) be contacted and you can find out who your local TD's are via this link:

The contact details for the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern are as
follows: Constituency Office: Dermot Ahern TD, 28 Francis Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth (042-9329023) Dáil Office: Dermot Ahern TD, Dáil Éireann, Leinster House,Kildare Street,Dublin 2 (01 618 3000)