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Have the Iona Institute won a battle — and lost the war?

A few years ago a delegation of bishops, hand-picked by Rome, arrived to run the rule over the Irish Church. That things had gone awry wasn’t in doubt. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the world, as a Church we were less than we were and well short of what we might have been. Rome wanted to know what went wrong and why and how it could be put right again.
The hope was that wise and learned men would be able to diagnose the roots of the problem and suggest ways of putting things right. Getting the Irish Church back on track again.
One of the proposed anti-dotes to the ‘Irish troubles’ was to put manners on ‘dissident priests’. It didn’t take long for the finger to be pointed at a new grouping of priests, the Association of Irish Priests (ACP), set up a year or so earlier.
We (the ACP) thought in our innocence that we were going to be part of the solution but we found ourselves being designated as part of the problem. Our worst fears were realised when a member of the Iona Institute agreed with an RTE presenter on a popular morning radio show that ‘dissident priests’ should be pushed out of the Catholic Church.
It didn’t seem to occur to the Iona spokesperson – though we feared that maybe it did – that this could involve for the more likely suspects a loss of earnings, accommodation, job and identity, in effect the devastation of one’s life. All of that didn’t seem to matter much. Iona was indulging in a form of cheer-leading, the equivalent of urging the hounds to kill the fox – not a happy place to be, especially for the fox.
Indeed if the defamation had been personalised, there was a great temptation to pursue Iona for compensation. A temptation certainly but whatever it might glean by way of dosh or satisfaction it would have compromised our position in the developing debate about the platform of reform we were proposing for the Irish Catholic Church. If you insist on being in the kitchen, you can’t really start complaining about the heat.
In the recent controversy about homophobia when Rory O’Neill named the Iona Institute and a number of journalists as ‘homophobic’, Iona’s gadarene rush to the legal eagles for their pound of flesh from RTE was both surprising and unwise. If you claim a role in public discourse then you can’t complain about the unwritten rules. It’s just part of the cut and thrust of debate. There’s no place for wilting violets.
Recently Fintan O’Toole, the Irish Times columnist, trenchantly made the point that to achieve respect for your position you can’t afford to be seen running to lawyers or be accused of running after the money. You have to take the rough with the smooth in public discourse.
O’Toole made the point by relating his own experience a few years ago. In an anonymous Sunday Times profile, O’Toole was said to have left a union rally some days earlier and driven home in his 5 Series BMW. He was presented as (in his own words) ‘a hypocritical champagne socialist, stirring up the masses from a position of wealth and privilege‘. The fact was that O’Toole hadn’t got a BMW. He didn’t even have a car as he doesn’t drive. And he had travelled home on the ‘Number 13 bus’!
He could have taken a small fortune from the Sunday Times as the defamation was so obvious but he chose instead to get a public retraction. O’Toole’s position, a commendably moral position, was that if you are involved in open and robust debates defamation is an occupational hazard.
Iona made a mistake and I’ve no doubt they would undo that error of judgement now if they the chance. They should have grabbed one of the alternatives offered by RTE, either a right of reply or a donation to a charity. They could have claimed the higher ground by standing above what presented as a form of precious grandstanding. And worse what looked like a selfish rush to financially milk RTE’s predicament.
What Iona has effectively delivered is a new hero to those in favour of same-sex marriage while at the same time allowing itself to be manoeuvred into the role of demon, a soft target now for media people nervous (as they would see it) of opportunist litigants.
Rory O’Neill’s soliloquy from the stage of the Abbey theatre has defined the parameters of the ground of the upcoming debate which has, as they say, gone viral on YouTube and been viewed by almost half a million people. An example of how the debate has moved was the recent escapade on Primetime when members of the audience displayed t-shirts supporting O’Neill. Iona may be seen to have won a battle but will it be at the cost of losing the war? Are at least losing some of its authority.
Few people are, I think, looking forward to the debate on same-sex marriage. Many, I suspect, can’t wait for it to be over. If the opening debate on what constitutes homophobia is anything to go by we can look forward to more heat than light. The lobbing of grenades across open, empty spaces rather than a meeting of minds.
Respect, of course, is the key and while those who show it tend to convince the doubters, a reasoned debate or a critical examination of one’s own position are probably too much to hope for. It will be a long year.

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  1. Eugene Sheehan says:

    How tiresome these debates have become! Different groups claiming “truth”, “integrity”, “justice” – “come on our side.” Words, labels, are the weapons of choice – “right-wing”, “conservative” “homophobe” etc, v. “liberal”, “immoral”, “unnatural” etc. Surely our most recent lesson is the need to listen, to attempt to understand, to be open to different ways of thinking and being.
    I believe people are one in God’s love, a mixture of weeds & wheat, light & darkness, all mixed into one. Yet we continually divide through labelling – gay v. straight, homo v. hetero etc, yet in love we become one. There is no need to describe people according to their sexual preference – how we love is how we express our deepest being, our true selves, and that must include our sexuality.
    In marriage, “two become one flesh.” No need to label it. There are many dysfunctional marriages where children are deprived of love and care due to the brokenness of their parents, not because of the sexual preference of their parents!
    Richard Rohr’s teaching on dualistic thinking, how it divides us, is quite a revelation and offers much to this debate.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    I don’t know whether Fintan O’Toole is wealthy; he acknowledges that he is privileged in his position as a journalist. He got his public retraction.
    But how do you prove you are not homophobic? Particularly when your position that marriage is a heterosexual reality is taken as unquestionable evidence that you are homophobic?
    It could be as difficult to prove you are not homophobic as to prove you are not a child abuser, even if you have a “right of reply”.
    The final outcome was not satisfactory, but RTÉ should have acknowledged their failure right away and issued a public retraction, rather than try to drag it out into further controversy. They have not learned from their Mission to Prey experience.

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    Iona is just a reactionary lobby who try to make themselves out to be far more important than they are. I hope Rory O’Neill has succeeded in puncturing their pretensions.

  4. Gene Carr says:

    In fairness, there was a large difference between the Fintan O’Toole story and the cases of John Waters, and the Iona people. The Sunday Times immediately acknowledged its wrongdoing and apologised profusely and made reparations to O’Toole’s complete satisfaction. John Waters, David Quinn, Breda O’Brien and co did not get any satisfaction from RTE and were left with no alternative but to force RTE to relent, just as Fr Reynolds was forced to sue them in respect of their vicious defamation of his character. There is also a difference between someone talking in general terms about dissident priests, and what Rory O’Neill did on Saturday Night Live. He did not just talk in general terms about homophobia; he libelled people by name on the public airways. In the absence of any satisfactory response from RTE they had no alternative but to act to protect their good names. But there is another important issue here. The action by John Waters and other does not inhibit Rory O’Neill or others from advocating SSM or protesting against homophobia, properly understood. But anybody with eyes to see and ears to hear can see that there has been a concerted effort to bully and intimidate the advocates of marriage as a gendered institution into silence by abuse of the word homophobia. This is a deliberate strategy; this technique of “jamming” is set out explicitly in the book “After the Ball” (by homosexual activists, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen) which is the blueprint for SSM propaganda. What we have seen is an attempt to strangle freedom of speech and opinion in advance of a Referendum. We should be grateful to John Waters and co for protecting freedom of speech and be glad that, once the referendum campaign begins RTE will be force by law to air both sides of the argument and that the Government will be forced by law not to use our money to tip the scales in favour of one side.

  5. Con Devree says:

    The referendum will decide in favour of gay marriage. Anyone familiar with recent social process in Ireland has known for some years that that gay marriage would be legislated for. In that regard the notions of “battle” and of “war” are irrelevant. If there is a “spat” between Iona and the ACP, it is a “spat” within Catholicism – in effect a “spat” among deck chairs in the national debate.

    Proponents of gay marriage generally seek a combination of legal, economic and medical privileges ordinarily associated with heterosexual marriage. Proponents of gay marriage also seek a recognition of a certain civil dignity that they consider current arrangements deny the gay community. Whether gay marriage can confer that civil dignity is one of the central questions.

    As in the past, the debate will be more among the deaf than among the mute. There is already confusion about taxonomy. “Rights” will be debated without agreement on what constitutes them. It is similar in the case of marriage. Some posit a new concept of Government as regulator of intimate relationships. Others focus on the wellbeing of children. And as Jim Kemmy once told me: “Whenever I’m losing an argument I attack my opponent.”

    Some of the proponents of gay marriage have tried to stifle debate by tagging opponents of the legislation as homophobes. David Quinn et al have established that is not so. In one sense they were reflecting a reality within the population of same sex attracted people. Here some who seek to live by Catholic teaching on the one hand, and some secularist members of the gay community on the other, oppose gay marriage legislation. Are these homophobes?

    The important thing within the Church is the extent to which Catholics follow the teaching of Pope Francis on the issue, and the fallout of that in the national context.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Ten days ago I joined in on Brendan’s then current ‘Western People’ column – the one on the spat between the cardinal and the about-to-be cardinal. My ever so jolly opener suggested the spat I was really waiting for was the armageddon about to erupt between Moygownah, Esker and Knock. Hilarious, you’ll agree? My comment was a bit prolix (nothing new there) so the Moderator wisely decapitated it, leaving the head as comment on the one-sided Rodriguez-Mueller affair, and making the torso & tail a stand-alone piece: “Is there room for two clergy organisations in Ireland?”
    Why should I object? Does the headless frog quarrel with the scythe blade? (Sorry if that betrays my age and rustic roots.) But I had imagined I was having a gentle go at ACP-Central and hoping they’d listen more to ACP-Clogher, especially now maybe this coming Tuesday on the shores of Loch Ree. Instead my later throwaway comments got me labelled as an ICCC-mocker. Fr Deighan, I shall attend three Lenten EF Latin Masses at the Brompton Oratory in sackcloth and ashes.
    So I’m relieved this week that I’m in no danger of unintentional controversy. Brendan is in the best of company as he joins Madonna, Graham Norton and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in leading us to worship at the shrines of Panti Bliss at the Abbey and Saint Lawrence Fintan O’Toole at Tara Street.
    Personally, I blame that exhibitionist John Millington Synge for first (verbally) introducing “a drift of chosen females standing in their shifts” onto the Abbey stage. Panti Bliss was bound to follow. That the Abbey audience refused to riot, even when Ms Bliss assured them nicely that they were all homophobes, shows how far we have come since 1907. I suspect that with the shade of Willie Yeats hovering in the wings they didn’t want to be assured that “yiz have disgraced yourselves again.” In 2014 we are all so ultra-carefully auto-primed not to let the arbiters of the New Irish Revival assure us that we have disgraced ourselves again.
    To be assured as part of an appreciative Abbey audience by the knowingly seductive Panti Bliss that you’re really a homophobe because we’re all in this together is one thing. To be named severally in your absence, or by association as a member of Iona, as a homophobe or as homophobic, on RTÉ’s ‘Saturday Night Show’ by a guest Mr Rory O’Neill, instigated and egged on by the ‘popular’ presenter Mr Brendan O’Connor, is a beast of an entirely different breed and colour.
    Fintan O’Toole was just ludicrously disingenuous in his ‘5-SeriesBMW-driving champagne socialist’ analogy. Fintan’s idea of serious defamation? God mend his wit. That he assumes some sort of moral high ground while making a sly kick at the ankles of his fellow IT columnists, Breda O’Brien and John Waters, and the groin of their ‘Indo’ fellow-traveller, David Quinn, is bad enough.
    Much worse, I feel, (and as Panti Bliss might say, I hate myself for feeling like this as I stand oppressed by the crossing checking my bits) is that Brendan grants Fintan three paragraphs, elevating him to even higher moral high ground than O’Toole had claimed for himself. Journalistic shrewdness while extracting a public retraction is not “a commendably moral position”. It’s just journalistic shrewdness. In fact, earlier in the month, O’Toole had written a much more balanced and commendable article: “Full Equality often has to wait while mainstream opinion catches up” (IT, 4th Feb). A piece that Breda O’Brien might easily have written in her Saturday column, were she not at the eye of the storm.
    But O’Brien, Waters, Quinn and ‘Iona’ were not offered a “public retraction” by RTÉ, O’Connor or O’Neill. They were eventually pawned off with a “right of reply” or a “donation to charity”. Neither of those is a public retraction or a public apology. As B.O’B wondered on 3rd Feb: why should one who has been named and defamed agree to go on air/screen to explain themselves?
    I have no doubt that they were totally right to draw a line in the sand or even in the surf in the only way anyone in the public or in public broadcasting would notice and remember, however briefly.
    Brendan, I don’t think you’re justified in describing their action as a “gadarene rush to the legal eagles for their pound of flesh.” Or in your reference to “wilting violets”. Remember the “Woman from Ballina”? And as for defamation being an occupational hazard, or taking the rough with the smooth in public discourse? No, the ‘homophobic’ slur is a deliberate COARSENING of what now passes for public discourse. Anyone who engages in public discourse (by pen, keyboard, blog or screen etc) surely has a duty to shout ‘STOP!’
    Brendan, you began this week’s column back in the year of the “Great Visitation”. You recalled the experience of hearing the Iona Spokesperson leading the call for the eviction of “dissident priests”. OK – certainly more serious than Fintan’s ‘5-Series Champagne Socialist’ trauma. But maybe a reference to David Quinn’s sincere congratulations to both Fr Kevin Reynolds and the ACP on this site on 18th Nov 2011 would have provided balance – even if David couldn’t quite avoid the ‘Anti-Rome’ worry.
    Now that Panti Bliss’s Abbey soliloquy has defined the parameters of debate and her doppelganger Rory has suggested the tone for SSM discourse, whither now? Pussy Riot’s celebration at the high altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour set the bar challengingly high a while ago. Time, perhaps, for an Aggiornamento of the Vagina Monologues, chaired by the Archbishop in the sanctuary of the Pro-Cathedral?

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    “The referendum will decide in favour of gay marriage”. There is no way we can know that. Remember the confidence of gay Californians that Prop 8 could never pass — or remember the Lisbon Treaty referendum. I predict the referendum will be hard fought and the result will be by a narrow margin.

  8. Brendan Cafferty says:

    One reaches for the libel lawyer at great risk.People like Oscar Wilde, Patrick Kavanagh,Geoffrey Archer, Albert Reynolds (who won a penny) Beverley Cooper Flynn and others discovered this. Hoist on ones own petard ! Iona who might have been in a powerful position in forthcoming referendum are now really rather weakened.As regards so called dissident priests I seem to recall editor of IC musing in a letter to the editor of Western People why some priests were sort of silenced and others were not. Thank God those days are mostly over, or we at least hope so in the new dispensation of Pope Francis.

  9. “There is also a difference between someone talking in general terms about dissident priests, and what Rory O’Neill did on Saturday Night Live. He did not just talk in general terms about homophobia; he libelled people by name on the public airways. In the absence of any satisfactory response from RTE they had no alternative but to act to protect their good names”
    As reluctant as I am to say the devil of this case is in the definition, Iona clearly have instigated The Streisand Effect, much like well meaning TV religious zealots do far more harm than good, Iona have proved themselves most helpful in ushering Ireland’s undecided voters away.
    They were horrified at being “called” homophobic not “being” homophobic. The outcry at the payout was simply because most of middle Ireland would see Iona as homophobic. RTE were seen compensating them because a spade was called as much.
    In the quote above you mention Libel and good name.
    Libel assumes some sort of inaccuracy.
    Ditto for “good name”
    Iona’s interests could have been more badly served by proclaiming it has been a slippery slope since women got the vote and life was much better when the world was still flat.

  10. Brendan Conroy says:

    When Brendan talked about Iona’s ‘gaderene rush for their pound of flesh’ I wondered how he discerned the motives of people he has long held in low esteem. As someone who is married to one of the people who were, and continue to be, targeted as being motivated by hatred and intolerance, I can assure Brendan with all the sincerity I can muster that there was not a shred of vengence or self righteousness in the stressful decision to seek to call a halt to the casual and increasingly repeated assumption of bad faith and covert motives on her part.
    Within the Christian Community I have long felt that when we disagree with each other or believe that another member of our Community is not walking in the footsteps of Jesus, the appropriate response is to meet with that person and try to resolve the difference. At the very least this would allow people who perhaps don’t fully comprehend each other’s motivations to hear each other out. The Gospel of two weeks ago would even seem to mandate such an approach.
    Many, many moons ago, at a time when I had been writing columns in the Irish Catholic about family and media maters, I phoned up Brendan after he had written a newspaper column that was very critical of the Irish Catholic’s take on things. I asked him if he had ever read any of my own contributions as I didn’t recognise myself in his pen portrait of an ‘una voce’ newspaper.
    It turned out that he hadn’t – no sin undoubtedly – but it did highlight the pitfalls of assuming that the narrative you believe to be in operation may exclude perspectives, motivations and even individuals you have not adequately taken account of.
    I recall appealing to him and others I called at the time to sit down with each other over a meal or coffee to listen to each others’ take on the living out of the Gospel and their fears about each others’ approaches.
    As recently as Christmas past my wife made a similar overture to Brendan, but sadly these things often just don’t seem to happen and we remain sundered in a state of mutual incomprehension.
    We cannot expect to be heard by those who don’t see things the way we do unless we are totally willing ourselves to actively reach out to people who are saying things we don’t like.
    For the record, my own misgivings about enshrining gay marriage as a right in the Constitution centres on a profound inequality that I believe lies at the heart of that proposal. The phrase ‘Marriage Equality’ only makes sense, in my opinion, if you see marriage as essentially a contract between two adults, irrespective of their sexual orientation, and who could argue with that?
    But if you believe that children are not simply mere footnotes to the concept of marriage, then you have to ask if same sex marriage treats children who will be brought into the world by a gay couple, with equality. And I think not.
    If two lesbian women or two gay men wish to bring a new life into the world, they cannot do so without the intervention of at least one other adult.
    Two gay men will require the assistance of a surrogate mother and possibly an egg from a fourth adult. Two lesbian women will require the donation of sperm from a man (who may be anonymous). In each case it will require the ‘commissioning’ of a child (to use the language of Minister Alan Shatter’s Children & Family Relationships bill) who will be sundered from either his or her mother or father, not because of tragic circumstances or the break-up of a relationship, but by an act of adult choice.
    Our genetic heritage is as intrinsic a part of who we are as our sexuality. To decide to sunder a child from that inheritance before she is even born is treating her in a radically unequal way.
    I believe that there is no right for any adult, straight or gay, to do that.
    (This is fundamentally different to adoption which is in contrast a child centered process, designed to give an already existing child who is in difficult circumstances of some kind, the best possible chance of a dignified and fulfilling life.)
    If we are to equate same sex marriage with heterosexual marriage in our Constitution then we will have to act as if we will not be treating some children in a profoundly different, and in my opinion, unjust way.
    And yet, absolutely central to the case for ‘marriage equality’ is the notion that being raised by your own mother and father is somehow in no way different to having your mother or father excluded from your upbringing and instead being brought up by two men or two women.
    Whatever you believe about the advantages or disadvantages of these two scenarios, you would have to acknowledge that they are at the very least, different situations?
    And to treat different situations differently does not constitute inequality.
    Seeking to keep open a space in public discourse where the implications of those differences can be teased out is, I believe, acting in the service of truth rather than, as it is being continually portrayed by some, a crusade inspired by hatred, homophobia and intolerance or a latent desire to return to those mythical hazy days of the flat earth and the slippery suffragettes!
    In the present climate that may well be a fragile place to be, but I for one would much rather be speaking out of a position of weakness than one of power and exclusion.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    Brendan Conroy, all your arguments above apply equally to sterile couples who use sperm banks or surrogate mothers. As far as I know the latter procedures are forbidden in Irish law. The demand that same-sex marriage be given legal parity with sterile heterosexual marriages does not seem to affect the status quo on these procedures.

  12. Mary O Vallely says:

    Reading Brendan Conroy’s comments there @10 the ‘Why won’t the Pope treat his faithful like adults’ article came to mind. Adults need to know the facts and to be allowed to think for themselves as to whether they agree or disagree with them and they need to be given a safe space in which to air, share and clarify those views. Brendan Conroy writes with clarity and from an understandable defensive position of pain and hurt. He argues his point well. It’s a fair comment, courteously made, as Joe O’Leary’s question which follows it is an equally fair point.
    It is good to see honest, heartfelt opinions expressed in a considerate and caring manner. We need to keep listening to each other’s sincerely held points of view and for those people unsure of where they stand on the SSM issue it is important that all voices are heard and all comments are read. This is church. With respect above all.

  13. Brendan Conroy says:

    Hi Joe and thank you for responding to some of my thoughts,
    At the moment all the procedures you mentioned I understand are unregulated rather than illegal.
    Alan Shatter is proposing to deal with them in the forthcoming bill that I mentioned in my piece above. It is an incredibly far reaching piece of legislation in that if it passes, parenthood would be based on the intention to be a parent rather than on any natural/genetic connection.
    I believe that this is a very adult centered approach to parenting and children.
    I do not believe that ANY adult, married, single, gay or straight has a right to commission a child so that they would forever be separated from the care of their actual father or mother. I mean where would such a right come from? And why should an adult’s ‘right’ to make such a decision be seen as a superior right to a child’s right not to have that done to them?
    I think as a society we are often tone deaf to the inner lives of children. We often impose on them a narrative of being able to cope with any and every difficulty that life throws at them and come out smiling and resilient, when adults in analagous situations would be left shattered and bereft. I still remember with vivid clarity some of the worries and fears I had as a child and young teenager and they loomed larger and with more emotional intensity than any I have experienced as an adult. I think lots of us forget that children are full human beings with immesurable and sometimes incomprehensible depths
    We know only too well the abysmal legacy of The Great Scandal of child abuse, but even today so many children and young people with mental health difficulties; or in care of some kind; or in direct provision; and even children who are struggling to survive in their own peer setting because they are different in some way – weight, class, sexual orientation, belief status, musical tastes, educational ability (the list appears endless)… – are very far from the top of our list of National levels of priority or even public outrage.
    I just believe that giving Constitutional Recognition to a new kind of marriage, in which it would only ever be possible to bring new life into the world through commissioning a child, who would consequently be sundered from their mothers or fathers would just be legitimising a manifest inequality towards a new group of children. Far from being a black and white case of equality vs inequality, this just seems like an unjust proposal to me.
    And the campaigning phrase ‘marriage equality’ doesn’t appear to take this into account at all.
    Thank you also Mary for a very gracious response and I wholeheartedly agree with what you have to say about listening and maybe also pondering other people’s points of view in our hearts.

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Homophobia is not a matter of campaigning against gay marriage (as Rory O’Neill thinks); it is something far more subtle and insidious. I read a very annoying article in First Things, which calls itself “America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion and Public Life”. Publishing luminaries like George Weigel (also published in Communio), First Things must indeed be a highly educated elite product. The tortured article, by Michael Hannon, who has written similar stuff in the same journal previously, tells us: “the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires… Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.” But you cannot draw on social constructionism without extending it to other categories as well. For instance one might also have to say: “the distinction between male and female is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires… Claiming to be not simply an accidental invention of patriarchal traditions but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.” The article is really predicated on biblical fundamentalism and on the kind of denial that says “I cannot be gay because God would not limit my freedom that way”. The author is entering a monastery under the guidance of an older monk who assures him that gays do not really exist. With weird scenarios like this, is it any wonder we have the “Secrets of the Vatican” confusion? It is rather unfair to pour scorn on the Ugandan president when Catholic intellectuals are bathing in the same level of primitive ignorance and prejudice .

  15. Congrats to the Iona Institute & John Waters. As Paddy Manning ( a homosexual man oppossed to same sex marriage ) has stated, O’Neill is merely seeking to make himself out a martyr. The facts are that an intolerant/fundamentalist group of homosexuals ( with the assistance of their acolytes in the media ) are attempting to bully & stymie debate on this subject. Indivduals are entitled to argue their case, but they cannot attempt to censor those who dare to dissent.

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    Brendan, again all that you say against “commissioning a child” applies to sterile heterosexual couples as well as to homosexual ones, yet it is not invoked to class sterile marriages as unequal to fertile or potentially fertile ones in the eyes of the law.

  17. Gene Carr says:

    Joe at 14: The problem with applying “social constructionism” to the male-female distinction is that such attempts can be immediately falsified by direct empirical-biological observation. There is no solid scientific-biological foundation for homosexuality as an identity.
    I might be possible to say that male-females roles have been influenced by social and cultural conditioning but not the fundamental and complementary differentiation.

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    “There is no solid scientific-biological foundation for homosexuality as an identity.” Nor is there for “male” or “female” as an “identity” in the relevant sense. Social constructionists say that one constructs male or female identity, which may actually clash with one’s biological make-up, as in cases of transexuality. In a considerable number of cases the biological substrate is not clearly fully male or female so that gender has to be “assigned.”
    The empirical existence of exclusive heterosexual orientation and exclusive homosexual orientation is incontestable, though there is also the vast realm of non-exclusive orientations which is still very poorly explored. What scientists and psychologists are saying about sexual orientation merely reinforces the observations of unbiased common sense.
    Social constructionists seems to talk of assuming a homosexual or heterosexual identity not in the sense of creating the fundamental biological or root-psychological orientation de novo but rather in the sense of integrating the latter into one’s self-fashioning.
    I think some social constructionists exaggerate wildly, as in the case of Judith Butler, demolished by Martha Nussbaum. I think we should rather seek to appreciate the very diverse and pluralistic texture of human sexuality and desire as God created it, and should then create social structures in which individuals, couples and communities can live their sexual identities in the most creative way. That our advanced societies are actually at last moving in that direction seems to be a very good thing.

  19. Gene Carr says:

    Joe at 18. “Social constructionists say that one constructs male or female identity, which may actually clash with ones biological make-up”.
    In a nutshell, is this not, under a new guise, just a contemporary manifestation of the ancient heresy of Dualism? Dualism postulated that body and spirit were radically separate or opposite. Some said that good God made the spirit and an evil God made the body. Rather than seeing the body as a temple to be glorified at the final Resurrection it saw it as ‘prison’ rather in the manner that some who wish to create their own gender identity feel “imprisoned” in the wrong body. This heresy in it various forms–Gnostic, Manichaean in ancient and medieval times and in its mind-body dualism emanating from such as Decartes and Hegel in modern times, has been by far the deadliest enemy that the Catholic Faith has ever faced. It is the main enemy now.

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