About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Chrys Stevenson flays a pastoral letter from Catholic bishops

Great stuff from Chrys Stevenson! Follow the links and you'll see what utter sanctimonious claptrap the Catholic bishops have produced in arguing against provision for same-sex marriage.

You know, I'm not even someone who cares all that strongly about the issue of same-sex marriage; maybe I would if I were gay, but even a lot of gay people don't feel that strongly. But there is simply no good secular argument against it. It shouldn't be a huge issue, but merely a natural social development. In current social circumstances, the rational and realistic policy option is to provide for same-sex marriages on terms closely analogous to those applying to opposite-sex marriages (mainly this: if you want to involve more than two people, the state won't recognise it, and you'll have to do so unofficially).

The attempts by the bishops to offer secular arguments against same-sex marriage are embarrassing. And you'll see that they can't resist also putting theological reasons, relating to God's plans, in the mix.

Now, bishops have freedom of speech like everyone else. I don't want to silence by force of law. Indeed, I'd allow more speech than is currently allowed by our laws, and this pastoral letter is fine at that level. Let the bishops express themselves and get all this stuff off their chests.

But freedom of speech is not a positive right to have your speech taken seriously or treated with respect. The Catholic bishops' pastoral is precisely the sort of speech that deserves mockery and social marginalisation. That's how we ought to respond.


Anonymous said...

Who gives a rat's what the Catholic bishops say, the significant fact is that they can't silence the public any longer. They will certainly try.
Years ago I went on a 'tour' of the Inquisition dungeons in Lima.
When the present Pope and former Grand Inquisitor is heard mouthing some banality, I remember the Church's barbarous history.


Russell Blackford said...

We do have to care, though. Even in Australia, they can mobilise huge numbers of people to lobby for Catholic doctrines to be included in the law - see here for example: http://www.cam.org.au/lifemarriagefamily/

They can exercise some effect on the community's attitudes via their access to the media, but even more worryingly they can influence government decisions.

So, yes, we do have to monitor what they are saying, respond with our critiques of it, formulate our own arguments, do our own lobbying on the issues, etc.

Of course, if by "who gives a rat's" you just mean that they have no influence on you, and that you see them as having no moral authority ... well, we're on the same page. And yes, the fact that we have free speech, and that they can't silence us, is very important.

ColinGavaghan said...

It's happening in Scotland too; the almost surreal juxtaposition of pro-tolerance and anti-gay rhetoric. Check this out: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/conti-says-gay-marriage-would-redefine-nature.17127943.

'we are witnessing the transformation of tolerance into a kind of tyranny in which religious views are the only ones which seem unworthy of respect and acceptance.'

In the context of a rant against equal treatment for gay folk. You honestly, literally could not make this drivel up.

Chrys Stevenson said...

Even worse is the dishonest and cynical tactic being used by the Catholic and evangelical churches to blame homosexuals for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests!

For example, at a hearing on censorship at Parliament House, Canberra, someone posed the following question to Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby:

"We’ve heard a lot of facts and figures tonight about who, in a sense, has the moral authority on the two sides and I just wondered if you could answer or quickly comment on the facts and figures around 600 church clergy who’ve been prosecuted for abusing young children in Australia; and yet not one person from the so called pornography industry has yet been found to be doing that in Australia. And I just think this gives a lead to moral authority in this sense, and I didn’t hear you speak about this. We’d all like to hear something about it."

Jim replied, "I’m only too happy to address this, actually, because I think it’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed adequately. Some of you won’t like this, but this is fact. In Australia, in Ireland, in America, the people who have prosecuted the sexual offence against minors have, in Australia, been over 70 per cent [homosexual]– and remember that the churches who have been the victims of this have had a policy where they do not accept homosexuals as part of their clergy – and yet in Australia over 70 per cent of the offences have been committed by homosexual clergy. In America, the figure is over 90 per cent I think it is."

This is absolute twaddle. Every piece of credible evidence from researchers, including a major study from within the Catholic Church itself, says that homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia or the sexual assaults on children by priests. Wallace takes it upon himself to conclude that a male sexually assaulting a boy *must* be a homosexual. This is quite misguided, completely contrary to mainstream research and shows a complete ignorance of the profiles of abusers.

But it suits Wallace's purpose when speaking of sexual abuse by clergy to paint the *church* (not children) as the victim and homosexuals as the assailants.

Someone stood up to Wallace and asked, “Where are the studies that you’re citing?”

Wallace replied: “I can actually [cite studies]. I don’t have them here with me now, but yes there are … many. Many, right."


I've searched high and low and never seen him reference a single one. It's unsupported, defamatory propaganda of the very worst kind.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I should have been more explicit, my point was that the Church has lost its totalitarian power to terrify the public into compliance, so the Catholic oligarchy has to present its ideas to the public as universal moral imperatives. As such, Catholic doctrine is open to criticism.

I certainly didn't mean to suggest that the Catholic hierarchy , Islamists or any other religiots should be free to insinuate their superstitions into public life without challenge.