Thursday, 25 January 2007

adoption agency row: latest development

Updated Thursday daytime

Following the initial report by Gary Gibbon on Channel 4 News that:

After meeting Labour backbenchers, the programme understands that Mr Blair won’t now be pushing for Catholic adoption agencies to be allowed an exemption from the law which will require them to place children with gay couples.

Downing St said Mr Blair would be seeking a “pragmatic solution” to the matter.

He would look to find agreement on how long they would have to wind up their operations after new gay rights regulations came into force.

The proposals, which result from last year’s Equality Act, are reported have caused a split in the Cabinet.

Mr Blair and Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly - a prominent Catholic - favouring an exemption, and colleagues including the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, insisting that the rules should apply equally to everyone.

The regulations, being drafted by Ms Kelly’s Communities and Local Government department, must be approved by a vote of both Houses of Parliament before coming into effect.

other news sources have now confirmed this story:
Daily Mail Blair caves in over adoption laws

The Times Catholics get time to adjust to gay rights. Also this leader: Adopt a Compromise and this cartoon.

Guardian Cabinet rejects exemption on gay adoptions and this leader: Principle under pressure. And this comment by Madeleine Bunting Retreat on adoption and the Equality Act will crumble.
Stephen Bates has also written on this topic, both in the paper, The loving gay family and the archbishop next door and on Comment is free in Adopting the wrong attitude. Also, Two churches, one view and a question of conscience.

Telegraph Blair retreats over opt-out for gay adoption
Faith or career – the choice facing Kelly by Graeme Wilson and Jonathan Petre

BBC ‘No opt-out’ for Church adoption (has link to video report from last night’s TV news). There is also an audio clip from the Today programme here.

Independent Blair backs down over gay adoption law.

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Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 12:04am GMT

Once again this atheistic Government ignores the majority view to appease the militant minority. The Sexual Orientation Regulations were never about gay rights, there was enough legislation already in place to protect people from being victims of ‘homophobia.’ (And there certainly was no evidence to support any real homophobia existed anyway, not from Christians in any case. However, Christianphobia certainly exists if recent media reporting is anything to go by). No, the real agenda from this Government is about turning this nation into a secularist state and it was convenient to use these SORs as the first major step in doing so. Just like they used multiculterism to attack and isolate Christians and our British heritage and traditions, plus ten years of political correctness from the invisible liberal elite to control our British Society.

This is part of a much wider and bigger agenda to eradicate Christianity from our society and its institutions.. These new regulations show no respect whatsoever for the beliefs and values of people of faith including Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and other minority faiths who have different morals and values to atheist, aggressive liberal secularist and militant gay groups.

I expect the faith communities will now mobilise against New Labour at the next general election who have now revealed their true colours and their hidden agenda. New Labour will pay the price for its arrogance and showing no respect for the beliefs and values of the faith communities. New Labour is obviously hell bent on forcing its secularist, now not so hidden agenda!

Posted by: Simon Icke on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 12:44am GMT

I've heard of gay couples that sacrificially take on very difficult children. Maybe many children who have ended up in and institution *are* better off in a caring home with two parents of the same sex. But I'd be very surprised if it did not have some unwanted effects on the child's development and self-image.

After all, human children have for millenia generally grown-up in the male-female family model. That must have some consequences for the best environment for children. God/Nature certainly discriminate against gay partners by not allowing them to have children of their own!

But now we are told that no dissent is to be tolerated. The ideology of Equality (for people with *certain* sexualities) completely overrides any other consideration, while our liberal masters undertake the dangerous task of trying to correct the errors of nature/creation!

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 1:13am GMT

There's an obvious solution to this political stalemate. Tony Blair should be appointed Lord High Pooh Bah of the Falkland Islands and Rowan Williams sent along as his personal chaplain.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 1:27am GMT

Looking at the Cardinal's letter, I find much that should not have been defended:

"We would, however, have a serious difficulty with the proposed Regulations on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services if they required our Adoption Agencies to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents." Does the Cardinal consider only validly married couples to be potential adoptive parents? -- if not, then his position is inconsistent.

"The Catholic Church utterly condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against people who are homosexual." The category of "just discrimination" however is a very elastic and capacious one.

"Indeed the Church teaches that they must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity." This is a quotation from the Catechism, endlessly recycled. Why can Catholic churchmen never speak of gays and lesbians except in lines learnt off by heard, bureaucratic formulae that sound like stonewalling party jargon?

"We, therefore, recognise many elements of recent legislation – including much in the Northern Ireland Regulations – that takes steps to ensure that no such discrimination takes place." This is laudable, and in marked contrast to the Church's record of never acting acting against such discrimination but rather resisting any legal recognition of the civil rights of homosexuals. Some recognition of the novelty of this attitude, some repentant admission that the Church has learnt from past mistakes, would be in order.

"What, then, is the problem? It is that to oblige our agencies in law to consider adoption applications from homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents would require them to act against the principles of Catholic teaching."

But Catholic teaching recognizes as valid only certain marriages. If children can be put in the care of invalidly married couples or non-believers, why are gay couples such an exception?
It may be said that such parents would give the children an incorrect teaching on the ethics of homosexuality. But unbelieving parents would give the children incorrect teaching on the faith, and this does not seem to worry the Cardinal at all.

"We place significant emphasis on marriage, as it is from the personal union of a man and a woman that new life is born and it is within the loving context of such a relationship that a child can be welcomed and nurtured." Yet single people are also accepted. And a loving same-sex couple is probably a more welcoming and nurturing environment than a single person.

"Some children, particularly those who have suffered abuse and neglect, may well benefit from placement with a single adoptive parent." But never with a gay couple? The criterion here seems not to be the welfare of the child.

"Catholic teaching about the foundations of family life, a teaching shared not only by other Christian Churches but also other faiths, means that Catholic adoption agencies would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents." Well perhaps all other faiths recognize the values of marriage. But the movement for gay marriage recognizes them too, and asks only for an enlargement; and increasingly Christian churches are blessing gay unions.

"We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the Government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service." There is a valid point here. But it could perhaps be negotiated, as another poster suggests, by some variant of the law of double effect.

"Catholic adoption agencies welcome adoptive applicants from any or no religious background. Homosexual couples are referred to other agencies where their adoption application may be considered." Why not refer the non-religious to other agencies as well? Does the Cardinal consider homosexual love a worse condition than unbelief?

"Giving protection to the rights of Catholic adoption agencies to act with integrity." But who sets the rules of integrity? If the agencies can place children with people who will prevent them from attaining Christian faith, how is this squared with criteria of integrity that exclude parents who might give the children liberal views of homosexuality?

"Catholics contribute generously both by offering themselves as potential adoptive parents and through the financial contributions they make. They do this because they believe the Catholic Church should contribute to the common good in this way." Have Catholics been consulted about their money being used to confide children to atheists? Have they been consulted about the exclusion of loving homosexual couples as adoptive parents?

"Our agencies have an excellent track record, which is well documented by the Commission for Social Care in their Regulatory Inspection Programme." Does the inspection cover the religious formation of the kids?

"It would be an unnecessary tragedy if legislation forced the closure of these adoption services, thereby significantly reducing the potential resources of adoptive families for the approximately 4,000 children currently waiting for adoption placements." Sounds as if the kids are being used as pawns here.

At no point does the Cardinal say exactly why he considers adoption by gay couples to be an unaccceptable evil. It has nothing to do with the welfare of the children, only with the wish to prevent any appearance that the Church condones homosexual sex. Yet in handing kids over to atheists does the appearance arise that the Church condones atheism? No, in this case the general human welfare of the kids takes precedence over religious orthodoxy. In the gay case the same principle can hold. The logical coherence of such a compromise could easily be worked out by moral theologians and canon lawyers.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 2:42am GMT

{sigh}

This is just another case, where the secular values are MORE MORAL than the Churches'. What a great witness for Christ (not).

Oh well, thanks be to God ANYWAY, that the more-like-unto-Christ's secular values triumphed: serving the best interests of the child, adoption for ANY qualified couple! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 2:43am GMT

Dominic Lawson, The Independent, makes one good point in favour of the RC position: gay adoption is a very new thing, that savours of social experimentation.

He notes that in Boston the Catholic adoption agencies gave kids to 13 gay couples, but then:

"At this point the Vatican intervened, reminding Boston that Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had declared such legislation as the state of Massachusetts had enacted to be 'the legalisation of evil'. Ratzinger is now Pope, and despite his age, an active one. I would not be surprised to learn that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's letter had been composed in the Vatican; I would be amazed if it had not been insisted upon by the Vatican."

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 3:05am GMT

Conservative Christians as ever, miss the point.

First, we do not live in a theocracy

Second, their opinions about gay and lesbian people and their relationships are no longer shared by the State

Third, that the principle from which we operate is that people should not be discriminated against in the public sphere in terms of receiving goods and services. Their dislike or disapproval simply isn't relevant.

Fourth, they are not being told what to think or believe, but proper regulation will ensure that those beliefs, which are against public policy, will remain within church organisations alone, with the provision of goods and services delivered in a non-discriminatory and professional fashion.

of course, its easy enough to read through the lines, and some are even honest enough to admit that they think gay people should be criminalised or at best, tolerated but given no public or legal status.

I also wonder where contributors such as Simon Icke think right-wing Christian voters should turn. Not the LD's or the Greens. Not the Tories either - Cameron has said he does not agree with an exemption. I think there is one party which might well fulfil their requirements, and would take exactly the same line on both race and sexuality. At least that is consistent!

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 9:03am GMT

I find Fr Joseph's comments very helpful. I read them as pointing to an apparent contradiction between allowing couples who may be openly atheist to adopt through Catholic agencies but not same sex catholic couples. On the face of it the couple turned away are only contravening one aspect of catholic moral teaching whilst the couple who are accepted have rejected the whole package.

As it stands though Fr Joseph's analysis does leave some "wriggle room". I can imagine the vatican taking the line that whilst the atheist couple are in theory capable of coming to Christ and then offering a fully Christian home, the gay couple do not have the potential of becoming a "catholic compliant" family in the same way. (Indeed I have known it to happen that a family have adopted a catholic child and then become RC themselves.) This notion of "potential" may seem a little strange, but it lies at the heart of catholic moral teaching on contraception (it's OK to use techniques that reduce the likelihood of conception but not ones that prevent it).

A slightly narrower question may be more surgical in exposing any hypocrisy here. What is the attitude of Catholic adoption agencies to (catholic?) couples where one or more is divorced? If I understand it, here (as with same sex partneships) the teaching is that the "sin" is ongoing and not something that can be addressed without the dissolution of the relationship itself. And there is no potential for the family to become fully compliant with catholic teaching.

In summary, if divorced catholics are under the same ban it may just be possible to construct a moral framework that is internally consistent. If gay couples are excluded but not divorced ones then I can't see what moral; basis can exist.

Does anyone have the factual answer?

Posted by: David Walker on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 9:20am GMT

Simon Icke,

You had exactly this same post on an other site a couple of days ago.

You could at least have corrected the misspellings.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 10:15am GMT

Fr Joseph quoted: ”… unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse…”

It would be most interesting to hear what j u s t “discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse” are supposed to be.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 10:27am GMT

David Walker wrote: “(Indeed I have known it to happen that a family have adopted a catholic child and then become RC themselves.)”

“A catholic child”? and then “become RC themselves”?? Is the child “catholic” from the womb???

What kind of Biologism is this?

Perhaps it would be better to ban the whole adoption business, as 30% of Swedish adopted children believe best (upon experience).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 10:28am GMT

"ABC: Exactly; and I think it’s important to say that neither the Cardinal nor the Anglican contributors to this debate are talking about the right of gay couples to adopt or wanting to block the legislation."

I don't know of any RC bishop who would say gay couples have a right to adopt, and I imagine if they did say so they'd be clobbered by Rome.

I suspect that the ABC and the Cardinal are arguing from slightly different premises.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 11:46am GMT

Dave - you write,
"I've heard of gay couples that sacrificially take on very difficult children. Maybe many children who have ended up in an institution *are* better off in a caring home with two parents of the same sex. But I'd be very surprised if it did not have some unwanted effects on the child's development and self-image".
There may be 'unwanted effects' you refer to but I would suggest they are far greater leaving children in institutions. Studies show that instituionalised children have far greater levels of criminality, self-harm, drug abuse and difficulty in forming relationships when they reach adulthood. When older children abscond from institutions because of unhappiness they often end up on the streets prey to sexual and physical abuse. How can it be in the 'best interest' of these children (which should be our sole priority) to exclude a whole swathe of potential adoptees because of the Roman Catholic Church's difficulty with homosexuality? There is a desparate shortage of adoptees particularly for older children with more complex emotional and physical needs. The 'unwanted effects' you refer to are far outwayed by the effects that continued institutionalisation potentially bring about in these children. There is no 'maybe' about it. Children are better out of institutions with adopted carers, properly assessed by the relevant authorities, whether with couples of same sex or both sexes, than they ever will be left behind. Who is paying the price of conscience here but the children themselves? Dave,there is no anti-Christian conspiracy here but a practical working out of Christ's demand, 'Suffer the little children to come to me'.

Posted by: AlaninLondon on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 12:59pm GMT

There may not be many cases of gay adoptions yet, but children have often lived in same sex environments: with mum and grandma, with parent and same-sex friend or, after a divorce, with a parent’s same sex partner. The many single parents bringing up children represent also, in their way, a single-sex environment.

The challenge facing these families is to provide sufficient role models and adult friends of the other sex. This is particularly important for boys, not only in same sex families, because the whole nursery, pre-school and primary school education is largely provided by women, the first male teachers usually appearing at secondary school. This is a huge issue also for heterosexual families. Britain has the longest working hours in Europe and many children see their father only for a few minutes every night and for only parts of the weekend. One could almost argue that all male families provide a much more balanced environment for children.

Bullying at school is a potential problem, but one that has to be laid squarely at the feet of the bully and those in our society that who agree that, somehow, same sex families are inferior. Increasing openness of the secular world our children live in, however, means that my children’s friends have just accepted our situation without any questions.

Christopher, if you are reading this, I really wish you could meet my two girls. They are normal children with a huge circle of friends. Spending only a little time with them would make you realise that they clearly have not suffered from having 2 loving women looking after them, and that they have developed strong healthy bonds with male adults who represent a huge variety of positive role models for them.

Posted by: Erika on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 2:03pm GMT

Quote from Mersyside Mike:

'I also wonder where contributors such as Simon Icke think right-wing Christian voters should turn. Not the LD's or the Greens. Not the Tories either - Cameron has said he does not agree with an exemption. I think there is one party which might well fulfil their requirements, and would take exactly the same line on both race and sexuality. At least that is consistent!'

Sorry Mike, I don't like your 'cheap shot' insinuating that all those oppose SOR will have to vote BNP. Even if you didn't actually mention BNP it was clearly implied. I would not vote BNP in a million years sorry to disappoint you. Perhaps a new Christian Democratic Party in the UK might give voters more choice though, as you rightly point out there is a vaccuum now for a real conservative, right of centre party, now that trendy Dave Cameron is trying to turn the Conservative party into yet another liberal party with the help of a few of his new found liberal Conservative MPs. I am not sure if he has the suppport of grass roots supporters though. It seems he could lose at least as many real conservatives voters to UKIP as he hopes to gain new liberal support....

It will indeed be interesting at the next election, one thing is clear though New Labour is in danger of losing a massive proportion of the faith vote if he insists on riding roughshod over peoples beliefs and values. No one likes an arrogant Government that forces militant minority values on the majority.

PS Mike please don't assume that Christians,Catholics Muslims,Jews and others who are opposed to SOR are right wing, as it reveals quite narrow thinking......

Posted by: Simon Icke on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 5:55pm GMT

Studies have shown that kids growing up in gay households have no difference from kids who don't except that perhaps they are just a bit more tolerant of others.

Preventing gay adoptions does not block gay parenting. Lot of us are parenting biological kids, or finding other ways to make our families complete.

If the Catholics want to discriminate, fine. THey just don't use State money to do it.

Posted by: IT on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 7:05pm GMT

AlaninLondon wrote: "There may be 'unwanted effects' you refer to but I would suggest they are far greater leaving children in institutions.... How can it be in the 'best interest' of these children (which should be our sole priority) to exclude a whole swathe of potential adoptees because of the Roman Catholic Church's difficulty with homosexuality? There is a desparate shortage of adoptees particularly for older children with more complex emotional and physical needs. The 'unwanted effects' you refer to are far outwayed by the effects that continued institutionalisation potentially bring about in these children."

Dear Alan, I don't think that any of that is an argument for forcing Catholic Agencies to choose between managing adoptions by gay partners or closing. There are lots of other agencies around. The hard-line stance is *purely* based on an *ideology* that will not tolerate dissent - in the name of "Equality" (for certain favoured groups only).

I think I indicate that I agreed that there is an arguement to be made due to the greater harm often caused by institutionalisation. HOWEVER, Christians are now reporting not being allowed to adopt by secular agencies because of their beliefs about homosexuality and because they go to church (!!!): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?xml=/portal/2007/01/25/ftadopt125.xml Do you agree with that ? Are children more harmed by a "too idealistic" Christian upbringing than by growing up in an institution? Are such adoption agencies acting in the best interests of the children ?

The political reality is one rule for the favoured and another for the damned - liberal style!

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 9:05pm GMT

Erika wrote: "Bullying at school is a potential problem, but one that has to be laid squarely at the feet of the bully and those in our society that who agree that, somehow, same sex families are inferior."

Dear Erika, I sympathise with your situation. I have friends who are single mums struggling bravely to bring up their children in very difficult situations - socially economically and personal relationship wise. However, that doesn't mean that the single parent families *situation* is equally good to that of the families of married people. Quite the opposite - it shows how inferior the situation is!

As for the bullying aspect. Vulnerable children are being put into situations that could not occur naturally (directly at least) and then you are suggesting that the rest of us have the main responsibility if they are singled out by bullies !!! Dealing with bullies is crucial. But trying to tell us that, if we don't pretend that it is ok and 100% affirm the gay family, then *we* are to blame is a typically hypocritical way of avoiding accepting responsibility for the consequences of the government's actions.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 9:32pm GMT

No, Dave, I''m not suggesting that if "you" don't affirm gays then "you" are to blame instead of accepting responsibility for the consequences of the government's actions.

I was very fortunate, I had my children within the confines of a traditional middle class marriage. Nothing to do with the government!
They weren't bullied while they lived with me and my husband, and I hope their friends will protect them from being bullied now that they live with me and my female partner.

Whatever you may think of the rights and wrongs of my personal life, surely you can't believe it's right that my children should be punished by bullies because of my choices?
I insist that this (in our case potential) bullying is the responsibility of the bullies, who are sadly feeling encouraged by people who don't approve of my life.

As for our lifestyle being inferior - when this row broke out we had the opportunity to comment publicly on television on the life of gay families with children. We discussed it with the girls who absolutely faileld to see a problem. To them, it was clear that 2 women living together raising children was not the majority way of living in our society, but that it was nevertheless just normal to them. We eventually decided not to comment on national television because of the fear of bullying.

Do you really think this has to do with our "inferior" life style, rather than with lacking imagination and compassion from the potential bullies?
Erika

Posted by: Erika on Friday, 26 January 2007 at 11:58pm GMT

It would be most interesting to hear what j u s t “discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse” are supposed to be.

Goran, the Church condemns "unjust discrimination" + "violence" + "harassment" + "abuse".

Why confuse the issue? There has been much debate and controversy about the implicit recognition of "just discrimination". But let's try to avoid exaggeration, for it ultimately weakens our argument.

Generally, I think the attitude of the PC government of the UK today shows little understanding of the delicacy of conscience, and of course the UK Government is up to its neck in very unconscionable activities connected with the "war on terror".

Should another such issue arise tomorrow, not concerning gay people but say the rights of the handicapped, we might have to change tack and might deplore the rhetoric that now comes so easily to our lips.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 1:32am GMT

The bully is to blame for his/her bullying, not the person chosen for the bullying.

So are those who taught the bully to bully, as well as those who provide him/her with ideological pretexts (this includes "pre-texts" ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 9:31am GMT

Hi Erika-
Great, but that was not my point. My point was: if homosexuality and so-caled heterosexuality are treated as moral and biological equivalents, neither being better than the other, then practically speaking it is unlikely to be possible to apply this principle in some cases and not others; one is therefore left with the options of all cases or no cases. (As they say - correctly - give an inch, and people will take a mile. Or as it used to be, an ell.)
A positive outcome in some cases is inevitable, as no-one denies. But the real world is not isolated small scale goings-on: it is the large scale. And in any case, the large-scale incorporates all small-scales. If large-scale adoption of a principle leads to a worse situation than not adopting it, then obviously it is better not to adopt it in cases where partial adoption of it would not be practicable.
For example, one cannot prove that all incestuous relationships have always been bad. But the overall effect of affirming them would be bad.

Isn't it clear how all the delightful and beguiling 1960s 'innovations' (more abortion! more divorce! more homosexuality! let's throw in more crime and social breakdown while we are about it) have two things in common: they are the product of animal instinct as opposed to argument; and they single-mindedly undermine the family. Since I cannot conceive why anyone would want to undermine something good, this looks like a case of contrariness.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 12:32pm GMT

OK, O'Leary, I try again.

It would be most interesting to hear what j u s t discrimination is supposed to be.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 3:03pm GMT

Christopher, did I understand you correctly? Were you implying that a stable, loving, equal adult homosexual partnership can be equated to exploitative, unequal, often violent and illegal (!) incest?
Erika

Posted by: Erika on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 4:13pm GMT

Chris, didn't the climate which produced those beguiling innovations you so dislike also see the rise of things like anti-racism, the end of domestic violence as an acceptable expression of male domination and the rest? Aren't you doing the Daily Mail thing of seeing in the 60's the negation of everything you stand for? Or do you want to go back to the Saturday Night wife-beating culture of the 50's?

It's not so simple as you would like eveyone to believe, is it?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 4:41pm GMT

First he beat the children to get in the mood, then he raped their mum.

Next morning he made them all go to church and "behave".

;=)

I don't think it was quite that bad over here, though.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 6:13pm GMT

OK, Christopher, you probably haven't had the time to reply to my earlier question, so I shall answer your mail, hoping you will credit me with higher moral standards than those of an abusive instigator of incestuous "relationships".

You say that once one treats homosexual and heterosexual relationships as equal it will be impossible to apply this principle in some cases and not others.

But is it not true that adoption agencies are already very discriminating? They are very able to apply the principle of "suitable parents" to some heterosexual couples and not to others. I trust their professional judgement and would hope that they were able to distinguish the suitable homosexual couples from unsuitable ones also.

I think this is the prime challenge that Jesus has brought, that we look at individuals, not at social groups. Careful judgement of the individual rather than blanket approval or condemnation are the real hallmark of his ministry. It's harder, I grant you. But if you can say in your first sentence "great but not my point", presumably referring to the stability of my own children, then you are already beginning to see things in a much more differentiated way. I find that very hopeful.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 27 January 2007 at 10:00pm GMT

Hang on, Christopher! Am I unusualy dim, or are you saying that a situation in which the majority of relationships are abusive and exploitative (incest) is to be taken as a paradigm for assessing one in which the majority of relationships (adult, consensual, committed - and thus excluding 'one night stands, but hetero and homo and all shades inbetween) are vehicles of love and grace? This seems perverse.

Your argument starts with the a priori that there is a default setting in all homosexual relationships which is 'bad'. That is the issue on which we disagree, and you can't camouflage it by neat syllogisms.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 12:43pm GMT

"Just discrimination" is of course a flexible category. It would be claimed to cover schools that refused to take kids adopted by gay parents (on the grounds, for instance, that the child would be ill at ease in an environment lacking in understanding of her situation), or to hire teachers who would teach views against church teaching on homosexuality. Again "just discrimination" would be invoked in defence of the recent Vatican document refusing gays entrance to seminaries (comparable to the US discrimination against gays in military recruitment).

You may disagree with the concrete reasons for discrimination in all these cases, but it is not clear that there is no place at all for the category of "just discrimination". To take a frivolous case, gay bars are likely to discriminate against female customers (say by charging them twice as much as male ones) and lesbian bars likewise might discriminate against male customers. The State that legislates that this is intolerable could end up destroying these bars, and thus discriminating against that subculture!

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Monday, 29 January 2007 at 11:13am GMT

Fr Joseph O'Leary wrote: “You may disagree with the concrete reasons for discrimination in all these cases, but it is not clear that there is no place at all for the category of "just discrimination".“

I’m not so sure about that. The reason I asked was precisely that we don’t (and cannot) use “just” in this manner in Swedish. It’s not thinkable. “Unjust” may only refer to (relative) trifles, such as a (numerical) division of sweets among children, for example.

3 each – or 9 to the favourite child and none for the others? That would be ”unjust”, but hardly “unrighteous”, which is a different category all together.

Likeways, when referring to something serious or deeply immoral we could only use “unrighteous”, never “unjust” – as indeed does the Roman Catechism (1997 ed) in Swedish “orättfärdig diskriminering”.

So sorry, but I would indeed say that there is no place for such an absurdity as a category as “unjust discrimination”. Even less for the blatant contradictio in adjecto of “just discrimination”. Discrimination is unrighteous, but never just.

Your “concrete” examples (why not the Blairism “massive” ;=) are hilarious.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 29 January 2007 at 9:16pm GMT

But the problem is with the word "discrimination" -- if it always has an unrighteous meaning then of course "just discrimination" is an oxymoron and "unjust discrimination" is a pleonasm.

I think it is deplorable that the churches, instead of being a powerful social voice in the spirit of William Temple, once again find themselves batting at the sticky wicket of "holding the line against gays". There must be more to the Christian social conscience than this.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 9:03am GMT

So when we say just discrimination we really mean discernment?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 10:30am GMT

It may be argued that The Christian Social Conscience is a 19th century construct to say: We're really not just a hierarchy into power-play, you know.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 11:13am GMT

Hi Erika-
Yikes! I hope I have been advocating a 'more differentiated' outlook for half a lifetime already. 'Nuance' is (as you will see in many of my posts) my middle name - or that is the aim anyway.
Remember that the way the 'battle lines' are conventionally drawn is not necessarily between the two main academic options; it can often be instead between instinct on the one hand and reason on the other. We live, after all, in an age which claims that all views deserve a hearing, and people ahve the right to hold them whether or not they are supported by argument. How one defends that view, I don't know.
Anyway - to return to the topic of nuance - that is why I am so impressed (or rather not impressed) by the fact that the pre/post 1960s-comparison stats (on family matters) are so utterly clear-cut. Because we live in a world where a lot of stats are *not* clear-cut, and therefore those that are deserve particular attention.
On incest you (and David Rowett) missed the point. I was not directly comparing incest with homosexuality, but using incest as an example of a general principle. The principle is: the fact that something has good effects in a minority of cases is not a good argument for allowing it.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 12:19pm GMT

I'm sorry Christopher, but which part of this was "nuance"?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 9:55pm GMT

"We live, after all, in an age which claims that all views deserve a hearing, and people ahve the right to hold them whether or not they are supported by argument. How one defends that view, I don't know."

Defence #1. If you wish to believe something, whether or not it is supported by fact, you are free to do so. You cannot be forced to change your mind, though someone who refuses to change his mind despite overwhelming evidence the he is wrong could be called an idiot. All are free to be idiots.

Defence #2. Religion cannot be proven in any scientifically acceptable way, indeed, many would argue there is abundant evidence against such belief. I'm sure most of us would argue we are free to hold our relgious beliefs, however, absence of evidence not being evidence of absence. It would be difficult to give arguments supporting one religion over another, or in support of religion at all.

So, it doesn't seem all that difficult to defend someone's right to believe something whether or not it can be supported by argument, Christopher. You seem to be saying that, if there is no evidence to support a belief, society should be able to force people not to believe it. How this could be done, let alone justified is a mystery to me. It also seems to be supportive of societies that would suppress religious faith.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 6:42pm GMT
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