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The problem with marriage arguments by Tim Wilson, Mary McAleese

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Mary McAleese, president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, speaks at a March 2015 conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring
Mary McAleese, president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, speaks at a March 2015 conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

It’s been an emotional week in political circles where homosexuality is concerned. At a time when Australian Marriage Equality keeps repeating its mantra to mainstream society that “nothing will change” should we embrace the mirage it calls same-sex marriage, everything is in fact, well, attempting to change.

This week we had new Liberal MP Tim Wilson welling up in tears during his maiden speech to Parliament where he lamented not being able to “marry” his fiancé, Ryan.

Clearly, Mr Wilson feels strongly about this topic which, as we all understand, is very close to home for him. My heart, no doubt along with yours, genuinely goes out to him at this time.

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However, when I first began working with politicians in Westminster some two decades ago, maiden speeches and main policies were never subjective.

They did not revolve around a member’s personal life, but concentrated rather on her or his constituents and the common good for all.

For a maiden speech to be all about oneself suggests a change in direction within the political realm with subjective feelings beginning to challenge, and maybe even trump, objective facts.

Then there were the comments of the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, who stated this week that “we have the phenomenon of men in the priesthood who are both heterosexual and homosexual but the Church hasn’t been able to come to terms with the fact that there are going to be homosexuals in the priesthood, homosexuals who are fine priests”.

Ireland may indeed struggle with this reality, but this is not my experience of the USA, Canada, the UK or in Australia.

First, in alleging that many priests are homosexual, the former President fails to truly honour the great men who serve us as priests whichever corner of the world they may serve in.

They, like everyone else, deserve better than to be scrutinised by the public about their sexual attraction. Of course there are a number of priests who experience same-sex attraction (welcome to the real world!), but their calling to embrace a celibate life has access to an abundant of God’s grace in the same way that every human being is called to live out chastity with the help and assurance of God’s unconditional love.

They may fail at times, and are in need of God’s mercy as we all are. But this doesn’t permit us to change the bedrock of Church teaching.

Additionally, Dr McAleese decries the fact that, for the authorities at Maynooth, Ireland’s largest seminary, “policing celibacy is more important than pastoral service”. I wonder which parts of the Church’s global scandals around childhood sexual abuse she believes are not connected to the healthy development and integration of human sexuality?

For the Church to maintain its doctrine on homosexuality – which is not a policy, a mistake that many political minds often make when criticising the Church – is to uphold the Church’s scriptural inheritance and tradition.

Without a deep understanding and practical embrace of the Church’s doctrine on every level, how can a person of authority within the Church be expected to engage in the best possible pastoral service?

Of course, the other reality rarely spoken of is this: those of us who are attempting to submit to the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, and are gradually, and often very slowly, having our minds and hearts illuminated in this delicate area of our personhoods, are constantly discovering new levels of life-giving revelation.

We are learning that we are more than our sexual attraction, our academic ability, our creative bend, or our spiritual walk. Our true identity is the mark from Christ that has destined us for eternal relationship with our loving Father.

Mr Wilson’s tears and President McAleese’s comments have already tugged at many heartstrings but this adulation will pass. Real care of real lives comes about not by renouncing doctrine, or dismissing it as changeable policy that needs to fit our contemporary emotional worlds.

True pastoral service comes first through establishing a foundation of treating each other with Christian love and the reminder that every person is to be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” as the Catechism teaches.

But then the real construction of a person’s true identity and dignity are achieved through submission to age-old truths that come from the mouth and hand of the Creator. If we change the doctrine, we change humanity – to the peril of all.

Will our future legislation be based on objective realities, backed up by faith, reason and science? Or are we now moving into a world that is dictated to and formed merely by subjective feelings and attitudes displayed by public figures such as Tim Wilson and President McAleese?

If yes, then we have to be prepared to discriminate against, rather than embrace, the demands being laid down others who veer away from orthodox teaching on sexual matters. The choice is ours.

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