Monday, 10 December 2012
"No, you are not married."
Good words from Bishop Egan of Portsmouth and Bishop Devine of Motherwell on the Prime Minister’s push for same-sex couples to be allowed to marry. Incidentally, hasn’t it been fascinating, in recent times, to compare the styles of Catholic Churchmen - and indeed the general tenor of political and social debate - north and south of the border? They don’t mince words up there, do they?
I published a post on this topic a few months ago, which I link here for readers’ convenience. It is astonishing, even after the subject has been simmering ad nauseam, that PM David Cameron still talks as though he thinks that it is actually possible for persons of the same sex to be married. Whatever the law of the land eventually states, and whatever word the law applies to the ceremony or to their status, they will not in fact be married.
What is driving the PM? Or more exactly, what things are driving him? It feels as if there is more to his decision-making than a detached intellectual study of the matter, leading to a calm, considered decision, however erroneous. Calm, intellectual consideration is not exactly what springs to mind in reflecting on Mr Cameron’s style or on his political record.
Is it something to do with his friends? Dare I say: is it something to do with Eton, his old public school? Its reputation in these matters has long been (whether exaggeratedly or not) rather notorious.
Is it something to do with his work experience before entering Parliament? I understand that he was a public relations man, selling his employers’ image, putting the desired impression across: that sort of thing. The attractive picture, to gain as many profitable customers as possible. Public relations can, I am sure, be an honourable and integritous career. But in the nature of things it must be vulnerable to the danger of becoming a thing in itself, an exciting skill, distinct from the value (including the moral worth) of what it represents.
But having said all that, I am left with this practical and sobering thought, regarding what lies ahead. If this law comes to pass, will one of us become involved at some point in the following exchange with a person who has celebrated a same-sex ceremony? However courteous the discussion, and however clearly and charitably we have set out the truth about marriage, in the end it may come to this: “Am I married or am I not?” “No, you are not.”
It is often said these days that in large measure it is the judges who make the law in our country, case by case, precedent by precedent. Which of the law’s opponents will be the first person to be charged with having given offence, and put on trial, not so much for a precisely-worded crime, but, as the police have sometimes said in other cases in recent years, “to test the law”?