Monday, 31 July 2017

Reflecting on Gay Britannia

The BBC is currently in the middle of broadcasting a wide range of programmes, on both television and radio, under the branding "Gay Britannia". The programming marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 "which partially decriminalised gay sex" according to the web page just linked or, as a trailer I heard on Radio 2 yesterday expressed it, "legalised gay sex". The distinction is not trivial, as an observation below will show.

I am struck by the willingness of the BBC's web page to use the terms "gay" and "queer" in their titles/strap lines for programmes. That they have not been more consistent in the use of what, so far as I can tell, is the current more "correct" terminology of LGBT (or LGBTQ+) suggests some recognition of the unusual in the subject matter of their programming.

The strap line for the two Radio 2 programmes Born this Way reads as follows:
Andrew Scott presents the remarkable story of how gay people transformed pop culture.
Which is interesting in its recognition of something implicit in the whole of the Gay Britannia programming: that the movement in favour of LGBTQ+ equality represents a wholesale alteration of our public culture, and not just a movement in favour of equality. This creates a bit of a catch-22 for Catholics who, on the one hand would wish to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ persons precisely as persons (and not because of their LGBTQ+ characteristics) who therefore have the same inalienable human rights as each and every other person, but on the other hand would wish to oppose a transformation of culture that embeds the LGBTQ+ characteristic as normative.

The BBC Gay Britannia programming indicates how much the culture of media and entertainment has been the subject of this cultural transformation. But that transformation now reaches into many other areas of society via an assimilation of a genuine concern for the rights of LGBTQ+ persons to a cultural transformation that, on the part of most people, is quite inadvertent and unrecognised.

It would be naïve to think that this does not have its effect on Catholics, who, in the workplace and elsewhere, will find it difficult to maintain a resistance to a cultural transformation they do not support whilst at the same time acknowledging the rights as persons of those who live according to a lifestyle that is different than their own.

In this context, it is worthwhile for Catholics to recall some considerations of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to measure our current experience against them. The considerations refer to an earlier letter from the Congregation on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The considerations are limited to considerations of sexual orientation (they were published as long ago as 1992), though they nevertheless do have some application to the wider LGBTQ+ context.
6. “She (the Church) is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to or as acceptable as the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy” (no. 9).
7. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
13. Including “homosexual orientation” among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is no right to homo-sexuality (cf. no. 10) which therefore should not form the basis for judicial claims. The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality. A person's homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination, and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights.
14. ...Homosexual persons who assert their homosexuality tend to be precisely those who judge homosexual behavior or lifestyle to be “either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing” (cf. no. 3), and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this quarter that one is more likely to find those who seek to “manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws” (cf. no. 5), those who use the tactic of protesting that “any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people... are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination” (cf. no. 9). 
[The observation at n.13 is pertinent to the distinction between "partially decriminalising" and "legalising" noted at the top of this post.]

To update these considerations, we should make reference to Pope Francis' repeated condemnations of "gender theory", which he has termed an "ideological colonisation of the family". That we are made as persons who are either male or female in their physiology is a matter of the creative wisdom of God, and to promote the notion that it is we who can decide our own gender and change it if we wish - this Pope Francis identifies as being opposed to God's creative act. It is an ideology because it wishes to alter reality, rather than to recognise and explore reality. The abolition of the word "sex" to refer to male or female persons, and its almost universal replacement by the word "gender", is a sign of just how much, under the label of equality, an ideology of gender has already contributed to an alteration of culture.

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