Prof Tina Beattie has expressed her support of same-sex marriage in The Guardian on the day of the vote in the House of Commons, publicly defying the authority of the Bishops of England and Wales and the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. She has expressed her dissent as Professor of Catholic Studies, Roehampton University. Prof Beattie has been banned from delivering lectures in her own diocese and at a university in the USA as a consequence of her public support of gay marriage, but has been invited by the Archdiocese of Westminster to deliver a lecture on the 16th February. The Archdiocese of Westminster is led by Archbishop Nichols.
Prof. Beattie writes in response to the question, ‘should Catholics accept gay marriage?’
Tina Beattie: ‘Yes, society will benefit from same sex-marriage’
I have never been able to understand the argument that same-sex marriage threatens marriage as we know it. Marriage is far more threatened by a consumerist culture in which the demand for instant gratification is worth the sacrifice of any relationship or responsibility which involves commitment and struggle, and by an ethos of sexual libertarianism which so easily mutates into predatory and exploitative relationships involving young and vulnerable people, and which fosters unrealistically high expectations of sexual performance among adults who ought to know better.
In this context, society stands to benefit from any move towards a deeper understanding of the value of “lifelong fidelity and commitment” between two people, whether of the same sex or of different sexes, as a basic building block for community and family life.
[Protect the Pope comment: Prof. Beattie abandons the Catholic doctrine that marriage has the sole purpose of the union of man and woman for the procreation of children, with the two meanings of unitive conjugal sex and procreative openness to life. Homosexual marriage fails on all three dimensions. Prof. Beattie is not a Catholic in her understanding of marriage.]
And let’s be honest – the gay subculture is such that there may be relatively few men in particular who want to agree to “forsake all others” and opt for lifelong monogamy, which is implicit in the understanding of marriage informing the current debate.
When evangelical preacher Steve Chalke recently argued in favour of same-sex Christian marriage, one gay person complained about the “enforced monogamy” that this entailed. This is only one of many complex and messy issues that surrounds the proposed change, but life is complex and messy. Christianity recognises that, and at its best it seeks to nurture the most favourable social conditions for human flourishing and for care for the vulnerable within the muddle and mess of our human fallibility.
Religions are organic and slow-growing worlds of meaning. They are not progressive, democratic organisations,
[Protect the Pope comment: The question under discussion is about Catholics and the Catholic Church. Prof. Beattie abandons the Catholic doctrine that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has entrusted the Depositum Fidei to all baptised Catholics, that is safeguarded, preserved and communicated by the interplay of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium (Dei Verbum 10). Prof. Beattie is not a Catholic in her understanding of revelation.]
and a truly democratic and free society must respect their internal dynamics and values, even if from a secular, rights-based perspective these are at odds with prevailing cultural norms. So it is right that religious communities and institutions are guaranteed protection from any attempt to use the law to impose same-sex marriage upon them.
Reading the government response to last year’s consultation published in 2012, every possible endeavour has been made to take account of religious and other objections, and to ensure legal protection for religious communities, only allowing them to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if their official governing bodies authorise this. Fears have been expressed about whether faith schools will be forced to teach that same-sex marriage is equal to heterosexual marriage, but on a wide range of sexual and reproductive issues, Catholic schools already promote the church’s teachings which challenge existing legal and social norms in wider society, for example with regard to remarriage after divorce, contraception, abortion and extra-marital sex. It is not clear why same-sex marriage should be any different.
[Protect the Pope comment: Prof. Beattie is being disingenuous in her argument here. Same-sex marriage will come under Equalities legislation, while the aspects of Catholic sexual morality she mentions don't.]
In the government’s response to the consultation, marriage is defined in terms that are deeply rooted in traditional Christian values, such as the claim that “marriage in the 21st century is an inclusive, not exclusive, institution. It is available to all those over 16 who are prepared to make vows of lifelong fidelity and commitment.” At a time when the Christian understanding of marriage is being undermined, not by same-sex relationships but by heterosexual relationships which often fall far short of these ideals, I believe the government is trying to make a public affirmation of the ways in which the dignity and commitment of the Christian understanding of marriage offers a model for human love and fidelity that is still the best society can aspire to.
[Protect the Pope comment: Again Prof Beattie abandons the Catholic doctrine of marriage replacing it with a individualistic caricature. To remind Prof. Beattie of the Church's teaching on marriage here's a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 'By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory." Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: "It is not good that man should be alone," and "from the beginning [he] made them male and female”; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.’ (CCC 1652)]
I have now spent many months reading and reflecting on the arguments and discussing this with gay and straight friends, with those opposed and with those in favour. I have come to believe that same-sex marriage would be good for society and for the individuals involved.
And I’d like us to get that out of the way and hold this profoundly inegalitarian government to account for its much greater abuses and violations with regard to the destruction of the welfare state and the fabric of care and social responsibility upon which every family – gay or straight – depends for its wellbeing.
• Tina Beattie is professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University
[Protect the Pope comment: If Prof. Beattie was banned from lecturing in her own diocese, the Diocese of Clifton, because she signed a letter in The Times arguing for Catholics to support same-sex marriage, how is it possible for the Archdiocese of Westminster to allow her to lecture on the 16th February now that she has publicly supported gay marriage in The Guardian on the day of this important vote?]