So what was the Vatican’s response to Ireland’s historic vote for marriage equality?
Slightly muted, somewhat bitter, and more than a little enlightening.
The Pope himself said nothing publically, presumably not to appear fallible. It was left to close deputy Cardinal Pietro Parolin to make this odd but revealing pronouncement:
The Irish vote, he declared, was a “defeat for humanity”.
The decision of a majority to accept and cherish a minority? To me, that is the triumph of all that is best about people, humanity at its absolute finest. It seems that when the Catholic Church uses the word “humanity” it means something quite different.
Itself, I suspect.
A 2,000 year old all-male global institution. For sure that’s an organism of a sort, able to preserve and replicate itself successfully. But its goals and its needs, its triumphs and defeats, are not humanity’s. Life, but not as we know it.
A Yes vote won’t change so much. Not all Gay people will be rushing out to get married just because they can. It won’t, contrary to the fantasies of the overly religious, give them a strange new right to get babies tailor-made. And nor will it stop them being bullied in school or beaten on the streets. Life will go on about the same. So why is it so important?
Imagine you’re an ugly person. I know, it’s hard. But just picture yourself as unappealing. Possibly some sort of mutant. Even so, you might still fall in love. With someone equally hideous, presumably, but that’s life. So you’re about to get married, but suddenly your society turns around to you and says “Sorry, no. You’re… You’re just too damn ugly. We can’t be doing with that.”
Or say the objections of the religious were actually honest, and they made it the law that all infertile couples couldn’t get married. Or we had a more coldly logical regime where you can’t legally marry if you’re too poor to raise children in safety and health. Or too stupid. Or you and/or your prospective life partner are habitual drunks with a history of rage and violence. Consider a more pure and idealistic world where rich old ugly people aren’t allowed to marry poor young pretty people, where celebrities didn’t marry each other as a career move, one where you actually have to be in love before you can commit your life to someone else.
Thankfully – I think – we don’t live in any of those worlds. Destitute, ugly, drunk, diseased, violent, angry people have every right to get married – and sometimes do. In fact as long as they’re over the age of consent and aren’t siblings, it’s perfectly legal for any two people whatsoever to marry each other, however tragically unsuited.
Unless they are the same sex. It doesn’t matter how much in love you are, how long you’ve been a couple or how good you are together, you can’t marry your partner if you’re both girls or both boys. Society at large thinks you getting married is worse than drug-trafficking arms-dealing sadistic escaped war criminals settling down to raise a brood.
But you can have a sort of cut-back version called Civil Union, what’s wrong with that? Well there are some legal niceties, but the main difference is straightforward: It’s not marriage. It’s marriage-except-you’re-not-allowed-to-call-it-that.
And that’s the nub of the whole thing. When it comes down to it, Gay people aren’t allowed to marry… because they’re Gay. It’s not the marriage part that so many disapprove of. It’s the Gayness bit. This is why most of the arguments of the No side are so illogical. Marriage won’t create a right to have children by surrogacy, any more than it does for straight couples. Nor will it change the criteria that adoption services use. Yet these fervid scenarios are dragged in anyway, because they are about the only quasi-acceptable opposing arguments they can make. Their purpose is to disguise the real motivation: A refusal to accept that homosexual is just a thing that some people are, and not a terrific sin that bad people are getting up to because it’s secretly enormous crack. It’s not about the children. It’s about the religion.
We’re being asked today to stop blatantly discriminating against Gay people. It won’t, as I say, change the world. But it will send a message. It will tell people that we oppose the oppression and mistreatment of people who happen to be Gay. That we no longer demand, as we have for so long, that they hide the truth about themselves in fear and shame. That we oppose the mistreatment and discrimination, the bullying and the beatings. That we consider Gay people to be… just people, with the same possibilities and rights to respect and responsibility as anyone else. This is the message we can send by voting Yes.
And if we let the No side win, we will send precisely the opposite message.
Bridie O’Flaherty¹ warned us last week that a shop which sells vibrators will attract undesirables. Hmmm… Apparently the most frequent purchasers of these things are actually long‑distance lorry drivers – male ones. Not because the job makes them kinky about vibrations, but in the belief that such ‘marital aids’ will help their wives remain faithful to them while they’re on the road.
Interesting that they don’t seem to purchase reciprocal devices (if that’s the phrase I want) for themselves. One can only assume that they find a different method of remaining faithful. Or perhaps Bridie is right, they’re simply undesirable.
This leads neatly back to my campaign against divorce. Last week I pointed out that the whole idea was fundamentally illogical, and the only sane option was polygamy. I should mention here that in practical terms the situation would be little different from divorce, in that separated partners would need nobody’s permission to enter into new marriages. Thus it would be a way to avoid the divisive process of having a referendum, (the constitution doesn’t even mention polygamy), and in principle we’d still have lifelong marriage. Instead of just lifelong alimony.
With polygamy however you wouldn’t necessarily need to be separated in order to marry someone else. Not that the husband, say, could wander in one day with a brand new wife. (‘Darling, meet Darling. Darling, Darling.’). Once two people are married, they both have to agree to any addition to the partnership. Presumably a certain amount of bargaining would occur. She may well insist on an extra husband too. Or something more useful. The point is that all parties have to consent, because they’re all going to be married to each other.
HANDFUL OF MEMBERS
With everyone having a veto like that it’s unlikely that many marriages would end up with more than a handful of members. On the other hand though, with the gradual addition over time of younger partners, a marriage could go on indefinitely. This ‘extended marriage’, being both voluntary and yet binding, would become a far more stable core unit of society than the old extended family ever was. It could be the saviour of social cohesion.
Okay, I could write a book on this new system. Maybe I’ll get into further details at another time; meanwhile, feel free to write to me with any faults you see in the design. I bet you won’t find one though. This is the best of all possible systems. It’ll work.
On a related topic, I was glad to see that in a recent survey, 21% of teenagers claimed to be sexually experienced. That’s very reassuring – when I was that age there’s no way 79% of us would have dared own up to being virgins.
But back to important matters, we have to halt this referendum campaign. You know what the real purpose of putting the conditions for divorce in the constitution is, don’t you? So that individual TDs will be able to say “I didn’t bring in this divorce law. The people did.” In other words it’s a neat trick to avoid accountability in government.
GET THE BOOT IN
Clever swines. And having got away with it once, they’ll soon be using it for every controversial measure that comes along. It’s a recipe for a form of dictatorship. A representative government has to find working compromises, please enough of the people enough of the time. For a referendum you only need 50% plus one to think it’s quite a nice idea, and it doesn’t matter a damn if the other not-quite-half hate it with every fibre of their collective being. What if PAYE payers got up a campaign to constitutionally gas people on social welfare? It could happen.
So in principle I’m against the idea of messing around with the constitution for political ends. But I guess if you can’t beat them, get the boot in first. I propose a referendum: Give the cash of the richest 25% of the population to the rest of us.
It can’t fail. Let’s start collecting signatures.
I’ll just say she wasn’t our most liberal local politician.