Stepping on the Eggshells of Religion and Politics

The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia), November 2, 2011 | Go to article overview

Stepping on the Eggshells of Religion and Politics


I'M stepping on eggshells writing about religion or politics.

They are particularly brittle if that means commenting, again, on Bishop Bill's treatment or entering the civil union or same-sex marriage debates. So here goes . . .

Without implying any similarity whatsoever in the substance of those two issues, I nevertheless believe that neither can be resolved by rational debate. Each has a high aI believea factor.

Each debate is made fruitless by depending for resolution upon a bottom line that goes something like this: aThe Pope saysa, followed by a traditional discourse on an apparently God-given power to be, sometimes, infallible.

Similarly, in the same-sex marriage debate, reliance on a historical definition of marriage that necessarily requires participants to be of opposite sex is unlikely to progress the issue.

Thinking about Bishop Bill, I have not modified my view of the absolute injustice of his treatment. However, I was surprised to see a lengthy letter over his name last week.

I think it could have been a one line letter, namely aWith the greatest respect, the Pope, and my fellow bishops in supporting him, have got it wronga. Full stop, finito, Amen.

What the bishops concluded was inevitable, for those who are persuaded that the Pope has a special, God-given insight and authority. By teaching, upbringing or indoctrination, that apparently over-rules all normal human principles of justice and a fair go.

The civil union and same-sex marriage issues are less clear-cut.

Even a peremptory study of these issues leaves no doubt that the situation is confusing.

State governments can't legislate to permit same-sex marriage because, whatever might be the majority view in any state parliament, it's a federal matter.

States can, however, legislate to permit and legally acknowledge civil unions and consequent granting of certain legal privileges.

This can go part way towards providing equality with the recognition and status enjoyed by male-female partnerships either within traditional marriages or de facto relationships. …

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