Featured

Looking back in anger, looking forward in hope

There is a special poignancy in our Irish Christmas this year. In some way it links aptly with this no less poignant famous picture of Joseph helping Mary and her unborn child along the road to Bethlehem, just over two thousand years ago.

It is Mary and Joseph on the Way to Bethlehem, from the Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes, now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

In it, The Guardian newspaper (believe it or not), tells us that we see Mary and Joseph who are on their way to Bethlehem through a rocky landscape. She has climbed down from the donkey, perhaps afraid of riding down such a perilous, ankle-breaking slope. Joseph, grizzled and weary, is helping her along with all his loving kindness, his actions (rather than her physical appearance) suggesting just how pregnant she is. He is doing everything he can, as husband and prospective new father, to protect his little family from hardship and danger.

In Ireland the unborn have now lost the protection of the State. The fatal decision was made by a majority of the Irish people last May. That they did so, many still find very hard to come to terms with. Legislatures, at one remove from the will of the people, pass laws like this – but that a people should directly ask it legislature to do so is in some way harder to comprehend. But comprehend it we must.

The antiphon to the second Psalm, a substantial portion of which constitutes part of the lyrics of Handel’s Messiah, proclaims:

“His kingdom is a kingdom of all ages, and all kings shall serve and obey him. “

These lines challenge us, challenge our faith in the word of God. When I look around me at our crazy world and my apostate nation, I have the temerity to question these words as so much self-delusion. I’m inclined to say, “Really? Serve and obey? Will they really? You must be joking.”

Credibly enough, the psalmist asks rhetorically, “Quare fremuérunt gentes, et pópuli meditáti sunt inánia?” Why this tumult among nations, among peoples this useless murmuring? Indeed the more direct translation, “thinking up inanities” might be better.

Tumult certainly; useless also; even self-negating – all that self-grandising posturing which we call identity politics, signifying nothing; hang-ups over ‘diversity’ to the point where the world is becoming a new Tower of Babel.

And the political classes, left, right and center? They also fit into this picture, personified by the royalty of a former age:

“They arise, the kings of the earth, princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed. They shout, ‘Come, let us break their fetters, come let us cast off their yoke.’”

There is certainly a great deal of that around. How else are we to interpret the abuse piled on those who dare to defend the rights of medical professionals whose consciences are being trampled on by their own elected representatives? For our “rulers” conscience is now a fetter, a yoke to be cast off.

“Carol Nolan TD (a member of the Irish Parliament) has received a lot vitriol abuse from fellow TD’S for opposing the abortion bill,” we were reminded courtesy of Facebook a few weeks ago.

But then comes an even harder bit for the beleaguered remnants of Israel to take on board.

“He who sits in the heavens”, we are told, “ laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn. Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and trouble them in his rage. It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

But where is he, we ask, as the division bell rings in the Irish parliament and “the kings of the earth”, the “princes”, troop to the lobby to pass death sentence on thousands of unborn children? The estimate is that close to 10000 Irish babies will perish next year under the legislation now passing through the two Houses of Parliament – with only a few brave voices offering resistance.

We look around and see a crumbling civilization. I walk through the campus of a famous university; I pick up a student newspaper – free because it is printed with money from taxpayers, in the name of education. What do I find in it? Very little that is not advocating licentious hedonism. Irony of ironies, this university was dedicated to the Most Blessed Trinity over four hundred years ago. If I were an advocate of “safe spaces” for young people I would certainly not be recommending this university campus, my alma mater, as one of them.

But then, in the midst of all these temptations to doubt the sacred texts, we remember the crumbling of Christ’s cohort of followers. Just four are left at the foot of the Cross, while faithful Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus face up to the powers-that-be and prepare to take him down from the gibbet to lay him in the tomb prepared by one of them. That makes six out of all those who, less than a week before, the were hailing him as the Son of David.

Then we hear the psalmist say with utmost confidence:

“I will announce the decree of the Lord: the Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day. Ask and I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession.’”

And the reckoning?

“‘With a rod of iron you shall break them, shatter them like a potter’s jar.’ Now, O kings, understand; take warning, rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with awe and trembling, pay him with your homage.

Lest he be angry and you perish; for suddenly his anger will blaze.”

Can all that really be balderdash? No. These words have been sung and believed in for more, much more probably, than three thousand years. They have also been scoffed at by kings, princes and peoples who delude themselves with “useless murmuring”. These words have been at the heart of the Christian transformation of the world foretold in the Old Testament and announced in the New. Strip away all that has come to us from these words and we will be left with a nasty and brutal world dominated by superstition and fatalistic myth, ruled by fools who think they can mold human nature into whatever shape they dream up or desire.

The final line of the psalm proclaims, “Blessed are they who put their trust in the Lord.” So, with those words, all doubt melts away – if trust in the Lord is the condition for Blessedness what more is there to say. If we were to value anything in the world over this then we make ourselves nothing more than useless murmurers and lackeys of the “kings of the earth”.

That trust, that Blessedness, will still be as real three thousand years from now, as real as it is today, as real as it was in the souls of Mary and Joseph as they struggled towards Bethlehem with the unborn child who is the saviour of mankind; and as real as it was three thousand years ago – in spite of the world’s Herods, dictators, pseudo-democrats and all the other varieties of rulers it offers us.

Is this what the denial of unconditional love for both really means?

support-mothers-protect-babies
REJECTED IN THE NEW RACISM

Ireland is a country divided in a divided world. The Republic of Ireland is not a fraction as divided from those six counties of Ulster in the United Kingdom, as it is by the division  between the adherents of post-sixties modernity, and the adherents of a Christian culture which has been the hallmark of Western civilization for 2000 years. A cold, cold civil war continues unabated in Ireland. It is not a pleasant thought, but this conflict is nothing more or less than a race war, symbolized by the chilling rejection by two thirds of its voting electorate of the LoveBoth logo of the defenders of the right to life of human beings in their mothers’ wombs.

Any among the LoveBoth campaigners who happened to be able to endure the triumphalism of the victors in that historic referendum, will have wondered where their citizenship went last Saturday morning when they heard a (fairly) famous Irish journalist proclaim that at last Ireland was now “one nation”.

Yesterday, after a walk along St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, I posted what amounted to a kind of cry for help on social media, the only way I could find at the time of dealing with a troubling existential experience.

I admitted that I was unable to look at the faces of those who passed me. The thought that two in every three were prepared to allow the killing of children in the womb was too potent a spark for enmity for me to deal with. I just had to look away. God help us! I said.

It struck a chord with a good number of people. One in particular, from the other side of the divide, seemed to want to help me bridge the chasm I was facing.

“Can I ask a genuine question?” She said. “How do you feel Irish society can move forward together following the referendum as there are such strong feelings on both sides?”

For my part, I could only reply to this effect, “I just don’t know. I am doing my best to resist hostility – of which we are receiving so much it makes it very difficult. The objective moral reality of this is shattering.”

She responded, disclosing formally that she was “pro-choice” – which I knew already –  saying that what concerned her was the ongoing split and that there didn’t seem to be any answers. “I…would like to think there is some way forward for all that is less divisive than (what) is happening now. Hopefully for all our sakes a more harmonious future awaits!” I felt unable to offer that hope. Why?

One of the biggest obstacles Ireland – and indeed the rest of the Western world faces when it comes to this particular battle in our ongoing culture war – is that there is no basis for dialogue so long as one side refuses to engage with the other on the central issue of identity at its heart. Throughout the campaign in Ireland the pro-abortion side studiously avoided using the word “baby”, the word “child”, even the word “mother”. What we got instead, constantly and repeatedly at every turn, were the words “health”, “compassion”,  “choice” and “my body”.

At the evil heart of racism resides the irrational conviction that one category of human being is less than – or not at all a member of – our own species. History is replete with many sad examples of the consequences of racism: in another era, the English treatment of the Celtic peoples in general, and the Irish in particular, over many centuries; the enslavement of Africans over centuries of colonialism, working its way through the bloody American Civil War and only ending in that hemisphere – legally at least – with the civil rights legislation of relatively recent times, and with the end of apartheid in ours.

Wherever racism was rampant, for the length of time it took to overcome it, the members of the dominant strain of our species who fought against this evil force and identified with the oppressed, were abused and sometimes persecuted and murdered for their acceptance of the common humanity which they dared to proclaim. For as long as racism persists,  racists refuse to debate the central premise of those who oppose them – the undeniable human identity of those it wishes to ignore, oppress, or, as in the case of Nazi Germany, eliminate altogether.

In the Irish referendum just concluded we have just had the latest example of this phenomenon. The defenders of the unborn humans in the wombs of their mothers again and again, scientifically, instinctively, morally, presented the case for the human identity of the gestating child. Again and again their arguments were sidestepped and ignored. There was no debate. For one side the child in the womb was simply not human, not of our race, so therefore the constitutional right to life enjoyed by those already born could not and should not be extended to these essentially alien things, mere invading “clumps of cells”. Now Ireland’s lawmakers are getting ready, on the basis of a mandate from two-thirds of the electorate, to pass a law to facilitate the killing of any among these non-beings whom other human beings decide should not live. All those who resist them will be deemed not part of the Irish nation and sidelined – at best.

Am I wrong in equating this reality with racism? I may be. But until someone is prepared to come and talk to me about it, and show me the error of my ways, I cannot move from where I stand – for to me it seems exactly where we are.

The legend of Parsifal tells the story of a wound inflicted on mankind – in the person of King Amfortas. The wound festers and resists all attempts to heal it until the one true and pure knight, Parsifal, is found. He, the embodiment of truth, innocence and simplicity heals Amfortas and humanity.

Ireland, and indeed the secularist West as a whole, is inflicted with a deep and festering wound at whose heart lies the central issue in the debate over abortion, recognition of the human identity of the unborn. Until such time as a knight like Parsifal comes to our aid and gets us to face our willful cowardice in the face of this truth, then our crippling divisions will persist with all the pain that goes with them.

COMMENTS

This article also appeared on the website, MercatorNet.com, where it attracted the following comments:

There is and will be a way to bridge the split. It is the one being realized in every pro-abortion country. It is called pragmatism. Being pro-abortion does not and cannot work. Ireland once was abundant in energetic intelligent people. They were Ireland’s only natural resource but with that resource they outpaced many countries like the Ukraine that has all the resources but insufficient people. Because you cannot run a free market economy with a declining population, I assure you that Ireland’s economy will decline exponentially as its population declines. Moreover because an abortion is only and always detrimental to the health of a woman, Ireland’s health care budget will spiral up which will put increasing pressure on health care providers to give their elders an early, dignified of course, death. All this and more will be realized all too late to reverse the trend. Don’t believe me? Ask any citizen of a Nordic country.

Avatar

  • NOTE: The picture appears to be from a previous referendum held in 2002 which tried to tighten the laws around abortion.

  • Avatar

    “Am I wrong in equating this reality with racism?”

    No, good point – and, similarly, in equating it to slavery too where one individual exists for or at the convenience of the other.

Ireland goes the way of the world – for now

Demonstrators take part in a 'Pro-Life' rally, ahead of a May 25 referendum on abortion law, in the centre of Dublin
LOVING BOTH IS REJECTED

The words of James Joyce, which were once an offence to the people of his country, now, over one hundred years later, have become stunningly real for the estimated one third of Irish people who vainly tried to halt the tide of a modernity hostile to the unborn in the referendum which took place there on Friday.

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus, talking about his country with his friend: “Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” Too strong? No, says pro-life Ireland. What other interpretation is there when the majority in a country knowingly, willfully, declares that the deliberate killing of the unborn in the womb is permissible for no other reason than that it interferes with an individual’s comfort, convenience or life-style?

The Irish Government, willingly bowing to pressure, national and international, proposed to the electorate that the right to life of the unborn, guaranteed in its Constitution since 1983, be removed. This was to allow the legislature of the State to enact laws to facilitate unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks gestation and up to 24 weeks on grounds which, in practice, will be abortion on demand. Needless to say, the proposals as presented were less stark than that, but given the pattern of what has happened in every other country with a liberal abortion law, the reality will inevitably be termination on demand. All the dissembling in the world will not change that.

Among the slogans of the pro-abortion campaigners were “Trust women”, “Trust doctors” and “Trust politicians” – that last somewhat bizarre given the economic debacle Irish politicians visited on their country just ten years ago. With regard to the two former, campaigners for the right to life of unborn children were a little baffled by both women and doctors asking for trust with those very lives which they were claiming the right to choose to terminate. They complained that logic or reason played very little part in the pro-choice armory and that all the emphasis was on emotional exploitation of the hard cases – rape, incest, limited life prospects of the baby in the womb and more. The human right to life, the human nature of the child in the womb, even its very existence, the avoidance of the very word abortion, they complained, characterized the pro-choice campaign throughout.

But the truth is, the Government which put this proposal to the people cannot be blamed anymore. This result has now clearly shown that it is the express will of the majority of the people of Ireland – about 90% of its young electorate – that the child in the womb not be constitutionally guaranteed a right to life. Choice is the supreme moral norm. The good or evil of what is chosen is, apparently, a matter of indifference. What has shocked the dissenting third of the Irish people is that so many have failed to see that the killing of the unborn is an evil thing.

Once again, for a world which has habitually looked on Ireland as a bastion of family values and marriage, all this comes as a surprise. The first sign of this upheaval came just three years ago. Then, when a similar majority voted in a referendum to change the very meaning of marriage to allow gay people to marry, there was one question, “How did this happen so quickly?”

Many explained away that rejection of one of the social foundations binding a community They read it firstly as a sympathy vote for a minority. Secondly, it was thought of as the result of a failure to grasp the social consequences which pro-marriage campaigners warned of. Again, reason and logic were trumped by emotion and a deceitful misuse of the concept of human equality.

It was not seen by the majority as an out and out rejection by the people of the teaching of the mainstream Christian churches. This, however, is different. This can hardly be seen as anything other than an upfront rejection by the majority of the Irish of the Christian teaching on the sacredness of human life, from the womb to the tomb – and beyond. There is no ambiguity here. There is little basis for a benign response, “they know not what they do.” It has all been done with astounding willfulness.

In this instance the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic leaders were almost all unanimous in the guidance they gave to their followers on the matter of the sacredness of life. On 16 May the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, explained in a statement:

“The Church must always be pro-life.  That means that the Christian community must be a beacon of support for life especially at its most vulnerable moments and a beacon of support at vulnerable moments of any woman or man along their path of life.

“Christians must be pro-life when it comes to the unborn and those who are vulnerable at the end of their lives.”

The significance of all this in Irish history is twofold. She has now abandoned the principle held for at least 1500 years that all human life is sacred. She has joined the community of secularist nations where relativism rules the roost and life is allowed to flourish only on the basis of the choice of someone other than the living subject in the womb. This is where Ireland now stands – and if anything good might be said by pro life people about this, it is only that it is good to know where one stands.

The second and more general significance which this revolution has is what it says about Catholicism and the Christian Faith in Ireland. What is now clear is that the Irish people’s traditional culture, derived from Christian culture, is now rudderless. Its values with regard to life, the family – and its grasp of the Catholic Faith which has held firm for centuries in the face of “fire, dungeon and sword” – have now “all changed, changed utterly”. For many – well for approximately 32% – something other than “a terrible beauty” has dawned on them. They now face the challenge of starting again. But one third of a population is not the weakest of bases from which to start. This will be the challenge for all the Christian churches to take up, as it picks up the pieces.

There was evidence throughout this campaign of anti-Catholic sentiment – despite the efforts of the pro-life organizations to present their arguments on predominantly rational grounds, grounds of scientific evidence of the human nature of the child and grounds of natural rights and justice. A Catholic priest, an American working in Dublin, made this interesting response on social media to a correspondent who said that the vote was nothing more or less than a vote against the Catholic Church.

“Yes, the vote was a vote against the Church. To my mind, a strange way to think about human rights.” Then, after reflecting for a moment on the undoubted failures of the Church on many levels, and remarking on its servants’ sad record when it  “always found the temptation to wed itself to power irresistible”, he concludes, “The Church arose in a pagan culture by being willing to die for truths, not kill for them. Profound humility and joyful witness to the good life is the way forward. The only way forward for the secular West is to figure out how to argue for love when it announces a loveless universe, and for the Church to live love so attractively it is irresistible despite being powerless.”

For the hard-working campaigners for the unborn who have sweated it out on the streets and the doorsteps of Ireland’s cities and towns for the past four months – a truly marathon run-in to a poll – there may echo in their ears the dying words of Hildebrand, that great medieval campaigner for truth and rights under the law, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.”

On Friday, perhaps appropriately, the Catholic Church celebrated his feast day. To be a Christian in Ireland just now will, for many, have the taste of exile about it. It will demand not a little of the mettle of Hildebrand to begin again the mission to which all of them after all, by the very terms and conditions of their contract, are indeed committed.

A triumphant liberal pro-abortion columnist in yesterday’s Irish Times declared that “Middle Ireland” was dead. Now there is just Ireland. Without even thinking about the totalitarian implications of that proclamation, one third of Ireland probably begs to differ. They are already promising to make their voices heard loud and clear. Perhaps they will remain in exile for a while, strangers in a wilderness of moral social values. But they believe that eventually, by “living love so attractively that it will be irresistible, despite being powerless”, in the face of the secularist West and its “me, me, me” selfish and loveless universe, they can hope to triumph. They know that if it happened before it can happen again.

A people not fit for public purpose?

In the Irish referendum campaign the Yes side – in favour of same sex marriage – kept saying all it was about was a handful of words in the country’s constitution. The No side focused on what they feared would be the unintended consequences of what they saw as a radical redefinition of not only marriage but also of the family. The Yes side in turn accused them of scaremongering. It was ugly. No political debate in Ireland in living memory was so ugly and acrimonious.

But that is now history – or is it? If the No side was right, it is only beginning. Conor Brady, former editor of the Irish Times, the paper which was cheerleader  extraordinaire  for the Yes campaign from  start – several years ago – to finish, ominously reflected today in his Sunday Times column on what he saw over the past few months and the past week.
“A revolution”, he said, “without generosity, broadmindedness and a respect for the sweep of history will simply lay the foundations of a new tyranny”.

A friend has just told me of a conversation she had with someone who was speaking to a priest from the old Czechoslovakia and now working in Ireland. The priest says that the atmosphere and culture in Ireland at the moment is almost an exact replica of that in his country just before the Communist take-over. The main similarity he sees is the almost 100% indoctrination of the youth to the ideology. His view? Ireland must now prepare itself for a time of persecution.

The Canadian story about the same issue is worth looking at. What has followed that country’s legislation is a nightmare of bitterness and discrimination and the insertion into the public square of a cancerous growth of the marginalization of conscientious Christians – and people of other faiths as well. The new hostility to religion is not about driving people of faith into the arena to be eaten by wild beasts, but it is about confining them to the margins of society as people not fit for public purpose.

Professor Robert George of Princeton this morning flagged an article in Crisis magazine which it would behove us all to read. It is an account by Lea Z. Singh, a Canadian lawyer, writer and a stay-at-home mom to three young children, of the “unintended consequences” which have occurred in her country in the aftermath of their radical law-making.

Canada legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005, she wrote, the fourth country in the world to do so. During the rushed public debate that preceded legalization, the Christian and traditional understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman had strong support. Polls showed a deep split among Canadians, and the majority (52 percent) were actually against legalization at the time that it occurred.

Opponents of same-sex “marriage” were given all kinds of assurances. The preamble to the Civil Marriage Act states that “everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion,” “nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs,” and “it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage.”

The Irish electorate was not even given this assurance.

But how quickly things change, she continues. Since the watershed moment of legalization, Canadian social norms have shifted rapidly, and what was once considered fringe or debatable has become the new normal.

Today, different opinions on “gender identity” and same-sex “marriage” are no longer tolerated. Our society is sweeping away respect for religious faiths that do not accept and celebrate same-sex “marriage,” and the Civil Marriage Act’s assurances seem merely farcical. It is not premature to speak of open discrimination against Christians in Canada.

The Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms declares that Canadians have a fundamental “freedom of conscience and religion” and “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” But constitutional guarantees are at the mercy of lawyers, and Canadian lawyers have emerged as among the most fiercely intolerant of anyone, including their own colleagues, who fails to support same-sex “marriage.” Read her full account here.

The spread of ideas is a fascinating subject – how they start, how they take root, how they spread, and the consequences which follow; sometimes good, sometimes indifferent and sometimes dire.

John Henry Newman offered a description of the process in his masterly Essay on the Development of Doctrine. What he says offers us a remarkable picture of what has been unfolding before our very eyes in Western culture over the past 50 years or so.

When an idea, he says, is of a nature to arrest and possess the mind, it may be said to have life, that is, to live in the mind which is its recipient. But, when some great enunciation, whether true or false, about human nature, or present good, or government, or duty, or religion, is carried forward into the public throng of men and draws attention, then… it becomes an active principle within them, leading them to an ever-new contemplation of itself, to an application of it in various directions, and a propagation of it on every side.

He cites as example such ideas as the doctrine of the divine right of kings, or of the rights of man, … or utilitarianism, or free trade, …or the philosophy of Zeno or Epicurus, doctrines which are of a nature to attract and influence.

Let one such idea get possession of the popular mind, or the mind of any portion of the community, and it is not difficult to understand what will be the result. At first men will not fully realize what it is that moves them, and will express and explain themselves inadequately. There will be a general agitation of thought, and an action of mind upon mind. There will be a time of confusion, when conceptions and misconceptions are in conflict, and it is uncertain whether anything is to come of the idea at all, or which view of it is to get the start of the others.

It will, he wrote, introduce itself into the framework and details of social life, changing public opinion, and strengthening or undermining the foundations of established order. Thus in time it will have grown into an ethical code, or into a system of government, or into a theology, or into a ritual, according to its capabilities.

Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, in the aftermath of the Irish referendum, described the event as “a reality check”. It was. The day before the referendum a great number of Irish people had made assumptions about the condition of their culture, about the ideas which carried weight within it. Two days later those assumptions were shattered. A radical idea – for many a terrible idea – about the nature of mankind, about gender, the nature of family and marriage had been working under cover for twenty, maybe thirty years. On the 23rd of May, 2015, Ireland awoke to find it in full flower.

But we must not forget that Newman’s words were written in the context of the ever-renewing process of refinement and development of the teaching of the Catholic Church. Those words hold fast to the promise that the truth of its teaching is strangely and marvellously rejuvenated from age to age. We should expect nothing less today.

Marriage is dead. Long live Marriage!

It’s over in Ireland. The Irish people, by something close to a 60 – 40 majority popular vote have redefined marriage out of existence in their State Constitution and have replaced it with a shallow charade which they will now call marriage.

Marriage however, that primeval bond between a male and a female, still exists – and will exist so long as a man and a woman come together, as did Adam and Eve, to beget children. Long live marriage.

But the reality now is that the future of natural marriage, the conjugal union of man and woman, in the story of mankind will be even more fraught with difficulty than it has been in the past. It has never had an easy passage – either because of the folly and selfishness of individuals or the pandering of their public representatives to that same folly and selfishness. The first big compromise on the part of the latter was divorce. Now we have this. Ireland’s story is just one piece of a global jigsaw – symbolic for all sorts of reasons, but still just a piece. The New York Times now triumphantly declares that Ireland has advanced to the vanguard of this deconstructive process.

Ireland’s electorate has now robbed natural marriage of its constitutional protection in the Irish State. The laws relating to family, children, and all those things which the State’s endorsement of marriage framed and supported are essentially cut adrift in a sea which will be stormy, treacherous and at times destructive of society’s common good and the well-being of individuals. Because of this foolish action, which they thought was just a matter of changing a name, broadening a definition to include something else, they are complicit in an act which is an attempt to change human nature itself. As one opponent of the decision described it, “grotesque nonsense

Watch this space.

How did this all happen? We know the short-term story well. For an American and global perspective read After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ’90s. This was a book published in 1989 by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen which argues that after the gay liberation phase of the 1970s and 1980s, gay rights groups should adopt more professional public relations techniques to convey their message. This they did with a success which all marvel at. The blueprint was then applied to Ireland

For the Irish story, read how Atlantic Philanthropies promoted and funded the infiltration of Ireland’s state and charitable agencies to achieve yesterday’s referendum victory.

But the origin of this social crisis – John Waters, Irish newspaper columnist of the first rank, described it as a social catastrophe – goes back centuries, indeed almost a millennium. Essentially it all began when sentiment and human emotions began to gain the upper hand over human reason.

In The Allegory of Love, C. S. Lewis would have us believe, very convincingly, that a radical shift in human consciousness and culture began with the sudden appearance of what we call “courtly love” in 11th century Languedoc. Lewis explored this theme and thesis in this book, one of his masterworks, perhaps his greatest.

The dominant sentiment he explores is love. But it is love of a highly specialised sort, “whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love.” This all began with the love poetry specific to that time and that place, the love poetry of the Troubadours. The characteristics of this sentiment, Lewis tells us, and its systematic coherence throughout this poetry as a whole, “are so striking that they easily lead to a fatal misunderstanding. We are tempted to treat ‘courtly love’ as a mere episode in literary history – an episode that we have finished with…”

But we have not finished with it. He sees an unmistakable continuity connecting these love songs with the love poetry of the later Middle Ages, and thence, through Petrarch and many others, with that of the present day. If the thing at first escapes our notice, this is because we are so familiar with the erotic tradition of modern Europe that we mistake it for something natural and universal and therefore do not inquire into its origins. As Lewis says, it seems to us natural that love should be the commonest theme of serious imaginative literature. He looks back at literature preceding this southern French explosion, from the earlier Middle Ages back into antiquity, and finds that “what we took for ‘nature’ is really a special state of affairs, which will probably have an end, and which certainly had a beginning in eleventh-century Provence.” He continues:

It seems – or it seemed to us till lately – a natural thing that love (under certain conditions) should be regarded as a noble and ennobling passion: it is only if we imagine ourselves trying to explain this doctrine to Aristotle, Virgil, St. Paul, or the author of Beowulf, that we become aware how far from natural it is…

French poets, in the eleventh century, discovered or invented, or were the first to express, that

romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the nineteenth. They effected a change which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched…

Compared with this revolution the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature. There can be no mistake about the novelty of romantic love: our only difficulty is to imagine in all its bareness the mental world that existed before its coming – to wipe out of our minds, for a moment, nearly all that makes the food both of modern sentimentality and modern cynicism.

The death of marriage, as we knew it in our language and our laws, came late in the evolution of our culture, infected as it was, slowly but surely by this creeping dominance of sentimentality over reason. First came the advance of divorce. Then a sizeable proportion of couples abandoned marriage in the name of love – which was all that mattered to them. Cohabitation became a new norm. Then came the demand for social acceptance of homosexual love. Its lobby demanded that marriage be redefined to provide them with society’s badge of acceptance – even while society’s concept of what marriage really is was already in its death throes as a result of earlier and successive redefinitions.

To come to grips with and understand this long revolutionary process, Lewis tells us that we need to

conceive a world emptied of that ideal of ‘happiness’ – a happiness grounded on successful romantic love – which still supplies the motive of our popular fiction. In ancient literature love seldom rises above the levels of merry sensuality or domestic comfort, except to be treated as a tragic madness, an ἄτη which plunges otherwise sane people (usually women) into crime and disgrace. Such is the love of Medea, of Phaedra, of Dido; and such the love from which maidens pray that the gods may protect them.

At the other end of the scale we find the comfort and utility of a good wife acknowledged:

Odysseus loves Penelope as he loves the rest of his home and possessions, and Aristotle rather grudgingly admits that the conjugal relation may now and then rise to the same level as the virtuous friendship between good men. But this has plainly very little to do with ‘love’ in the modern or medieval sense; and if we turn to ancient love-poetry proper, we shall be even more disappointed.

Plato will not be reckoned an exception by those who have read him with care… Those who call themselves Platonists at the Renaissance may imagine a love which reaches the divine without abandoning the human and becomes spiritual while remaining also carnal; but they do not find this in Plato. If they read it into him, this is because they are living, like ourselves, in the tradition which began in the eleventh century.

So what has all this to do with the Irish referendum? This: the Irish “Yes to Equality” rode home to victory on the on the shoulders of this very same “love” which emanated from the songs of the Troubadours of the 11th century. It wasn’t that the young and old who voted Yes to “love and equality” had been reading courtly love poetry. No, they had been fed on the artefacts of 18th and 19th century romanticism, morphing in the 20th and 21st century into a voraciously consumed diet of pop culture expressed through sentimental Hollywood movies and ultra-sentimental pop songs – not to mention soap-operas and the chic lit of Maeve Binchy, Cecelia Aherne et al.

The current West End production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is moving to Dublin for a very short season next month. I watched some clips of the 1950s Hollywood version the night before the referendum. I love the show. But while watching it I had premonitions of what was going to happen the next day. How could any generation, I thought, fed on this and much inferior sentimental material do otherwise that vote for “love” over all the other values at stake.

The helplessly smitten Julie (Shirley Jones) sang:

Common sense may tell you

That the ending will be sad

And now’s the time to break and run away

But what’s the use of wond’rin’

If the ending will be sad

He’s your fella and you love him

There’s nothing more to say.

There is nothing more to say, for the moment. This excepted: the crown is in the hands of a usurper but the King lives, and always will, albeit in the shadows. The marriage of man and woman is as indestructible as is human nature itself. No tyranny, not even a democratic one, can destroy it.

Battle for natural marriage lost in Ireland – next up, battle for freedom of conscience

Just after mid-day in Ireland today the Iona Institute, leader of one of the voluntary campaign groups fighting against the redefinition of marriage by Irish Government and the entire political establishment in the country, effectively conceded victory to its opponents. Their statement said:

We would like to congratulate the Yes side on winning such a handsome victory in the marriage referendum. They fought a very professional campaign that in truth began long before the official campaign started.

For our part, The Iona Institute is proud to have helped represent the many hundreds of thousands of Irish people who would otherwise have had no voice in this referendum because all of the political parties backed a Yes vote.

A formal announcement from the count is expected to be made in Dublin Castle by mid afternoon.

The Institute thanked the thousands of volunteers up and down the country who worked day and night to try and secure a No vote.

Commenting on the outcome, David Quinn said: “We believe a fought a good campaign. It was always going to be an uphill battle. However, we helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote No. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view.

He concluded: “Going forward, we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood. We hope the Government will address the concerns voters on the No side have about the implications for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”

What will they do?

WILL THEY TURN THEIR BACK ON REASONED ARGUMENTS AND VOTE JUST WITH THE HEART?

I know enough young people who see through the Government’s fallacious “equality” spin to save me from total despair about the apparent incapacity of under-thirties to discern this deception. But it is a hard call.

People have equal rights because they share the same human nature, not because they share the same capacities – which they very evidently do not. The rights which they have to participate in some of the joys of life depend on their capacities, not on their equality as citizens, or their common human dignity. If I cannot sing more than one note it makes little sense for me to protest that I am being denied equality if I fail to make it into the local choral society. Okay, that’s not an exact analogy. I suppose I have a right to form a choir of tone-deaf people if that pleases me. But it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Love – as an emotional experience, which is the kind of love everyone seems to be taking about in the context of Ireland’s referendum next Friday, – is not in law a requirement for a valid marriage. Marriages exist without this emotional love, and always have done. Marriages may even exist without the deeper love of selfless commitment. The may not be considered the ideal, but they are still marriages without it. What is the essential element in marriage, what is that which consummates it? In other words, what is that which makes it a real valid marriage? It is what we call the marriage act. That act is only possible between one man and one woman.

In today’s Sunday Times, Conor Brady, former editor of the Irish Times, is posing the question that everyone should at least be asking themselves.

We are forced into a crude choice. A ‘yes’ vote will be hailed as generous and inclusive, but it will subvert the meaning of language. It will redefine an institution that has been fundamental to society down the ages, and it will purport to hold that biological differences mean nothing. Conversely a ‘no’ vote will be interpreted as discriminatory and an endorsement of inequality. Presented with these alternatives, each voter has to choose what seems to be the lesser evil. A great many people, including myself, have yet to decide what that may be.

Bruce Arnold, in today’s Sunday Business Post says “A yes vote will bring irrational chaos into the Constitution”

“Ireland has been told that ‘Same Sex Marriage” is a human right. No nation’s constitution, no international human rights convention has accepted this”. This debate, he adds, “has been bedeviled by emotional and even hysterical demands for an empty ‘equality’ for some, with no consideration given to the consequences for others, least of all for children”.

Add to this the apparent bewilderment of University College Cork’s Emeritus Professor of History, John A. Murphy, voiced last week in the Irish Times.

Thus, if the referendum is passed, Article 41, heretofore unambiguously and exclusively heterosexual, will also recognise a homosexual couple “as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society . . . a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights , antecedent and superior to all positive law”. Moreover such a couple will be guaranteed protection by the State “as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State” (Article 1.2).

Because I reject this grotesque nonsense, I will be voting No.

That the bulk of a whole generation has found it impossible to see these distinctions is bewildering and – almost – brings one to the point of despair. That the future of our world might be in the hands of people who cannot see this is truly worrying.

Please, please convince me that I am not seeing unfold before me what I think see. Surely millennials, so-called generation Y, on which so much depends, will show us that they are capable of more than blind and blinding emotion, surely they will show us that enough of them are capable of reasoning and assure us of our future.

Oranges, cherries and equality

For many of a certain generation in Ireland oranges are a special fruit. They bring back a memory from their schooldays – to an essay in the prose anthology on their English literature course. It was A.A. Milne’s short dissertation on this tasty fruit – entitled “Golden Fruit”.

Today, in our very confused way of thinking about equality we would probably proscribe rather than prescribe this quirky little essay if anyone ever suggested that it might be put back on the school curriculum. You see, it discriminates. It tells us that for A.A. Milne – he of Winnie the Pooh – “of the fruits of the year I give my vote to the orange” and concludes his first paragraph by saying that “Bread and butter, beef and mutton, eggs and bacon, are not more necessary to an ordered existence than the orange”. Heavy discrimination indeed.

But don’t get him wrong. He values other fruits and puts the wonderful little cherry second only to the orange. But he does make a choice – although for many the cherry’s pleasures will be their thing. For others it will be the ultra-healthy banana, the fruit that they say has everything.

However, the big problem with all this is that we are discriminating between things when we should, by virtue of post-modern ideology, be treating them all as equal – and equality understood as signifying that there is not an iota of difference between them.

They are equal in one sense, in that they are all fruits. They are not equal insofar as they are each their own sweet, juicy, somewhat bitter thing respectively. By virtue of those differences we treat them differently. We peel and orange. Try peeling a cherry and you will look rather silly. Some people eat their kiwis, skin and all. Others prefer not to. Try eating a banana without removing its jacket and you will know all about it.

And so to marriage. The most fundamental bond between us all in this world should be love – and there are, thankfully, some blessed people among us who truly do love everyone. But if they do, they do so in an ordered way and discriminate between each of those they love according to their nature and needs. The expression of their love follows on that discrimination in ways appropriate to each – loving their husband or wife in one way, their children in another, close friends in another and their neighbours in yet another. Discrimination is not a dirty word. It is a product of human reasoning. The dirt comes if the particular outcome is unkind, unjust and unreasonable.

The love of two people of the same sex can probably have the same emotional intensity as that between couples of the opposite sex. When, however, it is sexually expressed there is no parallel between the potential biological consequences of the two. Both may have a powerful unitive force but only one has the potential for procreation of the species. This makes all the difference and demands that we distinguish between them, for the sake of individuals and for the good of society.

This differentiation is not based on what we might call an “equalitative” discrimination. It is, however, a difference which we will ignore at our cost. If our language ignores these realities by calling the formal recognition which societies give to each by the same name of “marriage”, we will cripple our intelligence and our capacity to think reasonably about things, and these things in particular.

Oranges are not the only fruit, as Jeanette Winterson reminded us. Despite A.A. Milne’s expressed preference for them, they are not even necessarily the best fruit, but if we insist on calling cherries oranges what kind of pickle are we all going end up in?

This tangled web of deceit

How many weasels does it take to sell a people a treacherously flawed piece of legislation? We don’t know the answer yet – and hopefully we may never know.

In Ireland’s marriage redefinition referendum the country’s new Ascendancy – the metropolitan liberal establishment – is relentlessly campaigning to persuade the people of Ireland that the hallowed principles of liberty, equality and fraternity require that they make this change. Of course its proposers are denying that any fundamental change is involved. All this, according to them, is a little tweak to help the country keep up with the modern world.

That is the first bit of weasel behaviour. The weasels and the weasel words are out in force in this campaign. One after another they fall from their lips like honeyed words, feigning compassion and understanding. Deception is the hallmark of this sinister political campaign. Indeed it might be said that nothing more deceitful has confronted the Irish people under the guise of benign and noble labels since the political establishment of another age betrayed their ancestors into an impoverished backwater with the passing of the Act of Union in 1801.

The truth is that this is not about anyone’s equality, nor about compassion or tolerance for difference and diversity – their favourite weasel words. This is about an ideology of identity, a spurious identity which puts sexuality above all other human values, above logic, truth and justice. If this ideology prevails it will end up depriving people of their freedom of thought, their freedom of association, in the name of a specious concept of equality.

This is not a campaign to defend the freedom of anyone. It is not a battle for justice or a compassionate response to the suffering of a minority who identify themselves as different. Without a doubt, those are battles that have to be fought and will have to be fought as long as our race’s propensity for selfishness, egoism and enmity persists. We do need laws to help us in this. But this is not that battle. That is another battle.

The battle now being played in Ireland is part of a war raging across the developed world in which gender ideology is the driving force. This is a war in which one side is seeking to impose on the other the recognition and acceptance of an ideology which says that human nature – in all its gloriously rich diversity – is a socially determined thing, a construct, some of whose manifestations – like the sexual differences between man and woman – have passed their sell-by date and need to be re-configured in a new and flexible way.

In this new longed-for vision of human nature, the complementarity of men and women, their respective and inviolable roles in the glorious work of human reproduction is a mere side-show. The institution of marriage considered as a prerogative of this man-woman relationship – and the institution of the family which arises from it – which has evolved in human society for the greater good and happiness of parents and their children, is just an anachronism in our modern world. Sidelining marriage by draining it of its meaning and reconstituting the family into anything you want it to be will help speed its consignment to history.

The destruction of marriage by turning it into an anodyne sentimental bonding of two people of any sex is just a means to this end of affirming that human nature is there for us to do anything we like with it. What this battle is about is not just redefining marriage but redefining human nature itself.

This of course is no new agenda. It has been gestating for at least a century. The sexual revolution, of which all this is but a new phase, has a major part of its roots imbedded in the malign theories of Sigmund Freud who told us that everything we think and do arises out of our sexuality. With the acceptance of the hedonistic philosophy and the denial of human freedom emanating from Fruedian theroy, civilization now needs to be cleansed of the rules and customs of centuries. For the ideologues behind this campaign these are instruments of repression and worse. Marriage, traditionally understood, was just one of them. The “free love” philosophies fashionable in the early twentieth century made a certain amount of ground in destroying it. Not enough, however. Redefinition, which will amount to a virtual destruction, should complete the job for them.

To do this however, language has to be manipulated and weasels have to be recruited to help them do the job. “Equality” was the first victim to fall to weaselhood. Then came the noble concept of “tolerance”.

The hijacking of equality defies logic and reason when we approach it from any normal understanding of how that concept can be understood in the context of human nature as we know it. Of course, if you regard nature as your plaything to do as you wish with it, then the sky is the limit. Logic and reason will not worry you.

Taking nature as we find it in the real world we know that in some contexts we can and should be quite passionate about a very rigourous rendering to each and all in a very even-handed way. But we also know that nature’s gifts to us are not always equally distributed. We know that parents who rigourously distribute their time, attention and resources among their children in equal quantities may not be doing the best for those children. If in doing so they ignore the different needs determined by each child’s intelligence, personality and ability, they may end up doing serious and culpable injustice to some of those children.

The right of a man and a woman to come together and to bond in matrimony by mutual consent is a right based on their complementary but different sexual natures. On this basis they derive their capacity to give to each other their different but complementary sexual gifts and the greatest gift of all, the potential for creating new human life. A desired marriage arrangement, as we have understood it for centuries in law and in practice, where impotency impedes the sharing of those gifts has always been deemed not to be possible – and any contract entered into and then discovered to be affected by impotency has been deemed null and void.

So to drag in the concept of equality to argue for the right of two people of the same sex to marry is turning the word equality into a weasel word – pretending it to be something which it cannot ever be. There can be no right to equality when the exercise of that right is based on something impossible, null and void.

And what about tolerance? The demand for tolerance which is part and parcel of this campaign is not a demand for tolerance at all. It is a demand for social endorsement – which is a totally different thing. With this demand comes one of the most sinister threats to human freedom seen in the developed world since the demise of those tyrannies of the last century, national Socialism and Communism.

Do not doubt it. Those behind this campaign, if victorious, will be sending people to prison in the not too distant future for refusing to endorse forms of behaviour that they consider contrary to the best interests of individual human beings and society at large. It will not be because they do not tolerate those behaviours, it will be because they will not bake cakes to celebrate those behaviours, or refuse to turn up to take photographs of them, or even express the opinion that they disapprove of them. Such expressions of opinion are already labelled as “hate speech”, and punishable in law.

Last week, the O’Connor family in Walkerton, Indiana, was targeted with death threats and online harassment that forced them to close the doors to their Memories Pizza restaurant. The O’Connors’ story started when a local news reporter asked if they would theoretically reject service for a gay wedding ceremony. The owner, Kevin O’Connor, said that while the restaurant serves all customers, they would not be able to participate in a same-sex ceremony. Militant gay activists subsequently targeted the family with death threats, viciously negative online reviews of the restaurant, and other harassment — forcing the O’Connors to close the business they had owned for nine years.

Needless to say, many gay people were themselves outraged by the treatment of the family. Courtney Hoffman wrote in a note to the O’Connors: “As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean spirited attacks on you and your business. I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business according to those beliefs. We are outraged at the level of hate and intolerance that has been directed at you and I sincerely hope that you are able to rebuild.”

Likewise, Buz Smith:  “My partner and I have been together almost 27 years. The Democratic Leadership hi-jacked the Gay community many years ago and continue to spew the intolerance of religion as they promote the tolerances of their choices.” However, a spokesperson for the pro-same-sex marriage organization Human Rights Campaign refused to issue a public statement about the treatment of Memories Pizza by gay activists.

In two high-profile cases, military chaplains have been punished for citing their religious beliefs during private counselling sessions and other official events, sparking questions about what military chaplains are allowed to say in the name of faith. Capt. Joe Lawhorn was punished for making references to the Bible and distributing a handout that cited the Christian scriptures during a suicide prevention seminar at the University of North Georgia.

This is all before the Irish – if they vote “yes” in their referendum on May 22 next. Indeed it has already arrived in that part of their island under UK jurisdiction – with the Ashers’ bakery case in Belfast.

Tim Black, deputy editor of the libertarian online journal, http://www.Spiked.com, ruefully comments:

It is a miserable irony today that those who think of themselves as liberal are actively trashing liberal ideals. Of course, they don’t experience their illiberalism as illiberalism. Quite the opposite. As far as they’re concerned, they’re riding on the right side of history, battling bigotry and hunting down hate wherever they suspect its persistence, and leading us all into an ultra-nice rainbow-coloured future. They’re the tolerant ones. They’re the progressives. They’re the good guys.

And yet in their zeal to fight discrimination, often with the law at their heel, they have turned their professed liberalism into its opposite: an unwitting illiberalism, in which key liberal tenets, from freedom of conscience to its corollary, freedom of association, are trampled over in the headlong rush to create a society in their achingly right-on, gay-marriage-supporting, transphobia-fighting image. The road to intolerance, it seems, is paved with do-gooding intentions.

Liberal principles, he says, have been routed by identity politics. Religious freedom, the freedom to act according to one’s conscience, is now considered a problem, an omnipresent threat to the increasingly state-enforced “recognise’n’respect-me” politics which is now predominant. For too many, the idea of religious freedom merely generates a series of worrying questions. What if individuals have the wrong beliefs? What if individuals refuse to associate with those they profoundly disagree with? What if individuals – cue gasps of horror – think gay marriage is wrong? Judgement and discrimination, all part of the exercise of a free conscience, terrify those cleaving to some vague notion of non-judgemental pluralism.

There is intolerance in the world, gross intolerance. There are many people who do not accept the principles of a common humanity and a right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought. There are those who feel they have a right to coerce others rather than a right to persuade. For the most part this derives from ignorance and a lack of education. By all means let us tackle this and work together to advance our civilization. This new “tolerance” is a cure which will be worse than the disease, where the right to freedom of thought, personal judgement and the judgement of conscience, is hopelessly confused with a lack of respect for persons as human beings.

The O’Connors, the McArthur family of Ashers’ Bakery, Captain Joe Lawhorn, and many more, have shown no disrespect for people. I am sure that in other circumstances they might die defending the rights of their fellow human beings, gay or otherwise. They are Christians and this is the ethic of their faith. They should not, however, be forced by unjust laws to endorse and approve of behaviours contrary to what they know to be the law of nature written in their hearts.