A modern Burke speaks to power in defence of reason and good government

Edmund Burke, champion of modern democracy, gracing the front lawn of Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated.

Bruce Arnold’s astounding open letter to Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Enda Kenny, should find him a place in the pantheon of political thinkers alongside Edmund Burke, Abraham Lincoln, Cicero and just a handful of others.

This letter, a call to prudence and wisdom to a straying political establishment is heroic, practical and much deeper in its implications than it might at first seem.

Edmund Burke, an Irishman in England’s 18th century House of Commons, twice called on his fellow parliamentarians to come to their senses. Firstly he did so over their folly in their treatment of the American colonists. Secondly he warned them of the bloody consequences which he saw flowing from the rash political excesses of their French contemporaries in 1789.

In the one, his call for conciliation with the British settlers in America, he failed to win their support and both England and the thirteen colonies paid the price in a bloody war. In the other he was more successful and his countrymen set their faces against the excesses of the French and braced themselves for the eventual and finally victorious struggle with the megalomaniac who sought to straddle the world.

Arnold is an Englishman, a journalist and writer, who has made his home in Ireland and, while not a parliamentarian, is playing a crucial role as one of the leading voices of the only political opposition Ireland’s parliament has today.

Ireland’s Dáil now bears all the hallmarks of a one-party state. Recently it rushed through an important and radical piece of legislation on Children and Family Relationships. While this enactment contained some important reforms it was, however, riddled with provisions which many felt were inimical to children and the family. It was initially envisaged that it would make provision for surrogacy as a legitimate way for same-sex couples to beget children. This was withdrawn for strategic reasons and will now be proposed in separate legislation. Other elements were questioned but, despite some efforts by independent parliamentarians to propose amendments, the Party machines on all sides of the parliament, Government and non-Government, pushed the Bill into law.

Simultaneously – and not coincidentally, for the latter was part of strategic plot to help win the other – it rushed through legislation for a referendum on same-sex marriage. It was so rushed in fact that they did not even take time to get the Irish language – the “first” official language of the State – wording of the measure to synch with the English. They had to correct this to avoid what would have been a very embarrassing legal quagmire.

Arnold’s open letter – ostensibly to the Taoiseach but it should in fact be taken to heart by 90% of the Irish parliament who have sheepishly followed his lead on these things – deals with the detail of what is proposed to the electorate as a change to their constitution. It reveals the devastating superficiality of what is passing for government in the Irish Republic today and which is exemplified in this current political action.

This journalist, in the role now of a true tribune of the people, is calling on Ireland’s political class to come to its senses and to start thinking seriously again. His call has worrying resonances, touching on much more than one single issue. His questioning of the political wisdom of this small country’s parliament casts doubt over its competence to deal with everything that it touches. The context of Arnold’s remarks is the current issue of this referendum. The broader issue which it exposes is that of quality of governance – which is why we can call the letter “astounding”. That this should be so on the eve of Ireland’s centenary celebrations of its achieving independence as a nation is truly disheartening.

Ireland gave the gift of Edmund Burke to England in the 18th century, and to parliamentary democracy across the world. He is now recognised as the father of a political philosophy which puts common sense, the value of the common good and an inherent but open-minded respect for society’s good traditions, over fanatical ideology. Perhaps England has now returned the compliment by giving Ireland a voice which loudly and clearly speaks to power on behalf of a people whose parliament is now attempting to foolishly destroy an institution which has served it beneficially from time immemorial and replace it with an empty and meaningless shell, genderless marriage, which will serve no one’s real interest.

Arnold first wrote to Kenny on this issue of the referendum in February last. That was  a more formal approach, raising the constitutional, social and moral questions that are actively bothering about 25 percent of the electorate – a percentage increasing as the campaign continues towards it finale on May 22. Most people now concede that the result of this ballot will be much closer than the opinion polls suggest.

This letter, Arnold begins, is more familiar and personal than the previous one for reasons that will soon become apparent.

We have known each other for the whole of your political career, having first met after you succeeded your father in the by-election that resulted from his death. Henry Kenny was a friend of mine during his two short years as a parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan. These were my first two years as a journalist working in the Dail. It is probable I met you at that time as well. With ups and downs, inevitable in the relationship between politicians and the journalists who record their lives, I have always had an admiration for your calm style, in opposition and in power, and for a quality I have admired in you, the likeable human appeal that I think of when I think about the career of another politician I have always greatly admired, Jack Lynch. He had the common touch as you have, an ability to be naturally relaxed and friendly.

Perhaps the most important challenge you faced in your political career was the last general election. Fianna Fail had made an undoubted mess of their time in office, tolerating excessive spending, wildly uncontrolled property development and a political dishonesty that was deeply damaging to this country.

I supported your candidature and your courage in putting a quality back into the search for power and a set of principles, not always effective, but good enough to support in the contest during that election. You had the good grace to recognise and acknowledge my consistent support for your campaign and I have no hesitation in saying now that I did it for good and reasoned endorsement of those principles for which you stood.

I have to confess that much of this support and sympathy has been undermined by the inept and already damaging impact of your handling of the Marriage Referendum. If the referendum is carried, I see this as irreparably damaging to moral life in this country, to married life and the future of the family, and leading to the encroachment of wildly inappropriate approaches to the birth and development of children. It runs the risk of splitting the country irreparably.

I have shown recently (through the document I circulated on Wednesday about international developments in the area of same-sex marriage) how totally out of step with the rest of the world Ireland has become in pursuing an unwanted and unjustified constitutional amendment. It is being pushed through in a political atmosphere of almost total ignorance and hysteria. If the referendum is carried, Ireland will be the only jurisdiction in the world providing explicitly for same-sex marriage in its Constitution. It will become the flag bearer for same-sex marriage and gender ideology internationally.

This week, in a pithy and courageous call to the people, Brendan Howlin used a phrase about an aspect of the economy that resonated immediately with me. He called for “the full ventilation of the full truth”. In the marriage referendum the opposite has been the case. In your article in the Irish Independent on April 27th, for example, you repeat the blatant untruth that underlies your whole approach (“… importantly, marriage equality will not in any way affect the institution of marriage. It will only extend equal legal protections to all couples.”). How then could the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court also say on April 27th, to proponents of gay marriage: “you’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship?”

Do you, Enda, take us all for fools? The dogs in the street know that marriage will change radically. What is now a natural institution that predates the Constitution and is protected by it, will become an artificial creation of the Constitution and be defined by it.

An approach of almost unprecedented ignorance is being purveyed and blindly supported. Talk of love and equality is no substitute for reasoned analysis of the consequences. Huge sums of money from outside the state have been employed, contrary to firm expenditure principles in most other political campaigns. Ministers are hailing the Yes Vote while at the same time refusing to say why and how it is appropriate. They are not answering any of the questions being put to them. Largely this is because they do not know the answers.

You are leading a campaign in a prejudicial and one-sided way that has all the faults of previous referendums, faults that led on several occasions to successful challenges by private citizens. The purpose of a referendum is to allow the Irish people to legislate directly on whether to amend their Constitution or not. Such acts of direct legislation should take place without voters feeling pressurised and intimidated by the Government of the day into voting in a particular way, with all members of that Government favouring a particular outcome, and certain organs of the State being allowed or even encouraged to act in a one-sided way also.

The Gardai have been engaged, quite inappropriately, on the side of the Yes Vote. Their permitting of voter registration sites in universities, enrolling young people, to be used as posts to distribute Yes campaign materials and literature and to be decked with Yes campaign posters and murals, is a denial of their pledge to uphold the Constitution. Young and innocent people are being deliberately misled. The older generations are bewildered by the mood of near-hysteria that prevails in the country.

The criticism of the Gardaí by Nuala O’Loan was devastating. Yet Minister Fitzgerald has taken no effective action as she should have done. She has tolerated silently this putting of the legality of the referendum process at risk. How would you like to stand in an election in which the supervision of the integrity of the ballot, the collection of votes and the transfer of boxes were all entrusted to Sinn Féin with that party supervising registration? That is what it looks like when the Gardaí take sides in a referendum. Have no doubt that the Supreme Court would deem this to be a grave misconduct. You and the members of your Government have been silent about it.

I gave you a copy of a Private Study Paper on Same Sex Marriage in the Irish Constitution with my letter of 25th February. (It is referred to as a private study paper as it was prepared by private citizens who have done work the State should have done.) You replied to me saying that you would read the study paper. I acknowledge that you heeded my call to rectify the crass error in the Irish text of amendment, but I have not heard from you since.

You have instead chosen to deal with an issue that is exceptionally complex, both legally and morally, and which has implications for family law that are at the borders of medical technology and that stretch ethics to their very limits, and indeed beyond, in a trivial manner through a one-page referendum Bill, a single line in the Constitution and a threadbare draft Marriage Bill.

That is no way for a developed state to behave. It is also entirely contrary to the intent and spirit of the huge reform work undertaken by the Constitutional Review Group led by Ken Whitaker. I cannot understand why you have chosen to approach same-sex marriage in such a reckless and ill-thought out manner, a manner that would result in referendum after referendum to try to correct the results of a “yes” vote and which will make us the laughing stock internationally.

It has now also come to my attention that the Marriage Referendum, if carried, will serve to subvert directly the first of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols in relation to Article 41 (The Family) and Article 42 (Education). As Leader of the Opposition, you witnessed the defeat of the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in June, 2008 and it being subsequently carried in a second referendum in 2009, once certain protocols for Ireland were secured. These protocols became legally binding when, appended to the Croatian Accession Treaty, it became law on December 1st, 2014.

It really is bewildering for me to see that once we adopt a protocol to protect the integrity of Article 41 and Article 42 of the our Constitution from being overridden by European law and the new wave of European genderless ideology, which utterly and falsely denies the differences between men and women, we then proceed within six months thereafter to try to change, radically and irreparably, our national understanding that marriage is based on gender difference. Thereafter, we will insist that the falsehood of genderless ideology be taught to our children in schools.

Young children and young adults will become increasingly confused, when as boys and girls, young men and young women, they are told that there is no difference between the male and the female. If this Referendum is carried our young people will be told in schools that marriage, which is based on the dignity of the difference between a man and a woman, has no regard to this difference. Can you not see how the false genderless ideology will underpin all of this in a way that leads to confusion? Great confusion will be done to our young people in realising their true identities and their God-given potential?

While certain countries in Europe are being seduced by a false gender ideology, which denies the differences between men and women, we have a clear defence against this falsehood with the first of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols. You worked hard for these protocols yet your Government are now trying to abolish their protection. More significantly, ministers are telling the Irish people nothing about this. Can you not see how wrong this is? Has no adviser explained that the first of the protocols, which were necessary to secure the carrying of the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, will be destroyed if this referendum is carried?

In fairness to you, one cannot expect that you will have heard this from our Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. This body is meant to advise all of us independently upon how our human and constitutional rights are being affected. Since leading representatives of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network shape its policy statements, there is no surprise there.

In the light of all that has happened and of our long relationship, I would deeply appreciate answers from you to the following questions:

  1. Did the Ministers for Justice and Equality or Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Attorney General inform the Government of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols when considering the Marriage Referendum Proposal? Was there any discussion about the first protocol (in so far as it protects Articles 41 and 42) being totally undermined by the Marriage Referendum proposal?
  2. When Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution provides that the State pledges to protect the institution of Marriage upon which the Family is founded from attack, what does this really mean for a marriage of two men? Does it not mean that they will have a constitutional right to donor assisted human reproduction and surrogacy to “found” their family? Must not all legislative restrictions on these practices be subject to this new and radical constitutional right?
  3. Did the Minister for Education and Skills inform the Government of the potential effect on the education system of

placing same-sex marriage on the same level as heterosexual marriage for the future of primary and secondary education in our country in terms of what will be taught to children and young adults about gender, sexual orientation and sexual practices?

  1. Has the Minister for Justice and Equality informed the Government of her view of the involvement of the Gardai on

the “yes” side of the referendum campaign?

  1. Have you not considered the inappropriate and unwarranted statements made by state employees on behalf of their organisations, pledging a support they should be unable to offer?

We need answers. Remembering your father and what he stood for, I need answers.

I do not doubt that you and the Government have done enormous damage to any fair, balanced and EQUAL handling of this Marriage Referendum. I think that you should put a stop immediately by qualifying your position and that of the Government and indicating that you at least are reconsidering your own vote on 22 May, and that you are doing this in light of the many unforeseen, unintended and unconsidered consequences of this referendum that have been brought to your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Arnold

Will debate-shy Kenny respond meaningfully to this wise and democratic cri de coeur? Kenny has made prepared speeches on the issue. He has yet to engage in public debate on the matter – despite multiple invitations to do so. Will he even give a meaningful reply to this letter? We are, wisely, not going to hold our breath.

Irish political class defying language, truth and logic

It is a mind-boggling experience to walk through the streets of Dublin these days. Left, right and centre, posters are screaming at us, “Yes to equality”, “Yes to equality”, “Yes to equality”. But when we ask ourselves what does this mean we are confronted with a choice of two very worrying conclusions. The first is that the members of our political establishment  – across all party divides – have no grasp of the English language, nor of the logic which normally guides human reasoning. The second, probably more plausible – since they are all reasonably well-educated men and women – is that they are deliberately attempting to deceive and manipulate the electorate which put them into power, all for some unfathomable reason.

The starting point of their error – or deception – is the fundamental error of thinking that equality, fairness, and justice can be achieved by obliterating or ignoring the differences which distinguish one thing from another.

Men love women in one way, men love men in another way – generally, but not always, in the disinterested love we call friendship. The same is true for women. Arguably the love found in friendship, be it between people of opposite sexes or of the same sex, is the purest and most generous form of love there is. But the love of a man for a woman, given the full complementarity of their sexual natures, is a truly unique expression of love. No other love is like it, in either its form of expression or in its potential consequences. This makes it very special both for them, for the human life which that love can generate and for human society as a whole. This is the only love which generates new love as well as new life, not just the love of man and woman, but the love of children and parents, the love of siblings, the love of uncles and aunts, the love of generations down through the centuries, our love for our ancestors – and for those of faith, their everlasting love for us.

This love is very special. It is special not simply because it is expressed sexually but special because of how it is expressed sexually and because of the potential consequences which its physical expression has. It has its own unique form of communication and which come from both nature and society. Its rules of engagement have been refined and developed over millennia but rest on one constant element – the complementary sexual gifts of male and female. Remove that element from the relationship between two people and we have something entirely different. You may have love but you do not have the raison d’etre for the institution we call marriage.

Marriage is the name we give to this structure, these rules of engagement which we have created around this unique relationship. Marriage is the name which society and its laws give to this venerable edifice. It is not only there in statute law but also used to be there in common law – when a man and a woman, outside of the laws of society, independently established a mutual sexual bond with each other, we called it ‘a common law marriage’. When two people got married but then discovered that the male partner was unable to perform the “marriage act” our understanding was that no marriage existed. Marriage is no fluffy, luvvie dovey thing. It is a fundamental building block of our civilization.

Society has taken on itself the task of establishing the rules for this relationship because of the multiple implications it has for its members in general and for the flourishing of individuals, generation after generation, who come into society by virtue of the acts of love of its married members. It is not the love itself that demands this. The love of friendship, sexually expressed or not, does not require society to manage it, the love of siblings, aunts and uncles does not require it. The sexual expression of the love of a man and woman does. The management of love is not the business of society. The management of procreation – and many of its consequences – is. That is why marriage exists.

What has happened to create in our world today this demand of a redefinition of marriage which takes from under it the very foundation on which it is based. It is the emergence of another demand, the demand for a social recognition and approval of the sexual expression of the love of friendship between men themselves and between women themselves. This expression of love has been disapproved of in most societies in varying degrees down through history. That is a matter of fact on which we make no judgement. What we can judge is that there is no question but that this disapproval has been accompanied by appalling injustices.

However, the efforts now being made to win approval for this physical expression of love, by seeking to equate it with the love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man, and to apply to it all the structures which nature and society place around that relationship for the protection of families and society, is profoundly misguided.

To suggest, to argue, that maintaining the traditional definition of marriage is to deny equality to two men or two women who want to love each other and be committed to each other’s company for life is a denial of equality is deeply flawed.

The nature of things must always be taken into account when a judgement is being made about the fairness or otherwise of their distribution among people. The different nature of the way in which love can be expressed – as between a man and a woman and between two of the same sex – make the application of the test of equality in this case meaningless. Think of these different forms of expression as a language. They are different forms of communication. We do not need to go into detail. It is obvious. Now consider two people seeking a diplomatic post in a foreign country. They are equally qualified in all respects except one: one of them does not speak the language of the country he wishes to be posted to; the other does. Is the obvious preference of one over the other an unjust discrimination? Is it an unjust denial of equality? No. The reality is that they are not equal in this respect. In the same way the relationship between two men or two women is not equal to the relationship between a man and a woman. Nature, not society has determined that.

The longing for respect, recognition and approval by homosexual people needs to follow a path other than that being pursued at present, the path of redefining marriage. The pursuit of this end can only result in the ultimate destruction of the very thing they wrongly identify as the panacea for the injuries suffered in the past, or which they anticipate in the future.

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.

Betrayal comes for the Archbishop

Saint Thomas Becket died defending the freedom of the Church

He gave a clear and very accurate account of the Catholic Church’s understanding of, and teaching on, the institution of marriage – both in its natural and supernatural dimensions. He set it in the context of the choice now facing the Irish people – whether or not to radically change the definition of marriage enshrined in their republic’s constitution. He clearly indicated that such a change was against all that he had described and could not be supported by the pastors of the Catholic Church.

That was the story.

The speaker was the Archbishop of Dublin, the Primate of Ireland, Dr. Diarmuid Martin. He was a guest of the Iona Institute addressing an audience on “The Church’s Teaching on Marriage Today”.

In the Q&A which followed his lecture Ireland’s liberally-biased media again became to focus of frustration – even of anger – in the audience. Archbishop Martin did not take sides on that one. He said that in his experience he had nothing to complain about. He had always been fairly treated by the media.

He had to wait only a few hours to have that trust and confidence grossly betrayed.

In his lecture on marriage, in no more than an aside, he had mentioned that some letters he had received about the current issue of the constitutional referendum on marriage – proposing to open it up to same-sex couples – people had betrayed a very unchristian attitude to homosexuals. He reproached them for it. However, there was no impression that these came from anything more than an unrepresentative handful.

No journalist with respect for the speaker, or respect for themselves, would manipulate the event to turn this remark into the story of the night.

What happened? In one media outlet the following morning – recycled in online and broadcast media – the story ran under the following headline: “Archbishop Martin hits out at ‘obnoxious jibes’ at gay community from ‘No’ camp”. This was the headline and this was the story. The truth is that it was not the story. That the reception of a handful of letters from a few unrepresentative individuals with appalling judgement and poorer taste should overshadow the serious substance of everything else the Archbishop had said was nothing short of a betrayal of the man, a disregard for his office and for the public who should have expected an honest and balanced report of what he said. What they got – something they are pretty used to getting now – was a media establishment’s dishonest trick of turning the lecture event into an instrument of its own moral agenda, undermining the message of the Archbishop and his effort to explain the teaching of his Church.

Betrayal by those whom he though were his friends came swiftly on the heels of his honest expression of trust and confidence in their integrity. Sad story.

Why worry about a few turbulent clerics?

Some Irish people are a little dismayed this morning, opening their newspapers or listening to their radios, finding a priest asking them to vote for the redefinition of marriage in the forthcoming referendum on the issue. They shouldn’t be.
The early history of Christianity should help any modern Christians trying hard to live by the authentic teaching of Christ in dealing with the disappointment occasioned by the utterances of Fr. Iggy O’Donovan. O’Donovan may not be Gnostic and may be small fry when taken in the context of what authentic Christianity was up against in those first centuries. But he is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Valentinius, Marcion and Tatian. Pedigree, or association with faithful Christians, is no gaurantor of orthodoxy. 
Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us, intially quoting another source:

“When [the reader of Christian history] comes to the second century,” says Dr. (Edward) Burton, “he finds that Gnosticism, under some form or other, was professed in every part of the then civilized world. He finds it divided into schools, as numerously and as zealously attended as any which Greece or Asia could boast in their happiest days. He meets with names totally unknown to him before, which excited as much sensation as those of Aristotle or Plato. He hears of volumes having been written in support of this new philosophy, not one of which has survived to our own day.”[221:1] Many of the founders of these sects had been Christians; others were of Jewish parentage; others were more or less connected in fact with the Pagan rites to which their own bore so great a resemblance. Montanus seems even to have been a mutilated priest of Cybele; the followers of Prodicus professed to possess the secret books of Zoroaster; and the doctrine of dualism, which so many of the sects held, is to be traced to the same source. Basilides seems to have recognized Mithras as the Supreme Being, or the Prince of Angels, or the Sun, if Mithras is equivalent to Abraxas, which was inscribed upon his amulets: on the other hand, he is said to have been taught by an immediate disciple of St. Peter, and Valentinus by an immediate disciple of St. Paul. Marcion was the son of a Bishop of Pontus; Tatian, a disciple of St. Justin Martyr.

The Church has had to contend with this kind of thing throughout its history and will always have to do so. But if the gates of Hell will not prevail against it why should a few turbulent clerics worry it?

Trouble ahead for childhood

Fergus Finlay, who heads up the Barnardos charity in Ireland, in Tuesday’s Irish Examiner newspaper (March 3) chastises the Iona Institute for saying that the Government does not believe that “the ideal for a child is to be raised by their two married, biological parents. and therefore, it is a matter of total indifference to them whether a child is raised by one man, one woman, two step-parents, a cohabiting couple, two men, two women, or the child’s married biological parents”.

Finlay says “It’s amazing, isn’t it, how people can make such sweeping statements and still expect to be taken seriously?” But what The Iona Institute describes is precisely what the Children and Family Relationships Bill is designed to authorise. It permits cohabiting couples to adopt and therefore is indifferent as to whether or not the parents of children are married. It permits cohabiting couples, single people and same-sex couples the right to use donor eggs and/or donor sperm to have children even though none of these can give the resultant child both a mother and a father, let alone a married mother and father.

Furthermore, when a child is conceived via a donor egg and/or sperm the natural tie to at least one parent will be deliberately severed and therefore it is absolutely undeniable that the Government is entirely indifferent as to whether children are raised by their natural parents or not.

So in what way is The Iona Institute’s claim false? Mr Finlay does not say. Furthermore, Mr Finlay gives absolutely no indication that he himself cares whether children are raised by their biological married parents or not so long as they are raised by someone.

If Mr Finlay himself believes that, in general, children ought to be raised by their own mothers and fathers (assuming they are fit parents), and never be deliberately deprived of either, then let him say it. If he doesn’t believe this, then let him admit it.

What I find mind-boggling is Finlay’s disingenuous sleight of hand in failing to acknowledge the Iona Institute’s focus which is the natural parent of a child. Given the first-hand knowledge which one would expect him to have of the pain and confusion children experience when they suffer the loss oftheir natural parents – for one reason or another – one would expect him to be more in ture with all the realities involved here. Provisons in this Bill are going to deny some children the right to be able to know and love their natural parent. The added injury is that this proposed legislation is paving the way for turning natural parenthood into a cold, clinical and detached procedure, procreating children not for their own sake but for the self-gratification of adults.

He says “honest legislators have to accept that children are conceived in different ways.” No, they do not have to accept this. If they are honest they will have to think a great deal more deeply about all the ways which modern science and medicine can manipulate the act of procreation and they will, if honest,  moral and responsible, think of all the consequences of some of these ways – and legislate accordingly.

The domino effect of same-sex ‘marriage’

2015/01/img_0624.jpg As Ireland prepares for a referendum which proposes to remove from its Constitution any obstacle to the redefinition of marriage the advocates of same-sex marriage say it is a simple matter of officially recognising the love of two people. This case in Britain shows that it is no such thing and that the cultural change it will bring about threatens the freedom of thought and expression of all. On Irish Television on Monday night the issue was debated for almost an hour. The fear and loathing which a British marriage campaigner spoke of as now prevailing in that state for those who resist the new culture is perfectly illustrated by this case. Richard Page, a 68-year-old British Justice of the Peace and evangelical Christian, has been condemned by the country’s highest legal authorities, suspended, and subjected to a day-long re-education session to rid him of the dangerous belief that a child would be better off being adopted by a family with a mother and a father than by a same-sex couple. Page sat on a family court tribunal last summer to consider a social worker’s recommendation that a foster child be adopted by a gay couple. “I raised some questions in private with the other judges, including that I thought that because a baby comes from a man and a woman it made me think the child would be better off with a father and a mother than with single-sex parents. The other judges didn’t agree at all,” he told LifeSiteNews. Worse, the other judges complained. A review committee concurred, suspended him from the bench and recommended he be kicked off the lowest rung of the judiciary (but which handles 90 percent of all criminal crime, plus youth and family cases). “They said I had a closed mind because of my Christian beliefs,” he said. “They said I could not put my Christian beliefs above the rights of single-sex couples. They said I had to open my mind. But I think when you order someone to open their mind, then you are the one with a closed mind.” In the end, the Lord Chancellor, cabinet minister Chris Grayling, and the Chief Justice John Thomas, decided to issue a reprimand and a day-long re-education order. “Mr. Page, while sitting in Family Court,” it stated in part, “was found to have been influenced by his religious beliefs and not by evidence.” The pair rated his behaviour “a serious misconduct” and added, “Mr. Page should have recused himself from the matter.” But there is evidence that Page is correct. Simon Fraser University economics professor Douglas Allen, for example, studied thousands of homosexual and heterosexual couples drawn at random from Canadian census data to find that a third fewer of the children from same-sex households graduated from high school than those from natural families. One speaker on Monday’s Irish television programme described the effect of what the change in the Irish Constitution would be as a domino effect. Justice Page is just one little domino in the game in progress across the Irish Sea. Soon to be played in a casino in Dublin?

Cameron ‘does God’, but…


Charles Moore, writing in the Daily Telegraph about the attacks on David Cameron which followed his Church Times article describing Britain as a Christian country, noted some inconsistencies in the Prime Minister’s thinking. Specifically, he pointed out how Cameron has sold out on one of the country’s most valuable Christian institutions, marriage.

Of all the human institutions developed in the light of Christianity, marriage has been the most abiding. It is because of Christianity that marriage became a lifelong and increasingly equal bond between one man and one woman, chiefly in order to bring up children lovingly. Without Christian teaching, it was not much more than a property deal about women (with sex thrown in), made between men.

Because he wanted to be seen to modernise his party, Mr Cameron decided to introduce single-sex marriage. In rushing forward to do so, he made no attempt to reflect on the Christian heritage which he now extols. He never seems to have thought about why the relationship between a man and a woman might not, in fact, be the same as that between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

Although an exemplary parent himself, he did not consider how refounding marriage on a quite different basis could endanger the rights of children. The people who framed his new law started – too late – to consider what marriage law actually involves and found that the law of consummation, central to the definition of marriage, could not apply to any same-sex act. Quite unintentionally, marriage has been redefined, with sex taken out of it. The good Christian Mr Cameron has trivialised and de-Christianised our greatest social bond without meaning to. Not surprisingly, he chose not to speak about marriage at all in his Church Times article last week: he would not have known what to say.

Moore’s Telegraph article is here.

Obama and Pope Francis: an imagined conversation


“He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion,” Obama said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera before the his meeting with Pope Francis.

Obama being the man he is, believing what he believes, attacking his Catholic electorate in the very depth of their Christian consciences, one is tempted to decode this. It is hard to take.

We know where Obama’s sense of decency and compassion is taking America: abortion and the killing of millions of infants awaiting birth, the deconstruction of the institution of marriage, and an anthropology as bizarre as anything that might be generated by the logic of Humpty Dumpty. With apologies to Lewis Carroll – and to Pope Francis – perhaps this was part of their conversation:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘marriage,’ ” Pope Francis said.
Obama smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you.”

“When I use a word,” Obama said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Pope Francis, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Obama, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Garvan Hill tries not to do cynicism. But sometimes the public face presented by men who are walking us all into a hell on earth makes it impossible to resist. I’m sorry. No, maybe I’m not.


A breath of fresh air

Costanza with her two daughters

Costanza Miriano’s  Woman, Get Married and Be Submissive – on being the perfect wife – has sold over 100,000 copies. The media, trying to be ironic, has branded it a Stepford Wives’ Guide.  The Stepford Wives being a 1972 satirical novel by Ira Levin – he of Rosemary’s Baby fame. That story concerns a young mother who begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic Connecticut neighbourhood may be robots created by their husbands.

Miriano’s book includes advice to women and wives along these lines – and don’t take it too literally for she’s not beyond a bit of satire and irony herself to drive her points home:

“Women forget that they can’t have it all: working like a man and being at home like a woman. Power is not designed for women.”

Shocking? But before you pass judgement on that you have to take on board the fact that Costanza is a working journalist fighting it out with the best of them on an Italian television channel, writing best-sellers at home and “submitting” to her husband as both of them raise their four kids.

She has no problem whatsoever declaring, “We are not equal to men. When you have to choose between what he likes and what you like, choose in his favour.”  And this: “You must submit to him… When your husband tells you something, you should listen as if it were God speaking,”

As you might expect, a book expressing those ungarnished sentiments has also created a storm. An ultra politically correct Spanish government minister – a woman – wants it banned there. But apart from having a laugh all the way to the bank, Costanza is also having a good laugh at the simpletons who are misreading her book and her intentions. In summary she has done nothhing more than present us with a very sane and rich view of marriage in a guise so alien to the pc mores of today that it is ‘way-off-the-scale post-modern, a very refreshing antidote to the vacuous and poisonous Briget Jones of our time.

As yet we don’t have any of Miriano’s  four best-sellers in English translation. Her latest book is the other side of the coin that is Woman, Get Married and Be Submissive. It is a shot in the arm for the age of chivalry – 21st century-style. It is called Marry Her and Die for Her. What we do have, however, is her blog and that has an English language version on which you can read some extracts from her books. The Italian exuberance of the books is lost in translation but the excerpts do give some idea of the fresh and ultra-human, truly Christian-humanist ideloogy running therough what she has written.

One excerpt is a letter to a married friend whose wedding she attended with her own famiy. It was meant to be a letter written before the wedding, a kind of wedding gift, but chaos seems to have put an end to that intention. As it turnss out it seems the letter-writing had to wait a few years. She writes:

Dear Margherita, I had intended to come to your wedding with a beautiful letter for you – Holy Cow, I am the maid of honour!   

She digresses and in the process gives us some pen-pictures of her own children.

To be honest, the boys especially remember that fatal day (her friend’s wedding, we presume) because that was the day of the Roma F.C. vs. Sampdoria soccer game, which cost the “maggica” the Premier League Championship that year. What can you do with them? They are male, the basic model. Despite it, they are not rednecks, at least not yet. Bernardo is a model student, he can’t get less than an A at school, a little soldier always ready to carry out orders.

 Tommaso, a little less precise, called me the other night to ask me when the Teheran Conference was held – a historical episode totally unknown to me. The latest historical fact I knew was the fall of the Western Roman Empire. And, a few evenings ago: “Mom, what is dialectic materialism? I’m calling Dad if you’re not sleeping now” – I tried to scare him while I frantically browsed the Philosophy section of the encyclopaedia or the History handbook that I learned to keep close at hand, together with the fundamentals – like the West wing DVDs or Mother Speranza’s novena.

 But, belonging to the male gender, he also has an almost universal taint. His brain turns dumb when he sees a rolling ball. I know men who can be defined as normal, even as special as the one I married, that undergo a mutation at the starting whistle of a game and they instantly turn without batting an eyelid, from the violent films of Sam Peckinpah to La Signora in Giallorosso – a talk show on a local Rome TV -, from a re-reading of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to Big Mario’s radio, losing any restraint. I’m only telling you, so that you can get ready, as you took one of the same species for yourself, and not for a weekend getaway, but for all of your life, until death do you part.

Then she ges to the meat of her letter, her “gift” to her fiend, Margherita.

It is the secret for a holy wedding, which is the same as saying a happy one. The secret is for a woman, in front of the man she chose, to take a step backwards. And, as you know me well, you also may well know this is not in my nature at all. I’m not exactly a docile person, but I have turned into one I believe, I hope, because I think this is what being a spouse means: to embrace, first of all.

 And you know that I, just like anybody, don’t like losing. I’ve been more than competitive at school, at university. Even more in sports…But when it comes to life as a couple, you have to compete in the opposite way: two steps backwards. And you must do it even when you don’t understand why, even when you’re convinced you have good reasons. In that very moment, perform an act of trust towards your husband. Get out of the logic of the world, “I want to get the better of him”, and enter the logic of God, who put at your side your husband, that saint who bears you after everything, and who, incidentally, is also a handsome guy. And if something he does is not fine with you, it is God Himself you have to confront, to begin with: get down on your knees, and most time you’ll solve everything.

 Luigi is the way God chose to love you and he is your way to heaven. When he says something, then you must listen to him as if God was talking to you; with full discernment, clearly, in wisdom and cleverness, of course, because he is a creature, but with respect, because he often sees more clearly than you do. Our vocation, whatever it is, is the source of our happiness. As the Russian Orthodox theologian, Pavel Evdokimov, says, if the objective end of the wedding is generating children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves. Margherita is not fully herself without Luigi!

 Can you realize how great and invaluable a thing you have in your hands? In this enterprise you just started, with the grace of God, you will generate yourself. “But how do you do that?” you asked on the phone some thousand times. Do I have to let him have the better of me even when he’s wrong? I say yes. In the first place because it seems to you that he’s wrong, and if, as we were saying, he’s the one who leads you to your wholeness, to your completeness, it is exactly when he thinks differently from you that you have to open up to him, and embrace him. It is exactly then that what he tells you has a precious meaning for you, it adds something, it makes you whole, makes you grow, lets you make a shift.

 If you just embrace what you agree with,  what you think, you are not married to a man, but to yourself. You must submit yourself to him. When you two must choose between what you like and what he likes, choose in his favour. And this is easy. When there’s a decision to take, and after you weighed the pros and cons the answer is still not clear, trust him, and let him have the last word. This is a little difficult sometimes. When it seems to you that his is completely wrong, for the the sake of both of you, even for the kids, maybe, still keep trusting his clearness of mind. This may seem to be an unbearable effort. You will be afraid, because abandoning your beliefs is scary. But you’re not jumping into the void; you’re jumping into his arms.

 You’ll see, I can swear on it, a man cannot resist a woman who respects him, recognizes his authority, who makes a sincere effort to listen to him, to let aside her own way of seeing things, who tramples on her ever-biting, teasing, failure-highlighting tongue (we’re very good at that, no doubt), who accepts to walk on paths that are extremely different from those she would naturally choose, just out of love.

 Day by day, he will start asking you what you think, what to do, which way your family should go. And this respect you achieve through respect, this devotion through submission. This is why, having finally won my husband’s respect, I now feel ready to calmly explain to him how greatly beneficial it would be to build a garden walk. And even when the fruits seem to be late, we Christians must know they are ripening. We are happy in hope, aren’t we? We know what happens to us is not to be measured on the world’s meter. We know any suffering, even a little one, produces sometimes mysterious, yet never lost, fruits, if accepted with love.

Later in the book, in a less than submissive mood, she writes:

Warning: the reading of what follows is strictly forbidden to my husband, and the noble words that follow apply to any wedding but mine.

She is about to consider the tragedy of broken marriages and other disasters of the kind.

But even a woman who is betrayed has a possibility to defend her love, which is in a serious life-endangering condition: she can remain faithful and keep on loving. It is a terrible storm, but not a shipwreck. It is a vase that breaks, and that will not be new anymore, but even if the signs of where it’s been glued are visible, it will hold until the end. We as women also defend life this way, flying its flag high even when everything seems lost.

 To forgive doesn’t mean to forget what happened. It is not refusing to look at the face of grief. It is not refusing to give it its importance because in the end the good and the bad are indistinguishable. It is not indifference. It is deciding to stem disorder, and to let the good win. The women who manage it are the stronger, the most capable of love, their shoulders are wider, and they are able to perform the miracle you need to overcome a betrayal.


The same cannot be said for men, because a man and a woman love in a different way: the woman with a specific love, capable of understanding originality. Man is fragile, and not always capable of understanding the differences between women. Only these, in the most painful, entangled and despairing situations can proclaim hope and stay up on their feet to give courage again to everybody.

But even without getting to the real, consumed, enacted, betrayal, to the menace of death to the relationship, there are many possible small betrayals.

 Even the wife of Robert Redford, – not the wrinkly director of Sundance, but the legendary man who made himself in ‘The Great Gatsby, – seeing him wandering about the house in underpants and unmatched socks, clinging to the remote control in front of a Lakers match, would probably be tempted to start exchanging messages with the young and good-looking greengrocer from West Hollywood. Even in these cases love works if you make a decision, and you don’t follow your emotions, your needs, your instinctual part.

 How sad are most contemporary films and books: a lamentation on nothingness, a boring tautology. They are a demonstration that by obeying your own selfishness you are unwell, you are disquieted and never satisfied. They are all about grains of wheat refusing to fall in the soil. They are celebrations of “I’m not like that,” or “I don’t feel that way.” Wojtyla told the couples he went camping with during summer: don’t say “I love you.” Say, “I participate with you in the love of God.” A very different kind of music.

Costanza Miriano appeared recently on BBC Newsnight, interviewed by a somewhat incredulous anchorwoman. How did she ever think that she would get away without enraging the worldwide sisterhood if she dared to proclaim that wives should be submissive to their husbands? Costanza explained, with the confidence that sales of 100,000 will give any writer, that submission meant being under someone, or something, in the sense that columns were under the upper structures of buildings and were their supports. These were the essential elements of a building without which any building would be worthless.