Dame Louise Casey, the “integration tsar” for the Government of the United Kingdom, said in a parliamentary session that it is “it is not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage…it is not how we bring children up in this country.”
Dame Louise was discussing a genuine problem: how to foster a sense of community in modern Britain. The issue has come to the fore because large numbers of Muslims have settled in Britain over recent decades, and many Muslim men seek brides from outside Britain, who arrive from countries where there is little or no tradition of religious tolerance or of alternative ideas to that of the Muslim faith. There are thus now schools where most of the children come from such families, and it is easy for dedicated Muslim campaigners to use this situation to impose very rigid forms of the Muslim faith, with tragic consequences for all involved and for the social cohesion of the wider community.
In attempting to deal with this, it has become socially necessary to be seen to be even-handed. Hence poor Dame Louise’s problem. She cannot say anything about trends and tensions involving Muslims without criticizing other religions too. She is under a sort of unspoken but tenacious pressure—and somewhere in this uncomfortable mix is also the pressure from lobbyists for the homosexual lifestyle who are using the present situation to press their own concerns.
And so, in an important parliamentary discussion, Dame Louise, seeking urgently for a way to appear politically-correct and fashionably supportive of current attitudes, comes up with a piece of nonsense. She suggests—without apparently appearing to recognize the absurdity of what she is saying—that Catholic schools should be restricted from teaching Catholic doctrine on the sacrament of marriage.
Catholic schools exist specifically to teach within the full context of the Catholic faith. That is the reason for their existence. If poor Dame Louise thinks that Catholic doctrine is “homophobic” then she is, unwittingly, placing herself in the tragic tradition of bigoted anti-Catholic prejudice, of the kind that used to teach that “Catholics worship goddesses,” “Catholics drink people’s blood,” and so on. It’s a refusal to make the (quite minor!) effort of discovering what the Catholic Church teaches.
In 1829, after long years of oppression, Catholics in the United Kingdom were allowed their freedom; the Catholic Emancipation Act allowed them to hold public office, to own and pass on their property, to build schools and churches, and more. The American War of Independence, and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France, had played their part in this—the British Army included large numbers of Catholic soldiers and attempting to restrict their religious practice seemed a waste of time and resources. The end of the 18th century had also seen the effective putting aside of the Stuart claims to the throne, and this, plus the emerging social changes with industrialization and so on, brought a sense of a new era in Britain.
But poor Dame Louise Casey doesn’t seem to have grasped the importance of this. Somewhere in her mind is the thought that “Catholics are a dangerous group” and an unformed suspicion that giving the Church full freedom is dangerous.
Here’s what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexual activity. The numbers refers to the relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The Catholic Church will teach all this, along with its teaching on the richness of the sacrament of matrimony—Christ’s union with his Bride the Church, the link between matrimony and the Eucharist, the importance of the Marriage at Cana in Galilee, God’s original plan for the human race, and more. The Church runs a great range of schools, care homes, youth projects, soup kitchens for the poor, hostels for the homeless, and services of every kind and plays a major, even central, role in establishing social cohesion by promoting kindness and neighborliness, opposition to hatred and bigotry, passionate commitment to justice, and obedience to the Ten Commandments, the basic rule of life on which Britain’s legal system has been based for all of its recorded history. Along with others of goodwill, but in a more structured and specific way, the Catholic Church teaches the Golden Rule—that we must do unto others as we would have them do to us. The Church even calls her children to repent each and every time they sense themselves breaking this rule, calling them to confess such sins regularly, and to renew commitment to loving God and neighbor daily.
I am sure Dame Louise knows this. She is probably fairly familiar with the basic teachings of Christianity. She knows that the Church teaches love of neighbor and that the reality of the unchanging—and unchangeable—teaching of the Church is not “homophobic.” But she is supporting the notion of a new “loyalty oath” that would insist that all who hold public office affirm something called “British values,” which would, for reasons that are purely political, include having to pretend that marriage can be between two people of the same sex. (Or three people, or whatever is next deemed fashionable.)
The whole idea of an oath affirming “British values” is questionable at best. But to announce, in advance of detailed discussion on the subject, the notion that Catholics cannot affirm and teach the truths of the Church—that is simply to announce a restriction that is wholly unacceptable.
For much too long—and simply as a result of a ghastly series of events in history—Catholics in Britain suffered injustice. When finally freed from these cruel restrictions, the Church’s contribution to the common good has been enormous. Every city has its Catholic schools—hugely popular and oversubscribed—its Catholic-sponsored projects for the poor and disadvantaged, its voluntary youth groups teaching the young about living the good way. When Pope Benedict XVI visited our country, everyone saw the joy and goodwill that was evoked. It was almost comic: suddenly people with little or no connection with the Catholic Church wanted to identify with what was happening—people suddenly found they felt involved, felt proud of what was happening.
Dear Dame Louise: we all know you are caught up in the muddle about trying to appear politically-correct in anything that you say. But in doing so, you have fallen into an old and nasty habit: bashing the Catholic Church and trying to restrict its activity in our country. This is the 21st century. Don’t try to drag us back to the 18th. Leave Catholic-bashing alone. Concentrate on seeking to build genuine community goodwill. You will find the Catholic Church an enormous asset. Our belief—shared by millions outside the Church—on the Creator’s original plan for men and women in marriage is rich and glorious. It is the foundation on which Britain is based. It insults no one, and is the source from which goodwill, the good upbringing of children, the sense of mutual respect and neighborliness, and the ability to live the Golden Rule, are passed from generation to generation. If people wish to live differently, that is up to them; but the Church must be allowed to teach the unchanging truth of that original plan.