The Wisdom of Scruton

I’m sure the philosopher Roger Scruton, one of my favorite living authors, would quickly say it is not his wisdom, but the wisdom gained from experience, religion, time, thought, observation, tradition, and theological insight, applied to the current situation:

Although the facts about homosexuality are well enough known, you cannot safely allude to them. You cannot discuss the radical difference between male and female homosexuality—the first tending toward promiscuity and sensual pleasure, the second toward emotional dependence and home building—without attracting irate accusations of “homophobia.” You cannot point to the effect on the emotional development of children, of a culture in which homosexuality is treated as a legitimate way of life, nor can you allude to the correlation between male homosexuality and pedophilia. Some writers have gone public on these issues—Jeffrey Satinover, for example, in Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (1996)—and paid a predictable price for it. Others have simply turned a blind eye and hoped that it will all go away or decided that in any case, in our promiscuous world, it hardly matters who does what with whom.

But it does matter, and it matters most of all not to you and me, who are grown up enough to deal with it, but to our children. This is where the real issue has been fudged in the European debates and is being increasingly fudged in America. Marriage is not about endorsing a sexual attachment between adults. It is about creating the conditions in which children can come into the world fully protected and with a fair chance of being loved. Marriage does not exist for the benefit of the present generation but for the benefit of the next. It is a rite of passage in which two people set out on a path whose meaning lies not in their present emotions but in their future family. As in all rites of passage, the meaning of marriage is not individual but social, and any attempt to rewrite marriage as a deal between the living is a negation of its real meaning, as a bond between the living and the unborn—a bond in which the dead too have an interest. If David Cameron really were as conservative as he claims, that would be the language he would use in giving voice to his views about marriage—the language of Edmund Burke.

As for the relations between the living, it is not as if these are in any way hampered by the existing legal order. In most European countries there are already ways in which homosexual men and women can ratify their relations in the form of “civil partnerships,” which confer the legal benefits and burdens of marriage without implying the radical change of status that marriage has traditionally signified. The activists are not content with this arrangement, not because it does not provide the security that true love requires, but because it still implies that there is a difference between heterosexual and homosexual relations. So offended are they by this implication that they are prepared to level the charge of homophobia against anyone who gives voice to it. In the current climate of opinion in Europe, no politician, no journalist, and no churchman can risk inviting this charge.

Like other “thought crimes,” homophobia lacks a definition and has no identity in law; you don’t know how to avoid committing this crime, since all lines of inquiry might suddenly turn a corner and land you in the midst of it. The only safe option is to keep your mouth shut, or else to join the crowd and shout “homophobia” in your turn at whichever victim has been currently singled out for persecution. We are already seeing this among the Church of England bishops, many of whom seem more anxious to avoid the charge of homophobia than to speak out on behalf of the biblical idea of marriage. I cannot help thinking that the decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to step down is not unconnected to the inevitable martyrdom that his office would impose on him, were he to defend the Christian conception of sexual love. On the other hand, archbishops are made for martyrdom and ought not to avoid it.

Alas, history says archbishops (and many others) often go to great lengths to avoid martyrdom, even capitulating to, say, men such as Henry VIII. (The irony, I suppose, is that Scruton spent some time years ago trying to decide whether to become Anglican or Catholic; he chose the former.) Read the entire piece, “Made In Heaven”, on The American Spectator site.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.