If the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge thought he was going to make a definitive statement in the same sex marriage debate, he will have to do better than yesterday. “They don’t qualify for what we call marriage.” These were his words on ABC yesterday, describing same sex couples.
Bishop Coleridge’s argument is based on the principle that there is more than one kind of love. On that basic point he is right. The love between parent and child, brother and sister, for example is not the same as the love between a man and a woman who wish to marry.
But where Bishop Coleridge goes off the rails, is in thinking that same sex couples do not feel the same love for each other as do a man and a woman who wish to marry. He, as a celibate man, could not possibly know that.
Therefore, one can only guess that his comments reflect a theology carefully constructed by his Church to counter the same sex marriage argument. But such theology is flawed, and so is his Church.
Bishop Coleridge is careful to acknowledge that same sex couples are equal but claims that there is only one form of love for marriage and that is between a man and a woman. Nicely phrased but, simply not true. Society framed marriage. Society can change it.
To his credit, he refrained from quoting any perceived bible reference to the issue. That would have been too much. But he did suggest that equality has qualifications. “Every human being is equal, but not are all the same.” Really? Does that mean some are more equal than others?
He correctly notes that human society has always discriminated in deciding who can marry. Yes, that’s true, they have and in most cases, for good reason. There are biological reasons why brother and sister should not marry. Society, he says, has also ruled out marriage between people of the same sex. “That is not to say that they are not equal, but that they don’t qualify for what we call marriage,” he said.
Don’t qualify? In what way? Who decided what those qualifications would be? Over the past 2000 years governments around the world did. And they did so without recourse to the people. But this government doesn’t have the ticker for that, so they are asking us.
We have come a long way since the Stone Age. Human society has always made changes as it continues to evolve over time. When it decides certain long held views are no longer appropriate, society changes them. This is one such occasion.
In the end, we the people, will decide who can get married and who can’t. We the people have the ticker and will make the changes. This is just one of them. There will be others. That’s what the people do.
We have come a long way since the Catholic Church held sway over the decisions of governments across the western world. Their contribution to this debate no longer carries the clout it once did. In that sense their voice is just one more in the chorus.
The Catholic Church had to be taught that protecting paedophiles within its ranks was wrong. It has been forced to change whether it likes it or not. It is unlikely it will ever change its view on same sex marriage, but society has. It may not like it, but it must learn to respect it.