Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Public Obligations and Private Preferences
Just a few weeks ago the Scottish Parliament did the right thing. It permitted adoption agencies to allow gay couples to adopt children. Frankly, this being the 21st century, I didn't expect anyone to bat an eyelid in response to this decision. And not many eyelids were batted beyond the usual suspects belonging to various church hierarchies. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, our local representative of the Vatican, predicted entirely predictably our descent into a spiral of immorality. Explain that take on the issue to thousands of well-cared for AIDS orphans in Southern African who have been adopted over the years by gay couples. Even the Catholic Church knows that there is no evidence that children brought up by gay couples are any worse adapted than children brought up by straight folks. So, it's not its concern for the children's well-being that drives them. Its take on the matter at hand is that a fairly old, logically inconsistent booklet forming the ideological basis for much of Mr. O'Brien's statements, tells us that gay adoption is wrong. Why anybody in government should care is something I truly do not comprehend. The Catholic Church, when stripped of all the bluster of titles and robes, has long ceased to be a credible arbiter of morality. It knows little to nothing about human sexuality and tends to limp from one home-made sexual scandal to the next.
Enter Ruth Kelly. The Communities Secretary is not your average church going Catholic, far from that. She is a card carrying member of Opus Dei. Opus Dei is a particularly fundamentalist arm of the Catholic Church. Religious views, you might say, and I would certainly concur are private affairs. We all are perfectly entitled to believe in any particular God (and as you will know, there are plenty of them on offer out there) or none at all. The golden rule in this regard is that we basically are entitled to do in our private lives whatever we consider appropriate in that regard. That certainly applies to Ruth Kelly as much as my Polish plumber. The trouble really began when Ms Kelly decided to create a loophole in said adoption rules. She plans, supported by regular Pope chum Tony Blair to permit religious organizations to discriminate against prospective adoptive gay parents. I am not surprised she would come up with such a strategy. The last Opus Dei member I came across advised my gay office manager that she would pray for him so he would be able to become heterosexual. I wish I could say 'just made that one up', but I didn't.
Ruth Kelly should have recognized that she has a clear conflict of interest between her public responsibilities as a communities secretary and her private-preference religious views. In John Reid's famous words (uttered admittedly in a different context), she is certainly not fit for purpose and should be replaced by someone who is not abusing government office to achieve religious ideological objectives. – And spare me the nonsense about the grave danger to children's well-being if the Catholic Church really closed its adoption agencies, as it threatened to do if anti-discrimination legislation would be applied to its activities as they apply to everyone else's. Leaving aside this demonstration of the Church's prioritizing of its ideology over the children's well-being as well as its clear attempt at blackmailing the democratic state, surely it should not be overly difficult to channel the public funding the Church receives for its adoption agencies to a charity that has its eyes on the ball (the children as opposed to the book). – Still skeptical as to whether the Church and its government minister might have a point? Just imagine the book would have said that black orphans may not be adopted by white people. Would you still think the Church has a case?