Pope v. British Parliament

Dozens of British and Welsh bishops in the Catholic Church were visiting the Vatican recently, and received an unusual admonition from Pope Benedict XVI. Essentially, the Pope praised Great Britain for its attempts to ensure equal and just treatment of its citizens, just so long as that equality doesn’t step on the Catholic Church’s toes.

And in a bizarre twist, I may actually agree with His Holiness, up to a point.

“Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. … Yet, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs,” said the Pope.

This is apparently in response to a new Equality Bill that has been taken up by the British Parliament, which the Church feels could prevent them from abiding by the official Catholic views on homosexuality. Despite the fact that the Upper House of Lords has added an amendment to the bill that would exclude priests, ministers, etc. from the equality provisions, there’s still the possibility that the bill (if passed) could be used to force a Church to hire homosexuals in non-ordained roles like clerical staff, etc.

For someone who is vehemently anti-religion and pro-gay, I find myself surprised that I’m (in principle, without having reviewed the actual text of the bill) inclined to support a Church’s right to insist that its representatives uphold its views on moral and spiritual matters. If an established, bona fide religious organization believes that homosexuals are abhorrent and bound for Hell, then it shouldn’t be forced to knowingly employ someone that clearly opposes Church doctrine.

It’d be like saying a NAACP is required to hire someone in the Ku Klux Klan. These groups have very entrenched, deep-seated and strongly-held beliefs that are in firm opposition with one another. I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell a church that they have to support the gay lifestyle if that’s not the church’s belief.

Take same-sex marriage, for instance. I ABSOLUTELY believe that same-sex marriage should be, and will be, legal across the entire United States in my lifetime. But I just as unequivocally believe that a church should NEVER be forced to sanctify a marriage that doesn’t fit within the church’s view of holy unions. If two people are legally entitled to be married, but a specific church doesn’t agree to marry them, they have the right to be married elsewhere.

Contrast that with the asshole justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple on moral grounds, citing his principled objections on behalf of the potential children of interracial couples… That’s a government official refusing to issue a license for two consenting adults who have a legal right to be married by the state. I totally support a church’s right to refuse to marry people, but a legal marriage in the eyes of the state should be open to two consenting adults.

But here’s where I start to talk myself out of the “let the church decide who to accept into its membership, hire as employees, ordain as priests or ministers, and marry within the church walls” argument… What happens when a church considers black people to be irredeemable sinners? What if people who are disabled are, in a church’s eye, the Devil’s children? What if military veterans are all thought to be murderers and doomed to Hell?

Now I’m not so sure how much leeway a church should have in deciding who is worthy of it.

So what do YOU think? Reply below!

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