Monday, 16 January 2012


This has really got to stop, says Eric Macdonald, about believers arguing for particular views without admitting their real, religious based, grounding. This is something I've noticed frequently; believers will say they are arguing on prudential grounds, for example, when arguing for abstinence in combating AIDS. It's legitimate to point out these arguments, but by using them believers are not arguing in good faith if they don't make it clear that those arguments do not bind them. Since, if the prudential argument went against them, they would not change their mind, because of their moral (religious) views. Eric also mentions Andrew Brown's latest humiliation, after a particular clueless article, denying the pope was being homophobic in a recent speech which was reported as anti-gay.

Brown's original piece said that the pope "didn't say gay marriage threatens humanity". This was in response to some reporting of the speech, in which the pope said:
In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.
Now, to me, and surely anyone with half an eye on modern mores and the ways of the Catholic Church, this is clearly linking gay marriage to a threat to human dignity and the future of humanity itself, so Philip Pullella's headline is not an unreasonable contraction. Despite this, Brown insisted, about Pullella's headline:
So far as I can see, Pope Benedict just didn't [say gay marriage threatens humanity]. He did speak in favour of the family "based on the marriage of a man and woman". He did say that "policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself". But there was no suggestion that gay marriage was the most important of these and he didn't mention it at all, whereas he did take up several other sexual issues.
The pope has to actually say "gay marriage" for Andrew Brown to consider it a mention of gay marriage, presumably. In fact, he practically confirms this in a comment:
But the point is that there are lots of things which the Vatican regards as being "an attack on the family" and Benedict deliberately mentioned two, neither of which had anything to do with gay people, or with marriage. He also mentions the economic crisis as damaging to families. That was all. And when you're dealing with a rather Kremlin-esque bureaucracy like the Vatican, these shifts of emphasis really matter. The Pope's speeches are an expression of coherent policy. And, if this one means anything, it means a shift away from seeing gay marriage as a threat comparable to all the ones he did mention.
Yikes; he thinks the pope is saying practically the opposite of what he is in fact saying. Commenters were unimpressed. Muscleguy said:
For goodness sake Andrew, do you have to be so dense and obtuse? If he was so unconcerned with the gay marriage issue then why did he feel the need to insert the apparently redundant words "between a man and a woman" into the bit about marriage? Since the church recognises no other forms of marriage, it would normally have not been necessary to define something twice.
By using that phrasing he is dog whistling to the faithful while trying desperately to Jesuitically claim that 'he said nothing about gays'. I never took you for a Jesuit Andrew, I may now have to reassess that.
If you truly do not understand about dog whistle politics then you are too clueless to be a journalist, so I can only conclude that you are being deliberately obtuse. To what end I'm not sure. I would have thought that as an avowed agnostic you would not hold a candle for pontifical bigotry, but I may be wrong.
Of course it's obvious to non-believers and, more importantly, believers, what the pope means when he says "between a man and a woman". Anthropoid Ape said:
This is an unambiguous reference to gay marriage. What other policy undermining "the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman" could have been exercising the pope's religiously demented brain here, i.e. other than the current world-wide trend to legalise gay marriage which the Vatican has been resolutely opposing? Are you seriously suggesting that the pope was not intending to allude to gay marriage as one of the policies undermining "the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman"?
Quite. AB responded:
No. He does believe that it is one of the policies which threaten the family. But I don't think he is such a fool as to suppose it is the most important threat, and nor was it one he selected for explicit mention. I might be wrong about this. Perhaps he does lie awake at night thinking that the elimination of gay rights is a necessary step on the way to setting everything else right that's wrong in the world. But I doubt it.
Yes, the pope is famously philanthropic and not at all concerned with Catholic dogma! We should be grateful that at least Brown shows some doubt in his own judgement here, but he still is not conceding the obvious, and he didn't in his remaining comments on the thread, despite many people pointing out what was staring him in the face.

Now, suddenly, when Philip Pullella himself writes to him and points out the obvious, the penny drops, sort of: he titles the piece "Why I shouldn't have been upset about the reporting on the pope's speech", but offers no apology for his apologetics. Pullella simply states what most the commenters said:
As one of your own readers (metalvendetta) points out in one of the comments ("Seems pretty clear to me"), when the Vatican uses the phrase "marriage based on the union between a man and a woman" it refers to gay marriage. It has used it many, many times before, particularly in cases where countries were preparing legislation allowing gay marriage (Spain, the Netherlands). Otherwise, it would have just said marriage is under threat, and the connotation there would have been heterosexual cohabitation or divorce.
Brown has admitted he was wrong (good), but not apologised for the bone-headedness of his original piece (bad!). Why does he misrepresent the pope to his readers? Perhaps because he is in denial about what the pope really believes and preaches? He cannot be ignorant of it, surely.

We must all examine our motives, but the motives that lead decent human beings, believers and non-believers like Brown, to cover up the evils of the Catholic Church really need to be exposed. Some self-examination of AB's motives might help us all to understand this damaging notpologetic phenomenon.


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