Surfing the (Catholic) net is not a mindless occupation. You can stumble on some wonderful articles; indeed, depending on what you read and your state of mind when you read it, an inspiring personal account of faith might be enough to trigger a change in your life. The internet, despite its reputation for easy corruption, can be a school of evangelisation just as any other means. The trick, as with choosing friends, is to select sites that encourage “the better angels of your nature” rather than those which merely confirm – or feed -your personal weaknesses or vices.
Last week the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a district-court ruling that had struck down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Judge Richard Posner wrote the decision, a brilliant piece of rhetoric which was studded with sparkling one-liners and dripping with sarcasm. “Hero Federal Appeals Judge Burns Down the Case Against Gay Marriage” was the headline in Gawker, a widely-read website. “A masterpiece of wit and logic,” was the verdict of Slate’s columnist.
Since the 75-year-old Posner is the most-cited legal scholar of the 20th Century and one of America’s leading public intellectuals, his views are bound to be influential as same-sex marriage heads for the Supreme Court.
But stripped of their sequinned garments Posner’s views are not as muscle-bound as they first appear.
There’s something to be said for longevity. At 80 years of age you can say what you want to say and go down with all guns blazing. That’s my impression of a US federal judge who broke ranks with dozens of his brethren on Wednesday to defend the meaning of marriage, and ruled that Louisiana has no obligation to recognise same-sex unions as marriage.
The ruling came from District Judge Martin Feldman, 80, who was named to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan more than 30 years ago. He echoed the two judges — both in their 70s and appointed by President George H.W. Bush — who dissented from recent rulings against Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia gay marriage bans in the 10th and 4th Circuits.
Kody Brown poses with his wives at one of their homes in Las Vegas. Photograph: Guardian/Jerry Henkel /AP
The Mormon stronghold of Utah is trying to defend its laws on marriage on two fronts, same-sex marriage and polygamy, but courts are not on the state’s side. Last week federal judge Clark Waddoups finalised an order striking down part of Utah’s law against bigamy in a drawn out lawsuit by Kody Brown and his four “sister wives” against the state.
The Browns are part of a sect with Mormon roots who feature in the television show “Sister Wives”. It was after this show first went to air four years ago that the state began its investigation of the polygamist family. They are framing the issue as one of religious freedom.
One of the first couples to take advantage of the UK law. Photo: BBC / Reuters
The first official count of same-sex marriages in the UK since they were legalised last year has been published, and it is a "disappointing” figure, according to British academic Mike Thomas:
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, just 1,409 same-sex couples were married in England and Wales from the end of March to the end of June 2014. This is a relatively low number in comparison to the 7,000 or so couples across the UK who entered into civil partnerships in the same period of time after they were first made available in 2005.
On the Christian side, there’s often more than a smidgen of repugnant smugness in rejection of the gay lifestyle. Summed up in the slogan “pray away the gay”, Christian moral teaching is prescribed by some pastors and parents as if it were aspirin. Aspirin is no cure for wounded hearts.
On the gay side, there’s often a deep hostility towards “life-denying”, “nay-saying” Christian ethics. Gay writers sneer at the power of religion and regard it as a kind of brainwashing. That is just dumb. If faith changed geniuses like Augustine and Pascal, why can't it work today?
What’s missing in this often vituperative clash is real people, not cardboard cut-outs but people yearning for love, meaning, transcendence and redemption from their own pettiness. This is what the deeply moving documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills provides. In it…
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What the New York Times correctly calls “the steady march of judicial approval for same-sex marriage over the past year” hit a speed bump, if not a road block, this week as the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard arguments in six same-sex marriages cases appealed by four states.
Judges have been marching in lock-step to overturn democratic laws which define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. More than more than two dozen lower courts and two appeals courts have ruled that gay couples have a right to marry. Some states have fought back, including Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, whose cases came before three judges of Sixth Circuit this week.
“Who gets to decide what the definition of marriage is?” asked Aaron D. Lindstrom, solicitor general of Michigan.
Last weekend I veged out on Saturday evening watching the 1939 film Goodbye, Mr Chips. In its day, the 1934 novel and the film were enormously popular. Robert Donat won a Best Actor Oscar for playing Mr Chips as he aged over 60 years. But the British film was also nominated in six other categories. Perhaps it would have scooped up even more Oscars if it hadn’t been competing with Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.
The film is a charming depiction of Brookfield, a storybook British boys’ boarding school – a sort of Hogwarts in black and white. Life was innocent and straightforward. The important values were honour, honesty and loyalty.
A modern production would probably highlight the dark side of World War I and adolescent sexuality. But Goodbye Mr Chips, even though Britain was still licking its wounds, celebrates the uncomplicated patriotism of dulce et decorum…
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The situation of marriage in the USA and much of the Western world today is unprecedented, the very institution in danger of collapsing into a chaos of sexual relationships of any shape or size. But looking beyond the history of marriage there is an important precedent, says Ryan T Anderson in a new article in National Review Online (registration/small payment required).
That precedent is the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which effectively created a national regime of abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, a ruling “more sweeping and more extreme than anyone had expected.” And yet supporters of marriage can learn from the pro-life response to Roe, Anderson argues, how to effectively defend marriage in the public square.
We should not forget that more than half of Americans today are pro-life.
Conjugality deals with the true nature of marriage and the challenges it faces today. Our current focus is on the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. We'd love to get your comments and suggestions. Send an email to email@example.com