Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Are Bishops Who Oppose Same Sex Marriage Belligerent?

This week’s editorial in The Southern Cross addresses the subject of same sex marriage and claims that many bishops are considered to be belligerent in upholding the teaching of the Church in this regard. The editorial also, in my opinion, seems to subtly favour the concept of same sex marriage. The editor says that the traditional marriage that is taught by the Church is not being embraced by the faithful. “It is apparent”, writes the editor, that the Church is failing to persuade the faithful of its case.[i]

This is a very bold statement to make, especially since it is made in our only South African Catholic newspaper, which should be promoting Church teaching, not attacking or diffusing it with secular opinion. So one would clearly expect that the editorial would base this statement on some very sound facts. Sadly, however, the statement is, as I immediately suspected, not based on sound facts or information at all. The statement is based entirely on a poll, which was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, which shows that 59% of the Catholics who were polled were in support of same sex marriage.

You may of course now be asking yourself why I don't believe that this 59% supports this bold statement in the editorial. Well, what the editorial disingenuously fails to disclose, is some materially relevant information regarding the poll. This poll, by the Public Religion Research Institute, reflects the opinion of only 204 Catholics! Let me give you that number again because it is so tiny that you may have missed it: 204 Catholics. Let's write that out in words so that there is undoubtedly no mistaking the fact that it was a poll of only two hundred and four Catholics.[ii] (In total only 1,007 people were included in the entire poll.)

If we now put that number into context. There are approximately 1 billion Catholics worldwide. For the sake of simplicity, lets call it exactly 1 billion. So, what this poll of 204 Catholics in fact represents is the opinion of a massive 0.0000002% of all Catholics worldwide. Of those 204 Catholics surveyed, only 59%, which is 120 people, supported same sex marriage. 

So, in reality, all this poll really shows us is that 0.00000012% (120) of Catholics worldwide are in favour of same sex marriage. The poll also shows that 36% are opposed, which means 0.000000073% (73) of Catholics worldwide are not in favour of same sex marriage. Now, would a reasonable person, regardless of their beliefs on this subject, honestly think it would be wise for anyone to take this poll seriously? Imagine if the board of The Southern Cross, on the basis of a random poll of 0.0000002% of the newspapers readers, decided to close down the newspaper. Would one expect the editorial, in the final edition of the newspaper, to declare that the board’s decision was based on a sound study of reality?

Another important fact that needs consideration is that the poll was conducted telephonically and that the only basis of classifying anyone as Catholic was whether that person claimed to be Catholic or not. Now, I don’t know about you, but I know of people who always claim to be Catholic yet they haven’t seen the inside of a church for years and years? Yet, if these 'Catholics' were surveyed and claimed to be Catholic, there opinion would be classified as being representative of Catholic opinion in the poll. Does that sound like the basis on which to present a fair report on the opinion of Catholics?

The editorial then also goes on to waffle about the fact that ‘many’ Catholics perceive those bishops who consider same sex marriage to be the enemy of the family, to be belligerent. This is a completely baseless and purely anecdotal statement, yet it is made as a statement of fact by the newspaper. Who, I wonder, are these ‘many’ to whom the editorial refers. Also, how does the editor know this? Another poll maybe?

It is always wise to remember that just because the majority of those with whom one chooses to associate has a particular opinion, does not make it an opinion which reflects the ‘many’ in the Church. The Church is an institution with an estimated 1 billion members and I doubt whether the editor truly knows the opinion of 'many' in the context of 1 billion members. I suspect at best he knows only the opinion of 'a few'. It could be accepted as an accurate statement of perceptions if it was the bishops worldwide who collectively issued a statement that “MANY” Catholics had such perceptions, since the bishops collectively would know, much better than one editor does, what the perceptions of 'many' of the 1 billion Catholics are. I think that the editor would be wise to remember that, even as the editor of a Catholic newspaper, he does not represent the opinion of the ‘many’ Catholics in South Africa or, even less so, those of the ‘many’ Catholics in the world.

What I think this entirely baseless editorial may in fact be communicating is that it is in fact this newspaper and not 'many' Catholics as it claims, who considers the bishops to be belligerent because they describe same sex marriage as the enemy of the family. What else can one assume when the editorial does not provide any basis to support its statement that 'many' Catholics feel this way. In fact, this onslaught on our bishops is beginning to sound a little familiar. In a previous editorial this newspaper claimed that our bishops were fostering antipathy towards the Church because of the way in which they defend the Church and its teaching. On that occasion the newspaper used the example of one of Bishop Jenky's homilies to support its statement, but, as it did this time with the poll, failed to be entirely forthright about the context of the homily because it supported the newspapers position not to be forthright. 

This current editorial also seems to be communicating, no matter how subtly, that the concept of same sex marriage should in fact be considered as an option by the Church and that this newspaper will promote the need for this consideration by clutching at straws, like this tiny poll, to make this point to its readers. This, even though a Catholic newspaper should in fact be used to help our bishops to promote the true teaching of the Church. It should not, as I think this newspaper does all too frequently, promote the opinion of dissidents, promote its own opinions or launch an attack on our bishops or the Church.

The editorial does, as usual, in the interest of appearing objective, make this statement near the end: “It may be that the 59% of US Catholics who do not believe the Church’s case against same-sex marriage require catechesis on the subject. Their great number, higher than the general population, may well indicate a teaching failure by the Church.

Sadly, here again there seems to be a complete disregard for the fact that a reasonable person would never think of actually describing 120 people as a ‘great’ number when it is used in the context of 1,000,000,000 people. The editorial is of course quite right about the need for the catechesis of the 120‼ It would be great if The Southern Cross could actually begin assisting the bishops to provide such catechesis! Don't sanctimoniously question whether the bishops are effective. Start physically doing something to help the bishops convey the true teaching more effectively!

The editorial concludes: “It is a lesson worth learning.” Well, I agree! I hope that the lesson will be that one should not believe any poll just because it suits ones own cause or dissident agenda! Further, hopeful the newspaper will learn that our bishops, under the leadership of the pope, do in fact know what is right for the faithful and they can, collectively, be trusted to lead us to correctly understand matters of Faith and Morals.

This editorial would have served South African Catholics and the bishops far better if it had focussed on something that helps its readers to understand the Church’s teaching on marriage and its reason for opposing same sex marriage. A good start could have been Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s recent lecture – Meaning and Hope: Christianity’s place in Modern Britain – wherein he speaks at length about the importance of defending traditional marriage. In particular, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor says: “The family is the most enduring social institution that we have. It is the foundation of all societies and is our security against the overwhelming claims of the State. History teaches us that when Governments wish to claim absolute power over their citizens they begin by either undermining the family or controlling it.

I would suggest that this editorial in The Southern Cross undermines the importance and value of traditional marriage, serving only to raise doubts in the minds of Catholics, thereby increasing the confusion already created so successfully and deliberately by the secular media! It may in fact be The Southern Cross, not the bishops, who is being belligerent! It may therefore also be The Southern Cross who must share some responsibility if the message of the bishops is as ineffective as this newspaper alleges it is in this editorial!

[i] Reframing The Message, The Southern Cross, May 23, 2012
[ii] Public Religion Research Institute, Evolution of American Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage, May 9, 2012


  1. Firstly, I would like the names of those bishops about whom the Southern Cross refers, who favour " same sex 'marriage'", meaning gay unions". (I can only think of one gay bishop who was forced to resign some years back - is this the only one, or are there others?)

    Secondly, about the small Catholic population censorship (two hunder and four)about which you refer. Can you inform me whether the censopship was conducted inside the gay clubs?

    Thirdly, as I've said many times before, the Southern Cross is a "Troyan horse" supplanted by one or two rebellious bishops who should also be fired (Donald Trump style! "You're Fired!").

    Fourthly, for the Catholics among us, there is no such thing as "gay marriage", now or ever. At best we can properly call homosexual / lesbian relationships "gay unions. Marriage generally begets children and exists solely between a man and a woman. No need to blur the definition of marriage. Speak the Truth! Use the correct accurate language.

    Fifthly, what gets me about The Southern Cross is that it is sold inside the Church building and often seen being read as "spiritual " reading, in the pews. Shows how distant the average parish is from the Truth. Yet, the bishops are cowardly silent about such trash.

  2. As an addendum to my previous comment, Mark, when the gays and liberals insist on the terminology "same sex marriage" or "gay marriage", as Catholics nothing stops us from replacing these ideas with the concept "Den of Iniquity."

    For example. When they say: "Magistrate so and so 'married us'", nothing stops us from thinking: "Magistrate so and so confirmed you in your 'Den of Iniquity'".

    "Ahha!" we can reply "Congratulations on your Den of Iniquity!"

    Ironically, we can also affirm the Southern Cross and those poor gay supportive bishop with the words: "Congratulations on your Den of Iniquity!"

  3. Great Post Mark, keep up the good work.

  4. The Catholic News Agency early in may reported that Cardinal Dolan has said that Obama's support of Gay Marriage undermines society:

    I wonder if The Southern Cross editorial includes Cardinal Dolan in its broad statement that bishops who do so are belligerent?

  5. Very good, we have to encourage and support the bishops