by Simone Delochan, firstname.lastname@example.org
“We regulate marriage so we can ensure that the children have a mother and a father…so that the child has the best opportunity, for being a mature, whole individual, who can achieve the purpose of their birth….”
Archbishop Jason Gordon said this as he set the tone for discourse at the first ‘Live Conversations with Archbishop J’, held at Our Lady of Fatima Church, Curepe, Friday June 15.
To an audience of approximately 150 persons who crossed demographics of age and gender, the panel – which also consisted of Spiritual Director/Theological Adviser, Fr Matxthew Ragbir Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, and Leela Ramdeen, Chair, Catholic Commission for Social Justice -– emphasised the Church’s clear position with regard to marriage and same sex unions.
The brief presentations made by each of the panellists were followed by a question and answer session which lasted close to an hour and a half, and dealt with issues of education, secular media distortion of the message of the June 11 press conference, and other topics relevant to the LGBT+ community.
The chat emerged from the faithful’s confusion on the archbishop’s April 15 Catholic News’ column where he expressed support for the repeal of the buggery law in Trinidad and Tobago. In April, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act are “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.
To a question on what has been perceived as an about-face on the gay community during the press conference, the archbishop clarified that his stances on the issues of the buggery law and same-sex marriage were mutually exclusive.
He explained the buggery law, an ancient law in the statutes of England, “…was used to extract property from people, to victimise people. To be charged with buggery, somebody has to be in the bedroom to witness…”
Such acts in public are covered under the Public Indecency Act, and if the victims are children, the charge will be statutory rape. Thus, in the buggery law, “the punishment does not fit the act, because the act is between two consenting adults”.
Archbishop Gordon said the institution of marriage however, is a covenant and provides a sacred space that is both unitive for spouses and procreative. Should the procreative function be removed from this understanding, then it opens the door for “any form of unification” which can have a long-term negative impact on civilisation.
He continued: “If you start talking about two men and two women, it can be unitive but not procreative. It must have both elements if we have to talk about this being a marriage…Only a man can be a father; only a woman can be a mother. And so a child needs both and that’s why the design of a human is complementary to each other in the reproduction of children, because children need both mother and father…This in essence is the Church’s teaching.”
The complementarity and benefits were borne in scientific studies which exhibited the neurological differences between men and women, and the benefits to a child exposed to both.
Fr Ragbir said, “There is vast science out there which suggests that the difference is not just genitalia; it is written into our cells and in our brains…”
He located the discussion in larger philosophical and ethical questions of the human person and in the macro-view of what is necessary for the “flourishing for the body politic”. Human persons are “embodied spirits”; consisting of body and soul which are inseparable.
Fr Ragbir said, “For any of these issues here, we have to ask, what is happening to the human person…?” Frequently, he observed, the human person treats himself/herself as body only and there is no consequence for Actions. However, for the discussions the questions must be asked, “What exactly is true good for the human person? What exactly is truly good…for the body politic?”
Fr Ragbir queried for consideration: “The decisions we make, the policies we put in place, the laws we enact, are they moving us toward flourishing as persons, as communities…?” Furthermore, the Church and Catholics in pastoral ministry have to reflect on how they interact with the “brokenness of human reality”.
In her address, Ramdeen cited that 26 countries have thus far legitimised same-sex marriage. In 2012, she and then Msgr Robert Llanos, and members of the Inter-Religious Organisation had discussions with the Minister of Gender at the time, on the Draft Gender Policy (2012).
The group stated that they did not want gender redefined as “more than a man or woman” and the policy was withdrawn. There is another Gender Policy before parliament now, which she has not seen. She is uncertain whether there has been any consultation on the document.
The audience was shown a video clip on the proposed UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme that is at the cusp of being implemented in schools nationwide in 2019.
The programme targets children from age five and introduces them to concepts of gender fluidity and homosexuality, along with graphic illustrations of nude figures engaged in the sexual act.
Fr Ragbir commented: “What they are proposing is a systematic sexualising of our children from the age of five. In Europe, they have pushed it from the age of three.” He stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin had rejected the implementation; Croatia used instead another programme called Teen Star.
In 2012, the programme was introduced to schools in Jamaica, but protests by parents forced withdrawal by the then Minister of Education.
Rebekah Ali-Gouveia, attorney-at-law and head of an NGO dealing with pregnancy and family resources, commented that upon reading the concept note to CSE, she came across many ‘red flags’.
“The tenor of the concept was that the State knew better than the parents when it comes to educating their children on sexual issues,” she said. When there was communication with an individual from the UNFPA on this area, his response was that it was “non-negotiable and mandatory”. Alongside the programme is an app with a hotline for children to call during the night. Ali-Gouveia said, “Parental oversight is being eroded.”
Fr Ragbir said the teaching of the Church is that the duty to educate the child lies with the parents: “What the UN proposes to do is probably worse than the worst parents in Trinidad, which is to destroy the very essence and innocence of the child.” (See the Archbishop’s column, on page 24 for a discussion on CSE).
Continued next week