This spectacular over-reaction to a tangential remark is, as the director of the Vatican press office observed, "lacking in decent composure and sense of proportion: it consists in shouting, not in reasoning; it is intended to intimidate those who want to support this view freely in the public arena."
All too true. But here's another factor. By focusing obsessively on the issue of same-sex marriage, the mass media obscured the remainder of the papal message. People who might have profited from the Pope's insights have heard nothing about what he wrote, apart from that one sentence. The main thrust of the message is nearly lost.
Just last week, as the controversy over the papal message began, Roger Scruton wrote in the London Times about the singular success that gay activists have achieved in demonizing their opponents:
If we ask ourselves how it is that the advocacy of gay marriage has become an orthodoxy to which all our political leaders subscribe, we must surely acknowledge that intimidation has some part to play in the matter. Express the slightest hesitation on this score and someone will accuse you of "homophobia", while others will organise to ensure that, even if nothing else is known about your views, this at least will be notorious.
Isn't that precisely what has happened to the Pope's message? A few months ago Ross Douthat commented on the same phenomenon in the New York Times. The gay-rights movement has advanced because of changes in public opinion, he conceded.
But it has also advanced, and will probably continue to advance, through social pressure, ideological enforcement, and legal restriction. Indeed, the very language of the movement is explicitly designed to exert this kind of pressure: By redefining yesterday's consensus view of marriage as "bigotry," and expanding the term "homophobia" to cover support for that older consensus as well as personal discomfort with/animus toward gays.
Douthat linked to stories about the gay-activist web site that advertised the names and addresses of California residents who signed a petition to stop same-sex marriage, thus making them candidates for reprisals; the successful campaign to close down Catholic adoption agencies in Illinois because they would not cater to same-sex couples; and, most ominously, the attempt to ruin the academic career of Mark Regnerus, a sociologist who dared to question the studies that have been used to claim that children flourish in homosexual households.
Even if that argument for caution is ultimately rejected, the fact that it will be raised — as surely it will — illustrates how successful gay activists have been in restricting public discussion.
Regnerus has survived the fraudulent attempt to censure him for "scholarly misconduct." But his standing in the academic world has unquestionably been damaged — only a brave conference organizer would invite him to deliver a paper on any topic today — and younger scholars who might be considering research on homosexuality have seen what could happen to them if they go ahead with their plans.
And now the campaign of intimidation has reached the Pope. The next time the Holy Father prepares a statement, and uses the argument on same-sex marriage to illustrate a point, Vatican officials will read the draft and ask him: "Your Holiness, do you really need to include this sentence? Do you want to run the risk that no one will ever notice the rest of the statement?" Even if that argument for caution is ultimately rejected, the fact that it will be raised — as surely it will — illustrates how successful gay activists have been in restricting public discussion.
Phil Lawler. "The gay intimidation campaign reaches toward the Pope." Catholic Culture - On the News (December 17, 2012).
Reprinted with permission from Phil Lawler and Catholic Culture.org.
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Phil Lawler is Director of the Catholic Culture Project. Born and raised in the Boston area, Phil Lawler attended Harvard College, graduating with honors in Government in 1972. He did graduate work in political philosophy at the University of Chicago before entering a career in journalism. Phil Lawler has been active in politics as well as journalism. He has been Director of Studies for the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think-tank based in Washington), a member of two presidential inaugural committees; and a candidate for the US Senate.
As a journalist, Phil has acted as editor of Crisis magazine. In 1986 he became the first layman to edit The Pilot, the Boston archdiocesan newspaper. From 1993 through 2005, Phil Lawler was the editor of Catholic World Report, an international monthly news magazine. And in 1996, recognizing the power of the internet, he founded Catholic World News: the first online Catholic news service.
Phil Lawler is the author of five books on political and religious topics most recently The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture. His essays, book reviews, and editorial columns have appeared in over 100 newspapers around the United States and abroad, including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe.
Phil lives in central Massachusetts with his wife Leila and their seven children.
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