As a Londoner, I’ve always been immensely proud of my city. It has always represented more than just a place of history, traditions, fine buildings, and great events. It has been the home of Parliamentary democracy and a place to which people from other countries fled when they sought to campaign for freedom, a place where great matters were debated openly and from where such debates and discussions were broadcast to the world.
I was brought up on stories of the London Blitz. My mother is a Blitz survivor – caught in a raid while at Mass, she and the rest of the congregation were urged by the priest to leave the church and get to shelter as soon as they could: she made it back to her parents’ home and they dived into the air-raid shelter, first grabbing the apple pie for Sunday lunch. (They ate the pie. The church was damaged but survived: their home was more badly bombed and they and their rescued possessions eventually found a refuge elsewhere).
Now I’m wondering: what of the London of tomorrow? The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson – a popular man and one who has had a successful year, what with the Royal Jubilee and the Olympics – has recently announced his enthusiastic support for same-sex marriage. Well, he can believe that two people of the same sex can marry if he liked, I suppose. After all, some people believe that the earth is flat. But there is more to the subject than that. If the Government’s projected scheme for same-sex “marriage” goes ahead, what will happen to freedom of speech?
Will there be an absolute guarantee that our London churches will be free to teach and preach the truth that marriage can only be between a man and a woman?
As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is a figure-head for a great city. It’s a city that represents more than just an architectural and cultural heritage – the whole point of enduring the Blitz all those years ago was to safeguard freedom, and every Londoner is proud of that. The bombing would have stopped in Britain had agreed to negotiate a truce with the Nazis and give in to their evil schemes. But it was worth enduring the deaths and sufferings of Londoners because something crucial was at stake: fundamental human values without which a civilisation cannot survive.
London today boasts a great many Catholic churches and schools. The latter get substantial grants of public funds, and rightly so because they serve the community well and are of special value to some of the poorest families. The churches and schools exist as part of the Catholic Church, a Church which exists on a nuptial principle, a Bridegroom/Bride reality which is non-negotiable. It’s not an additional; “extra” to Catholic doctrine, it’s at the core. A priest can no more teach the acceptance same-sex “marriage” than he can teach the non-existence of God, and this also applies to teachers in Catholic schools.
Discussing same-sex marriage is actually not the Mayor’s job: he’s not a Member of Parliament so we won’t be voting on the subject if legislation is introduced, and he doesn’t issue marriage licences. So his silly pronouncements on the subject are actually just a pointless noise. But, since he has raised the issue, there are matters on which we need clarification. We need to know that he stands firmly on the side of freedom: that our London Catholic clergy and teachers, school governors, administrators, inspectors, youth workers and so on can operate in freedom and can teach what the Church teaches, that the Mayor fully accept this and warmly supports their right to teach in this way.
If he wants to speak about same-sex marriage, the Mayor must be prepared to answer any reasonable questions that emerge from the discussion on the subject. And here is a reasonable question: Mr Johnson, do you believe that some one who totally disagrees with you on this subject has the right to express that disagreement openly in a church, in a youth group, and in a school? I am sure your answer will be “yes”, but it would be useful if you could set it down clearly in writing, and promise your full support to all who seek to defend the freedom for which London has long stood.