Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Quibble with the HP

That's the Humbly Presumptuous, not the Hewlett-Packard.

Well, two, actually - quibbles, that is:
  1. The problem is not with forcing people to say two unequal things are equal. The problem is with ideologically committed folks in positions of power doing violence to language and forcing us to say that two different things are the same. This happens when one conflates the notions of sameness and equality, or worse, when one replaces the conceptual contents of the latter word with those of the former, but maintains the morphology of the latter, so that "equality" comes to mean always and only "sameness", "equal" means always and only "the same" and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.
  2. During the presser at the Venerable English College in Rome following the audience with Pope Benedict this past Monday, Bishop Smith of Cardiff made a point similar to the one you made. He said words to the effect that everyone is against unjust discrimination, but not all discrimination is unjust. I reply, "true, sure: we don't give driver's licenses to blind folks, do we? We don't complain that professional sports teams don't give playing contracts to paraplegics, do we?" I could go on with a politically incorrect litany of everyday realities with which we have no moral trouble negotiating but about which you might feel bad laughing - and you would laugh after you read how I presented them, of that be certain, gentle reader. The point is that making such a point is politically worse than useless: it is suicidal. Think of the gigantic, 3-inch, above-the-fold headlines in the Brit press: "Catholic Bishops favor Discrimination!" "Cardiff Bishop Says Some Discrimination Justified!" "Bishop Smith: 'OK to Discriminate against Gays'!" and so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.
In any case, it's not about the merits of this or that act of discrimination: it is about the immunity of the Church from government interference. The civil authority may neither limit the Church's right to speak on matters touching the public weal, nor set the Church's internal agenda. That is the point, and that is what the equality bill would do, and that is just plain wrong. Saying things like what the excellent bishop of Cardiff said may score you some points in a faculty coffee room debate, but it will also get you murdered in the press, and that last is the only one that counts, if your goal is to protect the rights of the Church and serve the real interests of society.

Just sayin'.


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