Monday 29 December 2014

We can't deny anyone the right to express love

Published 04/03/2014 | 02:30

Still-life of grooms.

* The issue of gay marriage surfaces on a regular basis, stirring up the predictable array of prejudice and gratuitous assertion.

Invoking what is referred to as "the teaching of the church" is particularly unhelpful, even for Catholics. Moral life is not a matter of following a set of prescribed rules or teachings, cultivating docile recipients of doctrine rather than encouraging free, rational discussion between equals. Acting morally requires thoughtful reflection on the demands of life and the imposition of these demands upon oneself.

Appealing to the teaching of the church cannot release us from personal responsibility for our actions. Acting morally is not an expression of obedience but the exercise of intelligence.

Moral discussion must earn its living by supporting the search for rationally motivated consensus.

It seems to me that what was most obvious in the life of Christ was his determination to sidestep religion and its attendant systems of unbending certainty.

The notion of what is natural or unnatural has dogged moral debate for centuries. A flimsy moral edifice was built on the concept of natural law, equating what is deemed natural with what is right.

Appeals to what is natural or unnatural exemplify our tendency to explain the obscure by the even more obscure, serving little logical, theological or moral purpose in determining a life that best befits us as humans.

Our job is not to worship nature; we ought to be its masters, not its slaves.

Reason lifts us above the chance events of the natural world. To describe any act as unnatural unfortunately gives us a licence to intensify our disapproval.

Whatever view we hold of human sexuality, it must be intelligible.

If two people, of whatever gender, experience a sincere love for one another, I can think of no good reason for denying them the right to the public ritual expression of that love. As my mother would say: "Mhuise, what harm are they doing?"

PHILIP O'NEILL

EDITH ROAD, OXFORD

NO HOPE FOR HEALTHCARE

* Even though in his speech to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last weekend Enda Kenny was quite certain that there is no alternative to Universal Health Care, he might like to be informed about a recent milestone passed by his Government and his Health Minister in particular.

Anuerin Bevan became minister for health in the new Labour government that took power in the UK following the end of World War II.

Despite bitter opposition from the vested interests of the British Medical Organisation, he still managed to set up the British National Health Service, which is funded from a specific National Insurance tax without any of the administrative burden, duplication and waste of the Universal Health Care system.

At the same time, that Labour government was also trying to rebuild a country – and they did it.

The Fine Gael/Labour Government has been in office since March 9, 2011, or 1,089 days, but it can't even manage to build a children's hospital that has been in the making for over 20 years. So what hope is there of it creating a functioning new national health system, no matter how many terms it has?

DESMOND FITZGERALD

CANARY WHARF, LONDON

SOLIDARITY WITH UKRAINE

* Russia's autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin, has reacted brutally to the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych. It is now well to remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, that people are endowed "with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that to secure these rights governments are instituted . . . whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government".

For all those who value such rights in their own nation, it is time to stand with the people of Ukraine.

DAN DONOVAN

DUNGARVAN, CO WATERFORD

NEW FLIGHT OF THE EARLS

* I would be grateful if you would allow me via your Letters page to inform the citizens of The (Christian Democratic) Republic of Ireland of the umpteenth re-enactment "Flight of the Earls Festival".

For centuries, the bards recalled the September 1607 Flight of the Earls in oral history. Circa 1922, it became part of the school curriculum of the independent Irish Free State.

In recent years, the Soldiers of Destiny started a re-enactment. They erroneously thought the original flight occurred in March, hence the reason an elite group of actors and their managers participate in the "Annual Flight of the Earls Festival" held each year in the month of March.

Whereas the original flights went to European nations, the modern-day Earls fly first class all over the world where they initiate the locals into the arts of Irish dancing, eating bacon and cabbage and downing pints of plain while holding out a bowl for donations . . . of jobs and more jobs for Mother Ireland.

The lead actor gets to visit the most powerful man in the world. The powerful man is given a bowl of shamrock (this is not a faux rock, but a plant) in a crystal bowl.

So be proud of the team of globetrotting elites acting as Irish Earls abroad on Ireland's National Day as they "trip the light fantastic" in their fantasy land where all is well . . . with themselves alone!

DECLAN FOLEY

BERWICK, AUSTRALIA

HUFFING AND PUFFING

* Obama, Cameron, et al to Putin: We'll huff and we'll puff, but we'll only close some bank accounts.

KILLIAN FOLEY-WALSH

KILKENNY CITY

MONUMENTAL FAILINGS

* Regarding 'The castle that stood 800 years' (Irish Independent, March 1), about the demolition of Coolbanagher Castle, Co Laois – this is shameful! And a serious failing by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. A monument of national significance allowed to be razed to the ground in the space of less than two weeks without a proper statics or conservation study.

Did the engineers not consider protecting both the public and the monument by provisionally fencing off the area, and by the buttressing or bracing of unstable parts?

Valuable lessons must be learned from the heritage management and care of monuments in Greece and many other earthquake-affected countries. Too late for this monument, unfortunately!

CHRISTINA HAYWOOD, PHD, FSA

DIRECTOR, IRISH INSTITUTE OF HELLENIC STUDIES AT ATHENS (IIHSA), ATHENS, GREECE

SAVE OUR POST OFFICES

* If, as a result of losing the contract to pay out pensions and other social welfare allowances, post offices fall to perceived "progress", the effect would be devastating.

Many older people are averse to the use of electronic fund transfers. But the loss of one's local post office would represent more than a mere inconvenience or challenge to one's electronic or computer proficiency. Many towns and villages have already lost their garda stations, local shops or pubs; or all of these.

Adding the post office to the list would be the final blow to the people of those districts. What is the point of having so many picture-postcard towns and villages if they have no shops, pubs or post offices for visitors as well as locals to call to?

JOHN FITZGERALD

CALLAN, CO KILKENNY

Irish Independent

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