Vinoth Ramachandra

Archive for October 2015

How does an obscure Polish priest who is gay become the centrepiece of the leading headline in yesterday’s online BBC news worldwide?

Since long before Europe even existed, the Roman Catholic Church has required all priests to take a vow of chastity, along with vows of poverty and obedience, at their ordination. Those who are unable to fulfil these ordination vows leave the priesthood and some join other Christian denominations, most notably Anglican. But it seems that when it comes to a priest with a gay orientation, the requirement of chastity is seen as “homophobic” and the Church is expected to change its practice to suit his “sexual preferences”. The BBC with its cult of “political correctness” propagates such double standards.

It appears that the only time the BBC shows any interest in ecclesiastical matters is when the “gay” issue is on the agenda. The recently concluded Vatican synod had far more pressing issues to consider, but one would have gathered from the bias of BBC reporting that the entire synod was dominated by disagreements over homosexuality. That the latter is not the most important pastoral or moral issue for the vast majority of the Roman Catholic church- most of whom are found in the Two-Thirds world- does not register on the minds of BBC journalists. But by constantly highlighting cases of so-called homophobia while completing ignoring other news stories, including the systematic persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in many parts of the world, the BBC practices a form of cultural imperialism (“we will keep hounding you until you accept our values”) under the guise of liberal tolerance.

I have written before on this Blog (e.g. The Death of Argument, 16 July 2010) of the insidious effect of “political correctness” and “victim politics” on Western universities and law courts, the very institutions which should be protecting peoples’ civil liberties. Attaching the suffix “–phobic” to a person or institution is considered sufficient to dispense with all argument. Ironically, it is the same when any criticism of Muslim teaching or practice is denounced by Muslims as Islamophobic. The inability to discern between valid arguments and invalid caricatures or stereotyping is a sad reflection of both the state of higher education and the state of contemporary politics.

In the U.S., the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports that more than 55 per cent of colleges and universities maintain at least one policy that substantially restricts constitutionally protected speech. They issue “trigger warnings” to students when courses offer content that might upset them, instead of enabling students to understand contrary opinions, sift their content and refute what they may regard as erroneous.

Earlier this year, a proposed debate on abortion at Oxford University was cancelled by the organizers due to militant feminists who protested that both debaters were men and “those without uteruses” had no right to speak on the subject. These self-fertilized women obviously need to attend a class at the university on human embryology. As one astute observer noted, “YOU-cannot-say-that” has come to supplement “You-cannot-say-THAT”. Both incompatible with academic freedoms. Both echoes of the Orwellian thought-police.

From uteri to penises. The latest celebrity victim of “victim politics” is the feminist writer Germaine Greer. Her scheduled guest lecture at Cardiff University in Wales was cancelled following strident protests by LGBT students. Her crime? Her publicly expressed opinion that transgendered women were not really women; that they did not “think, speak and behave as women”. Instead of openly engaging Ms. Greer in vigorous debate, the students and weak-kneed university authorities preferred to silence her. One spokeswoman deemed Greer’s views as being “offensive” to “our transgender siblings.”

Speaking at a liberal university in the U.S. four years ago on the theme of “justice”, I could sense that students were embarrassed when, towards the end of my talk, I mentioned “protecting embryonic and fetal human beings” as one example of practising justice. This was taboo, long associated with those right-wing fundamentalists. But, then, when I gave as two further examples of practising justice “defending the rights of the poor” and “reducing anthropogenic global warming”, they were confused. These belonged to a different political agenda.

Jews like Bernie Sanders expose the absurdity of so-called “pro-life” churches and Christian colleges being indifferent to the plight of impoverished mothers, those who have no access to affordable health-care, and all whose lives are imperilled by climate change. His remarks may offend many American Christians, but for that very reason they are to be welcomed. Offending for the sake of offending is not the same as offending through arguments that some find unpalatable. The latter is what every great educator, not to mention Jesus himself, has done.

The mania over “-phobias” has led to many universities in the U.S. and Britain now ceasing to be places where ideas, however controversial, are voiced, explored and either embraced, modified or refuted. Instead, they have become the principal promoters of conformity by giving into the politics of resentment and victimhood. Are they becoming citadels of mindlessness? Sorry, no offence.


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