In a landmark development Denmark's parliament has voted through a law which will make it mandatory for the Danish church (Lutheran) to conduct same sex marriages (see the Daily Telegraph for details). While individual ministers can refuse on grounds of conscience, the bishops/ do not have the same luxury and will have to appoint a replacement priest or minister to carry out the ceremony. While this refers only to the Lutheran church at the moment, one wonders if individual Danes will seek to have the legislation extended to all churches. That said this may be the beginning, should we expect other parliaments in other countries to follow suit, particularly in the EU where "consensus" demands all constituent countries fall into line on liberal issues?
Fr Ray Blake in his blog wonders if the Church in Denmark will be able to hold out, should this happen - it is a valid question. Given the militancy we have seen around the issue of same sex marriage we can be sure there will be incredible pressure applied to the Church in Denmark now that this victory has been given to them and the historical realist in me leads me to expect that that pressure may well turn violent, as it often has in the past. Are we about to see the expected persecution begin, first in Denmark and then throughout Europe?
Time to pray and to reflect on previous persecutions. And let us pray especially for our bishops - they of all people have to remain firm. We can expect individual priests to flout Christian teaching, but our bishops must not. The statue of St John Fisher on my desk reminds me that at times bishops can be the weakest of men when courage is needed to defy king, president, government and parliament.
Of course in this matter the Danish parliament is overstepping its competence. It has no right to decide what churches do when it comes to marriages, to do so, as it has done, is an act of interference in the belief system of the various religions in Denmark. In terms of Catholicism, if the Danish parliament should seek to extend the legislation, the Danes would be dictating to us how our sacramental system must work. Surely this would be a breach of the separation of Church and State?
Also, in demanding that churches abandon Christian teaching on marriage, the parliament is ultimately dictating to God, whose teaching we follow, how he must view marriage. The Danish parliament has no right to tell God that he has to obey an act of the legislature, that is why this law is not only unjust it is also arrogant and the height of lunacy. And if we note the lessons in Scripture we see that such presumption usually ends in disaster not for God or for his faithful, but for the ones who tried to force him to adopt their way of thinking and their way of living.
That said, true compassion, which we as disciples of Christ must adhere to, is rooted in truth - in the truth of God's law, in the truth of who we are as human beings, in the truth of what leads to salvation and what hinders it.