Outside the box: Bishop of Elphin & Being Gay or Female

AND so to the Bishop of Elphin, and his pronouncements on rape, parenting, and homosexuality, writes Suzanne Harrington.

First, let us reflect on how many different groups of people he has offended, all crammed into a single radio interview. That takes some doing. Given the bishop’s own lifestyle choices — celibate, childless, and definitely not female (his Church doesn’t do gender equality) — what does he know about the subjects upon which he so blithely opined?

Let’s start with how gay couples with children “are not parents”. Who can verify this claim? Perhaps children being raised by gay parents. There are loads of them where I live. I start with two teenager boys, whose mums shared everything, including a pregnancy each. ‘Your parents are not your parents’, I suggest. They laugh. Loudly. As though I have said something so bizarre it’s funny. A straw poll — a quick ask-around of my children’s friends from same-sex families — suggests that such an idea is laughable, were it not so cack-handedly offensive.

And so we move on to comparing being gay with having Down’s syndrome or spina bifida. Because, yes, this is what the bishop said. The key words here are the verbs; note the distinction between ‘being’ and ‘having’. You are gay, you have Down’s syndrome or spina bifida. But your sexuality, if it is not heterosexuality, is a disability, a condition, says the bishop. A ‘having’, not a ‘being’. And just as you are picking yourself up from the floor, he slams home another: being gay is “not what God intended.”

Really? And how does the Bishop know this? Has he been hearing voices? Does he have a secret email address for this invisible deity? A phone line nobody knows about? Have they been texting? Is God on Snapchat? Or perhaps the bishop is merely manipulating people’s spiritual beliefs to perpetrate outmoded bigotry. Lots of people believe in God, as is their right. Lots of people don’t believe in God, as is also their right. What is nobody’s right is to speak on behalf of something that may or may not exist, in order to spread prejudice and divisiveness.

But did the bishop finish there? Oh no. He’d offended gay people, now it was women’s turn. Speaking about terminating rape pregnancies (because celibate, childless men know ALL about how that feels), he suggested that “you don’t destroy a life in order to get back at the mother’s rapist.” And there it is. FFS. A woman who has been made pregnant through rape is not a “mother”. And what arrogance to suggest a woman wishing to recover from the trauma of rape is “getting back” at the rapist, in some childish tit-for-tat. There! That’ll teach you! Oh, wait. You’re a rapist. That this kind of homophobia and misogyny is still given the time of day, in 2015, is not doing Ireland, or anyone in it, any favours. Desist, bishop.

Do your flock a favour and take a vow of silence.


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