The French Bishops are currently firing up a campaign against the forthcoming legislation on gay marriage. They are calling for a thorough debate of the issues, which indeed would be a salutary thing. But they are not calling for open discussion. Rather a managed debate among Catholics takes the form of a catechesis or a provision of pastoral guidelines in which the basic position taken by the bishops cannot be put in question and in which gay or dissident voices are not heard.
The bishops may come to regret their call for a debate, for it has inspired some responses in the wide open field of democratic discussion. These the bishops regard as the pressure of a shrill lobby.
A good contribution was made in Le Monde on 6 November 2012 by Professors William Marx and Gilles Philippe, who simply list various positions taken by the bishops and by the Vatican on gay rights issues. They show clearly the bishops are committed to positions that go far beyond their current objection to gay marriage. In 1991 the bishops said that a society the ¨claims to recognize homosexuality as something normal" is "sick". "At best, in the ideal world of which the church dreams, homosexuals, condemned to continence, would never declare themselves publicly and would live in the most total solitude and the most complete mendacity".
The two professors correctly remark that the bishops appeal to democracy when it suits them but have no intention of practicing it in their own sphere.
Among the weapons of the rightwing catholic fight against gay marriage are posters warning not to let "homos" adopt children and quotations from a confused young man who converted to catholicism after psychoanalysis and sees homosexual orientation as a "wound" (see www.araigneedudesert.fr). The social constructionist views of Michel Foucault and others are invoked as signs that the identity of male and female is under attack; "sexual difference" has become a sacred value that those advocating gay marriage are said to be trampling on.
While the French bishops are far more intelligent and courteous than their Spanish, Scottish, and US counterparts, their performance remains dismal, because of their fear of open discussion and their refusal to hear the voices of gay people and their families. The atmosphere of the catholic discussion on gay marriage, in the absence of any forum permitting these voices to be heard, is that of a sect or a cult.