“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
“They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs, they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”
Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass“
In Ireland, the Catholic bishops are concerned about the imminent passing of legislation to allow civil partnerships. In voicing their opposition, they are using an argument used before in Washington DC, and in Boulder Colorado, to restrict the religious freedom of gay and lesbian Catholics. This time, though, the application of the argument is so breathtaking it would do Humpty Dumpty proud:
In a statement, Why Marriage Matters, released by the bishops yesterday, they describe provisions in the Civil Partnership Bill as “an extraordinary and far-reaching attack on freedom of conscience and the free practices of religion – which are guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution”.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that freedom of religion and of conscience meant allowing those who disagree with you, to act in accordance with their own conscience, and not force them to comply with your own. The proposed bill is about civil partnerships, not religious marriage, and imply no obligations whatever on the actions or religious beliefs of anyone who does not wish to participate. I would have thought that permitting civil partnerships for those who disagree with the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage was a way of implementing, not restricting religious freedom.
But then, I use words as Alice does – not as Humpty Dumpty does.