Monday, September 15, 2008

The clock is ticking: the rush to end the latest ‘injustice’

I see that

[s]enior judiciary members have urged the Coalition not to block or delay Government legislation that will give same-sex couples the same financial rights as heterosexual de facto couples
And the impetus for this? The imminent retirement of the Hon. Mr. Justice Michael Kirby A.C. C.M.G.:

Justice Kirby has become the public face of the proposed legislation. As the law stands, his partner of almost 40 years, Johan van Vloten, would be ineligible to receive part of his pension should he die first. If Justice Kirby was female, Mr van Vloten would receive the part pension.

This discrimination exists in more than 100 areas of Commonwealth law, which Labor has sought to end with two bills.
The question is: is this discrimination unjust? I say: no, it is not, since even a lawful spouse is not ‘owed’, in justice, a part-pension or other entitlements. One could make a tenuous argument, I suppose, that since a wife makes sacrifices for her husband, she should enjoy some of the benefits that he reaps from these. But this would ignore the fact that these sacrifices are part of a mother’s vocation. Also, the law has an educative function, and any discouragement of homosexual activity is a good thing. And the notion that a sinner should be rewarded for the longevity of his state of sin is quite repugnant.

But since the question of human rights and discrimination has come up again, I might make a few more remarks on the topic. We know, or should know, that a right is implied by and dependent on a duty. Now a Christian can point to the Ten Commandments as the source of his or her rights, since they lay down the corresponding duties. For instance, a duty not to kill implies a right to life, a duty not to steal implies a right to private property, and a duty to worship God implies a right to hear Mass offered according to the rubrics. Christians don’t (or shouldn’t) claim too many rights that have no basis in God’s ordinances.

Or, to look at the matter from another angle: each of us has an indestructible ontological dignity, an orientation towards a transcendent goal. We have certain rights in order that we can pursue this goal.

So it is perplexing when one hears secularists like Ms Elizabeth Broderick asserting that “[t]here is no question that legislated paid maternity leave is a basic human right” or the Sodomites League’s calls for same-sex ‘marriage’. What are the new-found duties that evoke these absurd demands?

Or even when a Catholic like Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf refers to a right to vote as though it were “written into our being”. How can this be, when no-one contests the State’s denial of voting rights to the insane and to convicts, whose ontological dignity is no less than anyone else’s?

But at least with Catholics we know what ‘human dignity’ means. What do the secularists mean, though, when, unable to show the duty from which their asserted rights were inferred, they make some vague appeal to human dignity? If any secularists are visiting here (or anyone who understands the secularist world-view), please let me know!

In Iota Unum, Professor Romano Amerio links such claims to abstract rights without corresponding duties to the conflation of human nature and the human person. But then there are secularists like Professor Peter Singer, who explicitly separate out the two in their scheme of ‘human non-persons’ and ‘non-human persons’. And then one hears the likes of Mr. Paul Keating calling for a society based on the innate dignity of man according to a vague humanist conception. But when man has no goal beyond this world, ‘human dignity’ becomes a very shaky foundation indeed.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

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