In November 2014, in the Synod Hall at The Vatican there was staged an interreligious colloquium entitled Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman.
We have previously looked at speeches delivered to it by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Henry B. Eyring. In the latter post I expressed puzzlement at the extraordinarily precipitate legislation that was railroaded through most western governments almost simultaneously in 2014. Where, I ask myself, was the groundswell of opinion that caused the sudden overthrowing of centuries of accumulated wisdom concerning the essence of marriage? Where were the demonstrations, where the street-corner oratory, that persuaded governments to such a piece of legal and social vandalism with scant debate? No answer comes. If I search for debate and dialogue on the subject I find none before the politicians announced their intent, and after it merely imbecilic name-calling at those who questioned. This tends to be the way with fashionable pieties.
Today we look at a speech to the colloquium, delivered on 18 November by the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir’ Ali. I have admired Bishop Michael for many years, not least because he persistently questions and often disputes the dictates of Political Correctness rather than meekly following the line of least resistance.
Michael for the first minute draws attention to the atrocity that occurred that morning at a synagogue in Jerusalem. It is not the most upbeat of openings, but who could deny that it has to be addressed?
Michael spurns script or notes.
He begins by defining marriage, citing a whole range of witnesses – recent university research, historic context, the churches’ role, St Augustine of Hippo, various more modern philosophers, and even the law. He moves on into the reasons for marriage, listing the benefits for children, for the married couple, and for Society. Finally he addresses what can be done by either the church or the state to help the institution, covering the need for preparing a couple for marriage and preparing each individual for being a father or mother. Throughout, he includes illustrative material to bring it all alive.
It is a tripartite structure, and not particularly difficult to remember or to operate. That is why Michael does not need script or notes. But it lacks a narrative thread. I look now at that preceding paragraph and think how easy it would be to conceive a theme that created a thread to make the speech much more digestible for the audience and – more importantly – memorable. The improvement would be marked.
He is good, and I did not expect otherwise, but even the good can use help.
We shall at this blog be returning to this colloquium with at least one more speech.