NEWLY published authors Jeremy Bell and John McCaughan are practising Catholics who both agree religion is not needed to defend traditional marriage in public.
The co-authors of their first book, Two Men Talk About Marriage, revealed at their Brisbane launch on August 24 how religion barely came into the equation when they individually began to vouch for traditional marriage.
“One does not have to believe in God, one does not have to be religious in any way to defend and uphold the dignity and value of marriage,” Mr McCaughan said at the launch.
Dr Bell grew up as a non-believer with divorced parents, and identified as a homosexual in his twenties.
He was in a long-term relationship with a man for four-and-a-half years.
The relationship ended when Dr Bell moved to Chicago to undertake his doctoral studies in Philosophy at the University of Chicago.
His studies prompted a rethink into the definition of marriage, but it wasn’t until one summer break that he began to look at the fundamental differences between a same-sex relationship and a heterosexual one.
“And when I thought about this, it immediately struck me, well of course, heterosexual couples can in principle have children, whereas a homosexual couple can’t,” Dr Bell said.
“It seemed to me a fact that heterosexual intercourse can lead to conceiving a child shows something about the meaning of that activity.”
In 2012, after much serious thought, Dr Bell was received into the Catholic Church.
In stark contrast, Mr McCaughan was one of 11 children to two happily married parents and has always been a practising Catholic.
When the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released their pastoral letter on marriage, Mr McCaughan almost cringed at the title, Don’t Mess with Marriage.
“It screams attack and defence, and how do we talk to a group that feels antagonised straight up from the get go?” he said.
“This is the fundamental problem – how do you share something so intrinsic and intertwined with your faith when we are talking to someone who (firstly) never had a relationship with God, (secondly) doesn’t believe in God, and (thirdly) thinks religion or definitions of any kind are anathema.”
The answer was love.
“The opening line of our book is ‘I love you’,” Mr McCaughan said.
“It’s because we all want to say and hear these words.
“Two people in love want to make an exclusive commitment to each other. By exclusive, we mean usually a sexually exclusive commitment.
“And what is it about sex that makes it so special?”
While their book is an attempt to show religion and God aren’t major factors in defending the value of traditional marriage, Mr McCaughan stressed the importance of listening and not merely debating.
“It’s two sides most of the time screaming at each other – no one is actually talking,” Mr McCaughan said. “This is why we wanted to talk.
“The majority of people I’ve come across and who I’ve had a long chat with about this, it’s an emotional issue because there is some story behind it, some experience of marriage.
“If you aim for the dignity of the person first and then aim to win the argument second, you’ll find more likely than not that they will actually listen to you because most of this debate is emotionally charged.”
By Emilie Ng