Today's 'bloody questions' are these:
Is gay sex a sin?
Would you force a woman pregant from incestuous rape to continue with the pregnancy?
The thing about such questions is that they are framed in a slanted way, but if you refuse to answer, it will look not only weasally but also a tacit admission that you hold the most unpopular views possible. In answering them, you have to try to reframe it, but you have to do this in a few words, before you get interrupted. You have about ten seconds, and each ten-second statement must make sense on its own.
I don't claim to be an expert on media engagement - though I have been in the hotseat a handful of times. The point of this post is not to criticise anyone who has no time to think under pressure, but to make some suggestions about how we can think about these things when we do have the chance: in advance.
So, Mr Shaw, is gay sex a sin?
Answer: Sexuality finds its fulfilment within marriage. The fruits of sexuality include the relationship of the couple and children, and these both work best within marriage. Yes I'm talking about heterosexual marriage.
I'd probably be interupted at this point. If they haven't changed the question completely, carry on.
For this reason sex outside the marriage is problematic.
Morality is not a set of arbitrary rules designed to make our lives difficult. It is about what is ultimately satisfying and fulfilling. I believe that sex outside marriage is bad for people.
What do you say to homosexuals who find fulfillment a loving, stable, long-term relationship?
Other homosexuals think that for their integrity and peace they need to live celibate lives. Others again have multiple partners. It is obvious which ones I agree with.
Now like Jacob Rees-Mogg I have refused to use the form of words which the hostile interviewer wants to put in my mouth: 'gay sex is a sin'. It's not because I (or Rees-Mogg) don't want to affirm this proposition, it is because using those words affirms the interviewer's frame. Once you have said those words, no one has any reason to listen to you any more: you are obviously a bigot.
So, Mr Shaw, you would force a woman pregnant from incesuous rape to have the baby?
The rapist puts this woman into a terrible dilemma: to continue with the pregnancy, or to kill her own child. But killing the child cannot be the way to come to terms with this. It adds another trauma to the trauma of rape.
Don't you think the woman should be allowed to choose what to do?
Women in this situation have all sorts of people offering them advice and help. In practice they are encouraged to have an abortion. Everyone assumes that's what should happen; friends and family often find it easier. But it is the wrong answer. It isn't so easy for the woman, or for the child.
A follow up question (which can be applied to either topic), which Jacob Rees-Mogg found particularly difficult, was about changing the law. The bogey-man the interviewer wishes to conjure up is that of the politician who wishes to impose a lot of legislation on the country which is unacceptable to viewers: this, obviously, makes him unacceptable as a political leader or candidate. Since Catholic politicians do think (or should think) that, for example, unborn children should be protected by law, this is a tricky question. But it is an inevitable question, so what do you say?
So, Mr Shaw, you would change the law to prevent abortions/ gay marriage / whatever?
It is only going to work for Parliament to look again at this issue if there is a change of public feeling. The original legislation was forced on people without proper consultation or thought about the consequences. Now we can see the consequences a bit more we can have a debate, we are having a debate, about it, and you know my position in that debate. But this is clearly going to take time.
What did the priests of penal times say to their 'bloody question'? Well, they were forbidden to study or discuss the topic of just rebellion at seminary, and they claimed ignorance and practical indifference to the subject. They insisted, truly, that they had not come to England to preach rebellion, and that they did not do so.
Would it in fact have been just to support an invasion of England by Spain to free England from the terrible persecution of Bloody Bess? Very probably, on any sensible account of the grounds for just rebellion. But they couldn't say that.
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