Joanna Bogle is Visiting Research Fellow at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London. She is the author of some twenty books, including several historical biographies and A Book of Seasons and Celebrations with information on traditions and customs marking the Church year. Her most recent book is John Paul II - Man of Prayer with colleague Clare Anderson, exploring the spiritual life of St. John Paul the Great. She broadcasts regularly with EWTN and has recently initiated popular Catholic History Walks around London. She blogs at “Auntie Joanna Writes” and EWTN’s “Catholic Journalist in London”.
There is no doubt that current political events in Britain — Brexit and Parliament and the courts, etc. — are high drama.
But in the end politics and even our constitutional arrangements would not feel so uncomfortable were it not for the fact that for a substantial number of people, everyday life has a feeling of crisis about it.
By this I mean the wobbly sense of insecurity that is brought about by the grim reality of family breakup.
Of course there are, thank God, huge numbers of people in Britain who have a sense of solidity and security in their family life. But there are large numbers who don’t. In any given classroom, there will be children or teenagers who are enduring the misery of a parental divorce. Already, as Christmas planning gets underway, arrangements are being discussed to arrange for numbers of children will be shuttled back and forth to three or four Christmas dinners — with mum and her new boyfriend, dad and his parents, mum’s boyfriend’s parents, and, perhaps, mum’s former boyfriend’s mum who is all alone now but had become fond of the children and begged to be allowed to see them. The motorway service stations will see the bleak groups — complete with lavishly wrapped gifts, making the awkward exchanges that will see the children ferried off to the next round of roast turkey and trimmings.
A politically-conservative newspaper that calls for firm leadership on Brexit will, in the same edition, run a feature celebrating the trend toward having a “new young lover for the midlife crisis,” or denounce the problems encountered with a what it assumed is a right to in-vitro fertilization when over 50. It is fashionable to publish trendy guidebooks on how to manage a “blended family” when teenagers from various relationships are obliged to spend time together — again, notably at Christmas — and this is often combined with fashionable therapy-speak on the need to “look for the signs” of potential teen suicide or anorexia… while never a hint of recognition that the destruction of marriages has been a major factor in contributing to adolescent misery.
The cheery promotion of same-sex unions — sentimental pictures of lesbians cuddling a baby they have acquired via sperm-donor and so on — also contributes to this feeling of acute discomfort. We all know that what is happening is, at the deepest level of our understanding, profoundly wrong. And among the troubled people today are those who were brought into this world via such means and are seeking counseling from people unable to help them because all that they are officially allowed to do is express fashionable noises.
The very institution on which everyday life — family life — is based is wobbly. A family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and their offspring, is the first community. A nation is a family of families.
It was a Conservative government that established same-sex marriage on a legal base, writing a sort of lie into the very fabric of our community life. Two men who pay a woman to carry a child in a “surrogacy” arrangement write a lie into the birth certificate and into the child’s school record and into history. It’s all wrong, and we know it and we are uncomfortable with it.
“Transgendering” and the lies that are fed to schoolchildren (“there are lots of different genders. Be whatever you feel yourself to be!” and all that) is also a big part of the discomfort we are all feeling. We know it’s crazy to teach children untruths about human biology. It’s like teaching that the earth is flat, or that pigs can fly. And the fact that we can’t say so makes for even greater discomfort. To challenge untruth is a deep human instinct.
In all of Britain’s long history we have never sought to destroy the very essence of our human community. From the Roman Empire, through the Saxons and the Normans, into the Middle Ages and through the Tudors and Stuarts and into the modern era, men and women knew there were two sexes and that children resulted from the union of the two. The attempt to ignore that, to foist lies into the essence of things, brings a sense that the nation doesn’t have a real future. That is what is frightening.