Aseaside hotel in Cornwall – the Chymorvah Private Hotel at Marazion, near Penzance – is to be sued for discrimination for refusing conjugal hospitality to a gay couple, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy. The hotel owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, say they are committed Christians and thus only extend married quarters to genuinely married heterosexuals.
Hazelmary says that even her own brother was not permitted to sleep with his partner, to whom he was not married, while under the roof of the Chymorvah.
But Stonewall, the homosexual rights organisation, has protested against the hotel’s policy and the offended male couple are claiming £5,000 in compensation for “direct discrimination”.
The case illuminates some of the conflicting values – all underlined by a bristling sense of “rights” – of our time. Including, possibly, the confused affirmations of “Christians”.
Surely a genuinely Christian attitude would be to show love and compassion even towards those whose moral choices are considered wrong? And surely a genuinely Christian attitude would also be “judge not, that ye be not judged”?
And yet, I remember a time – some decades ago, indeed – when my mother was asked to put up a family friend, a young man who had left his wife. The guest brought along his new girlfriend. My mother obeyed St Paul’s instructions to “give hospitality, for thereby you may entertain angels”. But she insisted on giving the couple separate bedrooms. When told she was being old-fashioned, she replied: “I am allowed to set my own standards in my own house.” That can hardly be denied: a person is allowed to set her own standards in her own home. I remember babysitting agencies trying to place unemployed youths with me for babysitting duties, although I specified an older woman for the job. Was I allowed to set my own standards in my own house? Yes: although perhaps it was slightly failing in the Christian ideal not to give the unemployed youths (some from Brixton, to compound the prejudice) their chance. You see, the Christian ideal demands perfec tion, which goes against the human grain.
The Cornish hoteliers are entitled to set their own standards in their own establishment, particularly when it is labelled a “private” hotel. The homosexual couple are entitled to feel hurt by being rebuffed, but it is a pity that matters associated with personal values are now expected to be settled by recourse to adversarial law, which makes everyone bristle about their “rights”, and few think about their responsibilities to consider the sensibilities of others.
A couple of years ago, an Irish priest rather tactfully slid out of an invitation to sit in moral judgment of private conduct. When the then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern was seen to be escorting his live-in girlfriend Celia Larkin around the Chan celleries of Europe, the priest was asked why the Church did not condemn such irregularities? Wasn’t it a public scandal (asked the middle-aged lady who put the question), and a shame on the nation. The priest – a Holy Ghost father, not a Jesuit – replied: “Who am I to judge the Taoiseach’s soul? For all we know, Bertie and Celia might be passing their evenings playing Ludo.” Now that was worthy of Solomon!
Before Jade Goody died, she received two Christian sacraments – marriage and baptism. Now she will have a Christian funeral. A far more beautiful farewell to this world than a mournful episode in a Swiss suicide clinic.
Young Louis Amis, son of the writer Martin Amis (and grandson of the writer Kingsley), has had a legacy of £5,000 from the late Pat Kavanagh, the literary agent, since she was his godmother. “She was my godmother and she always stayed in touch,” says young Mr Amis, “sending me presents at birthdays and that sort of thing.” This was nice of her, but the role of godparent has become slightly misunderstood these days. It is not for “sending presents at birthdays and that sort of thing”: it is supposed to be to oversee the spiritual welfare of the child.
However, this may be a lost case. Rich bachelors and bachelorettes are the preferred choice for godparents precisely because they have the time and the disposable income to send presents and “that sort of thing”. Noel Coward had, I believe, over 70 godchildren.
Idon’t entirely concur with Vatican orthodoxy on condoms and Aids. It seems to me that when the prevention of disease is the main purpose, the intention is valid – and intention has always been central to moral theology. Yet, since condoms do not prevent the ever-spiralling increase of undesired pregnancy in the United Kingdom, how can it be argued that they will be effectively employed in Africa against disease?