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The University Times (a newspaper at Trinity College Dublin) has apologised unreservedly to David Quinn, Director of The Iona Institute for defamatory remarks made about him in its issue of January 5. The apology is carried in the current issue. No damages were sought by David Quinn.
The apology is printed below. David Quinn's reply to the two articles that defamed him also appears in the current edition of The University Times. It can be also be found below.
(Note that while the apology says that the articles appeared on the newspaper website, they also appeared in the print edition)
Two articles appeared on our website on the 5th January entitled “Queerly Beloved” and “What Lies Behind the Facade”. These articles contained defamatory material in relation to David Quinn of the Iona Institute. Mr. Quinn is a well-respected commentator on religious and social affairs, and we unreservedly accept that it was entirely inappropriate to refer to him as ...a person whose “character is questionable” or to imply that he is a rascist or that he formed a “bigoted hate group” or that he supports or is in any way associated or linked with the Ugandan “Kill the Gays Bill”. We unreservedly apologise for the hurt and distress caused to Mr. Quinn and his family and colleagues at the Iona Institute and we welcome the opportunity to allow him a right of reply as appears below.
David Quinn's reply
The gay marriage debate: who is really spreading hatred?
Which is the most divisive issue in Irish society today? Is it the abortion issue or same-sex marriage? I wouldn’t like to have to choose but without a doubt both are extremely divisive and inflame passions like few others.
It is highly likely that in a place like Trinity College support for both legalised abortion (in some limited way at least) as well as same-sex marriage is very widespread if not overwhelming.
Those opposed to either might well keep their views to themselves knowing the reaction they are likely to get if they voice dissent. The reaction is likely to be both vitriolic and extremely abusive. Dissidents are quite likely to be accused of being anti-women if they oppose abortion or of ‘hating’ gay people if they oppose same-sex marriage.
This sort of vitriol is particularly pronounced on social media such as twitter. I know this from personal experience. Other high-profile Catholics such as Senator Ronan Mullen know it as well.
Here are just a few examples of what has been said on twitter about Senator Mullen.
‘Ronan Mullen is simply vile. Sorry excuse for a human’
‘My mam just called Ronan Mullen an absolute cabbage f**k’
‘Ronan Mullen looks like he survived an abortion. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with him’
Is this funny? Substitute Ivana Bacik for Ronan Mullen in the above sentences, imagine it came from opponents of abortion, and see if it is.
Countless more examples of the vitriol directed at those who hold ‘traditional’ views can be found on social media. It is much harder to find equivalent amounts of equivalent abuse being directed at those who are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage.
Last month this newspaper decided to get in on the act. It carried two articles attacking both myself and the organisation I head, namely The Iona Institute.
The Iona Institute was described as a ‘bigoted hate group’. I was effectively denounced as a racist and it was even said that I am of ‘questionable character’. My crime? I don’t believe marriage should be redefined.
(An article in The Trinity News in the meantime dismissed my concerns as of no consequence and quotes the editor of this newspaper as saying that I was upset because The Iona Institute had been called ‘discriminatory’! The defamatory allegation that I am a rascist, that I formed a ‘bigoted hate group’ or that I was apparently a person of ‘questionable character’ did not even get a mention! )
None of the above accusations are even remotely fair comment and are simply a blatant attempt to discredit the holder of views the authors hate. The irony here is that the same people making accusations of 'hatred' are themselves spreading hatred.
What especially galled the writers of the two articles is that The Iona Institute had the temerity to produce a 90 second animated video on the matter. I invite anyone to watch it and judge whether it really deserves such condemnation. It is to be found on the homepage of The Iona Institute website. I also challenge anyone to find anything that is genuinely offensive on our website, unless the mere expression of disagreement on this issue is offensive, and course in the minds of some, it is.
Fortunately the editor of this newspaper has since apologised by email for any the grievance caused by the two articles. The apology is accepted, although his misleading comments to the Trinity News entirely undermines this apology.
So, is it possible to have a civilised disagreement on gay marriage? The evidence suggests not. You will receive very little abuse if you support gay marriage. On the contrary you will receive mostly praise. But you can expect a huge amount of abuse if you don’t, of the sort described above.
Here is my own position on gay rights. I supported the decriminalisation of homosexual acts when this took place and I said so in one of the first columns I ever wrote.
I have supported partnership rights for same-sex couples since the mid-1990s, long before most commentators or politicians pronounced any opinion on the matter. I also support adoption rights for same-sex couples under certain circumstances. Hardly the views of a ‘homophobe’.
The one thing I don’t support is a redefinition of marriage. Why not? It is because I believe that the institution of marriage (as distinct from each individual marriage) is child-centred, not adult-centred, and exists mainly to enshrine a particular ideal, namely the ideal that every child should be raised by a loving mother and father.
Gay marriage advocates deny that this is the ideal. They say the ideal is to have loving parents as distinct from a loving mother and father.
Obviously to have loving parents (or a loving parent) of whatever sex or sexuality is far better than to have bad parents.
However, is it really so outrageous – an irrefutable example of ‘hated’, ‘bigotry ‘and ‘homophobia’ – to believe the best thing of all is to be raised by your own loving mother and father?
After all, what the ‘loving parents’ line logically means is that there is no real difference between mothers and fathers, that their roles are entirely interchangeable and that they bring nothing distinct as men and women to the raising of children.
Given that most of society very much supports the idea that men and women bring distinct and complementary qualities to the worlds of business and politics, this is a very curious line to take.
The ‘loving parents’ formula also involves a denial of the importance of the natural ties. It logically follows that if all you need are loving parents, then those parents don’t need to be your own parents. But this is also a very curious line to take in light of the fact that many adopted children in later life seek out their natural parents.
You can of course take the view that having loving parents is just the same as having your own loving mother and father, and therefore take the view that sexual complementarity has nothing to do with the nature of marriage.
However, to condemn as ‘homophobic’ anyone who believes that having a loving mother and father is best, and that sexual complementarity is an essential part of the nature of marriage, is a simply a bullying attempt to close down the debate.
It used to be said, and it is still said sometimes, that it is impossible to have a 'calm and rational' discussion with opponents of abortion because they resort to name-calling and accusations of 'baby-killing' so quickly.
The shoe is now well and truly on the other foot. It is now increasingly impossible to have a calm and rational discussion with supporters of legalised abortion or gay marriage without the insults being hurled and your good faith being immediately called into question.
This is shameful behaviour and has nothing whatever to do with free and open inquiry. It is a deliberate attempt to shut down debate.
David Quinn is Director of The Iona Institute. He is also a columnist with The Irish Independent and The Irish Catholic.