Oaths, Promises & Public Justice – 2

In this and in future posts I want to raise questions about how politics has everything to do with the promises we make in public life. Politics is not simply about “keeping parliamentarians honest”, it is about how public governance preserves and respects the public oaths that we make in our dealings with each other. Politics is also about how we are kept honest, lawfully. And there is an explosive – or maybe more accurately an “implosive” – issue here. It relates to the problem that “marriage equality” legislation is going to have to overcome. It is this: will not the attempt to redefine lawful marriage constitute a parliamentary attack on the oaths that marriage partners have hitherto lawfully made to each other in order to have their marriages recognised as such, when pledging their troth? Is it not the case that a marriage vow between a man and a woman also includes within it an implicit commitment to the marriage institution into which they are henceforth to be participants?

     Does not the world-wide marriage-equality movement signify a neo-liberal, hyper-individualistic attempt to legislatively redefine the solemn oaths of those who have hitherto been married under such public-legal provisions? And so, we might also suggest that this seemingly world-wide neo-liberal “liberation” is also a concerted attempt to redefine what oaths and public promises are. Can oaths once made be deconstructed by a parliamentarily endorsed, legislative redefinition, of reality?

     I leave the question there. It concerns the question of how a Parliament should respect the solemn oaths that have hitherto been made, made in terms of the law as it stands, made within its realm. Readers should consider the ABC article by Nicholas Aroney. His comment should be pondered.

The oath limits public power. It reminds governors they are ‘as much judged as judging’. The oath suggests that if we are to have faith in public office, we need to keep faith in public office.

How can we keep faith in our parliamentarians, those representing us in elected public office, if parliament is used as an instrument to undercut the oaths that people have made under law? Marriage oaths are public; that means that what a man and a woman say to each other to commit to marriage is not just about their relationship in splendid isolation. It is about their joint support for the institution in which they are being lawfully united.

     A political party that wants to be a genuine promoter of political commitment simply cannot avoid the question of how parliaments must respect the lawful oaths that its citizens have made and will make. Such is the nature of our manifold responsibilities, that a political party can not avoid the question of how public governance should support marriage, family and life itself.

     The failure of both sides of politics in this country to develop their own party constitutions to spell out their ongoing political commitments in full detail is now on show as never before. Do not “both sides” have to ask themselves what they have done to honour and protect the marriage oaths that so many of their electors have hitherto  made? Are we not confronted in this “marriage equality” demand, a fiasco that is also an admission by “both sides” that they have participated in a significant liberal-humanist civilizational failure, the deconstruction of marital and familial life? It’s not just marriage of course, but an inability to develop policies that strengthen and reform our forms of public governance, including enhancing public respect for oaths.

     And when the Prime Minister uses his position in our government to defend house values, in an instinctive “from the hip” critique of policies from the “other side”, without any word about policies to protect homes, let alone the integrity and viability of family households, one has to conclude that his priorities are sadly misshapen.

     Nurturing Justice continues to promote policies that will develop a Christian democratic political option for Australia and the South West Pacific. The work has hardly begun.

7.3.16

 

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