Go the Pope!

The Telegraph (via Martin Beckford) has it all!

Benedict XVI claimed that legislation introduced by Labour to end discrimination “actually violates natural law” because it stopped worshippers remaining true to their beliefs.

Rather than making society more equal, the Government’s new rules limited religious freedom, he said.

His strongly worded intervention in British politics comes after leaders of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England clashed with Labour over its Equality Bill, which they fear will make them admit homosexuals to the priesthood or face prosecution for discriminating against them.

In an address delivered yesterday to 35 Catholic bishops from England and Wales, the Pope attacked Labour’s equality proposals. He said: “Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet … the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.

“In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.” Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill, currently going through Parliament, contains a new, narrow definition of religious workers. It means clergy will not be allowed to opt out of the rules and so will either have to go against their teachings by employing homosexuals, or face prosecution.

It is also believed the law, intended to outlaw discrimination against any group in the “provision of services” from health care to shopping, would restrict the right of a church school to employ a head teacher who shared their faith, and would open the job up to members of any religion or atheists.

So basically, Harman is now taking on not just the Church of England but the Roman Catholic establishment as well. Anybody else want to take a shot?

10 Comments on “Go the Pope!

  1. Although…

    “The problem with the Pope’s statement is the reasoning on which it is based. In his view, the bill is bad because it violates ‘natural law’ and therefore compromises the freedoms of ‘religious communities.’ But the real problem with the the bill is that it violates the word of God and compromises the right of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed as the King of the whole earth.

    Ironically, the Pope’s reasoning places him squarely in the camp of the liberals he is attempting to oppose. When he says that the proposed legislation ‘violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded,’ he sounds indistinguishable from the Government Equalities Office spokesman who declared, ‘everyone should have a fair chance in life and not be discriminated against.’”


    • No. The current Government’s approach is based on it’s own narrow idealism, not Natural Law.

      A Christian approach would say that everyone is equal simply because we are all human, despite our characteristics being right or wrong, good or bad.

      The Government on the other hand argues that equality is only achieved if every characteristic is treated equally.

      That is of course rubbish… and they don’t meant it!

      They end up in some “angels dancing on pinheads” arguments about what are and aren’t protected characteristics, and about the priority of those characteristics when they come into conflict etc etc etc… Ending up with deciding who is more or less equal!

  2. I am sure all our British Roman Catholics will listen and take his advice – just like they all do on not using contraception.

    Unfortunately, many outside the church will find it strange to see the RC church making pronouncements on sexual morality given the concerted and deliberate cover ups of sexual abuse and the way priests were moved on to abuse more children.

    It just goes to confirm the growing perception ( especially among the young) that organised religion is hypocritical, unjust and deserves little respect.

    It isn’t just atheists either, I have a gay friend who is a very involved RC and says few RCs he knows take the Pope seriously and that what happens at the “grassroots” – plenty of actively gay priests and LGBT masses in London, for example, is completely at odds with the official position. A bit like the Church of England then?

    • Dear Sue, the matter is not so simple. First of all there is the question of Truth. We do not decide if a teaching is true depending on whether people accept it or not (note St. Paul’s “welcome or unwelcome”). Each one of us has to decide according to our consciences. As a Catholic priest I can tell you that one of our main problems is communication. Many Catholics are confused and simply do not understand some of these moral questions. We have great difficulty finding time and place to engage with people – seven minutes (the average homily length) each week is not enough. Most Catholics do not read religious journals and take much of their knowledge and understanding from the daily press and the TV. I suspect this is true of the vast majority of Christians in the UK, so in that sense the Catholic Church is like the C of E and every other Christian community. Add to this the damage done to Christian scholarship by too-liberal attitudes to the Scriptures and Christian Tradition. So we end up with a Christian relativism where people decide what is “true” for them rather than seeking what is actually True.

      I could go on, but you must have got the point by now. Whether there are active gay priests or not does not say anything about the TRUTH of a scriptural or traditional teaching – it just tells us that there are problems with its acceptance. The statement that many Catholics do not pay any attention – or scant attention to the Pope is also of little value, given what I have said above. The “Truth” that “will set” us “free” is not a relatavistic, experience-guided, personal awareness kind of “truth-for-me”, but a heart rending, tear-provoking, adamant, determined search for and openess to the Truth in Jesus Christ, which is a “like-it-or-not” “welcome or unwelcome” kind of Truth which demands sacrifice as well as compassion.

      I hope this makes some sense, and I hope you can see from this that I am not one of those Catholics who has decided to ignore Pope Benedict (who, incidentally, is recognised by many theologians of different traditions to be a major theologian of out day).

      • Hi Father John,

        I am not a Roman Catholic but my children attend an RC school and I do have a lot of Catholic friends of long standing. All of them use contraception and have limited their families to two children. So, I would say that your statement,

        “Each one of us has to decide according to our consciences.”
        ( surely that is a form of relavatism by the way?)

        Is definitely true on this issue!

        I didn’t say anything about the “truth” in my post by the way. I was just saying that the behaviour and firmly held convictions of many Catholics differ from the “official” position of the Vatican. In Soho there is, I believe, a regular RC LGBT mass and has been for some time, just as I sometimes attend an LGBT communion at an Anglican church. Our Bishop attends, preaches and administers communion at an annual service of celebration and thanksgiving for LGBT people and their relationships.

        If we do look at the concept of “truth”, you must admit that we do all believe different “truths” theologically and personally. If we didn’t there would be only one denomination in Christianity and there would never be any debate on anything! You may think you are in the possession of the “real truth” but so do a lot of people. A RC priest told my son a while back that using contraception is unnatural and very sinful. I do not believe that this is true and nor do many people on this site. So, our “truths” on moral issues, or our judgement of the truth is simply different.

        My post was not an attack on the integrity of any Catholic by the way, nor was I saying that there are not priests or Roman Catholics who fully believe in and adhere to the Vatican’s teaching.

        • Thanks Sue.

          No, the use of personal conscience is not relativism. Conscience is not a fixed set of beliefs, ideas or whatever – it is a process, and we need to be constantly forming our consciences with the help of the Holy Spirit. At a given point we can only act with the knowledge and understanding we have, and we do our best to decide in accordance with what we understand to be God’s will, but since we are not perfect in this life, we must always be striving for a deeper knowledge of the truth. I don’t believe you can really call that process “relativism” which is a philosophical standpoint.

          “Truths” as you call them can only be provisional, and where “truths” are in disagreement we should surely aim at Truth. There is only one God, and there is ultimately only one Truth. We have to go in search of it. We cannot do it without careful study of the Scriptures and taking note of Tradition (“He” -The Holy Spirit – “will lead you into all truth”). Sadly, many Catholics do not understand the teaching about contraception, but most of them know that they have a duty to inform their consciences. Many do not bother; they remain fixed, and it has to be asked if they are being truly honest because they do not read those things that would help them to understand the Catholic teaching better (e.g. the work or Dr. Janet Smith or Pope John Paul’s ‘Theology of the Body’)
          I do believe that the Catholic Church preaches the Truth. That is not a denominational point. We can go back to the early councils and back to the Scriptures. Either the Holy Spirit is with us or He is not – either Christ really did give His authority to the Apostles or he did not. The search that each one takes up is ultimately the search for the One Truth – God Himself, but that means we cannot remain satisfied with our own “truths” or opinions or our “own way”
          as opposed to the Lord’s way.

          • Dear Fr John,

            hope you and Sue don’t mind me sticking an oar in here…

            I’m a gay Christian who’s much influenced by James Alison’s work (to give a thumbnail of where I’m coming from). It caught my eye when you said above about this being a question of truth, and that “We do not decide if a teaching is true depending on whether people accept it or not”. I accept this but am wondering what you make of the Catholic teaching about gay people – I’m guessing you accept the Vatican position but is my assumption right?

            Maybe I’ll leave it there but might have more questions if that’d be OK…

            in friendship, Blair

          • There is only one God, and there is ultimately only one Truth. We have to go in search of it. We cannot do it without careful study of the Scriptures and taking note of Tradition ("He" -The Holy Spirit – "will lead you into all truth").

            This does not help us out when it so happens that two people, or faiths, or denominations differ over a particular issue. You have studied, prayed and sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit with integrity, so have I , and we have come to different conclusions( let's say over contraception.) What do we say then? Of course, we can say "I am right and you are wrong"( as you seem to do) or you can say "I believe I am right and you are wrong, but I respect the integrity of your belief and hope you can respect the integrity of mine" ( as I do.)

  3. Sue

    >>>It just goes to confirm the growing perception ( especially among the young) that organised religion is hypocritical, unjust and deserves little respect.<<<

    I think you need to add the qualifier 'in the UK' for your statement to be correct, and I'd agree that you are probably correct in extending that statement to Western Europe and North America.

    It is however a wrong perception for Africa, where I live, and for most of the two-thirds world. In these parts, biblically orthodox Christianity is booming and the young are flocking in in droves, as I have noted in posts passim! Interesting, eh?

    • My comments throughout relate to the situation in the UK ( where I live.) I did say “British Catholics” at the start – just is repetive to type that throughout.
      I certainly would not argue with the fact that Christianity in Africa is very conservative.

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