Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baroness Warsi: Labour steeped in Asian voter fraud

There is a fairly widespread perception of Sayeeda, Baroness Warsi, now the 'most powerful Muslim in the UK', that she was (over-)promoted by David Cameron 'because of her religion'. One of the contributors to the New Statesman thread on the matter of this article sums it up rather neatly:

"Warsi can shut it too. Never elected as an MP, put into the cabinet not because of her skill, but her race and gender, and on almost every tv appearance, talks nothing but shit. Even against Nick Griffin, she was mediocre."
But whatever the primary cause of her elevation, you have to admire her for going where other politicians would never dare.

She fearlessly confronted her co-religionists in Luton, who cursed her for having the temerity to mention the name of Mohammed and the impudence to refer to the Qur'an because she 'doesn't even look like a Muslim' (ie, no hijab).

And today she raises the thorny topic of election fraud in the Asian community. She suggests that it cost the Conservative Party three seats (actually, it is more than a suggestion: she says that the fraud 'absolutely' cost the Conservative Party three seats).

The BBC have tried to contact the Baroness for more details and clarification, but she 'was not available'.

The 'hideously white' BBC does not, of course, highlight the racial dimension of Baroness Warsi's comments. And nor does Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman.

So His Grace would like to clarify on Baroness Warsi's behalf.

There is indeed widespread electoral fraud within the Asian community, and postal voting has provided the necessary conditions for this to thrive: indeed, our election system has been variously described as 'third world', that of a 'banana republic', and worse than that of Kenya.

When you canvass in some Asian areas, the male head of the house will be summoned to talk to you (the women are generally not permitted), and it is he who will ensure that the other 27 registered members of his household will vote for the 'right' candidate, which is usually Labour (though not always). Thousands of ballot papers are routinely stolen, and helpfully completed on behalf of those who cannot speak English or even write their names. And for those who prefer to cast their votes in person on the day, they are not infrequently met and greeted by a veritable mafia of 'community leaders' acting as tellers, whose task it is to 'persuade' other members of their community to vote for 'their candidate'

But 'Asian' is too broad a term for this fraud - indeed, it is racist (unless, of course, proffered by another Asian). The fraud is most prevalent among the Pakistani community, which makes it more specifically a question of fraud among Muslims.

His Grace perfectly understands why the Baroness was 'not available' to clarify this.

Mehdi Hasan and the BBC are keen to know which three constituencies were lost to Labour because of this corruption. He will leave it to his wise readers and discerning communicants to assist them with their enquiries.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ed Miliband – another atheist takes the helm

He is not, of course, Labour’s first: they have had quite a few, including Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Nor is he the only political leader who doesn’t ‘do God’: Nick Clegg has been open about his atheism since he became leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Miliband told BBC Radio Five Live this morning: “I don't believe in God personally but I have great respect for those people who do. Different people have different religious views in this country.”

You don’t say.

But it is not clear (yet) why Mr Miliband is an atheist.

He has disclosed that he is not yet married to his partner of five years and the mother of his children because he has been ‘too busy’.

He has also admitted that the reason he did not sign the birth certificate of his son Daniel was because he was ‘too busy’.

It is curious indeed that a man can be ‘too busy’ to be declared the father of his firstborn.

So, perhaps, rather than it being any considered theo-philosophical worldview, Mr Miliband has hitherto just been ‘too busy’ to do God.

Of course, God knows the truth of this.

Whether Mr Miliband believes in him or not.

There is a certain inescapable ontology. God does not need Mr Miliband to believe in him, but Mr Miliband may come to understand the ‘usefulness’ of doing God in a nation of believers.

For if the foundations of the nation’s moral code cease to be Christian, what will fill the vacuum?

Islam or Marx?

Environmentalism or Nihilism?

No doubt Mr Miliband will be persuaded that the atheist politician will be ‘neutral’ between the different competing religious pressure groups in society, and that he will have no temptation not to be even-handed because he has no allegiance to the outlook of any of those groups.

In this postmodern relativist age, perched precariously between religionists and ‘aggressive secularists’, there are many who repudiate those politicians who cloak themselves in supernaturalistic justifications for their actions.

But why is a higher moral worldview inferior to that of Marx?

Why is atheistic ‘neutrality’ superior the Anglican Settlement which has served the nation well for centuries?

There is an evident dilemma in seeking neutrality of political effect because intrinsic to the pursuit of any policy is the likelihood that it will have a detrimental effect on at least one conception of the good to the manifest benefit of another. There is no neutrality to be had because neutrality needs as much justification as any other position.

Being a materialist, Mr Miliband will attempt to persuade us that he can be more concerned with the needs, interests and the plight of people in the here and now, and will not be influenced by the belief that present sufferings and inequalities will be compensated in some posthumous dispensation.

He is the agent of his own conviction.

And should he become prime minister (in future coalition with fellow atheist Nick Clegg), the prospect of disestablishment of the Church of England will come closer.

Religious organisations will be no more than trades unions. And the moderate and benign incarnation of the English psyche will be subject to the atheist tyranny.

It is ironic that Labour’s first Jewish leader does not ‘do YHWH’.

Perhaps this is because Marx featured more in his upbringing than the Torah.

Ed Miliband might have rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but he cannot run from his DNA.

The Jewish atheist is extremely unlikely ever to become prime minister of this Protestant country.

The God he doesn’t believe in has not ordained it.

Perhaps he is too busy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Austen Ivereigh: 'Churches can help Labour renewal'

Some people are so afflicted with political Alzheimer's that you would scarcely believe that they inhabit the world of reality. And some are so self-deluding and prone to bizarre re-writes of history that you have to wonder at their mental balance.

Incredibly, Austen Ivereigh credits his fellow Roman Catholic Tony Blair with 'granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence'. In Tony Blair, he preaches, 'there was respect for conscience and belief' because 'Blair's ears were tuned to faith'.

And it was, Mr Ivereigh avers, the evil Protestant Presbyterian Gordon Brown who removed the opt-outs from anti-discrimination laws so preciously preserved by St Tony.

A little lesson in (very) recent history, Mr Ivereigh:

The legislation which required Roman Catholic adoption agencies to conform to the requirement not to discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of goods and services was originally known as the ‘Sexual Orientation Regulations’, which were first laid before Parliament on the 7 March 2007. Tony Blair did not have the conviction to vote against the regulations, preferring instead to absent himself from the division. They passed with the overwhelming support of the Commons (309 votes to 99), and were subsequently implemented across England and Wales on 30 April 2007.

Tony Blair was still prime minister throughout this period: he did not resign until 27 June 2007.

Although he may have attempted to secure an opt-out for faith-based agencies, ultimately he ‘caved in’ because his ‘respect for conscience and belief’ was subsumed to his reverence for New Labour, and his ears were more attuned to the demands of Sir Ian McKellan than they were either to the Almighty or to the Magisterium of the Church. He did, however, generously and graciously grant Roman Catholic adoption agencies 21 months to prepare for the change, calling this a ‘sensible compromise’.

So, Mr Ivereigh, your hagiographical account of the trials and tribulations of St Tony, who had nothing, you proclaim, but ‘respect for conscience and belief’ and whose ears, you insist, ‘were tuned to faith’, is – how shall His Grace put it – more than a little apocryphal. Labour did not lose the last General Election because Gordon Brown had 'tuned out' of the divine broadcast, but because Tony Blair had been ashamed to 'do God' throughout the entire previous decade.

Intelligent and discerning Christians who support(ed) Labour will not be persuaded of Austen Ivereigh's Guardianista revisionist narrative at all: it smacks of rather desperately-fawning co-religionist adulation.

Tony Blair had no comprehension at all of Roman Catholic values, the ‘common good’ or of ‘subsidiarity’: his values were (and remain) his own; he recognises no higher earthly authority in the teaching on faith or morals. He confused the ‘common good’ with the pursuit and retention of power, and his notion of subsidiarity had nothing to do with the liberating Catholic definition but that modeled on the oppressive and invasive ever-closer-centralising of the European Union.

Could this possibly be the same Austen Ivereigh who is trying desperately to solve the communication problems of the Roman Catholic Church and who so appalled Sinead O’Connor with his alarming excuses for the systemic extensive and widespread priestly paedophile cover-up?

Ed Miliband - the face he wants us to see?

This is the picture of Ed Miliband which has been chosen for the Labour Party website. Ben Brogan asks if this is really the face the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition and PM-in-waiting wants to present to the world.

His Grace can't see why not...

ONS counts homosexuals in the whole UK but the Christians of Great Britain alone

There has been widespread coverage and much excitement/surprise/dismay at the recent ONS Integrated Household Survey, which informs us that 1.5 per cent of the UK has is either homosexual or bisexual, while 71.4 per cent of Britons call themselves Christian.

Richard Dawkins will doubtless be very disappointed. No matter how much he froths and foams at the mouth, no matter how many enlightening books he writes, no matter how much he foments religious hatred, the British public remained deluded by spiritual darkness and stubbornly steeped in mediæval superstition.

But the gay figure is far lower than the estimate used as a basis for the distribution of millions of pounds in public money to sexual equality causes. The survey showed that 94.8 per cent of adults call themselves heterosexual or straight. Another 0.5 per cent described themselves as other than straight, gay or bisexual.

His Grace is puzzled to know what this ‘other’ sexual identity might be.

The full religion statistics are as follows:

Christianity: 71.4%
Judaism: 0.6%
Islam: 4.2%
Hinduism: 1.5%
Sikhism: 0.7%
Buddhism: 0.4%
Other: 1.1%
No religion: 20.5 %

In the 2001 census, the professed faith adherence of the population was 71.6 per cent Christian, so it has barely changed in a decade. While the ‘no religion’ figure is sharply rising, there is no breakdown between the ‘aggressive secularists’, moderate atheists, agnostics or total apathetics. The figure which grabs the headlines is that 71 per cent of the population identify themselves as Christian, while 80 per cent of the entire population view religion as a distinct part of their identity.

An interesting bit of trivia from this survey is that Slough is the ‘most religious’ town in England, with 93 per cent of its population professing a religious belief, while Brighton is the lowest, with just 58 per cent of its residents professing a particular religion.

His Grace will leave his intelligent readers and discerning communicants to put two and two together.

But he would also like to reveal a slight ONS sleight of hand in these figures.

When you examine the tables and charts in the report, those on sexual identity are for the whole UK, ie, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

Yet when you get to the tables and charts on religious affiliation, they are for Great Britain only, ie, specifically excluding Northern Ireland.

His Grace enquired of the ONS why this should be so, and it appears to be a bizarre consequence of devolution.

In England, Scotland and Wales, its parliaments and assembly request the ONS to enquire into their populations’ religious affiliation; the Northern Ireland Assembly, however, seeks to enquire into people’s religious belonging.

Affiliation, which may be an expression of anxiety about national identity, can be interpreted much more as a straightforward cultural expression than a notion of belonging, which has connotations of active belief and practice.

Clearly, in Northern Ireland, if you subscribe to the Grace Davie doctrine of believing without belonging, you are not a ‘proper’ Christian.

At least for statistical purposes.

If one factors in the Northern Ireland figures, whilst acknowledging that ‘belonging’ is quite different from ‘affiliating’, the 2010 figure for Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic) adherence is a colossal 93 per cent.

And no doubt if the question had been a more ‘relaxed’ enquiry into affiliation, it would have been higher. So, from this data, a conservative estimate of Christian affiliation in the UK as whole (using 2001 population census data) is at least:

England: 71.4% (of 49,138,831 = 35,085,125)
Wales: 69% (of 2,903,085 = 2,003,129)
Scotland: 72.3% (of 5,062,011 = 3,659,834)
Northern Ireland: 93% (of 1,685,267 = 1,567,298)

Which yields a total population expressing Christian affiliation of at least 42,315,386 or 72 per cent.

If the UK is 1.5 per cent homosexual or bisexual and 72 per cent Christian, might we have a Speaker’s Conference to ensure that homosexuals are not over-represented in Parliament and that Christians are fairly represented?

Or is that being phobic?

Or does none of this matter because homosexuals tend to be far more committed in their affiliation to an identity and more expressive about their sense of ‘belonging’ than millions of nominal, unregenerate Christians?

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Road to Serfdom - Daniel Hannan

Just as His Grace was wondering what to put on his Christmas list*, Daniel Hannan MEP announces the publication of his new book The New Road to Serfdom.

Buy it, read it, meditate upon it day and night (especially if you're American).

His Grace does not usually judge a book by its cover, but anything from the keyboard of Dan Hannan is sufficient unto religio-political salvation.

*His Grace will not really be waiting until Christmas to read this and neither does he compile a list of required gifts.

New Zealand Lamb is halal

And so, apparently, is most of the lamb and chicken sold at Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose and M&S.

The Mail on Sunday revelation has been confirmed by the eminent Dr Richard North, a qualified meat inspector and former technical adviser to the Small Abattoirs Association (and contributor to the Mail article), who is of the opinion that this is ‘a bloody disgrace’.

Not the practice, of course, but the subterfuge.

And it is also going on in the nation’s schools, hospitals, pubs, restaurants and Wembley Stadium.

Insofar as the state permits the slaughter of animals in accordance with Jewish kosher stipulations, it is only reasonable that the same liberty be granted to Muslims with their halal requirements.

But kosher meat tends to be on the expensive side, so specialist butchers leave the buyer in no doubt about its provenance and it is clearly labelled.

Yet when it comes to halal, we are all being sold meat without being made aware of the fact that what we are eating has been ritually blessed and dedicated to Allah.

It is not only that these animals have their throats cut and appear to die in profound distress; it also transpires that slaughterhouses specifically employ Muslims to do the slaughtering so that they may proclaim with each thrust of the blade: ‘Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar!’ (‘In the name of Allah, who is the greatest’).

You might expect this in the slaughterhouses which supply the major supermarkets in Bradford, Oldham, Birmingham, Leicester, Slough, London…

But to learn that all the New Zealand lamb sold by the major supermarkets is halal is immensely disturbing.

Not least because it does not fulfil the requirements of UK and EU law for humane slaughter: the decision is purely economic.

While Christians are at liberty to consume whatever their conscience permits, Paul expresses a particular concern over ‘meat offered to idols’ (1Cor 10:14-32).

But this assumes that the believer is aware that the meat has been blessed in the name of Allah, who is the greatest.

If the Christian is kept in the dark, Paul is rather chilled about the matter until someone comes along and makes the believer aware that the meat was idol-sacrificed. Christians are then exhorted not to eat the meat for their sake: we may eat and drink anything unless and until it causes another to stumble.

But no-one is much bothered about the dietary sensitivities of 71 per cent of the population.

British Sikhs, however, constitute 0.7 per cent, and their voice will be heard.

Unlike Hindus, some Sikhs eat meat, not least because one of their gurus is recorded as being a hunter. Yet within the Sikh faith are the ‘kurahit’, or prohibitions, one of which is to not eat meat ‘killed in the Muslim way’. The origins, as ever, have more to do with the politics of identity, but it is a sustained article of belief for Sikhs all over the world – they are simply not permitted to eat halal meat at all.

If they buy their meat from Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose or M&S, they have been doing so without their knowledge.

In this instance, the sensitivities of Christians and Sikhs and the demands of the animal rights activists are subjugated to the commercial considerations of the slaughterhouses who are pandering to the demands of 4 per cent of the population.

At the core of relativism is the pyramid of rights. Various groups vie for these rights appealing for hegemony at the expense of others in a state of flux - an amoral soup - struggling for a place at the top of the pyramid.

As far as the nation’s meat is concerned, the victor has emerged.

But it is not illegal to dupe non-Muslims into buying halal meat, so it is being done on an industrial scale. There is no statutory requirement for stores to label produce ‘Slaughtered in the name of Allah, who is the greatest’.

Cranmer does not do boycotts.

Unless, of course, he feels strongly about a matter.

New Zealand has just lost a customer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bishop Bishoy: it is time to grow up about textual criticism of the Qur'an

An Egyptian Coptic bishop, one Bishop Bishoy, has dared to cast doubt on the authenticity of some verses in the Qur'an, suggesting that they may have been inserted after the death of Mohammed for religio-political purposes.

Predictably, all Jahannam has broken loose.

The principal weapon against quranic sholarship is the requirement for all Muslims to be literalists, which relies on claims that the Qur'an is the immutable word of God, as dictated over a period of around 23 years by the Angel Gabriel to an illiterate Arab, Mohammad (and from the Qur'an were spun the tales of the hadith, by several generations of pious but highly-imaginative storytellers).

The gospels and letters of Christianity, and the Pentateuch, psalms and the writings of the prophets of Judaism, have all withstood a century of the scrutiny and analysis of Higher Biblical Criticism - source criticism, form criticism and other deconstructive demythologising (in the literary sense of the term) to determine a text's Sitz im Leben.

Faith has nothing at all to fear from such a process.

Intelligent and discerning quranic scholars, of course, know this. His Grace posted about on matter some three years ago.

But Bishop Bishoy is a Coptic Christian speaking in Egypt, and so his words are deemed to be 'irresponsible' and a 'threat to national unity'.

Bishop Bishoy merely said that certain verses in the Qur'an contradict the Christian faith (isn't that a statement of the theologically obvious?) and that he believed they were added later by one of Mohammed's early successors, Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (may he not express such a belief?).

The Bishop has since back-peddalled a little (or quite a lot), insisting now that 'there had been a misunderstanding' and that his 'remarks had been taken out of context':

"My question as to whether some verses of the Qur'an were inserted after the death of the prophet is not a criticism or accusation," he said. "It is merely a question about a certain verse that I believe contradicts the Christian faith."

It seems that doing theology is as difficult in Egypt as it is in the UK.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ed Miliband wins - a damning indictment of AV

When His Grace tweeted this at midday, some five hours before the result of the Labour leadership contest was known, he had no idea that his prophetic skills were as accurate as those of YouGov and as well developed as those of Mike Smithson.

It needs saying, and doubtless it will be said over and over again. But Ed Miliband was not ahead in any of the first three AV rounds. In the first ballot, David led him by a margin of 3.5 per cent; in the second ballot, David led by a margin of 1.4 per cent; and in the third ballot, David led by a further margin of 1.4 per cent... but then went on to lose in the fourth ballot by a margin of 1.2 per cent.

Ed Miliband did not win the majority of support from Labour MPs; he did not win the majority of support from Labour MEPs; he did not even win the majority of support from Labour Party members. All of those went to his brother, David.

Ed Miliband only won majority support from the trade unions and affiliates.

And these trumped MPs, MEPs and the rank and file members.

David Miliband lost this election not because he was less popular amongst his political colleagues or ordinary party members, but because of Labour's grossly distorted electoral college and the vicissitudes of AV.

If such a photo-finish outcome were inflicted on the country after a general election, as we waited days and even weeks for the second-preference votes of hundreds of candidates to be redistributed, who then could possibly argue the merits of the Alternative Vote electoral system?

Daveward – a Jew will lead the Labour Party

The only thing that is certain about the nail-biting contest to lead the Labour Party is that a Jew will win. In this ‘aggressively secular’, enlightened 21st century, it is supposed not to matter.

But, of course, it does.

David and Edward Miliband (henceforth Daveward) come as a package. Whichever wins, the other will be his symbiotic sidekick. While one half is considered the heir to Blair and the other the political soul-mate of Tony Benn, they are both steeped in Marxism through the influence of their Brussels-born, Polish emigré father Adolphe (Ralph) Miliband.

Whatever Daveward says on Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza and the ‘two-state’ solution, he will be cast as a Zionist.

When he calls for a strong, independent and secure Israel, he will be Islamophobic.

Should Daveward ever attend an event organised by Labour Friends of Israel, he will be one of the Jewish mafia.

If ever he mentions that 80 members of his family were slaughtered in the Holocaust, many of them in Auschwitz, he will be accused of peddling propaganda.

When he expresses concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat they pose to stability in the Middle East, he will be cast as an ambassador for Israel.

When Daveward condemns trade union calls for economic and academic boycotts of Israeli goods and services, he will be accused of condoning Israel’s brutal terrorism and ethnic cleansing.

Whenever he meets with a fellow Jewish politician, financier, or philanthropist, he will be accused of lobbying for Jewish values.

Whenever he dines with the editor or proprietor of a newspaper, he will be part of the global Jewish conspiracy to control the media.

If ever Daveward celebrates Rosh Hashanah or commemorates Yom Kippur, G_d forbid that he utter Shana Tova U'Metuka.

The United Kingdom has become the anti-Semitic capital of Europe.

Daveward will need the wisdom of Solomon and the conviction of Elijah to confront it.

The Conservative Party had its first Jewish leader in 1852: Benjamin Disraeli was the country's first and thus far only prime minister who was born Jewish.

It remains to be seen whether Daveward will give the country its second and lead Labour to its Promised Land.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Pope in Westminster Abbey – the finest ecclesiastical gag ever?

The liturgy of the Church is replete with historic symbolism. The choice of ritual and antiphon, the positions of the altar and pulpit, the placement of the Bible and candles, cross or crucifix, the handling of the bread and wine, the bewildering array of vestments: they can all speak a sermon to those who have ears and eyes.

So the Pope’s decision (or Mgr Marini’s suggestion) to wear what he did in Westminster Abbey was unlikely to have been without serious consideration.

He is, after all, the Pope who has restored to use the red velvet mozzetta trimmed with ermine, the camauro, the traditional red papal shoes, and one or two other Prada accessories.

And now it turns out that the stole he chose to wear on the occasion of the first ever visit of a pope to Westminster Abbey was that first worn by Pope Leo XIII.

Pope Leo XIII, for those who do not know, not only cardinalised John Henry Newman, he was the author of the 1896 encyclical Apostolicæ Curæ on the Nullity of Anglican Orders.

This is not a minor matter of obscure ecclesio-theological history. In 1998, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), issued a commentary which listed Leo XIII’s declaration in Apostolicæ Curæ that Anglican orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ as one of the teachings to which Catholics must give ‘firm and definitive assent’ (#11). It is not, he averred, ‘divinely revealed’, but one of the ‘truths connected to revelation by historical necessity’.


And the penalty for those who refuse to give this ‘firm and definitive assent’ is quite clear:

Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church (#6).

The continuing authority of Apostolicæ Curæ is not diminished or compromised in Pope Benedict’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, which introduced an apparent via media canonical structure that provides for groups of Anglican clergy and faithful to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church ‘while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony’. The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be wholly in accordance with Apostolicæ Curæ, ie, a (re-)ordination because their entire ministry within the Church of England has been fraudulently perpetrated on the basis of holy orders which are, in fact, ‘absolutely null and utterly void’.

This encyclical Apostolicæ Curæ was promulgated on the 18th September 1896.

But interestingly, Pope Leo XIII signed it:

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, on the Ides of September, in the nineteenth year of our pontificate.

The Ides of September is the 13th day.

So, in this period between 13-18 September, exactly 114 years later, Pope Benedict set foot in the symbolic ecclesiastical heart of Protestantism which has seen the coronation of every English and British monarch since the Norman conquest. Over recent centuries, its cloisters have reverberated to successive kings and queens renouncing popery, repudiating transubstantiation and swearing to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.

Benedict came to reclaim the Abbey for the Benectine monks ejected by Elizabeth I. While twice verbally reminding the congregation that he is the successor to St Peter, he symbolically reminded us that only Roman orders have validity.

So not only has Pope Benedict driven the ecumenical coach into the ditch of history by declaring the feast day of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (whom Anglicans already commemorate on the day of his death) to be the day of his conversion (ie, the day that he was re-ordained into ‘true orders’ [even before Anglican orders were declared ‘absolutely null and utterly void]). But he has seemed graciously to participate in a celebration of Anglican-Roman relations while actually slapping the Church of England in the face.

Or was it on the back?

Not knowing His Holiness, it is difficult for His Grace to tell.

But His Holiness does not strike His Grace as the sort of prelate who would make light of such a significant event. Certainly, there were pleasantries with the Supreme Governor and platitudes with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but in the symbolism of the stole was the assertion that Pope Leo XIII was right and that Anglican orders remain ‘utterly null and absolutely void’.

And yet His Holiness was content to participate in ecumenical Vespers presided over by the mitred heretic separated brethren whose episcopal orders Leo XIII declared invalid.

Was this the finest ecclesiastical gag ever?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Which God will the Coalition ‘do’?

When David Cameron dismissed all talk of Britain’s secularism as ‘exaggerated’, and dismissively said that such comment ‘misses the point’, he could hardly have expected to find himself swiftly at loggerheads with the Pope himself, who is of the undoubted opinion that the United Kingdom is not only increasingly godless, but subject to a rather ‘aggressive secularism’.

And by saying so His Holiness evidently does not believe that he ‘misses the point’.

But this is not some profound Church / State dichotomy, and neither is it a major Prime Minister / Pope disputation of ‘Cameron accuses Pope of exaggerating and missing the point’ mould. Yet it is an important disparity in perception between a Coalition which purports to ‘do God’ fervently and a Church which feels increasingly marginalised in a context which has become hostile to much Christian expression after 13 years of some quite insidious equality legislation.

Both Pope and Prime Minister acknowledge that the UK strives to be ‘a modern and multicultural society’, and neither would doubt that this is indeed a ‘challenging enterprise’.

But while David Cameron talks ecumenically of generalised ‘faith’ and a multi-faith ‘God’, Pope Benedict talks of the need to respect the ‘traditional values and cultural expressions’. He is acutely aware that Mary’s Dowry, now Protestant by law and multi-faith in expression, has turned away from her ‘traditional values and cultural expressions’; that under the premierships of two ostensibly professing Christians, we have seen Christianity relegated to the peripheries of public life.

Bishops of both the Church of England and the Church of Rome have expressed their concern at the hostile culture which seemingly has no tolerance of Christian orthodoxy.

By denying even the existence of ‘the more aggressive forms of secularism’, the Prime Minister may be dangerously blind to that which no longer values or even tolerates the Christian faith from which the liberties of this country and its traditions of liberal democracy have evolved.

The Pope reminded the assembled Commons, Lords and civic leaders in Westminster Hall that Britain has a ‘great history of anti-Catholicism’, but that it is also ‘a country with a great history of tolerance’.

But instead of building upon the benign Anglican via media, the historic anti-Catholicism has mutated into a wholesale malignant anti-Christianity: Richard Dawkins has become a letter-day Ian Paisley, and Christianity is now the faith which dare not speak its name.

So when Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi says, on behalf the Coalition, that the new Government ‘understands’ faith and wanted religious groups to play a greater and more prominent role in Britain, what is it that they understand which the Roman Catholic Blair and Presbyterian Brown did not?

The vocabulary is the same as any religio-political pap used on Songs of Praise. The Baroness talks of ‘the positive power of faith’, and bends over backwards to proclaim that the Coalition ‘does God’. The Prime Minister said that the Pope’s visit provided a ‘unique opportunity’ to celebrate the work of all religious groups.

So, the Coalition is on the side of religion.

Baroness Warsi proclaimed that the country needs a government which ‘understands faith, which is comfortable with faith, and which, when necessary, is prepared to speak out about issues of faith’.

And she explained to the gathered bishops of the Church of England: "Under our plans, you will have more power, more responsibility, and more choice over how to get involved in your communities and over how to apply your skills. I don't just want to say to you that you have a lot to contribute to building the Big Society. I want to tell you that for me you are at the heart of society already and key to its future, and that this government will be on your side."

Her message was to all faiths, yet her audience consisted of Anglican bishops.

Will the 'more power' of which she speaks grant them once again the freedom to employ whomsoever they wish in their churches? Or will the inexorable equality agenda march on?

The Baroness criticised Labour’s approach to religious faith – that of ‘eccentricity’ practised by ‘oddities’ – but her observation that ‘behind every faith-based charity, they sensed the whiff of conversion and exclusivity’ is illuminating in the context of the forced closure of Catholic adoption agencies.

Will the Coalition redress this imbalance? Will it brush aside the equality legislation which equates Christian conversion with abuse, prayer with hatred and heterosexuality with homophobia?

Baroness Warsi says that ‘because of these prejudices’ Labour ‘didn't create policies to unleash the positive power of faith in our society’.

So will the Coalition repeal the legislation which legitimises these prejudices?

How otherwise will they ‘unleash the positive power of faith in our society’?

And yet what is this ‘faith’ that they seek to unleash?

Perhaps we already have the answer.

It will not be a robustly orthodox expression of any faith.

Except, perhaps Buddhism.

For in robust Buddhism lies an oxymoron.

The Coalition will do ‘moderate’ Islam, benign Hinduism, relaxed-about-the-Five-Ks Sikhism, liberal Judaism and Tablet Catholicism.

Because these are closest to David Cameron’s broad-church Anglicanism. He said just before the General Election that he does not drop to his knees and pray for guidance: "My own faith is there, it's not always the rock that perhaps it should be. I've a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments."

To admit any more runs the risk of being perceived as a ‘nutter’.

His understanding of the relationship between faith and society and between religion and politics is not always thought through – and he now has the additional tension of sharing power with an atheist – but Nick Clegg’s brand of atheism is not the offensively ‘aggressive’ type, but one which can marry a Roman Catholic, permit his children to be brought up in that faith and can ‘do God’ fairly because he does not approach faith ‘with a closed heart or a closed mind’.

Unlike the Unholy Trinity of the cerebral father Richard Dawkins, the androgynous son Stephen Fry , and the sylph spirit Peter Tatchell.

Britain's faith communities are indispensable to social progress. David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ will not get big without them.

But Social Justice is not simply about praxis in the public sphere; it is not just about 'liberating' Christians to tackle the root causes of poverty and deprivation by providing (for example) children with good school places, getting alcohol and drug-dependent adults back into work, running sheltered housing for older people, or finding homes for children and teenagers who need fostering and adoption.

It is also about permitting the freedom of conscience and expression from which the praxis flows.

Labour's equality legislation violated the Christian ethos of the nation.

It will take a little more than ‘a fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments’, to reassert the nation’s Christian culture and traditions. One cannot confront aggressive, totalitarian, secularist intolerance by turning the other cheek.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Richard Dawkins incites anti-Catholic hatred

And before the learned Professor disses His Grace again or mobilises his hate-filled disciples or deigns to refer to His Grace’s writing as ‘nasty’, perhaps he would acknowledge that at least His Grace is sufficiently secure in his beliefs and broad in his worldview to entertain the Professor’s views upon his blog, while that of the Professor, which purports to be a ‘Clear Thinking Oasis’, admits of no view but the Professor’s insular own.

It is not, of course, the first time.

Though the eminent Professor never had the courtesy to reply.

Perhaps there weren’t enough book sales in it to make it worth his while.

Freedom of speech; freedom of expression; freedom of association; freedom to offend – these are the precious liberties of our liberal democracy, the acquisition of which over the centuries has been a cause of great suffering and not infrequently horrific torture and death. These foundations are being chipped and cracked to a perilous degree, and it is only a matter of time before the whole edifice crumbles to dust.

Richard Dawkins is one of the Pope’s ‘aggressive secularists’ who are rendering the public sphere increasingly illiberal to expressions of faith, deceptively under the guise of enlightenment. But his dogma is as absolute as any fundamentalist religion; his demands as uncompromising as any divine precept. Professor Richard Dawkins has become the self-appointed infallible prophet of the sharia of biological evolution.

As one might expect, he immerses his audience in a predictable flood of indignation: most of it anti-Ratzinger, much of it anti-Catholic, some of it anti-Christian. He often confuses fact with opinion and conflates historical proposition with scientific method, But His Grace does not demur from the Professor’s anger at the Pope’s purposeful juxtaposition of atheism with Nazism. It was not quite as inopportune as quoting a Byzantine emperor on Mohammed or the incommunication of a holocaust denier, but it was hardly a textbook example of missionary inculturation.

Not to believe in God does not make one evil: indeed, there are many who profess God, even the Christian one, and are utterly depraved in their morality and desiccated in their spirituality. And His Grace has said and made it clear that he would rather engage with an honest, self-confessed atheist than with a duplicitous hypocrite who professes to be Christian.

Christians can learn many lessons from the aggressive secularists – like how not to communicate, how not to coerce or impose and how not to disregard the sincerely-held beliefs of millions of rational and reasonable people.

Perhaps the aggressive secularists might reciprocally consider that not all Christians hold to papal teaching on contraception, or that homosexuals are ‘intrinsically disordered’, or that liberation theology is dangerously subversive, or that paedophile priests have lost their free will and those who covered up such heinous crimes should be protected.

But many of those who do hold such views also work tirelessly for the common good, often for nothing, at great expense and huge personal cost.

There are not many aggressive secularists who work for any motive other than personal gain.

There is a balance to be struck between the freedom of individuals and what best serves the common good. This is, of course, the realm of politics. One can be short-term and pragmatic about it, or visionary and prophetic. Prime ministers have elections to win; popes do not. The prophet does not have to concern himself with coercive democratic populism; the politician does not have the luxury to be a philosopher-king.

Professor Dawkins does not need religion, but he cannot abjure politics. And politics needs the insights of religion, especially if that religion is intrinsic to societal cohesion and the pursuit of the common good. He appears to be incapable of perceiving religion as anything other than unconstrained sectarianism and bigoted fundamentalism. Certainly, there is much of it about. But the Anglican tradition has fused faith, tradition and reason in a benign via media, and forged a place for the expression of religious belief within the political process. It does not eschew secular rationality, but the aggressive secularists repudiate the world of religious belief.

In the present context of pervasive Newmania, perhaps Professor Dawkins might join with the Blessed John Henry in his famous toast: ‘To conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards!’.

That is Protestant liberation.

It is the fount of the very liberty by which Professor Dawkins is free to pour out his hateful invective.

But Roman Catholics are an easy target, Professor, for they are bound to respond in love. And so is His Holiness the Pope, for he is obliged to turn the other cheek.

Let us see you ascend your secular pulpit and proclaim your sermon of damnation to Islam. Defame their Prophet as you denigrate the Pope. Mock Qur'anic teachings as you pour scorn over Catholic theology.

There will undoubtedly be a few book sales in that.

There will also be danger.

But then you might begin to understand the importance of the primacy of the liberty of conscience.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

John Henry Cardinal Newman – a political beatification

His cause has taken half a century of research, consideration and procrastination. And you can understand why. As an Anglican vicar and (third-rate) Oxford scholar, the Rev John Newman subscribed to the letter of the XXXIX Articles, manifested a distinct hatred of the Roman Catholic Church and held a personal conviction that the Pope was the Anti-Christ. Indeed, he once wrote: “If the Pope is not an Anti-Christ, he has bad luck to be so like him.” The Rev John Newman began his ministry at the University Church of St Mary’s (with which His Grace is only too familiar) and manifested a distinctly low-church conviction. Over the years, he became increasingly high-church, leading ultimately to his participation in the foundation of the Oxford Movement or Tractarians, as they were more commonly known.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Or hagiography.

But John Henry Newman is not a model of holiness for the Church in the United Kingdom. His was known to have worldly ambition, to possess a frightful temper, to be reclusive and selfish, and, in the words of his contemporary Cardinal Manning, to be ‘a hater’.

He is also rumoured to have suffered from what Pope Benedict XVI terms an ‘objective disorder’ and to possess a tendency towards an ‘intrinsic moral evil’.

All of these foibles and failings might be considered to pale into insignificance against the brilliance of his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, or the belief that he was a prophet of Christian unity, or the realisation that many of his writings on the laity and his personal beliefs on Church reform foreshadowed the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council.

When he was created a cardinal in 1879, he chose to speak against ‘liberalism’ in religion. This is the theme to which Pope Benedict XVI has dedicated his pontificate, though he prefers the term ‘relativism’. For if truth be what you make it, and these truths are mutually exclusive, what then becomes of truth? And if there is no authority to adjudicate between these competing truths, the Church is destined to fracture and fragment. And what is that authority if it be not apostolic? Dogma is secure. St Peter is on his throne. Semper Eadem.

John Henry Newman was a remarkable Anglican in many ways, and perhaps an even more remarkable Roman Catholic.

But although the process towards his beatification has been rigorous and arduous, Newman is not pronounced ‘Blessed’ today as a result of the moral or intellectual courage he displayed in his conversion, or the worldwide influence he continues to exert as a theologian and scholar, or even the services he performed for the poor or in the founding of an oratory.

He is beatified today solely because some bloke in Massachusetts had a bad back and doesn’t any more.

Without this ‘miracle’, Pope Benedict would not be in Birmingham. And without another, the Blessed John Henry Newman cannot become a fully-fledged saint. This is the anti-reason hocus pocus which belies much of what His Holiness has said about the relationship between faith and reason. It is not, of course, that miracles may no longer be divinely ordained or experienced on earth: it is His Grace's belief that they most certainly may. But you would think that the life and teachings of Cardinal Newman might be sufficient alone to merit spiritual recognition and honour: and he could have done something a little more convincing than the quite unexceptional healing of a bad back – which is, statistically, the most common ailment in the UK. And speaking of the UK, you might also think that this most English of saints could at least have healed an Englishman. His ways may not be ours, but why choose an American?

To revive and affirm the ‘special relationship’, perhaps?

There are undoubted saintly merits in the life of John Henry Newman. But it cannot be ignored that this beatification follows hard upon the ‘personal ordinariate’ invitation to Anglicans to swim the Tiber en masse, and Pope Benedict XVI will not want his papacy to pass into the annals of history without realising his religio-political objective of achieving Church unity, first between East and West, and then by absorbing the Church of England into the Church in England. John Henry Newman becomes the first Englishman born since the 17th century to be set on the path to sainthood. So significant is this for Pope Benedict that he has set aside the customary subsidiarity and has himself declared Newman ‘Blessed’. And the new feast day is not to be the customary date of death (or birth into heaven), but the date of Newman's conversion to Rome - 6th October. If His Holiness had wanted to be a little more generously ecumenical about it, he could have chosen the date of Newman's baptism - 11th August. But we must not forget that the Church of England is not a church 'in the proper sense'. Pope Benedict clearly recognises Newman's conversion to Rome as as the crucial regenerative event, being the undoubted fount of the theological wisdom in which His Holiness is himself steeped and greatly influenced.

So do not let the blinding papal spectacle and profound religious fervour blind us to the politics of this beatification.

Or to the certainty that the canonisation will swiftly follow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fraternal Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Archbishop Rowan Williams

The addresses to a Meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales on the occasion of The Fraternal Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Great Hall, Lambeth Palace, 17 September 2010.

Your Grace,

It is a pleasure for me to be able to return the courtesy of the visits you have made to me in Rome by a fraternal visit to you here in your official residence. I thank you for your invitation and for the hospitality that you have so generously provided. I greet too the Anglican Bishops gathered here from different parts of the United Kingdom, my brother Bishops from the Catholic Dioceses of England, Wales and Scotland, and the ecumenical advisers who are present.

You have spoken, Your Grace, of the historic meeting that took place, almost thirty years ago, between two of our predecessors – Pope John Paul the Second and Archbishop Robert Runcie – in Canterbury Cathedral. There, in the very place where Saint Thomas of Canterbury bore witness to Christ by the shedding of his blood, they prayed together for the gift of unity among the followers of Christ. We continue today to pray for that gift, knowing that the unity Christ willed for his disciples will only come about in answer to prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit, who ceaselessly renews the Church and guides her into the fullness of truth.

It is not my intention today to speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter. Those difficulties are well known to everyone here. Rather, I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the forty years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.

The context in which dialogue takes place between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church has evolved in dramatic ways since the private meeting between Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher in 1960. On the one hand, the surrounding culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment. On the other hand, the increasingly multicultural dimension of society, particularly marked in this country, brings with it the opportunity to encounter other religions. For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives. Ecumenical cooperation in this task remains essential, and will surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony in a world that so often seems at risk of fragmentation.

At the same time, we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ, and to explore together a deeper understanding of the means he has placed at our disposal for attaining that salvation. God “wants all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), and that truth is nothing other than Jesus Christ, eternal Son of the Father, who has reconciled all things in himself by the power of his Cross. In fidelity to the Lord’s will, as expressed in that passage from Saint Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth. Herein lies the dilemma facing all who are genuinely committed to the ecumenical journey.

In the figure of John Henry Newman, who is to be beatified on Sunday, we celebrate a churchman whose ecclesial vision was nurtured by his Anglican background and matured during his many years of ordained ministry in the Church of England. He can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands: on the one hand, he was moved to follow his conscience, even at great personal cost; and on the other hand, the warmth of his continued friendship with his former colleagues, led him to explore with them, in a truly eirenical spirit, the questions on which they differed, driven by a deep longing for unity in faith. Your Grace, in that same spirit of friendship, let us renew our determination to pursue the goal of unity in faith, hope, and love, in accordance with the will of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

With these sentiments, I take my leave of you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor 13:13).

Your Holiness, brother bishops, brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is a particular pleasure that on this historic occasion we are able to come together as bishops of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in this country to greet you, Your Holiness, during a visit which we all hope will be of significance both to the Church of Christ and to British society. Your consistent and penetrating analysis of the state of European society in general has been a major contribution to public debate on the relations between Church and culture, and we gratefully acknowledge our debt in this respect.
Our task as bishops is to preach the Gospel and shepherd the flock of Christ; and this includes the responsibility not only to feed but also to protect it from harm. Today, this involves a readiness to respond to the various trends in our cultural environment that seek to present Christian faith as both an obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect. We need to be clear that the Gospel of the new creation in Jesus Christ is the door through which we enter into true liberty and true understanding: we are made free to be human as God intends us to be human; we are given the illumination that helps us see one another and all created things in the light of divine love and intelligence. As you said in your Inaugural Mass in 2005, recalling your predecessor's first words as pope, Christ takes away nothing "that pertains to human freedom or dignity or to the building of a just society. ...If we let Christ into our lives we lose absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Only in his friendship is the great potential of human existence revealed." [Inaugural Homily, Rome, 24 April 2005]
Our presence together as British bishops here today is a sign of the way in which, in this country, we see our task as one and indivisible. The International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission has set before us all the vital importance of our common calling as bishops to be agents of mission. Our fervent prayer is that this visit will give us fresh energy and vision for working together in this context in the name of what a great Roman Catholic thinker of the last century called 'true humanism' – a passionate commitment to the dignity of all human beings, from the beginning to the end of life, and to a resistance to every tyranny that threatens to stifle or deny the place of the transcendent in human affairs.
We do not as churches seek political power or control, or the dominance of Christian faith in the public sphere; but the opportunity to testify, to argue, sometimes to protest, sometimes to affirm – to play our part in the public debates of our societies. And we shall, of course, be effective not when we have mustered enough political leverage to get our way but when we have persuaded our neighbours that the life of faith is a life well lived and joyfully lived.
In other words, we shall be effective defenders or proclaimers of our faith when we can show what a holy life looks like, a life in which the joy of God is transparently present. And this means that our ministry together as bishops across the still-surviving boundaries of our confessions is not only a search for how we best act together in the public arena; it is a quest together for holiness and transparency to God, a search for ways in which we may help each other to grow in the life of the Holy Spirit. As you have said, Your Holiness, "a joint fundamental testimony of faith ought to be given before a world which is torn by doubts and shaken by fears."  ['Luther and the Unity of the Churches', 1983]
In 1845, when John Henry Newman finally decided that he must follow his conscience and seek his future in serving God in communion with the See of Rome, one of his most intimate Anglican friends and allies, the priest Edward Bouverie Pusey, whose memory the Church of England marked in its liturgical calendar yesterday, wrote a moving meditation on this "parting of friends" in which he said of the separation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics: "it is what is unholy on both sides that keeps us apart".
That should not surprise us: holiness is at its simplest fellowship with Christ; and when that fellowship with Christ is brought to maturity, so is our fellowship with one another. As bishops, we are servants of the unity of Christ's people, Christ's one Body. And, meeting as we do as bishops of separated church communities, we must all feel that each of our own ministries is made less by the fact of our dividedness, a very real but imperfect communion. Perhaps we shall not quickly overcome the remaining obstacles to full, restored communion; but no obstacles stand in the way of our seeking, as a matter of joyful obedience to the Lord, more ways in which to build up one another in holiness by prayer and public celebration together, by closer friendship, and by growing together both in the challenging work of service for all whom Christ loves, and mission to all God has made.
May this historic visit be for all of us a special time of grace and of growth in our shared calling, as you, Your Holiness, bring us the word of the Gospel afresh.

The Pope’s Speech in Westminster Hall

Mr Speaker,

Thank you for your words of welcome on behalf of this distinguished gathering. As I address you, I am conscious of the privilege afforded me to speak to the British people and their representatives in Westminster Hall, a building of unique significance in the civil and political history of the people of these islands. Allow me also to express my esteem for the Parliament which has existed on this site for centuries and which has had such a profound influence on the development of participative government among the nations, especially in the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world at large. Your common law tradition serves as the basis of legal systems in many parts of the world, and your particular vision of the respective rights and duties of the state and the individual, and of the separation of powers, remains an inspiration to many across the globe.

As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides. In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ”good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.

This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today. And it finds expression in the fields of concern in which your Government has been engaged with the Holy See. In the area of peace, there have been exchanges regarding the elaboration of an international arms trade treaty; regarding human rights, the Holy See and the United Kingdom have welcomed the spread of democracy, especially in the last sixty-five years; in the field of development, there has been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development, particularly through the International Finance Facility, the International Immunization Bond, and the Advanced Market Commitment. The Holy See also looks forward to exploring with the United Kingdom new ways to promote environmental responsibility, to the benefit of all.

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare.

Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

This overview of recent cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Holy See illustrates well how much progress has been made, in the years that have passed since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, in promoting throughout the world the many core values that we share. I hope and pray that this relationship will continue to bear fruit, and that it will be mirrored in a growing acceptance of the need for dialogue and respect at every level of society between the world of reason and the world of faith. I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with Britain’s long-standing tradition. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed. The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.

Mr Speaker, I thank you once again for this opportunity briefly to address this distinguished audience. Let me assure you and the Lord Speaker of my continued good wishes and prayers for you and for the fruitful work of both Houses of this ancient Parliament. Thank you and God bless you all!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome, Archbishop reminds Pope

As Pope Benedict XVI declaimed (twice) to the congregation in Westminster Abbey that he is the successor of St Peter, the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded His Holiness that not all Christians see it quite like that. The Pope asserted that he uniquely is 'charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock'. And the Church of England is a perpetual reminder to him that unity in faith may be diverse in expression. One should thank God for Archbishop Rowan: he is gracious but firm, and never, ever permits pious platitudes to obscure the religio-political reality.

The Pope's homily at Westminster Abbey and the Archbishop of Canterbury's response

Dear friends in Christ,

I thank the Lord for this opportunity to join you, the representatives of the Christian confessions present in Great Britain, in this magnificent Abbey Church dedicated to Saint Peter, whose architecture and history speak so eloquently of our common heritage of faith. Here we cannot help but be reminded of how greatly the Christian faith shaped the unity and culture of Europe and the heart and spirit of the English people. Here too, we are forcibly reminded that what we share, in Christ, is greater than what continues to divide us.

I am grateful to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for his kind greeting, and to the Dean and Chapter of this venerable Abbey for their cordial welcome. I thank the Lord for allowing me, as the Successor of Saint Peter in the See of Rome, to make this pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor. Edward, King of England, remains a model of Christian witness and an example of that true grandeur to which the Lord summons his disciples in the Scriptures we have just heard: the grandeur of a humility and obedience grounded in Christ’s own example (cf. Phil 2:6-8), the grandeur of a fidelity which does not hesitate to embrace the mystery of the Cross out of undying love for the divine Master and unfailing hope in his promises (cf. Mk 10:43-44).

This year, as we know, marks the hundredth anniversary of the modern ecumenical movement, which began with the Edinburgh Conference’s appeal for Christian unity as the prerequisite for a credible and convincing witness to the Gospel in our time. In commemorating this anniversary, we must give thanks for the remarkable progress made towards this noble goal through the efforts of committed Christians of every denomination. At the same time, however, we remain conscious of how much yet remains to be done. In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are challenged to proclaim with renewed conviction the reality of our reconciliation and liberation in Christ, and to propose the truth of the Gospel as the key to an authentic and integral human development. In a society which has become increasingly indifferent or even hostile to the Christian message, we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to present the Risen Lord as the response to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our time.

As we processed to the chancel at the beginning of this service, the choir sang that Christ is our “sure foundation”. He is the Eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father, who took flesh, as the Creed states, “for us men and for our salvation”. He alone has the words of everlasting life. In him, as the Apostle teaches, “all things hold together” … “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:17,19).

Our commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is the reality of Christ’s person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission. The Church’s unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism. It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church’s koinonia here below.

Dear friends, we are all aware of the challenges, the blessings, the disappointments and the signs of hope which have marked our ecumenical journey. Tonight we entrust all of these to the Lord, confident in his providence and the power of his grace. We know that the friendships we have forged, the dialogue which we have begun and the hope which guides us will provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey. At the same time, with evangelical realism, we must also recognize the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day. Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age. This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock.

Gathered in this ancient monastic church, we can recall the example of a great Englishman and churchman whom we honour in common: Saint Bede the Venerable. At the dawn of a new age in the life of society and of the Church, Bede understood both the importance of fidelity to the word of God as transmitted by the apostolic tradition, and the need for creative openness to new developments and to the demands of a sound implantation of the Gospel in contemporary language and culture.

This nation, and the Europe which Bede and his contemporaries helped to build, once again stands at the threshold of a new age. May Saint Bede’s example inspire the Christians of these lands to rediscover their shared legacy, to strengthen what they have in common, and to continue their efforts to grow in friendship. May the Risen Lord strengthen our efforts to mend the ruptures of the past and to meet the challenges of the present with hope in the future which, in his providence, he holds out to us and to our world. Amen.

Your Holiness, Members of the Collegiate Body, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters in Christ,

Christians in Britain, especially in England, look back with the most fervent gratitude to the events of 597, when Augustine landed on these shores to preach the gospel to the Anglo-Saxons at the behest of Pope St Gregory the Great. For Christians of all traditions and confessions, St Gregory is a figure of compelling attractiveness and spiritual authority – pastor and leader, scholar and exegete and spiritual guide. The fact that the first preaching of the Gospel to the English peoples in the sixth and seventh centuries has its origins in his vision creates a special connection for us with the See of the Apostles Peter and Paul; and Gregory’s witness and legacy remain an immensely fruitful source of inspiration for our own mission in these dramatically different times. Two dimensions of that vision may be of special importance as we reflect today on the significance of Your Holiness’s visit to us.

St Gregory was the first to spell out for the faithful something of the magnitude of the gift given to Christ’s Church through the life of St Benedict – to whom you, Your Holiness, have signalled your devotion in the choice of your name as Pope. In St Gregory’s Dialogues, we can trace the impact of St Benedict – an extraordinary man who, through a relatively brief Rule of life, opened up for the whole civilisation of Europe since the sixth century the possibility of living in joy and mutual service, in simplicity and self-denial, in a balanced pattern of labour and prayer in which every moment spoke of human dignity fully realised in surrender to a loving God. The Benedictine life proved a sure foundation not only for generations of monks and nuns, but for an entire culture in which productive work and contemplative silence and receptivity—human dignity and human freedom—were both honoured.

Our own culture, a culture in which so often it seems that ‘love has grown cold’, is one in which we can see the dehumanising effects of losing sight of Benedict’s vision. Work is so often an anxious and obsessive matter, as if our whole value as human beings depended upon it; and so, consequently, unemployment, still a scourge and a threat in these uncertain financial times, comes to seem like a loss of dignity and meaning in life. We live in an age where there is a desperate need to recover the sense of the dignity of both labour and leisure and the necessity of a silent openness to God that allows our true character to grow and flourish by participating in an eternal love.

In a series of profound and eloquent encyclicals, you have explored these themes for our day, grounding everything in the eternal love of the Holy Trinity, challenging us to hope both for this world and the next, and analysing the ways in which our economic habits have trapped us in a reductive and unworthy style of human living. In this building with its long Benedictine legacy, we acknowledge with gratitude your contribution to a Benedictine vision for our days, and pray that your time with us in Britain may help us all towards a renewal of the hope and energy we need as Christians to witness to our conviction that in their relation to God men and women may grow into the fullest freedom and beauty of spirit.

And in this, we are recalled also to the importance among the titles of the Bishops of Rome of St Gregory’s own self-designation as ‘servant of the servants of God’ – surely the one title that points most directly to the example of the Lord who has called us. There is, we know, no authority in the Church that is not the authority of service: that is, of building up the people of God to full maturity. Christ’s service is simply the way in which we meet his almighty power: the power to remake the world he has created, pouring out into our lives, individually and together, what we truly need in order to become fully what we are made to be – the image of the divine life. It is that image which the pastor in the Church seeks to serve, bowing down in reverence before each human person in the knowledge of the glory for which he or she was made.

Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome. Yet, as Your Holiness’s great predecessor reminded us all in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, we must learn to reflect together on how the historic ministry of the Roman Church and its chief pastor may speak to the Church catholic—East and West, global north and global south—of the authority of Christ and his apostles to build up the Body in love; how it may be realized as a ministry of patience and reverence towards all, a ministry of creative love and self-giving that leads us all into the same path of seeking not our own comfort or profit but the good of the entire human community and the glory of God the creator and redeemer.

We pray that your time with us will be a further step for all of us into the mystery of the cross and the resurrection, so that growing together we may become more effective channels for God’s purpose to heal the wounds of humankind, and to restore once again both in our societies and our environment the likeness of his glory as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.
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