Thinking Anglicans

Pope comments on Equality Bill

Updated again Tuesday morning

The Pope has commented on British equality legislation.

Cif belief has republished an address delivered to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales by Pope Benedict on 1 February 2010.

The key paragraph is this:

Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, 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. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?

There has been a speedy British media reaction to this:

Telegraph Damian Thompson Pope tells English and Welsh bishops to get their act together and Has the Pope declared war on Labour?
Martin Beckford Pope Benedict XVI criticises ‘unjust’ effects of Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill

Press Association Pope confirms he will visit Britain Headline changed to Pope attacks equality laws in UK

The Times Ruth Gledhill Pope Benedict XVI confirms first state visit to UK and Pope: Britain’s equal rights legislation ‘violates’ natural law and Pope Benedict XVI attacks Labour’s equality push

BBC Pope Benedict confirms first papal UK visit since 1982

Guardian Riazat Butt Pope condemns gay equality laws ahead of first UK visit

Independent Jerome Taylor Pope: I’ll visit but I don’t like your equality laws

Monday evening additions

Government Equalities Office press statement:

“The Pope acknowledges our country’s firm commitment to equality for all members of society. We believe everyone should have a fair chance in life and not be discriminated against. The Equality Bill will make Britain a fairer and more equal place.”

Telegraph Editorial Opinion Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill should be laid to rest headline changed to The Pope, Labour and religious freedom.

The Times Ruth Gledhill Pope Benedict XVI misses the point in his attack on UK equality law

Guardian Andrew Brown Papal aggression

Catholic Herald Mark Greaves Pope Benedict condemns Equality Bill

Reuters Philip Pullella Pope confirms Britain visit, attacks equality bill and second version of this story

Telegraph Martin Beckford Pope Benedict XVI attacks Labour’s ‘unjust’ equality laws ahead of UK visit and later version Pope attacks Labour laws on equality

Tuesday morning updates

Daily Mail Simon Caldwell Pope condemns Harman equality drive as ‘violation of natural law’

Mirror POPE SLAMS RIGHTS BILL

BBC Pope Benedict attacks government over Equality Bill

Herald (Scotland) Outrage as Pope attacks UK equality laws ahead of state visit

Press Association Anger as Pope slams UK equality law

Also Martha Linden of PA, via Independent Anger after Pope slams ‘unjust’ UK equality laws

Guardian Riazat Butt Your equality laws are unjust, pope tells UK before visit

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Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

With this outrageous interference in the internal politics of the UK looks like the Pope’s forthcoming visit will be controversial and be marred by protest.

While we have to foot the bill through our taxes, paying to be attacked by a foreign religious leader (albeit a revered and exalted one) as if the attacks from the home grown sort weren’t enough.

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Natural law, natural, law, natural law, egads I’m sick unto death of natural law. Pope Benedict needs to do some reading outside of Opus Dei hagiographies. If he bothered to do some research, he’d find numerous animal species have been discovered whose members sometimes form homosexual relationships.
Natural law is wonderful. When it supports homophobia, the critics say “see, it ain’t natural!” When nature is shown to contain homosexual relationships, the critics say “We’re better than the animals!”
Pope Benedict XVI likes equality, as long as it doesn’t apply to GLBT people and uppity women.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

You expect the guy to like the bill when he’s head of an organization that won’t hire half the world’s population due to the way they were born?

JPM
Guest
JPM

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Yo! You who “hath no jurisdiction”!

Is the concept of basic *politeness* lost on you? That you don’t trash the host, ahead of the visit? [I don’t care if you’re “Ex Cathedra” or not: FAIL!]

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

With the greatest respect to *politeness* the visit of the Pope should be an occasion of great celebration for those who look to him and those who don’t but with the greatest of respect it isn’t correct for him to abuse an official visit to attack LGBT people in this country during his visit which therefore, sadly and regrettably means there should be protests against his visit, which is sad but it’s a time to bear witness in a clear resolute, respectful and peaceful way during the visit.

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

The Holy Father says that our equality legislation “actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.” The natural law argument is a difficult one to use thoroughly with regard to legislation for gay people. As I understand it, the RC Church has been at best ambivalent at the UN over the campaign for worldwide decriminalistion of homosexuality. The RC Church is also officially committed to refusing to demonise gay people; yet high-ranking cardinals and archbishops do so with some regularity – the newly-promoted and highly controversial Archbishop… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

‘Pope Benedict XVI said: … I am thinking, for example, of … the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal Newman’s beatification…’
who of course willed that he should share the grave of his friend and companion Ambrose St John.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Catholic theologian James Alison writes:
“So, we find ourselves living at a time of Petrine backsliding from the Gospel, and yet beginning to be aware that the reception of the Good News, and our own unbinding does not come from Peter, but from God, and that Peter later on gets to understand and confirm this. This is a perfectly understandable biblical pattern which we can inhabit while we wait for Peter.”

(www.courage.org.uk/articles/unbinding.shtml)

penwatch
Guest
penwatch

Looks like this visit is going to be quire unlike that of his predecessor. I imagine that a good number of Roman Catholics including bishops will be squirming with embarrassment rather than bursting with pride.

Fr. Aaron Orear
Guest
Fr. Aaron Orear

Keep in mind that I write the below as a supporter of equality in the church and the local convener of a gay and woman positive priestly society (SCP). It’s not an intrusion. He does have a couple few churches in the UK, of which he’s the spiritual head and to which he’s responsible for leadership. What Parliament decides will be felt in those churches. That makes him a stakeholder, or the authorized spokesman and leader of direct stakeholders. Besides his right to comment on those grounds, religious leaders commonly speak on social and moral issues and we rely on… Read more »

Ren Aguila
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Ren Aguila

I have a suggestion: restore the petition in the Great Litany respecting detestable enormities, or even celebrate Guy Fawkes day early, and have signs saying “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realme of England” posted outside churches.

Then again, that is not inclusive and respectful of other persons’ opinions. Or is it?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Pope Benedict XVI “has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law” as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.” I would respectfully suggest that His Holiness should try to deal with such matters in his own adopted country before he starts interfering with the governance of a foreign state. He has enough to deal with in his own ‘over the wall’ backyard, without trying influence the English Churches and the government of that country. Perhaps like certain conservative Anglican Bishops, though, he might prefer to deny the fact that there are quite a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“When the Pope, or any religious leader, speaks out against oppression or violence or corruption, do we cry foul that he’s interfering in the business of sovereign states? Why is it different when you disagree with what he says?” – Fr. Aaron, SCP – Dear Father, the only problem here is that the Pope is aiding and abetting the cause of discrimination against the Gay Community. As, of course, are certain of our own Anglican Bishops. Does that not mean that we have to ignore what he says – in support of discrimination against a class of people who, though… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

” “It is the truth revealed through scripture and tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.” – Benedict XVIth – The ‘Magisterium’ as a generic part of Church polity has not existed in the Church of England, or any of its Provincial Partners, since the parting of the ways with Rome at the Reformation. So while His Holiness may be referring to his own Roman Catholic adherents, this abhorrent title of inerrant infallibility does not, and never has, applied to the Reformed and Catholic Church of England and its fellow members of the Anglican Communion. Anglicanism… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Yes, Ren, and should the Orange Order drop by, too, with their sashes and fifes and lambeg drums, all shouting “No Popery!” “No Surrender!”

But seriously — we in the US are quite used to Roman Catholic bishops interfering in our politics, in just this way. It’s what they do. Why so surprised, all?

Murdoch
Guest
Murdoch

Natural Theology is another name for blind prejudice. (See Romans 1, e.g.)

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

I think much of the objection to the Pope’s visit will focus not only on the content of his message, which seems to me to be a poorly-grounded attack on what is, in fact, a naturally grounded working out of what a non-discriminatory society should look like (and don’t forget, the new law will continue and enshrine the right of the Churches to be perhaps the only institutions left with a legal right to act in an officially discriminatory fashion), but also on the fact that the British taxpayer will be paying about £20 million for him to come and… Read more »

toby forward
Guest

I don’t thnk we need lectures on equal rights from a former member of the Hitler Youth. And before people squeal that he was only a young person, remember what other young people felt able to do at the time.

http://www.shoaheducation.com/whiterose.html

Remember, too, that he is accelerating the canonization of Pius xii.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

I’m with Fr. Aaron Orear.

Achilles
Guest
Achilles

Would the Bill protect atheists, secularists, materialists, or those simply of a particularly scientific bent were they to decide that they did not want to employ practising Christians, or others of faith? If not, then the Pope is comparing apples with oranges. He will now unfortunately only get rotten tomatoes.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Natural law is “eat or be eaten” — does the “holy” father hold that up as an example of desirable human behavior, as well?

PeterB
Guest
PeterB

It seems to me that the Bible has nothing really to say about what’s Natural (and even less to say about what’s natural being good or right). It ‘natural’ = how things are supposed to be, then the bacon roll I just enjoyed is unnatural, and so is wearing clothes. Neither of those things were in Eden. The _natural_ state of things is for us to be in communion with our creator and each other. That’s plainly not what we see around us anywhere, either in humanity or amongst animals. It’s all broken, cursed even. Still, it is the sort… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
Guest
Rev L Roberts

This ‘mature contribution’ says it all–

“In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate,” he said..”

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

The churches have quibbled about this legislation and pursued amendments. Benedict’s sledgehammer is likely to prove dissuasive. I do not believe he has any competence in moral theology — he swerves from a crude, biologistic idea of Natural Law to details of legislation, with not the faintest respect for conflicting rights, freedom of conscience, the due role of legislators, or any other of the countless strands that make up moral reasoning. The same Manichean slegehammer was in evidence in John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, on which see: http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2010/02/james-carroll-on-john-paul-ii-re.html If I am in Britain at the time I shall make a… Read more »

Fr. Aaron Orear
Guest
Fr. Aaron Orear

“Dear Father, the only problem here is that the Pope is aiding and abetting the cause of discrimination against the Gay Community.” – Father Ron Smith – The problem I have is not that we disagree with WHAT he said, but rather that many liberals are refuting the pope’s right or warrant to say anything. If we put our fingers in our ears and yell “Blah blah blah!” we’re acting like people who have no decent counter-argument. We’re acting like we don’t think our ideas are better, so we’ll just deny the speaker’s right to speak. Which is a pity,… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

One thing commentators are omitting to mention that the Pope is either disingenuous or ill informed in one respect at least, in that the same employment law applies across the EU – the Equality Bill in this respect is only seeking to be compliant with the EU Directive on sexual orientation and broadly reflects the law currently in place since 2003 (the Sexual Orientation Regulations). To that extent the Pope is engaging in rather low politics in attacking one EU member rather than the other 26. It is a rather base party political intervention, possibly also motivated by a desire… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

Fr Aaron, of course the tendency you signal is widespread — but the reasoned argument you desiderate has been advanced over and over again on every single one of the issues on which B16 or Car. Ratzinger has taken a provocative line. And in every case this argument has either been terminated and penalized as “dissent” or royally ignored. Look, for instance, at his Jesus book, which professional exegetes sees as a dishonest work. Note that the exegetes have gone to extreme lengths to correct its errors, including in several full-length books. Now look out for Volume 2 of this… Read more »

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

The comments of the Pope are welcome on any topic, but the comments of someone who considers himself to be above and beyond debate or discussion as his definition of “dissent” reveals is always troublesome in a modern democracy. This definition of hierarchical authority, in which women’s ordination for example may no longer be discussed, is at odds with democratic process. We see the current damage in his branch of Christianity let alone what it does in politics.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Aaron
I don’t know where this perception comes from that liberals just shout and don’t do the theology.
We get very frustrated on blogs like this BECAUSE the theology has been done, time and time again and in great depth, but no-one appears to be reading it.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The controversy about, first Church of England Bishops, and next the Pope, intervening in the Equality Bill debate illustrates that democrats and Church leaders are setting out from two very different starting points. Understanding the foundations of the differences between the two may shed some light on the conflict that is certain to continue for some time. Churches tend to see religious liberty largely in terms of liberty from coercion by the state. Dr. Franklyn H. Little recognized the problems in this approach when he commented on “The Declaration on Religious Freedom” of Vatican II over forty years ago. Franklyn… Read more »

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

What I find so incredible is that only last week , Bishop McMahon of Nottingham approved civil partnerships for Catholic teachers and Catholic conservatives cannot get Nichols to stop the Mass in SOHO for openly active gay persons!

Yet Nichols was on Radio Four this morning defending the Pope.

Charlotte Pressler
Guest
Charlotte Pressler

Fr. Aaron Orear wrote (in part): “The problem I have is not that we disagree with WHAT he said, but rather that many liberals are refuting the pope’s right or warrant to say anything. If we put our fingers in our ears and yell “Blah blah blah!” we’re acting like people who have no decent counter-argument. […] I’ve found this a frustration since Bishop Robinson was elected – liberals abandon the argument, not bothering to do the theological work necessary to underpin our position, and retreat behind ecclesiology … [and much more of interest]”. Martin Reynolds has commented to similar… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“I’ve found this a frustration since Bishop Robinson was elected – liberals abandon the argument, not bothering to do the theological work necessary to underpin our position, and retreat behind ecclesiology.” Necessary to WHOM, Aaron? Do you think that those who believe we LGBTs are “lower than pigs or dogs” or “letting Satan into the church” are honestly going to listen to our “theological work” (whether you find it sufficient to “underpin” the consecration of +Robinson and—may it please God—(+)Glasspool?) And speaking of “theological work necessary to underpin our position”—where in Scripture, Tradition or Reason, does THAT come from? Doesn’t… Read more »

IT
Guest
IT

@FrAaronOrear
liberals abandon the argument, not bothering to do the theological work necessary to underpin our position, and retreat behind ecclesiology.

Not true and you know it. There has been much work done on the theology, it’s just no one seems to pay attention to it. THe work of INtegrity, the Chicago consultation, and Tobias Haller’s book all address this.

It’s not the fault of the liberals if the response of the conservatives is to ignore and refuse engagement.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Our equality laws are unjust because they don’t allow his religion to discriminate in areas outside those of doctrine?

What’s unjust about that? he should be thankful that there is any sort of exemption at all. I don’t think there should be – religion should be a purely private affair, and hopefully something which will continue to decline in the UK.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Alas, B16’s appeal to natural law in mass media preachments is completely tone deaf on two accounts, so wide, so deep, so basic to modern intellect that one chortles and dismays, all at once. This fellow is being so silly, until we hand over the reigns of government, society, and church life to his leading, wherein we go right over the steep cliffs that mark his flat earth maps, replete with queer folks where sea monsters used to be in the Middle Ages? This appeal to natural law flies perfectly blind and ignorant of what is empirically true in nature,… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

“Pope Comments on Equality Bill.”

Next:

“Fish Delivers Scathing Condemnation of Desert.”

John
Guest
John

As Andrew Brown said in the Guardian, the bishops’ victory will be a pyrrhic one, as people will turn away from the church in quiet disgust or just a feeling of alienation from an organisation which is becoming ever more reactionary. The projections for clergy numbers and church attendance quoted in the Times mean that in 40 years time the church will scarcely exist anymore. I am beginning to wonder if that is sad or not.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.”

This is so Orwellian.

“[T]he truth” = B16’s truth. If there’s only one truth, then surely B16 thinks he has it.

“Tradition” = B16, natch, who occupies the throne of Peter.

“[T]he Church’s Magisterium” = B16.

Translation: The truth of Scripture is what B16 says it is. And what B16 says, sets you free.

I think I need a good dose of Philip Pullman.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

When the froth blows off this story the fact is the RC Church is almost as diverse as Anglicanism in its response to gays and women as Robert Ian Williams and Fr. Aaron Orear testify above. When he was Ratzinger @ CDF this Pope tried to whip up the worst sort of hatred against LGBT families claiming that allowing us to adopt/foster was “doing violence” to the child – but his successor at the CDF while bishop in California personally approved of two adoptions by gay couples through the local RC agency. Ultra-conservative RCs hate Benedict for much the same… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Continues…. As RIW reminds us the archdiocese of Westminster has made pastoral provision for LGBTs with a Mass and despite all the campaigns and protests – it remains. In Europe Benedict is actually fighting several battles against legislation that he thinks marginalises his community – Lithuania has recently joined the Euro-battle to support the hanging of crucifixes in Italian State schools – the Vatican has made considerable waves in Spain, Holland and Germany against both new freedoms for LGBTs and anti-discrimation legislation. The Pope and friends are flexing their muscles in those countries relatively newly come to the EU and… Read more »

Chuck Inglis
Guest
Chuck Inglis

The entire flap over the quality bill, and the links from Thinking Anglicans to so many newspaper articles, demonstrates the level of interest in religious issues by the secular media in the U.K. The same is true in the United States where there is significant attention paid in mainstream media to religion. I’m quite envious as a Canadian. We have nothing like this level of interest in things religious in Canada. Religion in Canada lives on the margins here. The secular press pays little attention (except for scandals). The offerings of Church press here are not much help. The Anglican… Read more »

Andy
Guest
Andy

If an employer chooses to reject all job applicants on the grounds that they are practicing Roman Catholics, and therefore abhorrent to his belief system, this will be ok then? Don’t pilots and scuba divers break ‘natural’ laws in pursuit of their activities? Will the Pope be targeting them soon? I object to being expected, as a taxpayer, to help fund his little holiday in England. Perhaps he should stay away or be funded by his faithful, equally deluded and discriminatory followers.

Prior Aelred
Guest

What IT said (ditto JCF)

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

A further angle is this – although the Vatican made a statement tangentially opposed to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill there was nothing quite so direct as what is being put onto the UK’s unremarkable Equality Bill. The Equality Bill contravenes Natural Law (not quite sure how – maybe the Natural Law requires homosexuals to have no workplace rights or to not have jobs…) but The Ugandan proposed draconian legislation presumably is consistent with the Natural Law but is too draconian. The Pope (along with other religious leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury) are being given a free pass and… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Let’s see, I want to smoke/inject/swallow some controlled/illegal substance (and trust me, there are whacko religions in the states that want to do this) as part of my ‘religious ceremony’ Engaging in this stupidity is illegal in the U.S., plain and simple. If your religion is doing it, the paddy wagon will pay your ‘house of worship’ a visit.

And Rome wants to complain about discrimination being illegal….then don’t discriminate!!! I don’t care if he wears designer white robes and little scarlet shoes, he isn’t any better than the potheads out on the desert!

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The conservative believer spin about privatizing the gospel witness is especially bad faith. In fact, eliminating gospel values in law and public policy is the point of the traditionalist campaigning, all for the worse. Two gospel values in particular come immediately to mind when queer folks are involved (False witness against neighbors, and Doing unto others?). We are supposed to return to an old, former, traditional Status Quo in which Honest-Out queer citizens and believers are patently defined as not possible – only whispers behind the scenes in a slyly private underground way will serve. So far as doing the… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Fascinating – and, indeed, encouraging – info. from MR.

Mary Clara
Guest
Mary Clara

Rod Gillis, thank you for the very interesting comments on the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom. For the benefit of anyone who might want to pursue this, a small correction: I believe the person who were quoting was Dr. Franklin H. Littell (not Franklyn H. Little), (1917-2009), a Methodist clergyman, theologian and Holocaust scholar.