Comments: ABC answers a question about SORs

It depends on who is paying the bill. Dr. Williams would be well advised to meditate on the theme of, "he who pays the piper calls the tune".

As the head of a state church he is a servant of the crown.

Posted by Richard Lyon at Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 7:24pm GMT

When will the AB of C and his Roman Catholic counterparts understand that everyone recognizes that this as a matter of conscience indeed. Unfortunately the churches have so given up their responsibility to truth that the lay governments of the world are outstripping them in developing a more truly ethical . . . and Christian society. They, not the churches, are seeking a true Christian conscience, while these befuddled old men muse on Byzantine theological constructs, 2000 year old societal behavior and dead science.

How can a church claim "it's against our conscience" to give a child to a gay couple, but that it is not against their conscience to give a child to atheists or unmarried heterosexual couples. The Roman Catholic Church's conscience is strangely conflicted. I submit to you that for them gay adoption is not a matter a conscience; it is a matter of discrimination. How can it be argued otherwise?

Posted by Richard Falk at Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 7:58pm GMT

Shouldn't he have thought about that first?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 9:13pm GMT

Equivocation time, anyone? Am interested to see that the chief ecclesiastical functionary of the Anglican Church now refers to the Roman Catholic Church as the "Catholic Church". Can it be that the Reformation is set to go down the same chute at gay rights. Just kidding. Mind you, after the business of the ABC's kneeling to kiss the old pope's ring a couple of years back ......?

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 9:55pm GMT

Heck, it's seems hard for OUR +++Archbishop to use the QUEER word (or any variation)...but he's right about LGBT people "not going away" (or leaping back into the closet of pretend/suicide and selfloathing)...I got my telegram from the Gay Agenda Devil just today and he says we're to Stand Firm and send in the Lesbian and Bisexual Army if necessary to confuse everyone/everything and "muck it up" real good for the "denial" bregade on the otherside of the dark, steamy/meanie swampathon!

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 10:49pm GMT

Reading ++Rowan's comment on this - and his many many words on other matters - reminds me of a story about Harry Truman, that blunt spoken President from the "Show Me" state of Missouri.

At some point in his presidency,an economic crisis or decision he had to make, prompted him to ask for a one-armed economist, because all the ones he knew said, "One the one hand, this might happen, and on the other hand that might happen."

++Rowan's dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying performances of dithering and thithering make me long for a one-armed ABC.

Or perhaps a mute one.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 4:43am GMT

Just so, the issue of conscience is far wider than any particular issue in connection with which it may happen to be raised. If the Govt arrogates supreme moral authority, effectively disqualifying individual conscience and protest from conscience-based groups, then morality becomes something decided by elections.

To legislate is already a difficult task, without taking on the role of an arbiter of morality as well. As a moral teaching authority the Blair Govt is totally amateurish in any case. People who used the words "liberty" and "democracy" as they dumped clusterbombs on Iraqi children cannot be trusted to understand the proper use of other moral categories such as "discrimination".

Legislators rely on a conventional morality -- which sometimes leads them into error when that morality is defective (as when sexual morality is invoked to override human rights) -- but their job is not to invent new morality.

In cases where citizens secure the legal right to things that other citizens consider immoral (abortion, in vitro fertilization, transsexual operations, for example), the state should also recognize the right of people not to be forced into participating in these things if they go against their conscience.

Penalizing conscientious objection may sometimes be necessary -- particularly if takes forms dangerous to others, as in the case of parents who refuse to have their children medically treated -- but it should be a last resort only. Respect for conscience should be a fundamental principle of democratic governance.

Some conscientious objection may be spurious, as in the case of racists who claim to have grounds of conscience. But we should not leap to the conclusion that this is the case whenever we are impatient with what seems to us the retarded moral vision of others.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 5:49am GMT

"but he's right about LGBT people "not going away" "

Actually, that is not what he said. He was referring to the general issue of the rights of conscience, which has been around since the time of Thomas a Becket and is sure not to go away even when all present gay-related issues are satisfactorily resolved.

The whole point of the response is to "disentangle two things" but people seem impatient with the distinction he is making, a very basic and valid distinction.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 9:09am GMT

Re Fr Joseph O'Leary's mentions "the general issue of the rights of conscience, which has been around since the time of Thomas a Becket". The "right of conscience" for which Becket fought was the principal that individuals in holy orders, which in his day included four minor, effectively "lay" orders - among them "doorkeeper" and "acolyte", were exempt from trial in the civil courts and might only be tried in the ecclesiastical courts. In practice, any individual who could read could claim "benefit of clergy" and in general the ecclesiastical courts handed down far more lenient sentences than their civil counterparts. Few, in this day and age, would consider exemption of the clergy from civil trial for murder a matter of conscience, as Becket did, though the extent to which the Roman Catholic Church, until recently, systematically concealed felonious child abuse cases from the civil authorities indicates that this "principle", albeit watered-down form, still exists.

In modified form, Benefit of Clergy entered colonial American law via Common Law and had a minor, but interesting history in North America.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 5:22pm GMT

The Church does what it wishes within the confines of the church.

One toe outside that door - then they are bound by the same laws as everyone else. Claiming that their beliefs are anything special just because they are 'religion' is unacceptable

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 11:57pm GMT

"The "right of conscience" for which Becket fought was the principal that individuals in holy orders, which in his day included four minor, effectively "lay" orders - among them "doorkeeper" and "acolyte", were exempt from trial in the civil courts and might only be tried in the ecclesiastical courts."

Again, we must "disentangle" the principle from the presenting issue. Thomas a Becket had the conscience of his time, and was ready to die for it.

"Few, in this day and age, would consider exemption of the clergy from civil trial for murder a matter of conscience, as Becket did". Quite so, and perhaps in another few decades people will also consider exemptions for Catholic agencies unwilling to countenance gay couples in the same light. Nonetheless, the issue is a bona fide one of conscience just now.

"though the extent to which the Roman Catholic Church, until recently, systematically concealed felonious child abuse cases from the civil authorities indicates that this "principle", albeit watered-down form, still exists." There may be residues of the medieval "principle" that the Church is above the civil law, and if so this is to be denounced. But you should not confuse this "principle" with the sacred principle of the rights of conscience. Disentangle!

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 1:55am GMT

Surely, if the Cardinal and the ABC had had any interest whatsoever in discussing the "principle" of Religious Liberty (and a "liberty" is not a right, remember), they would have done this.

Not mixed it up with whatever came their way.

Let them eat their just desserts.

;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 6:01pm GMT

Couldn't resist posting this link

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/6322075.stm

I'm sure those who demonstrated outside Westminster the other week will be delighted to have this support.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 8:17pm GMT

"Surely, if the Cardinal and the ABC had had any interest whatsoever in discussing the "principle" of Religious Liberty (and a "liberty" is not a right, remember), they would have done this."

A liberty is certainly a right -- the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are listed in the US Constitution, and the Church today recognizes liberty of conscience and religious liberty as human rights.

It seems to me that the ABC did discuss the principle of Religious Liberty, or more precisely that autonomy of Conscience (for it goes far beyond church conscience) and that his words have been ignored by most discussants.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 3:38am GMT

US constitution?

Akinola.

Wobble.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 11:08am GMT

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 1:38pm GMT

But religious liberty in terms of belief is NOT affected.

What is affected is the right to discriminate in the public sphere. And no, I don't think that religious liberty should be able to extend that far

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 2:37pm GMT

"Freedom of consience" is what is affected.

Sullivan misstates it as the freedom of religion and the right to free speech (even if bigoted).

The only freedom claimed to be under attack in the archbishops' letter is that of conscience.

This is a classical theme, and the validity of the archbishops' concerns is widely recognized.

The archbishops did not say that Anglican adoption agencies would refuse gay couples as adoptive parents (in practice they don't). They supported the Cardinal on only one point -- the right to respect for conscience.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 10:18am GMT

Re Fr. O'Leary's comment on Anglican adoption agencies that "in practice they don't" turn away gay couples - ON PRINCIPAL these agencies do not turn away gay couples, Fr. O'Leary. An entirely different matter, and one of the principal reasons why the intervention of the two C of E archbishops in this matter left them looking as foolish as it did.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 9:34pm GMT

I am happy to hear that the Anglican agencies do not turn away gay couples on principle -- I did not know.

But surely that makes it even easier the disentangle the two issues of concrete adoption policy and the State's respect for conscience?

If the 2 archbishops were saying: "We agree with the RCC that gays should not adopt" then they would be foolishly inconsistent (presuming that they approve of the principle of the Anglican adoption agencies). But, again, that is precisely what they did NOT say. What they said is "we thing the differing conscience of our RC brethren and Muslim friends should be respected and should not be steamrolled by the State."

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 6:09am GMT

What the Anglican archbishops did, was allow themselves to be drawn into showing support for the English RC hierarchy's appalling "back off, or the kids get it!" campaign, a blackmail attempt so crude that its failure was virtually guaranteed from its inception. Remember the passage in the Gospels about millstones around necks - a passage that should resonate through the modern Roman church - or did St. Jerome, foreseeing pedophilias yet to come, have the foresight to skip that bit?

At heart this issue is no more a legitimate issue of conscience than were the arguments of the 19th century US slave-owners and their apologists, who argued - and argued, Biblically-speaking, correctly - that Leviticus, that great Rorschach test of personal belief and prejudice, firmly sanctions - indeed enjoins - the ownership of slaves. To these people, and indeed to any "strict constructionalist" of church/state relations, the 13th amendment to the American Constitution - the abolition of slavery – may be seen as unconscionable interference with religious freedom. Should such "conscience" be respected, simply because it may be sincerely held? Of course not. And in the case of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, particularly given its recent history of concern for the juveniles in its care, an answer is not difficult to find.

In an earlier post, Father O'Leary stated that on the issue of Benefit of Clergy, Archbishop Becket "had the conscience of his time". I have misplaced my biography of Becket, but it is my firm recollection that he was the sole member of the English hierarchy to oppose the Constitutions of Clarendon, which attempted to bring felonious clerics under the jurisdiction of the civil courts. Even he initially approved the reform, only changing his position when instructed to do so by the Pope. Hardly qualification to be described as having "the conscience of his time".

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 4:33pm GMT

"At heart this issue is no more a legitimate issue of conscience than were the arguments of the 19th century US slave-owners and their apologists, who argued - and argued, Biblically-speaking, correctly - that Leviticus, that great Rorschach test of personal belief and prejudice, firmly sanctions - indeed enjoins - the ownership of slaves. To these people, and indeed to any "strict constructionalist" of church/state relations, the 13th amendment to the American Constitution - the abolition of slavery – may be seen as unconscionable interference with religious freedom. Should such "conscience" be respected, simply because it may be sincerely held? Of course not. And in the case of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, particularly given its recent history of concern for the juveniles in its care, an answer is not difficult to find."

If it can be shown that the RC claims of conscience do involve a positive trampling on the human rights of gays and lesbians or of adoptees, this would justify State coercion. But this would need to be argued.

The Becket legend is crumbling -- I admit my ignorance. Still, even if you are right, the dilemma dramatized in "Murder in the Cathedral" has a permanent validity.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 10 February 2007 at 6:17am GMT

Murder in the Cathedral! the story of the Kings lover who is supposed to be his friend and support, but turns against him, is of course a drama - but beware of dramatizations!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 10 February 2007 at 9:49am GMT
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