Comments: Pope comments on Equality Bill

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.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 7:16pm GMT

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.

Posted by peterpi at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 7:48pm GMT

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?

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 8:29pm GMT

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

Posted by JPM at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 8:44pm GMT

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!]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 8:53pm GMT

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.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 9:56pm GMT

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 of Mechelen and Primate of Belgium said that homosexuals were like anorexics only a fortnight ago on Belgian TV, for example:

Mexico's Cardinal Barragan said just two months ago that gay people will never enter heaven:

Evidently, the Heilige Vater has some way to go to put his own house in order before criticising a sovereign state such as the United Kingdom for dealing withing its own bad history of persecution of its gay minority.

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 9:58pm GMT

'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.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 10:26pm GMT

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."


Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 10:41pm GMT

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.

Posted by penwatch at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 10:52pm GMT

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 them to do so. If the Pope was speaking out in favour of the legislation wouldn't you be pointing to his moral standing as support for the cause? 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?

What I'm trying to say is that I think we need to be careful to be consistent, and not selectively object to a message when we disagree with the content. Disagree with the content of his message, by all means, but denying his leave to deliver it approaches an ad hominem argument and makes us look afraid of the debate.

Fr. Aaron Orear SCP

Posted by Fr. Aaron Orear at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 11:47pm GMT

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?

Posted by Ren Aguila at Monday, 1 February 2010 at 11:54pm GMT

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 few homosexuals within his own organisation and - like the Church of England hierarchy - continue sticking his head in the sand and pretending they're not there. Such duplicity! "Those things that are now in the dark, shall yet be brought into the Light".

The Pope's addiction to 'natural law' obviously has not yet been brought up to speed with what today's understanding is of the Gay Community. Perhaps when the beatification of John H. Newman takes place this year, the Roman Catholic Church will be persuaded to come out of the closet on the issue of same-sex Love.

I long for the days of Good Pope John XXIII. There was a real Saint of the Church Universal.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 12:27am GMT

"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 different, are still bearers of the Divine Image and Likeness?

Be assured, when the Pope suports any actions towards justice, many of us Anglicans, as fellow Christians, do support him. On the other end of the spectrum, where the Ugandan Government is proposing acts of violence, not only against gays but their familes who try to support tham - many Church Leaders are in the habit of mainatining a discreet SILENCE, which may be even more subversive of the Gospel ethic of justice for all.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 12:41am GMT

" “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 (and some of our very own Bishops at times are prone to forget this) is based on the three-fold polity of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. There is no 'Magisterial Rule' for us - only the patronage of Christ, whose Body we claim to inhabit and whose Lordship we acclaim.

'Reason' in this context, has a connotation of shared wisdom, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit; but shared, not imposed by one person - even if he claims unique succession from Peter. There were, after all, Twelve Apostles - not to mention Saint Paul, who was possibly the greatest of them all, and was a frequent challenger of the theology of Peter. The 'Magisterium' factor is one reason why the Church is no longer ONE. Let us hope that the Church of England never has cause to institute yet another 'Magisterium' - to the detriment of the sort of collegiality suggested by Christ's calling of the Twelve.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 1:06am GMT

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?

Posted by Charlotte at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 3:11am GMT

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

Posted by Murdoch at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 6:10am GMT

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 spout this pernicious nonsense.

Why should we?

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 6:19am GMT

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.

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

Posted by toby forward at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 7:44am GMT

I'm with Fr. Aaron Orear.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 8:31am GMT

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.

Posted by Achilles at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 9:08am GMT

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

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 9:14am GMT

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 of thing that I'd expect a theology based on good works rather than God's grace to bring up, so at least we know where we are with him.

Posted by PeterB at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 12:27pm GMT

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..”

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 1:49pm GMT

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:

If I am in Britain at the time I shall make a point of participating in one of the planned demonstrations. This does have some effect -- though usually just that of making him more entrenched.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 1:54pm GMT

"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, because I do think our ideas are better.

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. (Mind, I do think that church boundaries were ignored and the structure of the church imperiled by ++Akinola and company, but that's a side-effect of another issue.) There IS a theological argument to be made for the full inclusion of LGBT persons, but too often we simply say "Our church, our rules!" Quoting the 37th article is just a version of that, and of course ignores the fact that there are plenty of Roman Catholics in the UK for whom the Pope is spiritual leader, so to what degree does that portion of the 37th article apply post Catholic Emancipation Act anyhow?

Further, and the substance of my original point, how do we justify selective attention to the Pope? How can we say that he has no right to speak now, but he CAN speak against poverty next week? Either the church has a voice in political and social debate or it does not. We don't always have to agree with what the Pope says, but we can't with integrity turn him on and off when it pleases us.

Posted by Fr. Aaron Orear at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 2:00pm GMT

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 to 'pick up' a few churches to the apostolic constitution by showing 'leadership'.

If he is ill informed that is of course possible and likely the fault of his hierarchy both in the UK and elsewhere seeking to mislead him.

Or maybe it is rather that the pre-modern views about sex and sexual orientation that people who adhere to them simply cannot operate in the modern world without a degree of wilful distortion of facts.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 2:31pm GMT

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 work -- you will not, I suspect, see the Pope correcting himself. Rather we are likely to face yet another barrage of smug Besserwissen.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 4:35pm GMT

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.

Posted by Rebecca at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 5:01pm GMT

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.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 5:48pm GMT

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 (an American protestant) wrote this about The Declaration “The implications for the nature of a just government are less thoroughly treated” (Documents of Vatican II. Abbott English Edition p. 699). The Declaration on Religious Freedom fails to address the consequences of its own logic i.e. governments of, for and by the people, so necessary for religious freedom, must sometimes protect citizens from religious tyranny. One section of The Declaration stands out as its most underdeveloped idea. “…government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law …is never violated for religious reasons whether openly or covertly…” (Declaration on Religious Freedom (1) (6)). The political situation within the Churches is largely reactionary. Our Anglican communion has a cadre of fundamentalists. Benedict is eagerly advancing the canonization of the last pre-Vatican II Pope—part of a regressive rather than a progressive strategy. It pertains to those who are passionate about human and civil rights, Christian and secular alike, to work together for the common good. Doing such is leading to the discovery of common ground. Such work will also challenge churches to develop a largely underdeveloped theology of human rights. It will also help the Churches confront their own hypocrisy. –Rod Gillis

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 9:17pm GMT

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.

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 9:53pm GMT

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 effect recently; he finds "To Set Our Hope on Christ" to be theologically weak and wishes liberals could do better, but finds liberals disinclined to listen.

Part of the problem is that we feel hounded, and so find it easy to treat all critiques as attacks.(I am probably MOST guilty of this, recently.) Yes, it is wrong to do this, however understandable it may be. Groupthink is a real danger and only honest critique can help us avoid it.

If we fall back on ecclesiology, it may be that we hope by doing so to give ourselves time and breathing space to formulate the theology we need. Some would have had us out of the Anglican Communion within months of GC 2003. We would never have had the chance to reply if ecclesiology had not come to our aid.

Theology formulated in situations of danger, reactively, under intense pressure is bound to be poor theology; real thought requires protected space and quiet time for its development.

Still, I do agree that the theology has to be done. I myself am not qualified in any way to do it. There's a frustration!

Posted by Charlotte Pressler at Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 9:53pm GMT

"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 "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi" have something to say here, to us Anglicans? As in, "We consecrate Gene Robinson bishop, we find he IS an outstanding(ly faithful) bishop, we believe LGBTs may make fine bishops"? (Makes sense to me)

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 12:44am GMT

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.

Posted by IT at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 1:01am GMT

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.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 1:09am GMT

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, including what we have painstakingly learned in the past sixty years of research (and still yet will learn in the future), about those pesky queer folks. There is hardly any negative-basic natural law notion about the pesky queer folks that has not been undermined, contradicted by the available evidence. As it happens, queer folks - while a stable statistical minority in so very many of those large human and animal populations so far studied - are apparently utterly natural, occurring spontaneously for reasons which we understand as little as we empirically understand the full genesis of any point on the sexual orientation variance continuums. An open-minded appeal to ongoing research, these papal laments and warnings are not. Not. At all.

Worse, B16 is tying himself - and us by proxy? - into needless knots, all in order to maintain that straights are categorically better by his special and closed pre-definition (revelation, dontcha know?); and that after that, papal speak is the called and valorized protector of those high holier than everybody else privileges. If this referenced nearly any other sort of identifiable human community (other than those pesky queer folks) we should all be sad and embarrassed to hear the holy father spouting inferiority about others which so patently presumed his own high superiority, while splashing all manner of holy water over the mess he was making in front of all.

Alas. I'm with Fr Allison: We wait in bibilical spaces, for Peter to catch up with gospel. Again. Oh, how long, Jesus of Nazareth?

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 1:14am GMT

"Pope Comments on Equality Bill."


"Fish Delivers Scathing Condemnation of Desert."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 10:56am GMT

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.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 11:36am GMT

"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.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 12:05pm GMT

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 reason the Standfirmites hate Rowan – they see a liberal trying to appease the orthodox with the long term view of furthering the liberal agenda. In the UK Damian Thompson @ The Telegraph composes blog entries of distilled bile aimed at his own bishops – though not Damian’s beloved former bishop of Lancaster Patrick O’Donoghue who regularly attacked his fellow bishops and blamed “education” for making British Catholics so contumacious and independently minded. Yet it was RIW who pointed me to a series of interviews of Catholics leaving O’Donaghue’s cathedral Mass when not a one would support their bishop's teachings.

The majority of Roman Catholic adoption agencies in the UK let it be quietly known BEFORE the PM made his final decision – that they had always worked with gay and lesbian couples and would be happy to work within the new regulations – Damian’s Darlin’ O’Donoghue had a shock when his own agency decided 6-1 (he was the one) to accept gay couples. Read about it at this fascinating RC conservative blog

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 12:41pm GMT

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 as we saw in Riga Pride and elsewhere the gay issue can become a useful tool in the hands of neo-Nazi groups.

:Which sadly brings me back to Vincent Nichols who said the Pope’s words: “will find an echo in many in our country who are uneasy that perhaps one of the unintended consequences of recent legislation is to drive religious belief and practice into the sphere of the private only”. This “spin” reminds me all too keenly of the lies and deception he promulgated on loosing the adoption argument. Then, he claimed the RC Church was being undermined and attacked because it supported marriage and that every child deserved a mother and a father, knowing full well that for many years a large proportion of the children being placed by RC adoption agencies across the Uk had been with single parents, unmarried couples, divorced people and gay people.

There is more of a debate to be had on religious freedoms and how they impact on us all. There is an important judgment from the US Supreme Court about 1st Amendment rights and local control of animal sacrifices – there is much of interest in the case – including the hugely varying opinions of the Justices (even amongst those who agreed!)

In the end, the nine justices collectively concluded that freedom of religious belief was absolute while the freedom to practice the tenets of any faith were subject to non-discriminatory local regulations.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 12:45pm GMT

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 press (what little there is of it) mostly accentuates the “positive” and functioning a “PR” platform for the structure. –Chuck Inglis

Posted by Chuck Inglis at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 1:52pm GMT

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.

Posted by Andy at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 2:04pm GMT

What IT said (ditto JCF)

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 2:38pm GMT

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 not being called to account for these contradictions.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 3:22pm GMT

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!

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 4:00pm GMT

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 theology? Gasp, B16, oh dear. The theology has already been done, and that strongly, given how the critical scripture scholars, theologians and ethicists involved have paid proper attention to the changed science. Just because B16 chooses to ignore sexual orientation sciences in favor of flat earth (usually Medieval, or even Patristic?) revelation pseudo-science allegedly read directly from scriptures - well, he must answer for his own bad intellectual habits. Not urge us to emulate his spin doctoring.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 4:10pm GMT

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

Posted by john at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 5:26pm GMT

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.

Posted by Mary Clara at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 7:09pm GMT

[Stolen from Tobias Haller at Episcopal Cafe/The Lead]:

"the Natural Law the pope refers to ... is based on a completely circular argument: "the light of reason allows people to know right from wrong, leading to unavoidable truths, and those who do not agree lack the light of reason..." (or words to that effect.)"

With this blatant, disgracefully self-serving TAUTOLOGY, why does ANY thinking person waste a minute of time on so-called "Natural Law"---which is NOT natural, and "Law" only as designated by sinful men? (see re Uganda)

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 8:03pm GMT

I, too, find the "natural law" argument repellant, not only for the reasons you state, but because it's so flexible: When "natural law" seemingly supports the RCC, they use it enthusiastically. When it doesn't support the RCC, they abandon it and say humans should be above nature. To put it another way, they scream "Nature abhors homosexual acts". When scientists point out that isn't so, they scream "Humans are better than animals!"
Also, I had a visceral reaction to his "magisterium" argument. It is indeed Orwellian, but I had a cultural/group-memory reaction to his saying the magisterium "sets us free". It reminds me of a sign -- stolen, vandalized, recovered, and being restored -- that hung above a gate that allowed hundreds of thousands in, but few out, to a certain hellish place, proclaiming "Work sets you free."
Is the Pope even aware of the resonances his speeches give off? Doesn't he have media advisors to inform him that when he speaks to a massed group of UK bishops, his words spread beyond the bishops to the public at large? Or -- it's good to be the Pope -- does he not care? "Le monde c'est moi!"

Posted by peterpi at Wednesday, 3 February 2010 at 8:48pm GMT

The Lancaster story recounted by Martin Reynolds sheds new light on the freedom of conscience argument. State equality legislation could actually protect the freedom of conscience of Catholics who follow decency and common sense on acceptance of gay couples and their families. The only freedom of conscience the hierarchs seem to worry about is their own -- their freedom to control and silence the faithful.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 3:59am GMT

Yes, I enjoyed the website Martin Reynolds' cites enormously - especially the 'Liturgical Abuses' section where, hilariously, Christians of denominations other than the RC denomination are routinely referred to as 'unbelievers', who couldn't be trusted with a Tabernacle !

(I am laid up and think I must be running a temperature!)

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 11:15am GMT

Martin Reynolds, it seems, has very kindly accepted the Pope's generous offer on my offer in which I am not interested. I am not Roman Catholic, I am Anglican.

I am also (only slightly) surprised that somehow my support of the Pope's right to enter the debate, as the spiritual leader of a good number of British citizens, has been mangled into agreement with WHAT he said. Clearly the comments section of a blog is not the place for even the barest degree of subtlety. Let me repeat - I do not agree with what Pope Benedict said. I do, however, defend his right to say it (see also Voltaire), a right which has been under attack from people who should be spending their time refuting the content of his message.

And no, I'm, not convinced that the theological groundwork has been laid. That doesn't mean that I disagree with Bishop Robinson's consecration - if I disagreed with that I'd be HAPPY to see thin theology. It is precisely because I think there IS a valid, Biblical, sound theological position in support of ordaining and marrying openly LGBT persons that I find the situation frustrating.

Why is it necessary? Because we are, despite their best efforts, in communion with ++Akinola and company. Because they will keep attacking and so we need to keep refuting. Because some of the people who disagree about this issue are sitting in the pews beside us, have worked with us on altar guild or Sunday school, are our brothers and sisters. Because we should be better than the hammering, shouting, win-or-die mentality that is leveled against us. Because it's what we do. Not because it's easy, or makes us feel good, or helps us "win", but because it's a response of love when we're attacked with hate. Isn't that who we are?

And if we listen to the Pope and he doesn't listen to us? If we make the theological argument and it is ignored? Well, then we do it again. And again. And again. That's how the theology of the church is made, in repeated and exhausting point, counterpoint, argue, refute. The great heresies (and denying anyone's full humanity is a heresy) took years, decades, centuries to refute...and we're still refuting some of them.

Posted by Fr. Aaron Orear at Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 2:42pm GMT

Thank you to Mary Clara for spotting and correcting my reference to Franklin H. Littell.
(I’ve got to remember that spell check is not a remedy for impatience!). It is very interesting to look at how the problem identified by Littell continues to impact updated conversation in the churches with regard to issues of human rights and democracy. Here are some examples of research to make the point. “The Global Face of Faith: Politics, Human Rights, and Christian Ethics” by David Hollenbach a great treatment of a complex subject. Those interested in a Roman Catholic articulation of the Pope and the nature of Papal State visits (he is writing before Benedict) will find Hollenbach engaging. Hans Kung also has some interesting insights on the issue of rights in “Islam: Past Present & Future”. It is worth noting, that in both cases, the spirit of The Declaration on Religious Freedom looms large. Consequently the strengths and weaknesses of these two writers, for example, are grounded in the strengths and weaknesses of The Declaration. Kung, who is often lauded by liberals, for example, makes some very interesting comments in the examples he gives about rights in application to Abrahamic religions. “A homosexual Anglican priest who rightly opposes discrimination against homosexuals in the church and in principle has the right to hold the office of bishop should reflect self-critically whether he is not only legally but morally right simply to pass over biblically based objections to the practice of homosexuality thus consolidating discord in his diocese and risking a split in the word-wide Anglican Communion—a case from 2003.” (Kung, “Islam” Oneworld Books John Bowden trans. P. 631).Yikes! So, those of us in faith groups who want to advance human rights as something inalienable, and not in the first instance as something based on revelation, have a lot of work to do. The American/ Canadian baptismal covenant (dare I say “Anglican” baptismal covenant) demands that we will with God’s help “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.” One way of reading this is recognizing that rights are intrinsic to human being. What we require from God is help to work at this in society. Sometimes we just need help to follow the leadership of people of goodwill outside the church.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 2:53pm GMT

Fr Aaron,
maybe you could tell us which pro-gay theology you have read and I'm sure there are many knowledgeable people here who could point you to what you have not yet come across.
Personally, I recommend Tobias Haller's Reasonable and Holy.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 6:21pm GMT

"And no, I'm, not convinced that the theological groundwork has been laid."

To Fr Aaron O, I refer the following:

"I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God." Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, Pasadena, CA

Posted by JCF at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 2:09am GMT

Of course Joseph Ratzinger speaks for a significant minority of Nonconformist Christians in the UK., and must have his say -- and will, and does always manage to have his say.

But the Government and many other UK citizens are really not that bothered, about his predictable utterances.

For the record, I am still waiting to hear him speak up for, or at least, of the gay clergy and members of his own denomination with something approaching honesty and integrity.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 3:03pm GMT

I am sorry, Father to have dragged you across the Tiber when you are in fact happy just crossing the Niagara.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 6:05pm GMT

JCF - Perhaps you could be so good as to respond to what I actual write, rather than to the shadow enemy you assume you're "fighting"? I didn't SAY that the church should have waited. I'm glad it didn't. I SAID that the theology needs to be done. After or before, whichever, but it needs to be there. In fact, my first mention was the need to "underpin our position", which is expressly about supporting something already existing.

And the Mary quip is glib, but glib only goes so far. Luke says that Mary "pondered what sort of greeting this might be", questioned Gabriel and, when the shepherds rejoiced, "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart". Wasn't the Magnificat a theological response, drawing on scripture and experience to place the angel's astounding news into the context of humanity's encounter with God? All of this is a quibble, though, since scriptural accounts differ about Mary's understanding of her son's nature - John pictures her confidently telling the servants at the wedding to "Do whatever he tells you", as if she knows Jesus' power, while Mark seems to indicate that Mary (along with others in the family) thought he was insane. We just don't know what Mary's theology might have been.

Erika - I've not read Mr. Haller's book. It doesn't seem to have made many inroads yet in Canada, or at least not to the point that I'd heard about it (and I'm in a very liberal diocese). Augsburg Fortress, now sadly our only church bookshop, doesn't show it in a search of their web site. (It does, however, provide the unintentionally humorous "Sorry, the search for reasonable and holy did not match anything in the store.") I do see it on Amazon. I don't get into the city as often as I used to, so I've not seen it on any shelves. I gather it's recent, and sometimes these things take a while to migrate.

I've read Paul Gibson's "Discerning the Word", the "2 Views" book, "To Set Our Hope", some older and now rather outdated stuff, as well as a fair share of the statements of dioceses moving ahead with the blessing of same-sex unions. Those and the talk at synods are the most disappointing, tending to be all about justice. Justice talk is perfectly good but thin on placing the act theologically into the context of God's love expressed sacramentally in a mutually self-giving union. (Besides, who wants their wedding to be a justice event? It ought to be about a courageous act of love.) Perhaps Mr. Haller has done this, and I hope so. But so far I've not seen it.

The thing is, ++Akinola and company have rather a large lead on us, with many centuries of anti-gay (not to mention anti-woman) writing on which to draw. Pardon me for being impatient to catch up.

Posted by Fr. Aaron Orear at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 6:24pm GMT

Although I have had considerable access to the Norman Pittenger Reference Library and have read much between "Time for Consent" and dear Tobias' excellent work - I still have to agree with Fr. Aaron Orear.

In many ways I think we have only begun to scratch the surface of the theology and with one of our leading supporters, Rowan Williams now seeming to agree with Gary Williams', that his early work was crap and mostly "unsuported", I think we have much to do.

I do share Rowan's view (I think it is a deep and sad disappointment to him) that many - no most - respectable academics wont touch the gay issue with a barge pole and only a tiny number supported him by doing any work to underpin his claims.

We even have my favourite Church historian - Diarmaid MacCulloch - shrugging his shoulders somewhat and wondering if the Church is not for ever going to be stuck with homophobia!

No, no, there is much to do - and "the convinced" should not be so complacent or dismissive of those who think so.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 8:07pm GMT

You want "doing the work", Fr Aaron? You want "underpinning"?


It's been done. It's called "The Faithful Life and Holy Episcopal Ministry of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson."

If +Gene's vocation---as lived out by a frail fellow-sinner, amidst so many unasked-for trials (FAR beyond the usual trials of any/every bishop)---doesn't "do the work", then NOTHING will. Period.

[Sometimes, "glibness" has been a virtue, IMO. Everything from "Let there be Light" to "Let my people go" to "Talitha Cumi" to "Take, Eat". YMMV.]

Posted by JCF at Friday, 5 February 2010 at 8:29pm GMT

Martin Reynolds "many - no most - respectable academics wont touch the gay issue with a barge pole"

Well, there's Marilyn McCord Adams with her background in Scholastic Theology - Regius Professors of Divinity are generally fairly respectable academics; Jeffrey John was a respectable academic when he used to teach NT in the Oxford Theology Faculty; James Allison's NT work is respectably academic too; Diarmaid MacC has a good deal to say about sexuality in his field of church history; (and Rowan W was once on the side of the angels when he was respectably academic)...these are not intellectual or theological lightweights, are they?

Posted by Fr Mark at Saturday, 6 February 2010 at 9:21pm GMT

Perhaps Martin Reynolds should just buy a copy of the most recent Roman Catholic 'Tablet', which gives an excellent apologetic with various Roman Catholic theologians' views on the need for a new and inclusive understanding of human sexuality. No doubt many R.C.s are still relying on B16's pronouncements about the supposed infraction of 'natural law' by the LGBT community. However, the Tablet is now disposed to offer a different and challenging aspect on this important subject. and ought to be applauded for its perspicacity - as well as its approach to theological renewal.

We Anglicans are not the only Christians struggling to come to terms with the need for a review of the theology and spirituality of the place of homosexuality and gender equality as part of God's plan for the world. Many Roman Catholic leaders are engaged in the formation of theological arguments which seek to overcome their Church's out-dated magisterial statements and policy on the matter.

It is significant that many Roman Catholic Clergy and Religious are earnestly look forward to the day when their Church will abandon its current hypocritical stance on gender and sexuality. When Rome eventually moves on this, and certain other human-related justice issues, it may be that the goal of Christian Unity will become more than just a remote possibility

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 8 February 2010 at 2:19am GMT
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