Comments: opinion

Welby is very impressive. Wills is right about papal incestuous mutual canonization. Milbank should not use this kind of language:'we have the wrong form of paternalism.. We need instead the right kind of patrician legacy, which promotes the growth of virtue... Simply giving more money to the poor... won't resolve the issues...' The anti-modern crusade of Radical Orthodoxy was a terrible mistake, and it hangs like a pall over anything its representatives now say.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 12:30pm BST

Indeed, John Milbank's piece led me to wonder whether he saw getting made redundant because one's employer was in financial difficulties as a sign of personal vice, and 'the church' as not including poor Christians seeking justice for themselves and those around them.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 5:46pm BST

As an inveterate anti-modern myself (though more by way of Latour), I applaud Milbank's piece. I do think it's worth reading in the context of the whole essay, which is available free in pdf format with the rest of the book (see the link at the end of the article). Milbank is one of the few really compelling theological voices in the Church of England at present, and it would be wise to take what he has to say seriously, even if you disagree with it. Arranging bloody gobbets of his prose to look like he's saying something he isn't doesn't help either. Milbank makes it pretty clear that he sees 'virtue' as a quality that belongs to communities and to societies, and not just to individuals. It is perhaps worth asking whether we live in a virtuous society, accepting that neither the state nor the market can be a substitute for bonds of reciprocity. It is worth asking too how the church can "provide a way for the social dimension to subsume and transcend politics and economics," not as an alternative to state and/or market solutions, but as a means of going beyond them.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 6:49pm BST

Having read the whole of John Milbank's essay, I'd call it historically ignorant, stupid and at times down-right creepy. For a start, it ignores the evidence of nearly twenty centuries that Christian charity on its own simply doesn't work in providing all with a decent standard of living. The welfare state came into being precisely because voluntary associations didn't provide enough to prevent people from starving or dying prematurely. And a statement like the following would get red ink if I read it in a history essay:

"For we need to face the fact that people’s capacity to endure and survive poverty has declined...As part of this phenomenon, the unmeasured decline in working class education is a cause for real concern. Literacy was higher when people did these things for themselves."

If it's unmeasured, how does he know there's a decline? And when does he believe that literacy was higher?

Milbank also shows a reflexive hostility to the state that reveals his own prejudices, saying about children being taken into care:

"We need rather to ask searching questions about quite how much nurturing and educational responsibility over children we hand to a state that increasingly has no goals save its own economic power, and no interest in the person save as an atomised and preferably gender-neutral (and so all the more disembodied and abstracted) cog in a well-oiled machine."

This completely ignores the fact that social services are keen to keep children within their extended family if it's possible or to get them permanently adopted if that's not feasible. And the "gender-neutral" suggests that the real problem for Milbank is that social workers don't share his own prejudices about how children ought to be brought up.

And finally, when he says "Instead, we should all be flourishing and contributing and receiving rewards in terms of our ability, capacity and virtue", I have to reply that I really don't want Professor Milbank deciding (or indeed anyone else) deciding who is "virtuous" enough to receive support. If he wants a return to the Victorian age and the concept of the deserving and the undeserving poor, he should at least come out and say so, because that's largely what he seems to be advocating.

Posted by magistra at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 11:09pm BST

Curious, should temple in the next to last paragraph "the temple legacy of long reports" be capitalized?

Milbank has some insights to share but his proposals -- at least as given here -- worry me.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 12:16pm BST

I second magistra's points.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 3:00pm BST

I sadly agree with Sprite that Radical Orthodoxy either was a terrible misstep or contains so many pre modern unchallengeable assumptions at its core that it simply isn't the answer to whatever the question was that called it into being. Seems to me everything coming out of RO is simply too laden with parti pris that it is difficult to take anything they say seriously. This is not to say there is no critique to be made of modern welfare states. The difficulty is in undertaking this without becoming followers of Hayek, albeit unwittingly.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 4:14pm BST

The Roman Catholic Herald comes out of the interview with Mr. Summerskill badly.

It loses my sympathy, yet he manages to be kind, gracious and reflective throughout. The RC denomination comes across as weak and pathetic.

However, the readers' comments show the true anti-gay, vindictive nature of Cardinal O'Brien and many RC leaders; and it would appear some of their camp followers.

I wish Andrew Copson good luck when he appears in the next edition - the readership have been warned, that he too, is gay !

Posted by Laurence at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 4:56pm BST

I have reread the Catholic Herald (correct title) article again having first read it when it first came out. I do not recognise your criticisms of it. Ed West and Ben Summerskill both seem to me to have held a proper, respectful grown up conversation, which I as a gay friendly catholic found interesting, and informative, pro-viding me with much food for thought ( not all of it comfortable) as to how a better dialog could take place. This seems to me to be a good initiative, and I expect Andrew Copson will give as good as he gets! I have to say, I wonder how much sympathy for what you refer to as the 'RC denomination' you had in the first place.

Posted by ian at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 5:53pm BST

I saw what Laurence saw, in the [Roman] Catholic Herald. I found the presumptiveness that Mr Summerskill would see himself as the Destroyer of Religion (or Roman Catholicism in particular) *mind-boggling*. To that publication, LGBT Roman Catholics (at least those who don't subscribe to compulsory celibacy) seem to be *invisible*. Kyrie eleison!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 11:16pm BST

Those who didn't find the Catholic Herald interview entirely satisfactory will surely not like this commentary on it:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 11:23pm BST

This statement from Summerskill's interview said it all: "Lesbians and gay people in the Church of England might be dissatisfied with what it’s done, but it’s a church that wrestled with these issues. For a gay Roman Catholic, there is no acknowledgment that there is a community of interest within the Church."

Anglicanism offers more to LGBTs than Roman Catholicism, though not as much as the Quakers and Unitarians.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 3:51am BST

Simon, that article is absolute staggering in its tone. The Catholic Church has routinely attacked homosexual men, by name, even after death, and done so ex cathedra. The obvious example is Philip Tartaglia's vile attack on David Cairn, an attack which was so popular amongst his fellow Catholics that he was promoted as Keith O'Brien's successor. To then smugly say that good Catholics shouldn't do this is just counter-factual.

What it boils down to is that Catholics think that rich, powerful men should be able to behave as they wish, but it's open season on the rest of us. Which is their choice, but they shouldn't claim that they are following Jesus in doing so.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 7:43am BST

"Even if Stonewall gets all the things it wants on its wish list (and they have indeed made astonishing progress of late), does this mean that things are going to change for the overwhelming majority who are not homosexual and who are not very bothered about homosexuality?"

No, it isn't! That's what we've been saying all along! The religious and conservative battle against gay people is completely pointless. Nothing will change for most of society.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 8:27am BST

It will only change for those whose very existence (and religion) is DEFINED by keeping us LGBTs down. It is THEY who (ironically!) make "homosexuality the defining issue of our age".

Give us our equality---I should say, "Restore to us our God-given equality"---and we essentially Go Away.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 9:13am BST

I am a longtime reader of the Catholic Herald, I was given this task as a penance many years ago, and have to say that both opinions expressed here are accurate.

The article is indeed "staggering in its tone" while at the same time for those who know this journal it was surprisingly more " respectful and grown up" than anything hithertofore.

Posted by Fr Alan-Bury at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 11:18am BST

With regard to the alleged silence on the part of Church leaders concerning William and Catherine "living in sin" didn't the Archbishop of York reportedly say that there is an old Ugandan proverb that "You taste the milk before you buy the cow"? Rather than criticise would it not be better to rejoice that they are now married and happily expecting their first baby.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 12:40pm BST

Father David,
I think most of us couldn't have cared less how long they had been living together and, yes, we're happy for them that they're going to have a baby.

But that doesn't explain the passionate anti-gay crusade that is supposedly all about sexual morality, yet the same passion does not appear to be applied to anything straight people do - with the exception of paedophilia.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 15 July 2013 at 12:45pm BST

I find Abp's glossolalia slightly scary. He seems to say that he speaks not just some gibberish but foreign tongues unknown to him (in which case someone should tape-record the remarkable phenomenon).

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 6:04am BST

ian, you may not like it, but I will NEVER call or in any way imply the RC denomination * 'is' 'the Catholic Church'. It simply is not.

I have been educated in the Creeds and Scriptures; AND I will not be casual as many seem to be, about the nature of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostsolic Church.

Scould away !

* - Church of Rome if you prefer,(I am very happy with that factual name)

Posted by Laurence at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:30am BST

If Archbishop Justin does indeed speak in an unknown foreign tongue rather than "gibberish" then it is surely xenolalia rather than glossolalia? Can' t imagine Rowan ever speaking in tongues even though he was a great linguist. Though come to think of it Welsh must sound to some rather like speaking in tongues and a great many of his mighty words flew over the heads of many of us!

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:52am BST

I think it is more than slightly scary that we have an ABC who speaks in tongues. What next - casting out demons? This must call the process of crown appointments into question. Most of his flock will consider his behaviour at the very least strange and a bit creepy.

Posted by Will Douglas Barton at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 7:18pm BST

Casting out demons -- of course! JP2 did it, and the new pope seemed to be at it on Pentecost Sunday.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 9:59am BST

This kind of irrational conduct smacks of something worthy of the 'desert 'fathers' '.

It makes it hard to take the words and deeds of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of Rome hard to take seriously, in our century.

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 18 July 2013 at 6:39pm BST
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