The heathen at the gate

(First published in The Catholic Herald on 12 February 2010)

So for the time being crisis is averted. It would seem that the combined efforts of the Lords Spiritual, our bishops, and the big gun of the Pope himself have led to the withdrawal of the offending clauses in the Equality Bill. Religions will retain the freedom to run their operations and appoint staff in line with the criteria of their respective beliefs, with a much reduced danger of legal challenge.

But only for the time being. I repeat this because we are a lazy lot. It gives me little pleasure (well, in truth, just a touch of schadenfreude) to mention that I have pointed out in this newspaper over several years that little by little our fundamental liberties were being eroded ­ and that one day the crunch would come. In each case the change has been small, always defended as a necessity of the time, and cumulative. Now that we have at last woken up ­ some of us perhaps still bleary-eyed ­ maybe we can take some action.

The first screech of the alarm clock loud enough to break the deepest slumber was the question of adoption agencies: the grotesque demand that Catholic agencies should be prepared to place the young with gay couples. I am not going to argue against the effectiveness of single-sex parents (the issue is not clear-cut) but against the fist of socialist totalitarianism thrust in the face of the Church’s deep and strongly held principles.

But some of us put the alarm clock on hold and returned to sleep ­ this time woken by the second screech of a further attempt to manhandle (or, given the involvement of Harriet Harman, perhaps I should say womanhandle) the rights of religion. Will that get us out of bed?

The Pope, in addressing our bishops on freedom, used the unhelpful phrase “natural law”. Natural law is a technical term; what he meant was the native ability of all decent people to recognise the ways in which we should naturally live our lives in order to flourish as human beings. For all the fashionable ills of our society, decent people do recognise that they are answerable, at least to themselves, for their behaviour, that we have a duty to each other ­ particularly the poor and the aged, ­ that we have a right to have religious beliefs or none, that we have rights to free association, that human life has a uniquely sacred status, that the misuse of sexuality brings tragedy, that stable marriage and family are the essential units of a good society. That list is by no means exhaustive, but note that in every case I am referring to values taught by the Church ­ often in the teeth of the ungodly.

We have carelessly allowed the Church to be associated with the negative images of prohibition. Our focus must move away from looking at all the things which we can get wrong, and be applied to the positive values. That way we speak to man’s aspirations rather than to his fears. What is historically certain is that our continued cataloguing of sin has not led to more orthodox behaviour. But it has led to our ill repute, and our rejection in the marketplace. I will settle for John XXIII’s remarks at the beginning of the Council: “Nowadays, however, the spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”

Why is it that in any relevant matter I find a punchy comment from the British Humanist Association (who have brought prejudice, selective evidence and fallacious reasoning to new heights) and no equally forceful statement from us about how humans have to live in order to flourish, and what the Church is contributing to this? It may well be that the Catholic Union, so inspiringly discussed by James Bogle in the 5 February issue, will play an effective part here. But we in our daily lives and conversations have our responsibility of witness. So it may be useful to look briefly at some relevant issues.

Let’s clear out of the way one question which can be distracting. Catholic schools are, for the most part, publicly funded. No one with an eye for the evidence will deny that Catholic schools do a first-rate job educationally and in terms of social integration. But why should the taxpayer be funding religious organisations with which they may not agree? Surely, if Catholics want their own form of schooling, they should fund it for themselves.

Good thinking. I happen in my old fashioned way to object to the killing of around 200,000 babies a year. But the tax system works as a general pool from which the public costs are taken. As a result I am paying for the slaughter. We could make a bargain: I stop paying for killing babies, you stop paying for Catholic schools.

Another distraction to be exorcised is the idea that this is an issue about homosexuality, introducing a fashionable and emotional example is an old rhetorical trick. The issue is not homosexuality but whether a given lifestyle (and there are plenty of examples) is inconsistent with the strongly held principles of a religion, or, for that matter, those of any other organisation. I am not expecting an invitation to take up a post with the British Humanist Association any time soon, but I do not accuse them of unfair discrimination.

We also need to be quite clear about what we mean by a free society. The Equality Bill, despite its name, is aimed at neither equality nor freedom. It is an instrument to serve a belief shared by a section of the population who, with the highest ideals, think that they know what is good for us. Unsurprisingly it is usually to be found in the ranks of the civil authorities, for that is the best vantage point to put such an agenda into action. They are very dangerous because they are sincere. Rogues will eventually be outed; virtuous fools can hide in their whited sepulchres. Nor am I nosing out a conspiracy theory; Harriet Harman is in her own words “engaged in an opportunity not only to build a new economic order, but a new social order as well”.

We have been in the grip of virtuous fools ­– the totalitarian socialism to which I referred above – for many years. Regulation has been piled upon regulation ­ for each new regulation breeds its own progeny until the body politic is white with its maggots. From wearing a small cross at work to blowing your nose while halted in a traffic jam, every item of our lives is regulated. Pygmy bureaucracy is swollen, and nonentities who could not climb a dunghill can trammel our lives. Every word that we say is weighed: every word that we write must be measured against the latest doctrinaire fad.

And is it succeeding? Our class differences are greater than ever; child poverty has increased; paper qualifications have replaced education; we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe; the stable married family has been downgraded and disadvantaged; our jails… no, you don’t need me to answer the question.

How do you see a free society? You can take the route of the virtuous fool and attempt to engineer society through force majeure into equality. Your aim will be a society of flatline mediocrity with a universal ethos (to be updated or even reversed according to the latest fashion) by periodic referenda. Such a society has about as much chance of success as a Soviet collective farm and will cause as much distress in its attempts at formation.

Or you can have a society which rejoices in a multiplicity of opinions, rewards merit, supports real need, encourages freedom of association and promotes harmonious integration. Such a society would, of course, have its rules, and its checks and balances, but in every case there would be a heavy onus on the lawmaker to demonstrate how the laws do no more than serve the common good and ensure the maximum freedom consistent with the freedom of others. Of course that society will never come to fruition either ­ until we have abolished Original Sin. But at least we can work towards it. And here I am with the Pope when he says that no social system can ever work unless it is founded in the heart of man.

(Some you who know my style will be surprised by the use of the word “gay” in para 3. You will know that I never use the term since it is a value judgment , just as I never used the word “queer” for the same reason. The word crept in after the ms had left my hands.)

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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35 Responses to The heathen at the gate

  1. Superview says:

    Well, I guess most contributors to the blog have already seen Quentin’s piece, being regular readers of the CH, so maybe the absence of comments represents a wide consensus, but I hope not.
    Since joining the Second Sight blog I have been continually impressed with the range of topics to which Quentin has brought thoughtful and considered views, presenting the reasonable and the controversial in a balanced and yet colourful way.
    In this case, far from mis-using his manuscript as he implies, his sub-editor has let him down. He should have saved him from his imitation of a Daily Mail rant, when every sensible person knows that to read the Mail is to live in a fictional world of the fevered imagination, something similar to the planet Zog.
    Maybe some have at this point anticipated that my views on the question of equality legislation differs from Quentin’s, so I should add that I am probably more than 50% with him – in parts rather than the drift of his article. There are clearly circumstances where with a universal notion of ‘equality’ there is not an equivalence of outcomes, such as those for a child placed with either a conventional mother and father or a same sex couple. But I can also see that for many children in care it is one or the other or nothing. When it becomes a conflict about the ‘rights’ of same sex couples inevitably we lose sight of a child’s needs.
    It is mainly in paragraphs 11–14 where a new man emerges, not before seen, that I beg to differ. It is Quentin from the bunker. I may be wrong in small detail, but from memory, the bishops, cardinals, and the pope, condemned the Equality Bill because it would ”require them to employ ‘women, homosexuals, and transvestites’ in positions that offended their religious beliefs”. For Quentin this is ‘socialistic totalitarianism’.
    Let’s take the easy case. You are a woman. You have seen your gender experience unfair discrimination for not just decades, not just centuries, but millennia. You are the equal of any man in intellect, character, morality and citizenship, but the Church you belong to says that you cannot have any of the top jobs because they are for men, even though they are not jobs that require masculine strength or manly qualities. You should not question this decision because, they say, Christ said they are for men. It is tradition that they are for men. That it is ludicrous to suggest that Christ, in the age and the culture into which he was borne, could have gone on the road with six men and six women if he wanted, is irrelevant. The top jobs are for men. We men say this with the fullest puffed-up authority we can muster.
    Change context. You are a politician in a modern democratic society. You are a woman even. You believe that unfair discrimination is wrong and so do most of the electorate. But you have a group of people who say they believe in unfair discrimination. Indeed, it is their religion to believe in unfair discrimination. What do you do?
    The edition of the Catholic Herald of 13 March 2009 was the first I had read for decades. It reported that Bishop John Magee, a Roman Catholic bishop of the Cloyne diocese in Ireland, had resigned ‘in the wake of his handling of the child abuse scandal in his diocese.’ We know now that this was the tip of the iceberg in Ireland. There have been revelations in other parts of the world of child abuse by clerics and bishops and archbishops of this same Church (the distinction between abusive action and their cover-up is not recognised). It is a Church that boasts of its centralisation of all power and authority; nothing happens without the Vatican knowing about it and approving. To the secular world, all the evidence therefore pointed to an institution that was corrupt right through to the top. The CH also carried the story of, to quote the headline, ‘Raped girl’s abortion ‘a crime in the eyes of Church’ ’, the utterly tragic story of a nine year old girl who had been raped and was expecting twins. Her mother and the doctors who performed the abortion in the fourth month were, with the full authority of the Church, excommunicated. To a great many people across the world, and many Catholics, this was some distance from the natural, human compassion to be shown in these circumstances: Who were these people that they were so cruel and ignorant? In contrast, further in, the paper reports sympathetically on the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, including a bishop who is on strong evidence a Holocaust denier.
    In another section there was criticism by a Cardinal of President Obama’s reversal of the ban on stem cell research, which is widely supported by his electorate. The letters page offered a lead letter that rejected evolution and reminded that a Pope speaking infallibly had asserted that Genesis is to be believed in every detail. And so on….
    Quentin, on his better days, has remarked ruefully on the claim by John Paul II that the Catholic Church has always been a defender of religious freedom. The truth is that it claims for itself what it has denied to others (and one suspects it would still deny if it could). So my final observation is this, that we try and see ourselves as others see us, and recognise that our Hierarchy’s claim to be morally superior than our politicians is far from wholly born out by the facts. Discrimination is a fundamental part of being human, but we need to see that unfair discrimination is anti-Christian and we should not, yet again, be left behind for centuries before we recognise what it means.

  2. st.joseph says:

    Sorry Superview to disagree with your opinion on Quentin ,I find them very exact.If you are speaking about the Ordained Priesthood when you say woman are discriminated you probably dont understand the Ministry.God has raised women up by the example of His Blessed Mother.That wouldnt go amiss in todays age-the world might be a better place if females took Her as an example. I am not speaking only as mothers.
    I have not made any comments over the last two subjects, so as I would have said a lot if I had been here .I am not going to comment on individuals, so if I can be forgiven to take up some space now..I will just put a few points of reference down.
    First on ‘How we should think about sex ?-2. Perhaps one would look into the web site of http://www.linacre.org/contra.html Contraception and Catholic Sexual Ethics.’..not just the premier Christian bioethics institute in Britain but one of the finest in the world,Christian or secular .
    Second this might apply to The sins of our Fathers, Quentin makes some very pertinent points.I would like to add to this by quoting an artice in the Daily mail- in 2008. which I am editing as it is so long. The point you posted Superview on the Mail you may be right, but however what it says is backed up by the Catholic Herald a report by Simon Caldwell 9.2.09.
    First the Mail.
    Scientists have found that gender-bender chemicals-increasingly contaminating the environment,our food,our water and our bodies are also having a bizarre effect on common birds. Modern scientists have discovered that starlings songs contain similar patterns to human speech. Scientist at Cardiff University have discovered that the male starlings foraging for worms at a sewage treatment works in South-West England have been subtly changed by being contaminated by oestrogen from the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) The female hormones-present in womens urine, and passing through the sewage treatment unaffected caused the part of the brain that controls their song to grow much bigger.The Mail report goes on further to speak of changing sex in Gulls where female s have begun nesting with each other. and so on. The Catholic Herald is too long to report, but the message is. Quote.It is claimed that there was substantial evidence available to show that the enviroment was being flooded with synthetic female hormones because of widespread use of oral contraceptive and morning after pills. The devasting result has been a “devastating” increase in male infertility and in the rising numbers of couples struggling to conceive children. In Britain, an estimated one in eight couples is considered to be infertile or sub-fertile with people increasingly relying on in vitro fertilisation to have a family. un quote’ .Pedro Castellvi, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, said that the Pill “has for some years had devastating effects on the enviroment by releasing tonnes of hormones into nature” through female urine.
    We have sufficient evidence to argue that one of the considerable factors contributing to male infertility in the West with its ever decreasng spermatozoa is enviromental pollution caused by the by- products of the pill,”he said.It has also been reported that fish feeding near sewage has changed sex and birds feeding from some river estuaries, have developed sexual abnormalities. The International Agency for Research of Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organisation reported on 2005 that the oral preparations of combined oestrogen-progestogens common in birth control pills are classified in a group of carcinogenic agents. The sad thing in all this if it is to regulate fertility these are not the products required said Mr Castellvi. The natural means of regulating fertility, Natural Family Planning, is equally effective and also respects the person.

    I agree with all this ,as I did a study as far back as 1984. To my mind this is one of the sins of our fathers and whilst it continues we are guilty .As Quentin says ‘we ought to wake up from our sleep.’
    The Bishop of Clifton is the Bishop for the Enviroment .The first responsibility is in his hands I have not been slow to tell him that, with respect of course.
    Nature will hit back at us if we abuse it.

    I could rack my brains out with Original sin but as Quentin says it is in all of us -now.

  3. RMBlaber says:

    I am afraid (I’m sorry, Quentin!) that I am more of ‘Superview’s’ mind here.

    Incidentally, can I say two things vis-à-vis the ‘gay’ issue? One is, that homosexuality is not a ‘lifestyle’, anymore than it is a matter of choice. Indeed, very often, it feels like a curse – although, as God made me, and all other gay and bisexual men and women this way, then surely we must accept that it is His gift – and so, too, must society and the Church.

    Secondly, the use of the term ‘gay’ is certainly not offensive to me, and nor is it offensive to other gays. Perhaps it’s offensive to you, in some way, Quentin. I realise that the meaning of the word used to be ‘lively; bright; sportive, merry; dissipated; of loose life; showy’ (Chambers), but as the origin is Old French _gai_, from Old High German _wâhi_, ‘pretty’, the slang meaning ‘homosexual’ was there from the beginning.

    It was, perhaps, foolish of the Government, and of Harriet Harman personally, to try and employ the coercive power of the State to force recalcitrant (as they would see it, ‘reactionary’) bodies like the Roman Catholic Church to accept gender and sexual orientation equality with regard to employment law. One can only hope they have more success when it comes to persuading the Church not to disability or age discriminate.

    Natural law, the law of reason, would – if it were being applied in this instance – not favour the Pope or his bishops, but the Government. It was that well-known ‘totalitarian’, Immanuel Kant, who maintained, in his _Prolegomena to a Metaphysics of Morals_ and the _Critique of Practical Reason_, that human beings should never be treated as means, but rather as ends-in-and-of-themselves. How can the Church really claim to have a full respect for the dignity – indeed sanctity – of the human person (as the ‘imago Dei’), if it does not treat people equally, regardless of their race, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability?

    So, can we hear less about ‘socialist totalitarianism’, please? This Government has done a lot of things that threaten, or actually erode, our liberties – mostly in the realm of ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation that go far beyond what is called for in response to the actual (as opposed to imagined) threat. The Equalities Bill was not one of them. In the interest of cooling the temperature of the debate, and being more eirenic and constructive, I think such inflammatory terminology should definitely be avoided in future.

    The Government has plenty of other headaches, quite apart from feeling the ire of Catholic Herald columnists – a £180 billion deficit being not the least of them; the continued haemorrhaging of blood and treasure in Afghanistan being another, with whatever consequences our involvement there might have in terms of actually provoking the very terrorism we are seeking to subdue.

    Superview and I may not agree about stem cell research, but I find it hard to disagree with him about the case of the little girl who was raped. Her doctors and her mother were excommunicated, guilty of a ‘crime in the eyes of the Church’, while Bishop Richard Williamson, the Holocaust denying member of the St Pius X Society, is ‘de-excommunicated’? What better example of a Church with its values on upside-down?

    A human life is a human life, granted – no matter the circumstances of the conception – but the babies could not have been born in this case, for we are talking here about a 9 year old girl. The babies would have killed her, and would not have survived themselves. In the more general case, of the pregnant victim of rape – how can we condemn the victim who has an abortion, even if we cannot condone the act? It is, at the very least, understandable. Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner, to quote Mme. de Staël. If we can do it, surely God can? Can – and does.

  4. Ion Zone says:

    I agree with RM (see my last posts in the pre blog on sexuality) in that homosexuality is no more choice than a disability or skin-colour. My gay best friend was forced, at work, to help load the car of a man in a wheelchair, a car with homophobic bumper stickers. It is no less reasonable for the wheelchair-bound customer to demand that my friend has a relationship with a girl than it is for my friend to demand that he get up and walk.

    And really, with all the wars and murder of the world, is love the enemy we pick? It may be non-typical, but I defy you to find a great mind, a great artist, any great person, who conformed to what we consider normal. The enemies of the church have fallen into the same trap – we are their homosexuality, their non-whites, look at what they write, they feel, on a subliminal level, that they are attacking something strange. And it is this, beyond personal gain, that is the driving force of war and hate – ‘people who aren’t like us’.

    It is for this reason that I read the phrase “grotesque demand” twice, and saw the alternate meanings that could be attributed to that phrase. You may mean that the demand itself is grotesque, but that isn’t what they would read – and these are, very often, highly pedantic people who would delight in leaping upon such a phrase and argue what you meant for days on end, and then accuse you of ‘wriggling’ or ‘digging’.

    “The British Humanist Association (who have brought prejudice, selective evidence and fallacious reasoning to new heights)”

    It is phrases like this of which we need more. They make claims they possess a cold, high, logic denied to mere humans that comes paralleled with their beliefs (don’t accuse them of having beliefs unless you are ready for a verbal assault, though the madness of the claim is amusing).

    And let us never forget the birth of Reason, Reason with a capital ‘R’, amidst the chaos and iconoclastic destruction of the French Revolution, nor that these movements that, at the time, are specificity in the name of atheism (them and the Bolsheviks, among others) are quickly re-branded as a sort of ‘religious furore’ and quietly brushed aside.

    On Stem Cell research, I might add, there is a near limitless supply of adult stem cells available from umbilical cords, and the patient’s own body. These adult stem cells are, essentially, what they are trying to turn cancerous embryonic stem cells into.

  5. Ion Zone says:

    “Her doctors and her mother were excommunicated, guilty of a ‘crime in the eyes of the Church’”

    This should not have been so, I agree. abortion, as it was originality pushed through, should be a means of preventing this sort of thing – it is not, as the pro-abortionists claim, something that should be given to any women who wants one, rather it should be reserved for rape victims and people for whom giving birth or pregnancy would be dangerous physically or mentally, and it should be done as early as possible.

  6. Ion Zone says:

    Oh (triple post, I know, sorry – no edit button) I might add that I agree with Quinton on the things the ‘humanists’ have stolen from us, though they would call us ‘wrong\woolly-headed’ or even straight-out stupid for thinking that these values are not self-evident axioms. Also many, if not most of them, claim, outright, such things as being alone in their ‘perfect sanity’ and that they are the sole guardians of ‘free-thought’, claims they hold in common with gun nuts, fanatics, and cultists. They have even taken to calling themselves ‘Brights’ – which is a classical psychological indicator if ever there was one.

    They have also taken this ‘Spaghetti Monster’ business (an update of the ‘orbital kettle’ straw-doll fallacy) to the point it has become an actual organisation that holds mocking ‘sermons’, though, to be fair, most atheists think this is just as ludicrous as we do, the fact that there are now several ‘churches of atheism’ is something we can and must call up to shame them with.

    “Scientists have found that gender-bender chemicals-increasingly contaminating the environment”

    Indeed, but this is not the root of homosexuality, which has been around much longer than humanity. (See my previous requested links on the subject)

  7. st.joseph says:

    Ion Zone,did I say that it was? I believe in live and let live.People know the conseguences of their actions in many matters. I feel the same about homosexuals as hetrosexuals who parade themselves in a manner not fitting of the dignity of human beings. Brothels- prostitution- Gay clubs-pole dancing, hanging around toilets sex shops etc. If someone including homosexuals and hetrosexuals will parade themselves in such a manner with no self respect then they deserve the criticism they receive. I am sure there are plenty of homosexuals who find love with each other and conduct their lives in dignity. I am sure there are many who do.God will be their judge in the end.The church is not homophonic!But it can not accept a ‘buggery ‘act'( Sorry Quentin.) as it cannot accept masterbation.

  8. Horace says:

    Until recently it was normal for the GMC to allow retired medical practitioners to be exempted from the annual fee required to maintain their name on the Register but recently it was decided that this was a breach of ‘age discrimination legislation’!
    I think that this is simply an instance of ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences’. Luckily these consequences are more risible than seriously important.

    Similarly some of the potential consequences of the Equality Bill are obviously ludicrous and these should be repeatedly and forcefully brought to the attention of our legislators. However if they are clearly unreasonable and important they should, if possible, be tested in the courts.

    If all else fails then perhaps we must remember the words of St Thomas More “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first. “

  9. eclaire says:

    Quentin says at one point that he is ‘with the Pope’. On this occasion, I must say, that I am with Quentin. A pleasant coincidence perhaps – well, for me, anyway.
    What Quentin writes above is spot on, though I do think it would be much more appropriate to refrain from using words such as ‘market place’ and ‘jobs’ when referring to the Church.
    Superview, I do not wish to antagonize you, but surely you must know that many women are not just equal to men in intellect, character and morality (what an insult!), but, indeed, are far superior to them (not that I think, for one minute, that that qualifies them to become popes, or priests for that matter -it has precious little to do with it).
    You write that the Church says women cannot have any of the top jobs. Allow me to correct you. The Church actually says that women cannot ‘have’ – if you will, ANY of the so-called, ‘jobs’ – within the priesthood, that is. They can, of course, become nuns, missionaries and saints and what’s wrong with these? Perhaps these callings are not high enough for some. One woman was chosen to be the mother of God. Beat that! You are right, however, when you write that these ‘jobs’ do not necessitate physical strength and that a prerequisite need not be the ability to grow a beard.
    You seem to read the Catholic Herald in a particular way. Your view of the Church is indeed sour and, if I may say so, I think you choose it to be so. The words ‘jump’ and ‘bandwagon’ come to my mind. It is so easy to condemn and be negative (and condemnation of evil is always necessary), however one should also try and understand the other side and make an attempt at seeing the full picture not just the part that suits us (easier said than done, of course). (I must add, here, that Quentin is particularly good at understanding the other side…perhaps just a little too good sometimes. Other religions make it a point not to worry their heads about what others think and they are greatly respected for it!)
    Members within the Church have made some dreadful mistakes, but despite this, Christ will not abandon His Church just as He didn’t abandon Peter. If the Church is good enough for Christ, then it should certainly be good enough for us.

  10. Ion Zone says:

    St.joseph, I did not mention you except in the last paragraph of my first post! 🙂 I am sorry if you thought I meant you earlier on, this was not my intention, I was actually responding to Quentin with my thoughts on the interactions between homosexuality and homophobia – indeed, I stopped short of accusing the government of pointing out our faults while allowing the BNP to continue its agenda of racist and homophobic hate, though they are now being forced to take on black and Asian members (There’s a good idea for a book or memoir), hence the reference to their attempts at silver-tongued PR.

  11. Superview says:

    The idea that the ministry of the priesthood is uniquely for men requires a convincing justification for our age, more so when the age we now live in starts with an assumption that discrimination – for or against – has to be objectively justified. Two examples: The seats nearest the access point on a bus are nominated for those who have the greatest need. This is discriminatory, but it is seen as fair and right. I was a school Governor in Primary and High for over 30 years, and in the early period parish priests used to hold sway on the appointment of headteachers. This resulted in at least one unfairly discriminatory appointment that landed one of the schools with 15 years of deadwood. Now, there are bureaucratic rules (in the best sense) that the state has imposed to ensure bias is minimised and the best candidate has a chance. The only argument for discriminating in favour a male priesthood (and all the way up the food chain to the pope) seems to be that Christ chose men only to be apostles. Is there anything more? If not, and at risk of being accused of historicism, I simply make the point that this is to ignore the dominant culture of which Christ was a part.

    Women have been and are discriminated against in unfair ways on numerous specious grounds. We need only to reflect on the denial of the vote to them until recent times for a tangible example. I am, I hope, open to be persuaded that in a particular context discrimination can be justified, but the case against women priests seems to be completely devoid of any reasonable arguments. Of course, they won’t all be perfect, but then gender clearly doesn’t guarantee quality.

    I think, eclair, I am quite difficult to antagonise in argument (maybe if you called me rude names it might get a bit testy), and I would certainly not wish to find myself on the wrong side in arguing that women are ‘only’ equal to men. You baffle me further, however, by on the one hand asserting they are superior (‘far superior’ indeed) but on the other still believe they should be discriminated against in favour of inferior men. This would seem to be a special case of invincible logic. Yes, I am very critical of the Hierarchy. So often it/they seem to embody the well-known consequences of power, both in their appearance and their character. Is the Hierarchy the Church? I hope not. I have the impression that the people of the Church are much wiser, more compassionate, and more Christian than the Hierarchy understand.

    Éclair also queries my reading of the Catholic Herald. I used the articles from that edition to demonstrate why our claim to know more about morality than others is worthy of reflection. Had I chosen a paper hostile to Catholicism you would be making a different, and possibly more valid, point. Finally, you pose a really big question. Is the Church good enough for Christ? Can it ever be?

  12. st.joseph says:

    Superview. Maybe you ought to speak to God and tell Him he is discriminating against you as He didnt give you a womb!

  13. Ion Zone says:

    I take great offence at the idea that women are ‘far superior’ to men. Men and women are good at different things and have varied approaches. Feminism and masochism seem prone to extreme sexism – tribal anger. Equality does not mean crowning every woman a matriarch, though it does mean, most assuredly, that they are no longer exempt in any way from such things as picking up the bill at the end of a meal.

    Lets just end this man-hating ‘feminist’ rubbish.

  14. This proving a splendid exchange – and thanks to everyone who has attacked or defended me.
    I fear that I fall prey to the temptation to mention just a couple of issues.
    Superview, I would be hard put to imitate a Daily Mail rant.I don’t think I have knowingly picked up a Daily Mail in 40 years. So, if it’s a rant, do give me credit for a creative rant.
    RMBlaber, I am glad that you are not sensitive to the word “gay” for homosexuals. But, believe me the subject is a minefield – as I know from experience. “Homosexual” is safer, So I use it.
    Actually a very good, if somewhat different example, is provided by you styling my phrase “totalitarian socialism” as inflammatory. In fact it was and remains exact. We need socialism but it has an inherent vulnerability to becoming paternalistic, and then totalitarian. Similarly right wing views have an important contribution, but they have a tendency to become fascist. Whether the enormous increase in regulations, bureaucracy, data bases, surveillance and one-size-must-fit-all of recent years justifies the phrase “totalitarian socialism” is a matter of opinion on which we might legitimately disagree. But I trust that neither of us would catch fire in doing so,
    I am glad that you mention Mme de Staël. My kinsman, Charles, who led the assault on Ratisbon, would attend her salon. In fact she said “tout comprendre rend très-indulgent”. I don’t think anyone knows the origin of tout pardonner, which is really quite different. Tolstoy used the phrase, as you probably know, but it does not appear to have originated with him.

  15. A letter to The Times drafted today,23 February

    “In principle the idea of permitting Unitarian Churches, Liberal Synagogues etc to host Civil Partnerships (Times Feb 23) cannot be disagreed with because merely allowing something does not normally make it compulsory.
    The problem arises from the other parts of the Equality Bill. If the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 is amended as Lord Ali proposes then Religious premises will have to justify why they are not hosting Civil Partnerships and will be liable to be sued for “sexual orientation” discrimination. Similarly Local Authorities could refuse to allow churches to be registered for the celebration of marriage unless they also register for Civil Partnerships. In effect therefore Churches and Synagogues could find themselves being prevented from performing the Marriages they have performed for centuries merely because they do not want to perform the Civil Partnership ceremonies which have existed for less than a decade
    Lord Ali’s amendment needs to include a clause which makes it clear that no Church, Synagogue or Mosque, no Priest, Rabbi or Imam would be obliged to participate in a Civil Partnership. Without such a clause Religious Organisations would eventually find themselves forced to perform Civil Partnerships rather than merely permitted to do so.
    Sincerely
    Neil Addison (Barrister)
    National Director, Thomas More Legal Centre”

    Now tell me that I am unjustified in my “rant” against the creep of totalitarian socialism.

  16. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin, for that information.

    I may be very naive in my thinking- but tell me and put me out of my agony. I somehow get the feeling that
    the Bill is subject to causing Religious Organisations to be committing blasphemy if forced to perform Civil Partnerships .The law would be discriminating against God. I don’t know where we stand with blasphemy laws-but it is a thought that is going round and round in my head- perhaps you can inform me and put me straight. Thank you.

  17. St Joseph, I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know the common law offence of Blasphemy was abolished in 2008.
    One could of course make a case that claiming that a civil partnership is an actual Christian marriage flies directly in the face of God’s words in Scripture, and therefore a blasphemy with a small “b”.

  18. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin. Perhaps there is a Lawyer on the blog who can shed some light on the subject.

  19. claret says:

    I thought I might re-enter the arena at this point!(Test the oestrogen polluted water so to speak.)
    On the subject of women clergy has it not already been pronounced somewhere in the archives that there is no legitmate theological reason as to why we cannot have women clergy except that Pope John Paul said we cannot for all eternity? And this raises the question of when something is inafllible without actually being declared infallible. Confused? So am I.
    This confusion is added to when I also read that the Bishops in the USA several years ago united in saying something to the effect that ‘women should be permitted to play a full part in the Church.’ Fine, except that the statement opposes the fact that women are not permitted a full part in the life of the Church because……they are women. Something of a slight contradiction here.
    On the matter of the equality bill I have not read it and have to rely on the Daily Mail for my scant knowledge of it but I am condident in saying that it contains nothing about the greatest inequality of them all. The provision of private education for the children of those whose incomes are above the national average by some distance. In this the Catholic Church is disgracefully compliant.
    Is there some possibility that the reason that this , the largest and most damaging of all the inequalities, is because it is MP’s who as a body are disproportinately among the ones who make use of this inequality for their children? ( Levied on their expenses too I would not be surprised to discover.)

  20. Claret, I don’t know whether the 1998 commentary by Cardinal Ratzinger on Professo Fidei will help you, But here it is.

    “A similar process can be observed in the more recent teaching regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. As the prior example illustrates, this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.”

    I don’t personally have any problems with women priests, though I would object to the State laying down that we had to have them for the sake of non discrimination.

    Here’s an enigma for you. I have a granddaughter who needs an A+ in Engliah Literature in order to take up a university offer. Consequently I coach her privately once a week. Now it is only by good fortune that she has a grandfather who has the time, the knowledge and the proximity to give her this special help. Is this discriminatory? And if I didn’t have these advantages but could pay for her to be coached would that be discriminatory?

    How would I express the sin of helping my granddaughter in Confession?

  21. st.joseph says:

    Claret, this will not satisfy your yearning for change but however. Women are permitted to play a full part in the church by way of their feminity as lots of women do!
    As you will realise but if you dont know I will tell you.Feminists are behind the call for women priests. But there are several kinds of feminists.Some Catholic feminists simply wish to uphold the equal dignity and importance of women, and believe that a more understanding of women’s ministries should be made. They do not disagree with the teaching of the priesthood.
    Other Christian feminists are reformers, who believe the are campaigning for a “fair go for women” in the church by altering the language of the liturgy and the nature of the priestshood.
    They do not realise that these proposed changes go far beyond the social changes of equal opprtunity and call into question the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
    Yet another group of feminists within the Church uses the assumptions of revelutionary secular humanism to measure the claims of Christianity, believing that males have conspired over hundreds of years to use institutions, silencing and oppressing women.
    Their intention is not just to install women at the Altar, but to replace the beliefs about the Trinity, the Word of God becoming man,Church teaching on human life and sexual morality with a new “Woman-Church”.
    Finally there feminists who are either ex -Christians or non -Christians who are very vocal in their support for women’s ordination. Many of thes feminists are opposed to Christianity. and they want to bring it down to and replace it with a woman- centered paganism. I suggest if you dont believe what I say. Go to some of their meetings.Also look on the Web.
    Women who genuinely Love the Church, Our Lord, and Our Blessed Mother, will be helping to restore the male priesthood to the liking of its founder. I know priests are not all perfect, but they are chosen as Judas was but who in the end sold Jesus for so little when He gave so much. So the Church is not going to give in to the feminists whims, not that it can anyway
    A few heretical sects have attempted something like women’s ordination(for example the Masrcionites and Montanists in the 2nd century, and the Catharists and Waldensians in the middle ages) and some Protestant churches and as we know the Anglicans. However their ideas of ministry and priesthood are often different fom the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Churches certainly have real or valid sacraments, clergy and bishops. They too do not believe thay have the power to ordain women as priests.It is not injust because no person has a right to be a priest. If some women who dearly love to be priests they would not be holding their feminist ‘mass’ as they do. and insulting God with their false ideas of the True Sacrifice that Jesus suffered for our Redemption.
    I hope this will have tested the oestrogen water enough for you, although I doubt it!

  22. claret says:

    I am grateful to ‘St. Joseph’ for his potted history of the feminist movement in respect of the Catholic Church. My problem with it is that I am not, as far as I am aware, a feminist. However I have no objection , ( neither does Quentin. it would seem, ) to the ordination of women. Is this sufficient to make me, and him, a feminist?
    I really cannot get it out of my head that a vocation, prompted by the Holy spirit, to the priesthood is somehow restricted to men only. Now I know that there are two elements to vocation and the Church ‘approval’ of it is one of them and as they have no intention of approving a female vocation then there the matter rests. But does it? I can never take seriously the call for us to pray for vocations to the priesthood and then to try and limit God as to who that call should be directed to. ( And in this I include that God should only call men who have had a University education except in very unusual circumstances!) By the time we have finished telling God who is suitable for his calling we are not left with that many candidates.
    Back now to Quentin and his example of private education. I see it being little different to how we sit our pre-school age children on our knee and try to teach them to read simple words. I could read quite well before I went to school, as a 4 year old, thanks to my Mother.
    Not all parents are like her therefore the education system came into being and it was eventually regarded as such an important human right in most countries that it would be provided free of charge.
    The fact that some parents are able to provide for their children , because they have the financial means to do so, a private education so as to give them , among other things, a massive future advantage over those children who cannot afford the luxury of such an education ( the vast majority,) does not make it right.
    For the Catholic Church to so actively be part of a system that promotes inequality based on the wealth of parents, most of who have no loyalty to the Church whatsoever, is a disgrace and a shameful activity. Whatever happened to the charity of providing an education for the poor? No, what we are so good at is providing a fee paying education for the rich and privileged so as to help them remain that way.
    Are we really maintaining that a private education is ‘equal’ to a State one and therefore is not a matter for an ‘equality Bill.’

  23. Superview says:

    Quentin, I am all for multiple voices contributing from all directions to getting the best possible result in legislation if that is possible. I hope that Neil Addison has done his homework, but I fear that there is at least one error in his letter. Local Authorities employ, finance and supervise the local Registration Service for births, marriages and deaths, but they must observe strictly the rules and policies of the Registrar General in so doing. It would be outside the powers of any LA to do as Neil Addison suggests. In fact, what is interesting about the rules regarding marriages, since 1837 indeed, is the provision for secular marriage ceremonies at Registry Offices. The observance of their secular character is strictly enforced, with no semblance of religious sentiment allowed. The official civil partnerships ceremonies now take place at Registry Offices, but I imagine some religious denominations may also offer some form of additional church service for those of their members who wish to have a blessing. This was true at an Episcopal church in New England that we stumbled upon – with our Anglican friends – last year.
    If there is a possible loophole that could lead to compulsion, then, on prudential grounds it may need closing. But the bigger picture is that western society is changing in its attitude to unfair discrimination (actually across all political boundaries, as people will find if they change the government) so you may yet find a use for ‘fascist totalitarianism’ to describe a similar imagined situation.
    I am surprised at the reaction to my observations relating to the discrimination against women, which I thought were of fairly common currency. Of course, men have had, and have, a hard time of it, and some a lot more than others, but the slightest knowledge of even recent history reveals indisputable facts concerning the denial to women, purely on grounds of gender, of social and political (and religious) rights enjoyed by men.
    Given the unexpected vehemence of st.joseph’s views – and he take’s the name of such a gentle saint – who finds it shocking that ‘feminists’ (well the bad ones) think there are no rational grounds for denying women the chance to be priests of Christ, I am not sure how far he would go – whether he would even roll back women’s right to vote – won by ‘feminists’ who believed there were no rational grounds for denying women the right to vote.
    Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary on what the Supreme Pontiff meant is as clear as mud, but, with the desire to be better informed, I would be interested to know how the male-only priesthood is founded on the ‘written word of God’. Can anyone help with this? It also seems to me that he who is now himself ‘the Supreme Pontiff’ (which must feel a bit like being the ‘Supreme Mullah’ – such silly titles) can hold two seemingly contradictory statements in his head at the same time -viz. “The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively”. (Yes I know a dogma is not a doctrine – or do I?)
    If my argument is too direct for some, then I would hope that Claret’s plain spoken case may at least cause the learned theologians among us to at least pause before reaching for the keyboard.

    Private education is an interesting topic. I do think that parents have to try and do the best for their children, and I confess that whilst all ours went to the local Catholic comprehensive, and Catholic sixth form college, and have more than exceeded our expectations, we did get personal tutors when there was a learning block that threatened progress. To balance that, however, I was fully involved as a governor and did what is supposed to happen – using the sharp elbows of the middle class to ensure standards were high.
    In contrast, several of our local families chose to go private after primary school and their children did not do as well. I think it is a pity that there is a private Catholic school that was able to draw children from better-off families away from the comprehensive’s feeder schools, and does so year after year. Since the Thatcher changes to school funding through LMS there has been a significant price on every child’s head, and the loss of those children threatened to weaken the school’s budget significantly. Ironically, local non-Catholic familes have recognised the school’s quality and have taken up the slack – so that there is now a proportion of excellent non-Catholic children in the school that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. The consequence? The Bishop has chosen not to support the school in a recent consultation over the re-organisation of local schools. Unintended consequences, or predictably perverse outcome?

  24. st.joseph says:

    Claret. Going along with the teachings of the Church does not make me a femenist either..
    The Catholic Church has many doctrines which are easily understood, eg. on love, on compassion for the poor and suffering, but she also has teachings which go against the grain, as seen as difficult and unpopular,e.g. the Church is against divorce and remarriage, teach that the Body and Blood of Christ is really present in the Eucharist, is opposed to abortion and artificial contraception ( would you say that is discrimination against women) and she calls us to forgive others always. Sometimes, perhaps often the Church under the sign of the Cross is also a sign of contradiction. She can afford to run risks and pay the price of short -term unpopularity, because she is more than human. However if Jesus was not divine and the Church had no access to divine Revelation then it would make more sense to abolish priests and disregard the Church than to make women priests.
    Superview you speak as though the priesthood is a secular job,
    when you speak about women fighting for the right to vote!
    It is not a secular job or career path,that ‘life’ is full of mysteries.
    St. Joseph may take the name of the gentle giant., He didnt have too much to say in Scripture if anything How do you know what his thoughts were. If he were here today I am sure he would support the Church in Her teachings.
    There is a saying that is make sure you want what you want if you pray to St Joseph as you most probably will get it. My advice to those who ask for women priests is not to pray for them- one may regret it!

  25. claret says:

    Now that I have discovered for the very first time from ‘St. Joseph’s’ definitions that I am indeed a feminist I am looking at myself with fresh eyes but finding that I am still the same person that I always believed myself to be before I attracted this new label.
    So as a feminist, and as I was before becoming recognised as one, I have no problem with the ordination of women. That does not mean that i am in favour of divorce ( contrary to Christ’s explicit teaching,) nor am I in favour of abortion. (Thou shall not kill.)
    Does this mean that my new life as a feminist will now be cruelly cut short?
    Superview poses a very good question: viz. Just where in scripture is the ordination of women contrary to ‘the written word of God.’
    The quote from the then Cardinal Ratzinger that Quentin has kindly re-produced for us on this topic is a classic piece of ‘double speak’ that any politician would be proud of. ‘Double Dutch’ was the phrase of my youth that so wonderfully captures this pronouncement.
    The phrase ‘written word of God’ is quoted by the then Cardinal Ratzinger but he falls short of actually quoting it. Perhaps it appears later in the footnotes to his pronouncement? Perhaps it does not exist at all?

  26. st.joseph says:

    Claret, you obviousley dont know the definition of what a femenist is.But If that is what you think you are ,I won’t argue with you . You know yourself better than anyone.
    !

  27. st.joseph says:

    And there was I thinking (giving you the benefit of the doubt) that you had some Spiritual thoughts on the teaching of the Church. I can admiit now that I was wrong all you were doing was fighting for a (‘right)

  28. st.joseph says:

    As this is what the blog is all about, I would like to get back to a more ‘mature’ form of discussion.

    Superview,(as Claret made the point) in his last post -Quote just where in history is the ordination in Scripture contrary to the written Word of God. Perhaps someone will tell me where it is!.
    I believe in my ‘naive thoughts’that if God had wanted women priests Jesus would have made some reference to it in His last Words when dying on The Cross.

    His Words to St John ,one of the chosen Priests, were an exchange of relationship- . ‘John this is your Mother’ I take that as meaning She (as Mary)being Mother to us all and especially to the Priesthood.

    Then turning to His Mother and addressing Her as woman- said ‘This is you Son’ meaning women to be mother to all priests.

    If God had wanted women to be priests, I believe He would have said ‘Woman this is your Brother ‘As women priests could not have a Mother and son relationship with male priests especially if they were married to one.(as we are having now with Anglican Clergy) I am not saying this is written in stone, ‘only a thought’!

  29. Ion Zone says:

    What was said about the feminist’s pagan cult reminds me of something our priest gave part of a a sermon on – that many people, like those in Jesus’ time, create their own faith, or anti-faith, because living by Jesus’ teachings is difficult. People would rather worship themselves, as the ‘humanists’ seem to do, or some other convenient thing, and if not, change their faith to make it convenient.

    It reminds me of the ride that was in the Millennium Dome where they celebrated life on Earth. The last, and, by far, the biggest screen, was for us. And then there are other things – Doctor Who’s constant declaration that humans are ‘Brilliant’.

    Humanity has boarded a Tunnel-of-Love ride carrying a large mirror.

  30. Superview says:

    The statement quoted by Quentin, from Cardinal Ratzinger no less, commenting on John Paul II’s affirmation that priestly ordination is reserved only for men, and that it is “founded on the written Word of God” is very clear. For those who, like me, have come round to the view that many women would make good priests, it would help to know where I can find the text in scripture where it says that in the Christian Church only men can be priests.
    I would be happy to take the notion of ‘discrimination’ out of the conversation, if that is seen as too argumentative, and simply explore what special attributes men have got that make them better priest material.

  31. I haven’t checked back on the controversy, but I remember that much was made of the priest as a symbol of Christ who as “Son of God” was male.There is also a good deal of scriptural reference (Old and New Testaments) to the natural subservience of women. I don’t feel that either of these arguments are worth a light.
    I know of no reference referring to the impossibility of women priests, but in the culture of the time it would not have occurred to anyone. This would have been strengthened by the antipathy to goddesses of Pagan religions.
    i don’t expect to see women priests in my time; perhaps our first emphasis should be women deacons, and married priests. Though none of this will, in my view transform vocations. For that we need a Church which is an open and loving community. Thank God for my Catholic friends, including those on this blog, and for the holy priests I know.

  32. Ion Zone says:

    That things have always been thus is a bad reason for them to always be so.

  33. st.joseph says:

    So you belong to the ‘throw away society’

    My motto is ‘If it aint broke why change it.’ Change for the sake of change.

  34. Ion Zone says:

    No, that is not what I said at all. People are so polarised. I belong to neither group. Change where change is needed, conservation as well. I believe neither the myth of progress nor that we should never deviate from a path once chosen.

  35. st.joseph says:

    Sorry Ion Zone, If I misinterpreted you.

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