Friday, February 17, 2012

Varsi and the Church

The visit of Baroness Warsi to the Holy See was greeted as a success by both Church and State, the Baroness said broadly the right things that seemed to please the Secretarite of State, things like the European Constitution ought to have had a reference to God or even Christianity in it. It comes in the wake of David Cameron's statement about Britain being a Christian country and at the same time as the Queen spoke about the necissity of the CofE in safeguarding religious interests in the UK.

Here in Brighton as the financial cuts bite on the homeless and the poor it is apparent that the State expects "faith based communities" to plug holes. It seems that the logic of atheism, as far as governments or economists are concerned has lost its attraction; atheism tends not to feed the hungry or even educate the young or do much for the elderly. Even sociologists might start realising that atheism does not have a binding effect -re-ligere, to bind together- in a "broken" society.

Government needs religion but does religion need government? I always feel uneasy at the sight of bishops in the train of those who hold power; religion always seems to come off worst.

In any society bishops and those in power should be at peace, the ancient understanding of the bishop ruling the "inner mysteries" the spiritual and moral life of people and the Emperor or the State ruling the "outer mysteries" enforcing justice and morality created a positive tension. Now, the State wants to re-shape the very building blocks of society, in the US it is government wanting to impose its women's "health" agenda on the Church, at home it is the redefinition of marriage and family. Already through Connexions it is suggested contraception and abortion have been introduced to some if not all of schools, with the Pastors turning a blind eye or refusing to investigate.

For an immigrant Church, unfortunately I think we are still that, I think there is a danger in a yearning for respectability and pretending that access to power is the same as power or even influence. When supping with the devil there is always the danger that you yourself become supper.

We are called to "render unto Caesar .." to "pray for the Emperor" to be obedient to the laws of the state but we also have the example of John the Baptist speaking to truth unto power and paying the consequences with his head and Jesus himself suffering under Pilate. Always, in the presence of power the Church is asked to concede or to be silent. The example of Chrysostom, Ambrose, Becket, Fisher etc., etc. is that Bishops have always to be seen as first of all teachers of the faith and as witnesses to it.

Am I the only one who wonders quite what the pay off for the Warsi visit was? I am sure that friendship between the Church and our government is important, it is important that co-operation exists, that we accept the good intentions of those in government but it is also important that we draw a clear distinction between the ends of government and the ends of the Church, they are quite different. It is also important we do not allow quite negotiations in the halls of power to obscure a bishops real job of teaching in clear and distinct terms the message of Christ and his Church, the former is not a replacement for the latter.

It strikes me that it is easy to simply leave the faithful confused by too "nuanced" a message from our leaders. I'm confused by the apparent volte-face over civil partnerships; are we really supposed to believe the subtle arguments of Catholic Voices, if so is it really the role of a bishop to be so obscurantist so unclear in his teaching? I am confused by the Soho Masses, I am concerned by the screaming silence over the redefinition of marriage, by the failure of any teaching document on the subject; by sex education in our schools, by the role of Connexions in them. I am confused by Cafod's involvement with government, other aid agencies and condoms. I am confused about the involvement of former Catholic adoption agencies and their present involvement with the Church, are we now supporting those things which we actually don't? What about euthanasia and the Liverpool Pathway.

In all these things where the our bishops and the government have been speaking there is confusion and a lack of clarity, in many ways a sense that we condone policies inimical to the Faith.
As my grandmother used to say, "You can tell a man by those he company with". Ultimate the questions are about clarity, credibility, truth and transparency.


Dominie Mary Stemp said...

Yes - we have regular church collections for the Cabrini society but I don't support it because I thought it broke its ties with the catholic church? then I see that is is listed as an official 2nd collection in the diocesan handbook. Very disturbing _ only Bp Mark Davies is speaking against redefinition of marriage - although Archbp Peter Smith also spoke out. Let us see what happens.

Sitsio said...

Fascinating! I was in St. Peter's on Wednesday with my family. We went to Benediction & Confession and saw Archbishop Vincent wandering across the Basillica with a gaggle of political looking people. We wondered what it was all about!

nickbris said...

The Baroness is a smart cookie,she also knows which way her bread is buttered.

It is also the law in Islam to feed the hungry and under the Mughals in India before that bunch of crims took over not feeding the poor and needy was severely punishable.

In London's east end the cafes run by Pakistanis & Bangladeshis always give the down&outs a meal said...

Dear Fr Blake

We, the Faithful of Holy Mother Church, and when I say Faithful, I do not mean by title only, need to talk to our Archbishops and Bishops and discuss a way forward which will bring us BACK to the right road to Rome.

The world has changed around the Bishops in this country. Society and it's thinking has changed it's face completely.

There needs to be a unity between Bishop and people and then there needs to be a true united front to hold high The Crucifix and follow The Lord truthfully.

It is time to put right what has been going wrong for years in Catholicism in England and Wales.

The Rev. M. Forbes said...

As an American I do not know the specifis of the British situation.

Quite honestly, our problems here are not all the fault of the Obama administration. The Church and the several institutions she sponsors have gotten too close to the culture. It is hard to distinguish what is particularly Catholic about a place like Georgetown, to understand how some Catholic Charities are Catholic or to judge Catholic Health care which advertises to small hospitals as purchasing co- ops and ends up creating Catholic hospitals in towns with few Catholics and then not informing the Community that the institution is Catholic.

When the Lady Minister speaks out, I hear a call from a very European Moslim to Christians, not only to get involved, but to get involved clearly as Christians. I think she wants a certain trumpet or no trumpet as all. I know that I do, even if I disagree with some of the notes.


Louis said...

Father, Bareness Warsi's use of the term "faith" is a bit perplexing. Sometimes it seems to stand in for word "religion", but in other instances, simply the act of trusting in something - one can have faith in a fellow human being: does that alone make me a "person of faith"? I wonder if this ambiguous use of the word "faith" is a result of laziness or perhaps ignorance, or is it deliberate, to obfuscate matters.

Tony Blair is an ardent advocate of "faith" in the public square, and he hasn't hesitated in telling the Holy Father what latter ought to believe. Likewise, the present PM proudly wears his Christian faith on his sleeve, but I do not quite recognise his image of Jesus either. I don't question the sincerity of either men.

In HM The Queen's formal reply to the Holy Father at Holyrood in 2010 (presumably vetted by her government) she mentioned "freedom of worship", which is not quite the same as freedom of religion. Freedom of "religious belief" is enshrined in the constitution of the People's Repubic of China. In the PRC the government is actively co-opting churches to deliver socially desirable goals. However, what is preached from the pulpit, in state-approved churches, must not contradict CCP policy. Are we in the same direction, i.e. the government, to all intents and purposes, supplants the place of God? We can still have faith, be active in our faith , be "persons of faith"...

Cosmos said...

Well said Father, I am very thankful for your voice.

shelflife said...

Archbishop Nichols responds to critics of his words on gay partnerships.

Unknown said...

There is an interesting section in the Joint Communique following the visit which is at

"There was in addition a good exchange of views on a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural issues ... The Holy See emphasised the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions and stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience"

The Holy See and the Curia at least do not appear to have fudged their views in their meetings with Ministers but gave them the position, straight and to the point.

There was obviously no agreement with UK ministers on these points. But at least both sides are now speaking about these issues. As you say it remains to be seen what happens next and whether there will be some real movement by the UK Government to accomodate the Catholic position

Lynda said...

That video of Archbishop Nicholls supposedly explaining what he said in support of the Civil Partnership Act leaves one with the impression that: a) he doesn't understand what the CPA actually does (i.e. give legal recognition and status to homosexual relationships (on satisfaction of certain procedural requirements)); or b) understands what the legislation does, but purposely confuses the issue so that he can defend himself against supporting legislation that is clearly against the Natural/Divine Law and thus against the Church's teaching. Either way, this is not good for a man in his position. Does he not understand that listing some possibly good side effects of the CPA for certain people cannot make up for what the legislation actually does? - that is, give legal recognition and status to homosexual relationships, in a similar way that such recognition and status is rightly given to marriages (originally by the common law and latterly by statute law). He is causing scandal in any event, and probably duping a not insignificant number of Catholics.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Thanks to shelflife for giving us the link to +VN's response to questions at the Thomas More Institute. The question which I put in writing was not read out in its entirety as it was coupled with other questions but the quote from the CDF document was read out and the tenor of my concern was fairly put by the Chairman Dr Hegarty. It should be in that context that the excerpt provided by shelflife should be viewed.

My written question was:

The Tablet has reported “The Bishops of England and Wales believe civil partnerships successfully provide a legal protection for those in same-sex relationships. … His comments mark the clearest support that a Catholic bishop has given to same-sex unions”.

The CDFs instruction of 2003 says: In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.

There seems to be a clear contradiction with the teaching of the Church. Can you please comment.

Nicolas Bellord said...

The Cabrini Society was governed by a Trust Deed which did not specifically make it clear that it was a Catholic charity. This was normal practice by Catholic lawyers drawing up such deeds in the past in order to prevent Catholic Charities being invalidated as supporting "superstitious uses". The Catholic nature of the Charity was guaranteed by stating that the Trustees should always be the Bishops of the Dioceses where the Charity operated. Obviously you cannot have a charity acting against the teachings of the Church with Bishops as trustees. So the Bishops just resigned their trusteeships in favour of lay trustees who presumably are happy with the Government requirements.

Bernadette said...

Lynda, dear, don't you need to lie down? Civil partnerships are confined to the legal protection of property and inheritance, nothing more, nothing less. Inevitably in the present climate, some homosexuals vainly try to equate a legal partnership with marriage, which it is palpably not. There is no basis for marriege for homosexuals, male or female. Archbishop Nichols made this perfectly clear in his statement on the video.

In the 1970s radical homosexuals were angry when marriage was proposed to them as an ideal rather than promiscuity. Some said that they thought it was an imposition to be forced into a heterosexual pattern of life. Times have changed but there is no harm in remembering past inverted opinion. Civil partnerships have, inevitably I suppose, clouded the issue.

Natasa said...

I think the value of the visit can be found in the willingness to talk about the threat to religious freedom in the UK. Hopefully that will become more common and the tide will start to shift here. For too long it has seemed that atheism is the norm in the UK. We have to wake up and speak up. Well done Warsi.

georgem said...

"Ultimate[ly] the questions are about clarity, credibility, truth and transparency."
Little of which we are getting from our (E&W) premier cleric, I'm afraid.

Lynda said...

I must correct the erroneous view of the CPA suggested by Bernadette above. I am a lawyer, I know the law, but one doesn't need to be a lawyer to understand what the CPA intends and, by its terms, achieves - legal, state, official recognition and status conferred on an exclusive homosexual relationship btw 2 consenting, otherwise single, unrelated adults. I have explained this on an earlier post on the subject so won't repeat it. In any case, the legislation is very clear. The ancillary matters of property, etc. that are mentioned are extrinsic to the new legal relationship created by the CPA. Once the CPA was passed, other pieces of legislation dealing with succession, etc. as between spouses and persons having other legally recognised relationships, were amended to include civil partnerships on a comparable basis to marriage. As I have said before, there is no controversy among lawyers (nor will there be in the courts) as to what the CPA effects. Unfortunately, whether due to ignorance or malice, certain people in positions of authority in the Church, and elsewhere, have mislead many people as to the substantive meaning and effect of the CPA. They have much to answer for. What many mislead lay people fail to understand is that, when it comes to the law, a term means whatever the relevant legislation defines it as for the purposes of that legislation. The term "civil partnership" was used in the instant legislation; another term could just as easily have been used. Civil partnership, under the law, is a lesser (as in easier to get in and out of) sexual relationship than marriage, designed especially for two persons of the same sex. I hope this is clear enough - textual comments at the foot of a post do not lend themselves to lessons on the law.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Bernardette: May I suggest your read the Civil Partnership Act or at least skim through it. It must be one of the longer Acts of Parliament and it goes into enormous detail to create something that parallels the law on marriage. As an eminent Professor of Law at Oxford has said all it needs is a one line Act to redefine Civil Partnership as Marriage. As a lawyer of some 50 years experience I fully agree with what Lynda has written. said...


I also agree with Lynda and Mr Bellord.

I am a lawyer also.

Yesterday, 22 new Cardinals were created by The Holy Father.

The message is clear to the Senior Priests in England and Wales:

Get your act right Fathers, and return to the correct Road of Rome. If you do not correct your mistakes then Rome will instigate the changes that are now perhaps somewhat overdue.

The Pope's patience may run out with the shambles that the Catholic Church finds Itself in.

My patience is running out, because I find that there simply is no real vocal defence of Catholicism. Priests are frightened to say NO you cannot do this --- because it may 'offend' or be politically not correct.

nickbris said...

It is a Lawyer's job to persuade & where necessary to mislead but we must not be misled by them

Alan R said...

Speaking as a gay Catholic, in a civil partnership since 2003, may I just place on record that I, my partner, and just about every other gay man and woman we know, Catholic, Christian, or whatever, finds the concept of "gay marriage" abhorrent, inconsistent, or just plain weird.

While I'm at it, since I feel the peculiar need to apologise on behalf of others, I am scandalized by the "gay Mass" in Westminster. I'm not the only gay Catholic who feels this way.

Just as I doubt that most of the commenters on this blog would consider that i'm a latent pederast and deserve to be purified by fire, so please don't assume that all gay Catholics want to drape rainbow flags over the lectern or read the epistle in drag. Or be pronounced husband and husband. Most of us find the idea nauseating.

Anonymous said...

You would have to be wilfully blind or to have been living on Mars not to realise that the CPA was not about clearing up 'certain anomalies of law' but about facilitating 'gay marriages' by default. Me thinks the Archbishop protests too much and is kidding no one. He behaves more like a politician than an Apostle.


Fr Ray Blake said...


Thank you, that would be my impression too, from those who comment here and my parishioners.

nickbris said...

Thankyou Alan,that should clear the air a bit.

I am a straight Great Grandfather and I agree with you.

momangelica said...

Well said Fr Ray, especially quote from your gran.
This email was sent to me from someone who had attended the Pre- launch , in November 2009 to the 2010 LGBT History Month at the British Museum (note who was amongst guests - T.Philip's )

"In the morning I tagged onto a party of school children being conducted around the museum who were shown artefacts that normalised homosexuality and paedophilia. During the afternoon members of the education system – teachers, union leaders, activists got up onto the platform to peddle their wares. In the evening the then homosexual Secretary of State for Culture and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, Trevor Philips, the chief of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and homosexual MEP Ian Cashman also made public appearances."

momangelica said...

If all Homosexuals were like Alan R
there would be better society. The foisting homosexual knowledge to children really makes my blood boil and "the fight is on" to do what ever to protect the children.

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