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Contemporary Britain is in crisis. May the royal wedding bring renewal

Every empire falls for a simple reason: a lack of self-belief. And our leaders don’t seem to believe anything much any more

By on Thursday, 28 April 2011

A royal enthusiast camps across the road from Westminster Abbey to ensure a good view of the wedding  (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A royal enthusiast camps across the road from Westminster Abbey to ensure a good view of the wedding (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A trip to any bookshop these days is a bewildering experience, and so I tend to treasure worthwhile recommendations and pass them on. In a recent programme on the BBC, Sebastian Faulks mentioned The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott. This roman fleuve was very popular about a quarter of a century ago, when it was televised as The Jewel in the Crown, but it is a wonderful read even today, as I am finding, discovering it for the first time.

Scott’s theme is the decline of empire – the novels are set in India during the twilight of British rule, the early 1940s. Scott does not shy away from big themes, unlike so many of our contemporaries. Susan and Sarah Layton are two sisters who have been brought up as children of the Raj. They sense the fin de siècle atmosphere that hangs over them.

“Why are we finished, Sarah? Why don’t we matter?” [asks Susan.] Because, thought Sarah, silently replying, we don’t really believe in it any more. Not really believe. Not in the way I expect grandfather Layton believed…

This seems to me to be the real reason why empires end – a fatal lack of self-belief, an abandonment of the founding myth of empire; in this case the myth that Britain had a civilising mission in the world. By the 1940s that had become unsustainable.

The Romans also had their national myth, embedded in the poetry of Virgil, and contained in the opening book of the Aeneid, in the famous words of Jove: imperium sine fine dedi. Dryden, incidentally still the best translation going of the Aeneid, renders the words thus:

To them no bounds of empire I assign
Nor term of years to their immortal line.

The Romans actually believed that their rule was sanctioned by the divine will; even St Augustine believed this, as I pointed out in a book I once wrote. Even though he lived during the final years of the Western Empire, there is no evidence whatever that Augustine believed Rome was finished.

Talking of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, there are two excellent books on the subject. The first is by Peter Heather, entitled The Fall of the Roman Empire (2005), which takes the view that the collapse of the West was primarily military, and that as late as the mid-fifth century the West stood a chance of survival, had it not been for sheer bad luck, namely the two expeditions aimed at retaking North Africa from the Vandals ending in catastrophe.

The second is The Fall of the West by Adrian Goldsworthy (2009) which takes the view that the collapse of the Western Empire was essentially due to moral failure. By the third century, Goldsworthy argues, the senatorial class had been sidelined, and the empire fell into the hands of military adventurers whose primary aim was survival and lust for power, not service of the state.

Thus, it seems to me, Rome collapsed because it had abandoned the virtue of pietas, or self-sacrifice, the virtue that Virgil exalts as the particular mark of the Roman ruling class. I must say, I find this interpretation very attractive. It chimes in with the vision of Paul Scott. Perhaps every empire falls for this simple reason – a lack of vision, a lack of belief.

If that is the case, we can perhaps better understand our own national crisis. Contemporary Britain is in decline (can that be denied?) because few of our leaders seem to believe anything much any more. Indeed, if they believe anything at all, what they seem to believe strikes one as being opposed to the traditional beliefs of the British people. Furthermore, there is no consensus about what constitutes the national identity; and the constant harassment of religion by intellectuals and politicians undermines one of the, if not the, essential foundations of the state.

On Friday the Prince marries his bride; as I have written in the print edition of The Catholic Herald, may this be a moment of national – and moral – renewal.

  • MarkB

    Hopefully it’s a blessing and a sign that the wedding falls on the feast day of St Katherine of Siena. We should ask her to pray for us, as well as St Edward the Confessor – patron Saint of the Royal Family.

  • http://thepulp.it/ Tito Edwards

    Father Lucie-Smith,

    With all due respect I hardly see how a cohabiting couple like Prince William and Kate will lead to a moral renewal. Especially since they both have zero moral values that represents anything close to Christian virtues.

    Materialism, narcissism, and debauchery are the only things that come to when I see a picture of these two or read about them.

    It’s sad that even here in America, conservative tv and radio programs are stumbling over themselves to analyze the most banal that these two represent.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wish only the best for these two, but we certainly could have picked something else that will bring a “renewal” to once great England.

  • Anonymous

    ‘Contemporary Britain is in decline (can that be denied?)’

    Decline from what I would ask? Where was the morality in the starvation of the poor pre-WWII, where was the morality in the race riots of the 70′s, where was the morality in the widespread sexual disease and mistresses in the Victorian Era?

    I am sick through of the phony ulta-moral past that Britain supposedly had. I don’t know about you but I think that more racial tolerance, more acceptance of homosexuals (ie not getting them put in prison and chemically castrated) and healthcare and education for all – shows a society that shows increased aceptance of difference and the willingness to share resources for the public good.

    Before talking about this phony time period – why don’t you have the willingness to name some specific dates; so we can test them for the society’s collective morality at that point in time? It would be quite simple, but you don’t do it, nor does anyone that speaks of ‘society’s decline’ – that is my direct challenge who disagrees with me – find time-period and we will test it out. I expect that priests from the Church’s beginning have been talking about the decline in society.

    I also question the idea of ‘national identity’as of moral worth. Where exactly is patriotism mentioned in the bible – we are a world of believers not an island of believers. Hence it being called the Catholic Church – ‘Catholic’ meaning ‘on the whole’ in Greek, refering to the worldwide nature of the Church. The Latin mass being another nod to the concept of a world-wide community.

  • ronnie

    How come the Catholic hierachy are attending the Royal Wedding.We were never allowed to as practicing Catholics,but I was informed that this was never the case.Not what I was brought up to believe. It was a cause for scandal then ,and a cause for scandal now.

  • ronnie

    the comment below,concerns attending weddings in the church of england, and other faiths

  • Anonymous

    “Contemporary Britain is in decline (can that be denied?) because few of our leaders seem to believe anything much any more. Indeed, if they believe anything at all, what they seem to believe strikes one as being opposed to the traditional beliefs of the British people” This is the sort of nonsense you can read in the Daily Wail. Father, exactly when was Britain’s golden age and what would you want our leaders to believe in – a Catholic Theocracy??

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    When I wrote those sentences what I had in mind is the way each and every one of our institutions is gradually being hollowed out because people no longer believe in their raison d’etre. This is true of the monarchy, and the Church of England, and the House of Lords, to take three examples – these are all now tolerated anachronisms. But it is also true of our education system. Does my University truly pursue academic excellence, I wonder, as it once did? Does it believe its motto Dominus Illuminatio Mea? Incidentally, I think one of the worst aspects of national decline is the way so many stoutly deny its existence! Was there ever a golden age? Probably not… but I doubt a single one of our politicians today approaches the stature of Churchill or Attlee, or even Asquith.
    I do not support a Catholic theocracy, by the way, but a Rawlsian democracy, which depends on active and informed participation by all. Is the national conversation getting better by the year? I do not think so!

  • Anonymous

    Catholic Social Teaching places Christ at the head of every nation. That has to be THE definition of a “Catholic theocracy” surely?

    And I don’t know why, but I still get surprised when I read of Catholics who lament the fall of the Protestant Church of England.

    Signed: Puzzled, Glasgow…

  • Anonymous

    You’re way behind the times, ronnie. The only religious “service” that is now frowned on by the Catholic hierarchy, is the Traditional Latin Mass.

  • Anonymous

    I raised this matter of cohabiting couples in another blog by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, noting that priests seldom, if ever, insist that Catholic couples split up before the wedding. They ignore this elephant in the room. Like your post on the subject, mine was ignored. Telling, don’t you think? I mean, these couples do not think they’re doing or have done anything wrong, let alone something that is an objective mortal sin, and they will receive Holy Communion, having risen out of their shared bed that very morning, committing sacrilege. Yet priests remain silent – apparently unaware that silence is one of the 9 ways we are complicit in the sin of another. What scandal they are causing by their failure in charity towards these public sinners.

    And we can be sure that priests up and down the land will want to enthuse about this royal wedding spouting baloney about marriage and the family, ignoring the fact that this royal couple have been cohabiting and (no doubt) contracepting for several years. I’m in a permanent state of bewilderment as to why any man today becomes a priest. So few of them have a clue about the true nature and purpose of the priesthood.

  • http://thepulp.it/ Tito Edwards

    I’m disappointed as well.

    As for the elephant in the room, that is an understatement.

    Too many priests ignore this with full knowledge.

    We need holy priests and are sorely lacking them here in the United States.

  • Jim

    But let’s not forget this is in the ‘church’ of england- the service was even altered to remove the references to what William and Catherine have been doning as being ‘like brute beasts’.
    The entire purpose of the CofE was to ‘consecrate’ dodgy royal marriages and the fact that they are both atheists dosen’t help either.
    I feel deeply sorry for HM The Queen, a moral Christian, and we can only pray for their sins, and, dare we say, that they will become faithful Christians (or even return the ABBEY OF ST PETER to the Holy Church).

  • Anonymous

    couples that cohabit before marriage stay together longer after they get married on average. Could be a way to reduce the divorce rate.

  • Anonymous

    go back to the 1950s, the world has moved on

  • http://thepulp.it/ Tito Edwards

    Dear “paulsays”,

    Actually, cohabiting couples have the highest rates of divorce. Forget the fact that the longer you live together before getting married the higher the rate of divorce. The simple act of living together significantly increases the likelihood of getting divorced period.

  • Clementine

    Fair point but do you think your roman church and leader the pope bestows the virtues of the ten commandments?:

    “The Pope is of great authority and power, that he is able to modify, declare, or interpret even divine laws. “Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica, Juridica, Moralis, Theologica, Ascetica, Polemica, Rubristica, Historica”, Volume V, article on “Papa, Article II”, #30, published in Petit-Montrouge (Paris) by J. P. Migne, 1858 edition.

    “Those whom the Pope of Rome doth separate, it is not a man that separates them but God. For the Pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God….dissolves, not by human but rather by divine authority….I am in all and above all, so that God Himself and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory, and I am able to do almost all that God can do…wherefore, if those things that I do be said not to be done of man, but of God, what do you make of me but God? Again, if prelates of the Church be called of Constantine for gods, I then being above all prelates, seem by this reason to be above all gods.”

    ‘The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls’ ccc, para 937

    ‘Hence the Pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of hell’ New York Catechism.

    ‘The First See is judged by no one.’ 1983 Canon Law

    ‘Every one of the faithful must adhere to such teachings with the obedience of faith’. ccc Para, 185

    The first lie of Satan, ‘ye shall be as gods’ Genesis 3:5

    ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God showing himself that he is God’ Thess, 2:4

    ‘And I saw and look! A white horse;and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest’ Rev 6:2-8

    ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it’ Matt 7:13-14

  • Tommy

    Matchsticks come to mind but I couldn’t help pasting this here on the basis you, presumably, are a hypocritical acolyte of blasphemous roman teachings:

    “The Pope is of great authority and power, that he is able to modify, declare, or interpret even divine laws. “Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica, Juridica, Moralis, Theologica, Ascetica, Polemica, Rubristica, Historica”, Volume V, article on “Papa, Article II”, #30, published in Petit-Montrouge (Paris) by J. P. Migne, 1858 edition.

    “Those whom the Pope of Rome doth separate, it is not a man that separates them but God. For the Pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God….dissolves, not by human but rather by divine authority….I am in all and above all, so that God Himself and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory, and I am able to do almost all that God can do…wherefore, if those things that I do be said not to be done of man, but of God, what do you make of me but God? Again, if prelates of the Church be called of Constantine for gods, I then being above all prelates, seem by this reason to be above all gods.”

    ‘The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls’ ccc, para 937

    ‘Hence the Pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of hell’ New York Catechism.

    ‘The First See is judged by no one.’ 1983 Canon Law

    ‘Every one of the faithful must adhere to such teachings with the obedience of faith’. ccc Para, 185

    The first lie of Satan, ‘ye shall be as gods’ Genesis 3:5

    ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God showing himself that he is God’ Thess, 2:4

    ‘And I saw and look! A white horse;and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest’ Rev 6:2-8

    ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it’ Matt 7:13-14

  • Anonymous

    This is not correct, they have the high rates of splitting up whilst they cohabit. But once a cohabiting couple goes for marriage (as they have had a period together to test their relationship together), they are LESS likely to divorce once they have tied the knot.

    You do realize we have Priests and Bishops calling for a longer period of thought between marriages in order to stop people rushing to get marriage at a young age and then getting divorced not that long after.

    A period of cohabitation before marriage is a useful way to solve this. I would not however condone having children during this period however, as I feel they need the surety of a marriage growing up.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I agree. The Queen is such a “moral Christian” that she signed the Abortion Act into legislation. Very moral.

  • Anonymous

    And not only do the clergy say nothing about cohabiting couples who apply to marry in their parishes, but they say nothing about the immodest wedding dresses that have been in vogue for years now. Has anybody else noticed that fashions used to change every year, but this one’s stuck for quite a few years now? Driving recently, listening to an interview with a “wedding historian”, it was chilling to hear her say that she is surprised that these modern wedding dresses are permitted in churches, showing, as they do, bare shoulders and often cleavage (and, she added, looking incongruous with a “virginal veil” – I say “looking ridiculous, with or without a veil)

    The fact is that these “keen to be cool” clergymen are making fools of themselves. A real laughing stock. And risking souls for the privilege.

    At least today’s wedding dress is a step in the direction of restoring fully modest wedding dresses. A fully lace bodice would have been nicer, but let’s hope the designers get to work providing more appropriate (to say the least) wedding dresses and let’s hope the clergy start to preach about the need for real “brides” to wear them.

  • Lisa

    Paulsays I am afraid you are wrong about your marriage stats. Couples who cohabit before marriage have higher divorce rates compared to couples who have not cohabited, see link http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/zcohabit.htm
    Not to mention the fact that the divorce rate of married couples who practice NFP versus contracepting couples is much lower (0.2%).

  • DBMcGinnity

    Once again you are out of line as you insult the Queen. You impugn her moral integrity within her role as head of State, and I request the you withdraw your comment, forthwith. Not for the first time, with crass temerity and un-Christian insensitivity you purposely insult The Royal Family and you display a lack of sophistication, character and common decency. At the same time you claim to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. You act as if you live in a Byzantine world of bigotry and ignorance.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Lisa, I think you might be correct on this one. Turns out my research was a bit sloppy.

    The problem with trying to come to conclusions over the data on cohabiting is that it is impossible to do a fair test.

    You can only press the play button on one couples life once. It is impossible to know if cohabitation before marriage would have created a longer or more successful marriage – because we cannot test both situations on the same couple.

    I know what I am saying seems to be dodging the statistics – but it is not.
    A couple that cohabit before marriage will already (likely) attribute less of a high status to marriage, and therefore treat it as a more casual engagement – and therefore it is more likely that it could end in a divorce.

    This higher level of divorce then cannot be proved to be related to the prior cohabitation itself, rather it could as easily be attributed to the attitudes that people have towards regular marriage.

    (Don’t get me started on NFP, you don’t want to go there :) )

  • Anonymous

    The Queen could not have done anything different. Signing is a formality To challenge the sovereignty of our democracy would have lead to the dissolving of the crown, and we would have been left with a Republic. Her power to do anything different did not truly exist.

  • Anonymous

    ‘Contemporary Britain is in decline (can that be denied?)’

    Decline from what I would ask? Where was the morality in the starvation of the poor pre-WWII, where was the morality in the race riots of the 70′s, where was the morality in the widespread sexual disease and mistresses in the Victorian Era?

    I am sick through of the phony ulta-moral past that Britain supposedly had. I don’t know about you but I think that more racial tolerance, more acceptance of homosexuals (ie not getting them put in prison and chemically castrated) and healthcare and education for all – shows a society that shows increased acceptance of difference and the willingness to share resources for the public good.

    Before talking about this phony time period – why don’t you have the willingness to name some specific dates; so we can test them for the society’s collective morality at that point in time? It would be quite simple, but you don’t do it, nor does anyone that speaks of ‘society’s decline’ – that is my direct challenge who disagrees with me – find time-period and we will test it out. I expect that priests from the Church’s beginning have been talking about the decline in society.

    I also question the idea of ‘national identity as of moral worth. Where exactly is patriotism mentioned in the bible – we are a world of believers not an island of believers. Hence it being called the Catholic Church – ‘Catholic’ meaning ‘on the whole’ in Greek, referring to the worldwide nature of the Church. The Latin mass being another nod to the concept of a world-wide community.

  • Saunders9

    What wedding? Was there a wedding? Why would I be interested in a German wedding? As a Catholic and what Henry VIII did how can I celebrate. Have the Royal Family ever apologized for what they did? Renew Britain? Abortion on demand; promotion of gay marriage; can’t display a cross in one’s car; have to adopt to homosexual couples; teaching about homosexuality in schools; council housing for unmarried mum’s with kids; muslims who promote terrorism on state benefits; pedophiles given pathetic sentences and come out and continue to abuse children. Renewal? Political correctness has gone mad and it opposes our Catholic faith. I am that despondent.

  • Saunders9

    What wedding? Was there a wedding? Why would I be interested in a German wedding? As a Catholic and what Henry VIII did how can I celebrate. Have the Royal Family ever apologized for what they did? Renew Britain? Abortion on demand; promotion of gay marriage; can’t display a cross in one’s car; have to adopt to homosexual couples; teaching about homosexuality in schools; council housing for unmarried mum’s with kids; muslims who promote terrorism on state benefits; pedophiles given pathetic sentences and come out and continue to abuse children. Renewal? Political correctness has gone mad and it opposes our Catholic faith. I am that despondent.

  • DBMcGinnity

    JESUS LOVES EVERYONE, NOT JUST THE SANCTIMONIOUS SELECTED FEW

    The answer that Jesus gave was a parable, commonly called “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37). You seem to be a little bit out of synchronisation with the tenets of the spirit Jesus. Jesus loves everyone. “Blessed be the pure of heart, because they will see God”. You need the divine assistance of ‘Spiritual Specsavers’. Because your blog is fill of hate for anything with which you disagree.

    The beatitudes in Matthew (5:3-12) are:
    Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
    Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

  • Weary Convert

    I am sorry that Saunders9 is despondent and I am sure that many elements in this post are shared by others. But how can any of that possibly be caused by our Royal family? And what is it about people that love to call our Royal Family “German?” Was Kate Middleton “German?” Or the Queen Mother? Do they sound German, act German, even be able to speak German? But no, I am afraid that people like Saunders9 have to sneer and spit out their hatred using the worse insult they can find – “German” – like, I believe the current Pope. As the son of a Bavarian policeman and a former member of Hitler’s forces, does Saunders9 hate him too for being German?

    “have the royal family ever apologised for what they did?” What on earth is that supposed to mean? Who is/are “they” – Henry VIII? Time and again people who understand little of British history zero in on Henry VIII but the Church of England was “founded” if you want to use that word, by Elizabeth I when most of the country was sick to death of the murderous regime of Mary Tudor, her “Catholic” revival and its stench of burning protestants (an 18 year old boy in my home town).

    ” council housing for unmarried mum’s with kids” – presumably the extreme Catholic position is to re-open workhouses but run to strict Catholic principles (and access for priests to the children).

    ” pedophiles given pathetic sentences and come out and continue to abuse children” – now there’s an odd thing to say on the day before John Paul II was beatified. Can political correctness be blamed for priests’ child abuse and the determination of the the Vatican and the clerical superiors to protect them in every way they can – e.g. forcing them to sign pledges of secrecy like the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh?

    I rarely get angry with the postings on this website but these points of unhistorical bunkum from Saunders9 really have annnoyed me. Yes, of course political correctness is a real threat to our freedoms (and please don’t always use the cliche “gone mad” whenever referring to political correctness – we already know its mad).

    So please Mr/Mrs/Ms Saundesr9, do try to place your despondency where it belongs; and that is nowhere near the Royal Family.

  • Paulahagan

    Sorry paulsays but you happen to be wrong, the Queen could have abdicated for the day just as King Bouduin of the Belgians did rather than comprimise his firm belief in the sanctity of human life.

  • DBMcGinnity

    I take the view that a person should read and check data before committing it to writing, because it may cause embarrassment later on when the information is exposed as being erroneous.
    You have pronounced that someone else is wrong and presented an non-comparable analogy to support your point of view. You statement says more about you than the issue in question insofar that you have not researched the topic of British Constitution or The British Monarchy before making your affirmation. In vernacular parlance, it could be said that: “you don’t know what you are talking about”, because you are not fully informed about the subject. This feature is now so common in the blogs of The Catholic Herald.

  • DBMcGinnity

    You write as though Pius IX were alive and well. He is dead and so are his ideologies. That epoch of infallibility is gone for good. You have chosen to be vituperative about the role and integrity of The Queen, which is a disgrace, especially as there is so much religious conflict in Scotland. and presents “Catholic Truth” as a poor role model for the benignity and compassion of Jesus Christ.

    Why can you not redirect you energy to something positive and forward thinking rather than trying to recreate something that is gone forever like “The Old South” as in “Gone with the Wind”.

    How long will it take you to realise that the Vatican of Pius XII is no more, and The Roman Catholic Church is run from “The White House”, and this is a good thing for the human race.

    Please check the relevance of “Novus Ordo Seclorum Mass” (New Order of the Ages), before you retort with accusations of me being mad. I never write anything that I have not double checked beforehand, and I suggest that you do likewise.

    Please take four or five hours and read the listings below to discover how the Vatican tried to take control of the world. They tried to use Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have complete world power, and it backfired. Never again will The Vatican or The Catholic Church be allowed to have such power again.

    http://www.concordatwatch.eu
    http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/treaty.htm
    http://biblelight.net/wound.htm
    http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?kb_header_id=752

  • Anonymous

    Yes but by law the document still needs to be signed. In Belgium their constitution has provision for when the Monarch is unable to sign – instead the Government as a whole takes on the Head of State role.

    Without royal assent, in British law, a bill cannot be passed. The signing of the document is a formality, and a legacy of tradition, it has no other meaning but that.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal

    In marriage, I hope Prince William won’t follow the example of his Father. A son can be better than his Father provided he loves moral and spiritual ideals leading to Godliness in Jesus the Saviour.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal

    In marriage, I hope Prince William won’t follow the example of his Father. A son can be better than his Father provided he loves moral and spiritual ideals leading to Godliness in Jesus the Saviour.

  • Weary Convert

    There is a point here that needs to be remembered. In 1968, Pope Paul issued his encyclical on birth control only to find it was to a very great extent – at least in the developed world – ignored as being ultra vires: what married couples get up to in the bedroom is no concern of Peeping Tom priests (or, for that matter, the more extravagant Ultra Catholic contributors to such as this website).The first result of this affair was that the Catholic Church’s moral posiiton on abortion – which it foolishly always linked to contraception – was totally undermined on the basis that if this collection of celibate clerics could make such a mess of contraception, why should one believe anything they say on abortion? So the Catholic position on abortion was lost by the foolishness of Paul and the backwoodsmen that acted as his advisers. Then, like blood seeping under a locked door (not an original simile – it was first used of the Irish Easter Rebellion) the horrors of priestly child abuse began to be made public. Firstly the authorities including the Vatican claimed it was all got up by the anti-Catholic press and then, step by step, the hierarchy had to retreat as the vast scale of the abuse became known and no longer deniable. While this happened, clearly more and more people could take the view that such a corrupt and venal body of men had absolutely nothing of importance to say about sex – inside or outside marriage. And so, Catholic and other partners who co-habit increasinglyconclude that there was no moral case for this fallen Church to make any pronouncements on sex at all .

    Perhaps my chronology is not exact but I believe that in general this is an accurate description of what has happened.and it is very hard to argue that people who take this view of the Church and sex are wrong. The best thing that the Catholic Church could now do is to have a self-denying ordinance that no Pope, or Bishop, or Priest, or Religious will for the next 100 years say anything public at all on sex and take the position of Cardinal Heenan and say, if asked, “God bless you.” But I fear that it is too fun a subject for celibate clerics to leave alone.

  • Weary Convert

    Ronnie is correct regarding the previous restrictions. As an example, in his memoirs(1971), Cardinal Heenan told of how when he had been the priest in charge in Barking for just one week in about 1931, Catholics asked if they could take part in a joint service after a local pagent. A Bishop from the C of E was taking part and so Heenan had to ban Catholci participation. Although many Catholics were “indignant”, they obeyed his ruling. But he went on to say,

    “That sense of discipline may remain to this day in places like Barking but elsewhere the ipse dixit of a priest would no longer suffice. Since the Second Vatican Council more democratic methods prevail….One of the manifold fruits of the work for unity is that Christians now worship together on suitable occasions without any sense of surrender or compromise.”

    Not even the Lady Glaswegian would call Jack Heenan an apostate as she refers to all the other bishops – or could she? He was a conservative who realised that the Church had to change and become more open and democratic. As a result he played a vital part in the Council being especially strong on Religious Freedom. A lovely man.

  • Bridget

    As an experienced pregnancy counsellor for over 30 years I can state categorically that there is a link between contraception and abortion and that many moral and health hazards are directly related to contraception.

    These facts are backed up by statistics and hard facts if you wish to follow them up at HMSO stats, books and literature from various sources.*

    The clients who ask for help with unplanned pregnancies are, in 99% of cases the victims of failed contraception.*i
    One of the most powerful and richest organisations of the world,the IPPF, which promotes contraception continues to influence the worlds peoples by selling their family planning agenda which is a misnomer if ever there was one!
    Their agenda has not only set the scene for the passing of the 1967 abortion Act, which has seen the killing of over a billion unborn babies worldwide, it has also been the direct cause of an increase in the divorce rate, co-habition, illigitemacy, infertilty, and incurable STD’s, depression and suicide, higher incidence of breast cancer-abortion related,*ii ; not to mention the horrendous emotional devastation felt by mothers and women left in pain and loss for the rest of their lives!

    As a result of my voluntary work I have learnt of the impact of contraception on our society. I am glad to say I have not had to suffer an abortion to see how it affects women. Similarly a doctor does not have to suffer all diseases to be able to help patients with their problems and cure them.

    And so whose authority is it to preach about how marriage should be conducted?
    I agree that the Church has been scandalised by the heinous and immoral behaviour of its clergy so much so that these clergy have lost all their moral integrity and authority to comment on sexual behaviour. The whole mess has brought shame and loss of belief to many Catholics around the world. However there are still many good practising Catholics who still obey the teachings on marriage and they are having families and producing a future generation of good priests.
    Those who practice birth control and abortion are literally killing themselves off and we now see a poor future for all developed nations due to under-population and demographic disaster.(pri@pop.org)

    Up until 1930 all christians advised non-contraception then non-catholics changed to allow its use.
    Since then we have had the over population myth rammed down our throats warning of economic and evironmental disasters. While the opposite is true in all respects as those who study this subject know, eg. L J Simon,’ Ultimate Resource’ Oxford Press; J. Kasun, ‘The War against Population. Ignatius,’ and many others. There are many other publications and films made to back up all the above. If not convinced that abortion and contraception are very closely rleated you can approach LIFE from their website,www.lifecharity.org.uk

    * pri@pop.org; http://www.woomb.org; http://www.Mycatholicfaith.org
    *i pri@pop.org and ‘Sexual common sense by Prof. janet E. Smith
    *ii Life Press Conference; 27-04-1998 ‘Abortion-one of The Most dangerous things That Can happen to a Woman

  • Bridget

    Unfortunately the reverse is true.

    According to the Natioal Office of statistics, married couples are less likely to split up than those who live together.
    The divorce and separation rate is much higher for couples who have lived together before marriage than those who choose to be celibate and chaste before marriage.
    Couples who ilve together before marriage are 50% more likely to divorce than those who did not cohabit.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry Bridget it is impossible to come to any conclusions over the statistics. We cannot do a fair test to prove what you are assuming.

    This is because the test is being run on two separate groups of people. Those people that find cohabitation reasonable and those that do not.

    Those that feel cohabitation is reasonable, will have different views on marriage and divorce from those that find it unacceptable. It is likely that they will not find it as important to stay together, and have less of a problem with divorce.

    We cannot prove that this is BECAUSE of prior cohabitation, or that instead, that they held these beliefs on marriage anyway – hence the fact they were willing to cohabit.

    A similar situation would be being told that:
    ‘People that ate sweets as children are 50% more likely to enjoy chocolate cake’

    Is this because they were given sweets as children, and therefore developed a taste for sweet foods?
    Or, do they enjoy chocolate cake because they ALWAYS had a sweet tooth, right from childhood – hence the fact that they ate sweets as children.
    Again, it is unprovable either way.

    The only way to find a provable answer to the question, would be to take all the couples in the survey you cite; and first force them ALL to Marry without cohabitation beforehand. Then go back in time and test again – this time forcing them ALL to cohabit before marriage.

  • Coretta Alexander

    Oh, England, Holy England; Our Lady’s dowry! I watched the Royal Wedding. While, I am glad that Kate and William finally wed; I felt very sad viewing the wedding. I kept thinking; England should be Roman Catholic! This should be a Catholic wedding in this beautiful abbey! May Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Walsingham make it so once more! The heart of the English people, indeed ALL of Britain died when Henry left his ancient faith! Much penance is required to restore the Christian character of England. Satan is soo cunning! Look at the conflict between Ireland and England, Ireland and Scotland! Is there any doubt this would NEVER have taken place, if England had remained Catholic? America, heart of Protestantism would be a Catholic nation; most of the world, had England remained Catholic! I pray for England! I pray for Our Lady’s dowry!

    Coretta Alexander,
    Atlanta, Georgia USA