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I still think Archbishop Nichols is wrong about civil unions. But we need to be fair: there’s no way ‘he would make a good Anglican’

A Catholic liberal just isn’t the same thing as an Anglican one

By on Friday, 9 December 2011

Archbishop Nichols is grilled by Stephen Sackur on the BBC's Hardtalk programme (Photo: BBC)

Archbishop Nichols is grilled by Stephen Sackur on the BBC's Hardtalk programme (Photo: BBC)

I’m getting a little worried about some of the comments I’m getting beneath my posts. Not necessarily with those who disagree with me (though some of them are exceptionally ill-mannered) since I can usually rely on sensible mainstream Catholics to redress the balance. No, what I’m worried about is those who agree with me, or at least some of them.

For instance, in my last post I criticised Cardinal Maradiaga who made comments in a homily at the climate change conference in Durban which could be taken as implying that those who don’t support the IPCC generated global warming cult were supporting something as morally repugnant as apartheid. I opined that he was simply wrong: but one of those supporting me went further than that: “he shows himself to be a Marxist,” he declared, “by promoting the global-warming cultism.” He then asserted that “most ‘cardinals’ made by Wojtyla are degenerate”. Degenerate?

But it’s some of the comments agreeing with my criticisms of Archbishop Nichols over civil unions, this week and also last, that are worrying me at the moment. It seems to me that he is supporting civil unions in a way the Church condemns, and that he ought to be more attentive to maintaining the truth of the Magisterium he is there to teach and defend. And it has seemed to me that as a Catholic bishop, he is too responsive to the notion that at some point in the future the Magisterium itself might selectively change (and so, it sometimes seems he thinks, he might as well do it now).

As one of my correspondents pointed out beneath my last piece, “when interviewed by the BBC, ++Nichols was asked whether the Catholic Church will follow the Anglican Communion in being ‘flexible’ on such questions as women priests, homosexual partnerships etc, his response was ‘Who knows what is down the road?’ What kind of ‘Catholic’ archbishop is he?”

Well, it’s a good question. “The Archbishop would make a good Anglican!” declared another correspondent. Well, would he? I used to be an Anglican: and when I was, I was consistently critical of my bishops, as indeed were most Anglo-Catholics, over a whole range of issues, mostly involving their faithfulness to the basic Christian revelation of the incarnation and Resurrection of Christ, but also including such matters as the “ordination” of women as priests. We made a bit of a nuisance of ourselves, I am glad to say; so much so that when the idea of a collective reception of Anglo-Catholics into the Catholic Church was mooted in the early 90s (to come to fruition only two decades later), it was greeted with horror (and subsequently squashed) by such Catholic bishops as Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, who assumed (I suppose noting how papalist we all were) that we would all be just as activist against the English Catholic establishment as we had been against the Anglican one. He was wrong; most of us were desperate to be members of a Church to which we could be loyal; and most of us were content to learn the ropes and leave the business of coping with the English bishops to the Pope, whose job it was, after all.

I remember a fierce argument I had with Peter Hebblethwaite in Oxford on just this subject (I think he had taken Bishop Hollis’s line in the Tablet and had had a go at me personally): what you don’t understand, I said, is that, much as you and I disagree about many things, I can see that we both believe in, and are united within, the same religion. My difficulty with so many Anglicans, I continued, is that I just don’t, at a fundamental level, believe what they believe. I pointed to the annual Sea of Faith conference, with which about 200 Anglican priests were affiliated, which was based on a disbelief in the very existence of God. That, I said, is tolerated by the Anglican bishops in the name of “Anglican comprehensiveness” in a way it could never be tolerated within the Catholic Church. He agreed. And I still think that there is a fundamental difference between an Anglican liberal and a Catholic one. They all read the Tablet; but the Tiber still flows strongly between them.

I really do not believe – I just have an instinct about this – that Archbishop Nichols could ever be an Anglican (though I do now think – as I didn’t when he was at Birmingham – that he has distinct tendencies in a Hebblethwaiteian direction); so it seemed to me, in the interests of fairness, that I had better try to find the original context of that now notorious “who knows what’s down the road”?

Interestingly, it occurred in the course of an argument with the fierce BBC journalist Stephen Sackur, most of which shows Archbishop Nichols fighting a valiant defensive action against a very aggressive secularist attack, in defence of the Catholic idea of truth. Here’s part of it:

S. You see you will know as well as I do there are social trend surveys in the United Kingdom and many other western developed nations which suggest that on issues like the view of homosexuality the general population is getting more and more “liberal”.

N. Certainly.

S. And yet you and the Pope are sticking to a deeply traditional, small “conservative” line. Therefore the disconnect between the general population and the Roman Catholic Church appears to be getting wider. Does that not worry you?

N. Well no, what would worry me more frankly is to try and refashion a message simply to suit a time. I think there is if you like a critical distance to be held between how the Church struggles to understand a revealed truth and how a society is moving. If they’re too close there’s no light. If they’re too far apart there’s no light.

S. There’s no Church. If they’re too far apart frankly there’s no Church

N. There might be no Church. That’s true.

S. There’ll be nobody in the pews.

N. That’s true.

S. And let me first just quote [to] you, sorry to interrupt but it is important, the Pope in his letter to Irish Catholics in which he expressed great remorse for what happened in Ireland going back to the child sex abuse scandals. He said and I’m quoting his words now: “Fast-paced social change has occurred often affecting peoples’ traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.” The Pope himself surely recognises there is a problem here and is the Church not going to have to respond to it?

N. Well let me quote the Pope back to you in 1986, I think it was, as a theologian he said he could foresee the day when the Church in some parts of the world had shrunk so much that it would become a small flock.

S. He used the word “remnant”

N. Yes he probably did. That’s a very biblical expression. So he’s not … afraid of that. He would put fidelity over success so the criteria we’re here for is not success.

S. You say he’s not afraid of becoming “a remnant” he would put orthodoxy, loyalty, purity

N. No, no a search for truth

S. OK so maybe purity of theology before …

N. [interrupting] That is the experience of every Christian. That’s the experience of everybody who loses their security loses their status in a society loses their life in martyrdom. It’s the whole pathway of fidelity to Christ. It’s just the way it is.

That’s the high point, for me, of the archbishop’s argument. The trouble is that he has an impulse towards agreement not only wherever it’s possible, but even sometimes where it shouldn’t be. Having said “It’s just the way it is”, he seems to need to appear reasonable, even to a secularist like Sackur; and my hunch is (I hope this isn’t unfair) that that leads him into danger (it has also, incidentally, led to his refusal to face the facts over the Soho Masses). This need to appear reasonable is the explanation of that now notorious remark about the possibility of the Church changing its views on such issues as women priests and homosexual partnerships. But even after he’s uttered it, you can see him trying to unsay it, and return to his anti-secularising stance. And it has to be said that, overall, most of what I have quoted and will now quote is hardly the kind of argument you can imagine from an Anglican bishop: but here he momentarily stumbles. The trouble is that this is the kind if argument in which if you once lose your footing, you’ve lost everything, even if you recover: it’s a bit like Torville and Dean both coming a cropper on the ice, even if they immediately recover and skate on. This is how the interview continues:

S. The Church of England for example in this country is taking a rather different view. They believe there has to be some flexibility. The church has to be a reflection of society’s values to a certain extent and therefore we see women priests, women vicars, and there’s obviously in some parts of the Anglican Communion, women bishops.

N. Certainly.

S. Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic Church not going to have to do the same eventually?

N. I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?

S. Well I’m just asking you. You’re rather an important player in the Catholic Church. What do you believe it should be?

N. No no. There’s no doubt in my mind that our first call is to faithfulness and not to success. And if faithfulness involves that kind of shrinking then so be it. But it’s not as if the Church has policies and then focus groups then tries to re-shape so that it captures the mood of the day or the wind and therefore gets momentum behind it. That’s not simply the way the Catholic Church understands itself.

I fear that when it comes to responding to an invitation to confront a known enemy, there are only two possible alternatives. Either (and I suspect that this is the wise course) the encounter should be avoided entirely: if they’re out to get you, they’ll probably succeed – it’s what they’re good at. But if you do get involved in such a conversation, don’t try to come over as reasonable, it’s not what they’re interested in. Just state the Catholic view clearly and stick to it. Make no concessions. Keep a straight bat: and don’t be tempted to try to hit the ball to the boundary unless you’re sure that it’s a really weak one. These people bowl fast and tricky. Your job isn’t to score a century: it’s to defend your wicket and avoid being bowled out. That’s the most you can hope for against an aggressive enemy: you’re not going to convince him, get used to that. Your short-term priority is survival. “It’s just the way it is.”

  • barbara clemen

    RCyouth Worker has it backwards.the church abandoned the the teachings of Christ,and the few who adhere to true bibical teaching (the far right)are in rebellion…and voicing an opinion to return to same.

    Your problem is ,you abandon His Word. Embracing a much fallen world view,that emcompasses many virtues abhored in the Bible.
    Christ teaches that alot will hear His words in the endtimes, but few will actually live His Word…by embacing a jaded world view.
    This is where you have gone wrong.

  • W Oddie

    Most people who agree with me are perfectly sensible and well-mannered: I was talking about the minority who aren’t, those who are not merely as ill-balanced, but often as ill-mannered as you yourself nearly always are.

  • Seaneinn

    I do love you analogy of cricket on this and most of the utterances coming from the Bishops. The best thing they can do it simply to state the Catholic Churchs’ position not to try and appear reasonable. This is what I believe most Catholics would appreciate and want. I am so tired of hearing Bishops talk on things that though are important, climate change etc but are not what the Boishops are there for. The main concern with the Priests of the Church should be the salvation of our souls, stating the Church’s teaching clear and in a confident manner even though this flies agains societies latest fad.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Where is the sense that they are supposed to listen to?  Let us have it from you instead of calling people names.  

  • LocutusOP

    I appreciate this post, Dr. Oddie. It certainly paints archbishop Nichols in a much more positive light than other articles I’ve read about him – and given I don’t live in the U.K, I almost get negative portrayals of him and much of the U.K. Catholic hierarchy.

    I still think he is a most unworthy shepherd of the flock, although now I’m not sure whether it’s because he is simply a coward unwilling to defend the Church’s views, or whether he’s simply not bright enough to articulate and explain the Church’s stance and why this stance represents God’s truth.

    Either way I’ve been reading a lot about saints and noticed that England has very many martyrs. It is a pity that the archbishop is the one chosen (and is unable/unwilling) to defend the truth to which these martyrs witnessed so courageously.

  • Anonymous

    The far from-plain and simple fact is that whoever advised Archbishop Nichols to take this line

    [i.e, that Civil Partnerships are acceptable; but they're nothing to do with marriage because that's about sex]

    …has poorly advised His Grace; especially given that this directly contravenes the 2003 CDF directive which orders a duty to oppose civil partnerships..

    If I were His Grace I should be asking why I am being advised to do that which is diammetrically opposed by Church directives.

    Then I’d take a long look around me and ask why am I doing X,Y & Z; and who is supporting me in X,Y & Z ? and is there any reason why I should find X,Y or Z questionable? and the motives of those advising/supporting me – are they questionable also? and while we’re at it – is there any possible reason why their loyalty or their motives for loyally supporting such positions are questionable?

    Is there any possible reason why ostensible loyalty and strong support might be disingenuous and counterproductive and be far from in my best interests?

    Is that friendly arm round my shoulders merely finding a suitable place between my shoulder blades to thrust the dagger?

  • EditorCT

    And if I were “His Grace” I’d be asking for the precise Gospel verse that mandates “advisers” in the first place.  I don’t recall Our Lord saying anything about listening to “advisers” when He appointed His first Apostles.

    Do you think for a second that “His Grace” would pay the slightest bit of attention to any amount of people “advising” him – for example – to put an end to ecumenical ventures in his archdiocese?   Advising him not to participate in the rituals of sun worshippers?

    Take it as read that if Archbishop Nichols believes something is right or wrong, he’ll act accordingly.  He thinks there is nothing wrong with civil partnerships. He’s outrageously wrong (and so is the Vatican for not disciplining him over this and the Soho Masses).  Stop defending the indefensible.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I am afraid all this started with Basil Hume, a very holy man but somewhat naive compared with some of his predecessors, such as Cardinal Heenan, in the ways of the world.  Matters got worse with Cormac who took on advisers from Number 10 such as Stephen Wall.  He ended up with Austen Ivereigh who is now the co-ordinator of Catholic Voices.  +VN in his question and answer session referred to one Alexander whose full name escapes me.  The problem with these courtiers is that like any courtiers they tend to flatter their masters right or wrong so that any criticism or query as to an ambiguity is seen as an attack upon the master to be put down at all cost.

  • Anonymous

    Editor – what I’m suggesting is far more machiavellian:

    Yes +Vin might be a ‘don’t rock the boat’ Archbishop…
    …but I’m beginning to wonder if he’s not being more sinned against than sinner; by people of duplicitous motives.

    Before +Vin was appointed Archbishop there was a whispering campaign against him as being ambitious and opportunist.
    When +Longley was appointed to Westminster but declined – Cormac et al went full steam ahead using every trick in the book to get +Roche appointed…that was thwarted at the eleventh hour and +Vin got the job.

    Now just supposing those who don’t want +Vin in Westminster have begun a long drawn-out campaign to make his position utterly untenable? People who remain in high places and are advising His Grace.

    Supposing he was advised by the ‘honest Iagos’ around him :
    To NOT intervene when the CESEW almost sold out every Catholic school and made Catholic morality banned outside the RE class?
    …and to NOT intervene in the Warwick St Masses?
    …and to NOT say a word in defence when the Pope was being accused of covering up clerical sex-abuse?
    …and to NOT agree and instead distance himself from Edmund Adamus when he called London the capital of the culture of death?
    …and to NOT do anything about abortion-mongering Connexions in Catholic schools
    …and to NOT do anything about the anti-Life shenanigans at the John & Lizzie
    …and to NOT do anything about the backdoor-euthanising Liverpool Care Pathway
    …and to NOT go against the long-term policy towards the dismantling of the Vaughan
    …and to NOT decline the inivitation to address the RCOG abortionists and while there commend their [non-existent] conscience rights
    …and to NOT oppose Civil Partnerships in the fight against the legalisation of Gay Marriage? i.e. NOT follow CDF directives which puts him in direct confrontation with His Holiness’ direct order of 2003?

    Just suppose that instead of +Vin being ‘his own man’ he is actually a puppet – taking advice by all those around him to follow the course which will be the least disruptive? The experts being wilfully counterproductive because they are not serving +Vin’s best interests?

    Suppose this is all directed to actually undermine Archbishop Nichols’ long-term standing and his credibility?
    Ultimately with the intention of making him beyond acceptable to Rome?
    …and be replaced by someone more conducive to the Magic Circle?

    What did Italian Newspapers say last week? That +Vin is the leading papal ally against gay marriage.
    What did that $%£# Silvestrini say? That +Vin was seen by the British as being too much a Papal lapdog…

    Why is +Vin being ‘bigged up’ as a Papal ally?
    When he’s deliberately going against Papal directives in this gay marriage thing  – probably after a lot of counselling and advice by ‘friends-no-friends’?

    Maybe – just maybe – they’re raising +Vin up only to bring him down with a crash [who knows what ammo they have against him behind the scenes?]

    …and in the process discredit the Pope?

    Maybe it is all +Vin? Maybe he is his own man making all his own mistakes and screwing the Catholic Church in the process?

    But maybe…just maybe…
    Instead he’s being pushed nearer and nearer the cliff’s edge by those smiling , concerned ‘supportive’ bodies around him who never wanted him as Archbishop and are using every trick in the book to make sure he doesn’t stay there much longer?

    I know it’s a ridiculous apophenic paranoid conspiracy theory – but maybe we’ve got the whole thing wrong?

    Maybe they’re the ones out to get +Vin – and are using devout,orthodox aggrieved bloggers to do the dirty work for them?

    But maybe I’m only being ‘mischievous’ and don’t believe a word of this?

  • EditorCT

    Your last sentence saved you from a very short reply from me along the lines “get real or get help”

    Dear old +Vin is an apostate – one of many – and the major flaw in your “argument” is that the Vatican are about as likely to replace him with another sound  Archbishop (who? from where?) as they are to appoint me as Special Envoy to the Vatican representing the Scottish Bishops.

  • Anonymous

    What I mean is this: Sometimes the Bible has contradictory passages, and sometime the Vatican has contradicted itself in its teachings.

    Even when clearly explained, and with clear examples of such contradictions such people fail to admit any faults in the Bible and of Vatican teaching.

    Usually the conversation ends with them saying that they do not trust your sources (of which you have found multiple, and from sources as free from bias as humanly possible). It is at this point you realize that they never wanted a real debate.

  • Anonymous

    Seeking excuses in sin..think about it !

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Catholics do not rely upon what the Bible says alone but on what the Church teaches as to faith and morals.  The question of whether the Church has contradicted itself on matters of faith and morals was examined at great length during Vatican I.  I do not think any conclusive evidence was found despite there being many people who did not want infallibility defined.

  • Anonymous

    Guessed you’d say that – but for fantasy’s sake supposing the more recent ‘+Vin policy’  IS deliberately intended to compromise His Grace?

    Why would Silvestrini suddenly find any interest in England & Wales? And write in such a way that specifically emphasised +Vin as being too allied with the Pope.

    Why would two Italian newspapers write in the same way? About +Vin’s closeness with the Papacy and fortitude in fighting against the gay marriage issue? [When surely it's been your leaders North of the Border who have been more outspoken and effective?]

    Why would +Sherrington deliberately resurrect an issue which for all intents and purposes was ‘done and dusted’,dead and buried and best left consigned to the annals of history? i.e. the confrontational letter to the Herald regarding the Vaughan? Surely +Vin would prefer the whole affair completely forgotten? Especially when the blogosphere’s buzzing that the story is most definitely not over and more revelations are imminent?
    Is +Sherrington just being downright stupid and pro-actively, misguidedly proving his loyalty to +Vin [who would rather prefer sleeping dogs were left to lie] ?
    Or was he instead told to do it by a third party who is no friend of +Vin and made +Sherrington just an obliging stooge who thought he was actually helping +Vin?

    Why are members of ‘certain groups’ singing from the same hymnsheet that it would be unreasonable & uncharitable to condemn the legal protection afforded those in Civil partnerships – that there is no sexual dimension involved in the CP legislation and that we should instead be focussing on marriage – what’s done is done and it served natural justice for same-sex couples to be afforded the rights within CPs- and the ONLY thing wrong with CPs is that they are not extended to other forms of couples rather than same-sex ones. And that the 2003 CDF directive is in regard to opposing same-sex unions [with a homosexual sexual dimension akin to marriage] something which isn’t within CPs? So 2003 directives ‘really meant’ opposition to gay marriage. They all seem to be pretty well indoctrinated and rehearsed in the issue – irrespective of the fact that it contravenes Church teaching and direct orders from the Vatican – they’re either oblivious or pugnaciously defiant to that fact!

    It almost seems that they’ve written +Vin’s policy for him rather than their following +Vin’s meandering equivocations…

    Which is why I ask – is it possible that +Vin’s been advised [to +Vin's detriment] to adopt a position which directly brings him into conflict with Rome? And if so…why? And is the other commentary and coverage from abroad merely coincidental?

    Could they be out to get +Vin?

  • Jameshughes

    What I want to know is why has the pope not sent a visitation to the UK with a view to removing those prelates who fail to adhere to and adequately defend catholic teaching. The English hierarchy in particular have a track record of politely listening to what the pope says and then simply ignoring it. This happened with summorum  Pontificum when the pope made it clear that seminarians require to be taught about the EF mass and yet Nichols responded that the students were ‘ too busy’ with a full curriculum and in any case they can learn after ordination. This is clearly a case of ‘ lions being led by donkeys’. What faithful catholics want is leadership as directed by their pope and not this wishy washy tripe they are being subjected to by the hierarchy with some noteable and laudable exceptions. The vatican managed to bin a dissenting prelate in Australia so what’s holding them back? VN et al should resign as should the Irish hierarchy for their dismal failure of leadership.

  • W Oddie

    Sigh! indeed. What deeply irritates me is to be called (with others) “mischievous” by the archbishop, for simply wanting him to be more conscientious in first clearly understanding and then defending Magisterial teaching. What does one have to do? 

  • EditorCT

    What you have to do is “be positive”.  It’s just not “cool” in the modern Church to defend the constant teaching of the Church on anything from the litrugy to homosexuality. That’s being “negative” as I was told by the then Bishop of Middlesbrough, no longer a bishop and I doubt even a practising Catholic now.


  • EditorCT

    With respect, paulpriest, you miss the point (a lot of them)

    To begin with your remarks about the Scottish bishops. Very typical.  Everyone thinks they are so sound because they believe the written/spoken (for the benefit of journalists) word without looking at the actions.

    Cardinal O’Brien hitting headlines about “gay” marriage being unacceptable when two minutes ago he publicly contradicted Bishop Devine by saying that we COULD have “gays” teaching in Catholic schools even if they are living with a partner.  He said he had “no problem” with that – so what’s the big deal if they now want to get “married”? 

    Archbishop Conti, leading the battle against “gay” marriage also speaks with forked tongue because he permits St Anne’s church in Dennistoun to be used by Episcopalians every Sunday for their service and thus he could well be hosting the first ever “gay”marriage in a Catholic church in due course. The website of St Mary’s Episcopalian cathedral in Glasgow lists an LGBT group among the groups “ministered” to.

    So, who’s advising them?  Doesn’t matter because like +Vin they are responsible for what happens and what is taught in their dioceses.  THEY – not any adviser – will be held accountable before God.

    As for the press comments in Italy and elsewhere – who cares. They seldom get it right. They still talk about the “schismatic” SSPX and other nonsense, so I’d pay no attention to that. They print what they are fed. Said “advisers” no doubt keen them misinformed…

    It’s a simple rule, paulpriest and I recommend you stick to it: do not try to defend the indefensible.  If +Vin did not think Civil Partnerships were acceptable, he’d say so.

    Oh and this baloney about them not being about sexual relationships – where did this suddenly spring from?  It was for the specific purpose of legally safeguarding homosexuals in partnerships (not “men” – men engaging in sexual acts with other men) that they were introduced in the first place. This latest ruse if all part of the diabolical plan to confuse the faithful, using the very people – the bishops – who should have defended the fort (to quote your wonderful English martyr, Bishop John Fisher)

  • Anonymous

    Who’s trying to defend the indefensible?

    I most certainly am not – but whenever I find that Silvestrini has entered into the fray – I reach for my rosary and expect the worst possible eventuality.
    [as everyone should - even those who don't believe a word of Malachi Martin's books]

    I don’t defend +Vin in anything he’s done…I’m not only incredulous that he thinks he can get away with it ; but that he presumes he’ll get a red hat in the process for doing it!

    But that doesn’t stop me thinking that they really are now deliberately plotting against him.

  • Andrew

    Nichols’ necessarily carefully crafted comments show vision and leadership and his position is undoubtedly shared by a substantial number of clergy as the occasional press intrusions into the Confessional show on the basis of the advice typically given.  Sadly, what I have read in the fulminations below shows yet more psychopathology (homophobia) dressed up as moral theology. If the Church were to allow herself to be properly informed by accumulated and accumulating multidisciplinary scientific research on the subject of human sexuality, then we would begin to see a depth of understanding on this issue that is spectacularly absent at the present time.  Unfortunately, the Church’s refusal to engage coherently with scientific research has been a principal characteristic of her history – often with dire results as in the case of Galileo and Darwin and during the persecution we call the Inquisition.  Nichols’ interviewer was quite right in directing attention to the current and especially longer term consequences of such a position – the Church will diminish – and for very wrong reasons and will fail in her mission because she will be alienating some of the very people who need her the most.  We know that Our Lord said nothing on the subject of homosexuality and the Apostles really didn’t see it as an issue either.  NT Church teaching on this subject derives from St. Paul who clearly has a big issue with homosexuality, perhaps because he was homosexual himself.  It is often conjectured (since nobody knows) that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ was simply this – homosexuality.  And, if this was indeed so, then he functions well as the proto-example of an individual who seeks to punish in other people what he detests or cannot cope with in himself.  In Medicine, this is pretty classic Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  And it is a characteristic of many of the clergy – particularly the Vatican officials who tells us of a ‘duty’ to oppose stable unions between people in love and who describe perfectly normal behaviour (within the spectrum of human behaviour as a whole) in a wholly hysterical manner: ‘an intrinsic moral evil and a grave offence against the natural order’.  I mean, please!  And what form of moral theology is it which confirms that the promiscuous single homosexual is in a more advantageous poition that one in a committed relationship, because the latter is a ‘state of permanent sin’, while the former is free to gain serial absolution in the Confessional.  Such a posotion can hardly be taken seriously – it is harsh, inhuman and damaging to the individual concerned.  Clearly, all of this has to change.  And it will change.  If the correspondents to this column were to go to sleep and wake up in 50 years they would have a very great shock indeed.  Current social trends show, as the Interviewer pointed out, that Western populations are troubled less and less by the issue of homosexuality which is viewed, correctly, as a social norm.  If these data are broken down by age, the results are astonishing and trends indicate that acceptance of homosexuality as a social norm will be over 90% by 2030 – the time by which, statistically, the older ‘anti-gay’ populations die off to be replaced by those who are currently in their late teens and twenties at the present time where acceptance is approximately 80% and where virtually all such age groups have gay friends, enabling understanding rather than fear born of ignorance.  It is unfortunate that the gay rights movement has had to be so militant in demanding its rights – but its method in this context is shown necessary and vindicated by much of what is written below.   By 2015 we will have full gay marriage in this country just as has happened in Spain, Portugal, Canada, an increasing number of states in the US, the Nordic countries – and so on.  Two expressions come to mind to sign off – ‘Calm down dear’ and ‘Some people are gay, get over it!’.  Ladies and gentlemen, take your pick.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Well Andrew is it pretty obvious where you stand and your post serves to prove my point which is that +VN’s statements have given support to the idea that sexually active civil partnerships are acceptable and that we are on the road to accepting that such sexual activity is not sinful. Whether +VN intended such an interpretation I do not know but he certainly does not seem to be offering clarification as to what he did mean.  I am afraid you may be disappointed in the long run.  By the way the Church may have got it wrong over Galileo but Darwin?  I seem to remember St Augustine suggesting that the creation story in Genesis should not be taken too literally.  It was surely the Protestants who believe in sola scriptura who had the problem rather than the Catholics.

  • EditorCT

    You are not making sense. How can they be plotting against him if he is saying what he believes – he is a firm supporter of feminists (I know that for a fact having been in his anything but august presence at one of their     mad meetings) and if he believes in that claptrap he’ll believe anything.

    He has had THOUSANDS of letters about the Soho Masses so if he is really against them he would have used that excuse to stop them. Instead, he boasted (I’m reliably informed) that he received thousands of complaints by letter and ignored every one.

    He is a very bad bishop. End of.  Don’t look for excuses for him, there are none.

  • David Devinish

    If two Catholics of the same sex meet, and find that they have an emotional psychological physical (sexual) attraction for each other and desire to spend the rest of their lives together in partnership; what is wrong with that? Love of any sort in this day and age is better than acrimony and animosity. If these two committed Catholics wish to swear an allegiance to God in marriage, then who is to say that it would be wrong to do so? However there is a danger for any Catholic (homosexual or heterosexual) wanting to run a mile after reading the (one-up-man-ship spat) between paulpriest and CT editor and the disrespect and discourtesy they expend spurting out venom against what they (from their cosy armchairs) disagree with. Archbishop Nichols must be cognisant of ecumenical, social and political changes. The days of Catholic Church authority from the pulpit are long done, and essentially most people will do whatever they want. The days of ‘Plaster Saint Catholics’ are over !!!

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Dear David,

    How can committed Catholics indulge in something which the Church has said to be wrong – namely indulging in certain sexual acts?  In the long run we are all going to die and a committed Catholic has received a promise that if he believes and keeps the commandments then he will be rewarded with eternal life.  If the Church teaches that these sexual acts are incompatible with keeping the commandments then is he not endangering his immortal soul?

  • Anonymous

    actualy texting during tea and lunch breaks at work – but we get your point – I have written extensively elsewhere on here regarding the necessity for pastoral sensitivity and the highest respect for any with SSA, plus I have repeatedly said on here that the Church in no way disapproves of disaffected friendships which may mutually support and grow in love.

    Civil Partnerships are different – irrespective of all the necessary aspects of it which removed ludicrous unjust discriminations regarding property, legacy, visitation rights etc – the very nature of a civil partnership by emulating/scandalising marriage is intrinsically morally disordered – the Church said so in 2003 and ordered a duty of opposition on every Catholic.

    Archbishops, Bishops and so-called Catholic commentators cannot suddenly volte-face on this and declare CPs are ok but the real problem is calling them marriage!!!?
    They are expressly forbidden from doing so and should be countered accordingly.

  • Anonymous

    Do you honestly think I’m looking for excuses for an Archbishop who leads a Conference which has allowed abortion into Catholic schools through Connexions  and recommends euthanasia via the Liverpool Care Pathway & allowed the CESEW ro nearly sell-out every Catholic school in the country?

    I’m not excusing anything he’s done – all I’m saying is that I think those around him are out to get him! So he should be watching his back and thinking long and hard about the motives and potential long-term grudges or alternate affiliations they possess.

  • David Devinish

    I worked as a Catholic Marriage Counsellor and specialised in psycho-sexual counselling in the late 1970’s and later on as a  psychoanalyst/psychotherapist. These sinful, ‘certain acts’ that you refer to have been practices by men and women since the beginning of time. It is not a pleasant subject to write about, but sodomy was used and is still widely used as a method of birth control, especially in Catholic countries. The problem with this method and why it was rendered illegal was merely because of anal sphincter damage (assault and grievous bodily harm (GBH) and bacterial infection, mostly venereal disease. A little while ago, my 16 year granddaughter was watching a television programme called “The Joy of Teen Sex” as she was doing her homework in the way teenagers do, as I did. The programme was telling people how to engage in safe sodomy. The clinical aspects (anatomy and neurological arrangement in relation to the proximity of the rectum and vagina) so that it is easy for a woman to obtain orgasm and without fear of pregnancy. It specifically pointed the techniques for doing this, and pointed out that there were many choices on antibacterial lubricants on the market and it was a safe method of birth control. Do we also hide our heads in shame because people engage in fellatio and cunnilingus. It is not awfully hygienic but people do it. As a teenager, I would not have known about such practices, and if I had known, I would not have told anybody because I would have been too embarrassed. However, she who is a practicing catholic (because she wants to, and is not made to) was quite nonchalant about it, and joked, I think to ease my embarrassment with a quip: “whatever turns you on”. Priest have always known (through confession) that men and women do this and any worthwhile counsellor will also know the incidence and statistics for such practice. So is it the case that for a married couple it is not a sin, but for same sex couples, men and women it is a sin. I do feel sorry for poor God, in having to sort all this out, I expect that Hell will have to be extended to cope with the increase on sinners.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Good grief David.  So birth control by unnatural methods is okay for Catholics?  Just because lots of people do a thing does that make it right?  It sounds as if Humanae Vitae does not have much meaning for you?  Did you work with a Roman Catholic agency as a Catholic Marriage Advisor?   

  • David Devinish

    I remember 1968 and the great turning point in Catholic attitudes. Yes I was properly qualified and accredited with the BAC. As a Catholic Marriage Guidance Counsellor I ran into conflict (mostly with myself). I held the same view that Carl Rogers held that the counsellor must always be detached and never try to influence the client or the outcome of the counselling, bearing in mind that the client must always decide what is best. The Catholic Marriage Counselling service was very different and they wanted the counselling to be an adjunct to the pulpit to tell the client what was best for them. They sent a bogus client who then reported back to the Monsignor what had taken place.I explained to the Monsignor that it would be unethical and immoral to direct the client as to the outcome and that it would directive counselling which is psychotherapy. He took the view that it did not matter too much what the client wanted; it was what the church wanted that was paramount. I could not continue counselling with such a blind view of living, and for that reason I left and proceeded training in psychotherapy.It does not matter too much any more what the church says or thinks, because most people will do what suits them, without fear of condemnation or eternal damnation, because very few sensible people believe these things. I am an old style Catholic because I like the Latin ritual and the Gregorian music. It helps me to gain unity with God without the [song and dance] music hall Mass and without idiotic distractions of interfering people during the sign of peace.THE END OF THIS DICUSSION

  • EditorCT

    Carl Rogers – according to his co-author and friend William Coulson – completely changed his mind about his non-directive counselling theory.  He said, allegedly, that if his own wife had followed his advice (do what YOU think, what is best for YOU etc) she’d have left him – this turnaround came, according to  Coulson, after Rogers suffered a major personal crisis, the nature of which I don’t think has been divulged. Sounded ot me like he’d had an affair but that is purely speculation on my part – I haven’t a clue.)

    Coulson has kept a promise he made to Rogers before his death, that he would tell people that he, Rogers, had changed his mind and did not recomend non-directive counselling.  Here is a transcript of an interview Coulson gave to show how the Rogers’ process destroyed vocations

    I know of one case where it almost destroyed a marriage. Happily, the wife changed her mind and returned to the family home but her counsellor’s relentless questioning of the open-ended variety but heavily laden with expectation, had led her to think that, yes, being someone’s mum WAS demanding and yes, she DID feel used and yes, her husband WAS selfish and yes, she COULD do something about it – start afresh. 

    I’ve been through a humanistic psychotherapy course myself, David,  (not as a client, I hasten to add! A training course!)and while it can be useful up to a point, it is also, as William Coulson now acknowldedges, highly dangerous.

    Any process of decision making which refuses to recognise the existence of objective truth and fallen human nature, is doomed to failure.  Check out that link above to see how many people were failed by Carl Rogers’ psychobabble.

  • David Devinish

    I met Carl Rogers in Oxford away back in the 1975. I was very impressed and it was he who stimulated me to train as a counsellor. I think that you are correct about non-directive counselling and I am familiar with the link. I suppose that is why I gave it up and trained in formal psychoanalysis. However as you may have guessed, because of my age the past is ‘another country’. I feel very sad that Catholics have allowed the Roman Catholic Church to disintegrate into [the undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn, no traveller returns]. You seem to be a very nice person. Anyhow I am off to bed. Goodbye!!!

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Dear David,

    Many thanks for explaining exactly where you are.  As to poor God have to sort this out I do not think we need to worry too much.  The devil knows his own men and will claim them.

  • Anonymous

    The world has changed since the First Vatican Council and different issues have arisen.

    When I talk about contradictions it is usually less about the actual teachings, and more about what people say that enacting them will do, and will not do.

    Some of the Church’s teachings (that may have there merits), do not always work for the greatest good. However, talk to some people on here and even in the face of huge evidence they will deny your point.

    Take for example something really obvious – the Church’s teaching on contraception – in relation to AIDS in Africa. This is a life and death issue here, so really there’s no point in being ideological about it. Unfortunately he Church does not alter its policy in the light of different circumstances.

    It is because of this, that despite the Church’s great effort to tackle poverty in Africa through aid (which is commendable), in terms of evangelizing – it likely costs many, many lives through persuading people that contraception is immoral.

    Catholic aid agencies (the one’s whose paper money bags are given out after masses), learnt this years ago. And in order to save human-beings and children’s lives they decided to promote abstinence – and also condoms if people cannot abstain.

  • Peregrinus

    “I’m getting a little worried about some of the comments I’m getting beneath my posts”
    I like your posts. Don’t worry about the nutters – they are, after all, nutters. 

  • Anonymous

    someone who fails to see that a 2000 year old text, not written directly by God, may have cultural meaning rather than every line of every page being absolutely true.  - and who abuses this in order to ‘believe’ that held prejudices can be ‘endorsed’ by the Bible. 

  • Anonymous

    ‘These people bowl fast and tricky’ – you mean that the press ask uncomfortable questions?

    The Church should simply quit with its passive homophobia – based on a couple of lines in the Old Testament – and kept alive by the tradition of homophobia that most countries had until the second-half of the 20th century.

    Someone tell me why the Vatican listens to parts about homosexuality – but then completely ignores parts like this:

    ‘Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children.’

    I don’t know about you, but I do not take everything at face-value in the part of the Bible that glorifies killing small children and babies and raping their mothers. So why does the Vatican?

    Pope Benedict says that Video Games can be dangerous to children and society for their violent and sexual content (see link below) – but I would suggest that parts of the Bible itself are much more explicit and corrupting than any video game I have played.
    Raping women and killing babies just doesn’t sell as well anymore I suppose.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I guess you are falling into utilitarianism when you talk about what teachings will or will not do and the greatest good.  One can argue about outcomes ad nauseam as the problem with utilitarianism or consequentialism is the utter impossibility of predicting any outcome with certainty.  As to the contraception and condoms issue evidence is beginning to emerge viz: the Professor at Harvard that the Pope is right in saying that condoms are not the answer as far as HIV is concerned.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Paulsays: It is not just on the basis of what the Bible says that unnatural sexual practices are condemned by the Church but what can be deduced from Natural Law.  I suggest you read Father Peter Bristow’s book “The Moral Dignity of Man” to get a more complete view of why the Church teaches as it does.

  • Anonymous

    Dr Edward Green at Harvard belives, as is promoted by many Christian groups – and has shown to be the best solution in terms of reducing cases – the ABC strategy: Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I cannot see what that has to do with your earlier post and my reply.  Green and ABC are a complex subject – not to be summarised simplistically!  

    I agree that there are some strange passages in the Bible – I have just been reading the Book of Joshua.  The Catholic Church has always held that the Bible needs to be read with care unlike the Protestant sola scriptura policy.

  • Guy Picardie

    You are mistaken and are mixed up between between Carl Rogers and Roy Rogers.

  • John Jackson

    I have only know had the opportunity to read this, but point well taken.  I remember hearing the Archbishop in the programme after the Holy Father’s visit, when he appeared with Chris Patten and Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch and another female guest I can’t now recall.  Professor MacCulloch certainly attempted to accuse the Vatican of planning the visit purely because the spector of a former Anglican priest and academic and beloved Englishman like Newman being beatified by Rome was simply too good of a PR stunt to pass up.  I thought the Archbishop, by and large, handled that very well and was able to, on one occasion at least, find himself in agreement with MacCulloch over another issue.  I recall in that case, however, that I was struck by the fact that he appeared a bit combative as well on an occasion.  Chris Patten, a good friend of MacCulloch’s I surmised and one who admired him as a consummate scholar, was a bit awestruck, and that may have been the reason for the Archbishop’s sometime testiness, as an antidote.  However, I thought that perhaps he had done his homework then.  Perhaps, that was the problem with the Saklur interview.  Could he have allowed himself to relax a bit too much and be underprepared?  While I did not like the ‘you never know’ attitude that seemed to surface, at least I’m confident that if he really does not know what the Magisterum might do in future, the Magisterum probably knows what it has no intention of doing – since it will continue to discern the mind of the Spirit and the Scriptures – and that’s comforting. 

  • Tomcarty

    Gay marriage and the ordination of women are different cases. The definition of marriage is biologically determined and the church will go on marrying one man to one woman. Anyone who wants a different sort of union will no doubt be able to contract one elsewhere. In that respect it’s rather like remarriage after divorce where the church is bound by the explicit teaching of our Lord.
    Priestly functions are neither inherently biologically determined nor defined by Jesus as restricted to males.Certainly he chose only men to be his closest advisors but that was a reflection of the time and society: he chose only Jews for the same reason. Those who object that a priest has to represent Jesus Christ at the altar can never explain why a woman cannot do so. And as for the argument that the Word was made male flesh rather than female: human beings come in one of two equally valid packages, so the saviour of humankind had to be one or the other.