Tue 21st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Tue 21st Oct 2014 at 06:37am

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

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.”

  • Anonymous

    “I’m getting a little worried about some of the comments I’m getting beneath my posts”

    I have a lot of time for the Herald and I think it has an important role in Catholic discourse in this country, but I think they shot themselves in the foot slightly by allowing public comments beneath threads. 

    Some of the people I’ve seen commenting on these posts have just been nuts. I mean so far to the right that nobody at all in communion the church would stand next to them. The vast majority don’t fit into this category, of course, but some do. And particular articles seem to bring them out of the woodwork a little more.

    I know that these people represent neither the Herald nor the vast majority of its readership and I hope that’s clear to everyone else who reads these articles.

    If I can offer one piece of advice… I always find that the best thing to do with the really nutty comments is just to completely and utterly ignore them.

  • AMSwan

    The cricket analogy in this article is excellent!

  • Nicolas Bellord

    RCYouthWorker:  May I remind you that there is a tradition of free speech in this country and therefore comments from the Right or the Left, even extreme ones, provided they are not obscene or defamatory, should be tolerated even encouraged.  It is also preferable not to have ad hominem attacks such as saying that some commentators are nuts but rather reasoned replies to views with which one does not agree.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Maybe I should not repeat myself but I have just made a comment in reply to the earlier question asking for clarification from +VN but I am repeating it as it does narrate the latest development:

    What is quite clear from most of the comment is that whether you are a Tabletista or worse such as the author of queeringthechurch.com or a Taliban Catholic or just in the middle most people have been given the impression that the “Archbishop praises civil partnerships” – to quote the Tablet headline and more specifically “His comments mark the clearest support that a Catholic bishop has given to civil unions”.In contrast to this the CDF has said: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(For Austen Ivereigh to claim that this does not apply to civil unions is just plain silly)On Wednesday His Grace gave the inaugural Thomas More Memorial Lecture on “Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve but a vital contributor to the national conversation” followed by a Question and Answer session.This was the perfect opportunity to reply to William Oddie’s very pertinent question asking for clarification.  We did not get it.His Grace’s lecture can be read at:http://www.catholicnews.org.uk…His Grace suggested three points for action.  The first was to promote community and he suggested that joining something would lead to a community spirit which would eventually lead to a discussion where “the surge of awe, will come to the fore” presumably leading to religion.  One of his suggestions was bird-watching (shades of Fotherington Thomas and tell that to David Attenborough”).  Community is expressed in “a network of stable, lasting relationships in which encouragement, companionship and support are to be found”.  That was as near as he got to the subject of civil unions but one can see where he might be going.  It is rather like praising loyalty and by implication supporting the German soldier’s oath to the Fuehrer.Anyway in the Question and Answer session the question about Civil Unions was put to him in writing in no uncertain terms with the above quote from the CDF being read out.  Effectively he dodged the question repeating something along the lines of what he had said after the Bishop’s Conference.  His answer was that we should concentrate on the proposal that civil unions should be redefined as marriage.  (A proposal that an eminent Professor of Law  at Oxford has pointed out could be achieved by simply changing the definition in the Civil Partnership Act – a one line Act of Parliament could do that).  He said that we should concentrate on that issue alone and forget about civil unions as being done and dusted.  He said that bloggers who had brought the question up about civil unions were “mischievous”.Can he not see that these bloggers and many commentators are serious, sincere and genuine in their concerns and in dismissing them as mischievous is not acceptable from one who is suppose to be our shepherd?We must resist the redefinition of civil unions as marriage but surely His Grace has effectively undermined the situation.  The Government will say “These English & Welsh Catholic Bishops were initially opposed to Civil Unions but they have come round at last and praise them.  They are a bit slow to adapt to modern needs and they do have Rome breathing down their necks.  We may as well pass an Act redefining marriage and eventually the Bishops will come round to our point of view somewhere down the road”.

  • Anonymous

    At the risk of (once more?) being exceptionally ill-mannered perhaps Dr Oddie might learn something by considering the sort of people who like his blogs. As my mother used to say, “If you show me who your friends are, I’ll tell you who you are.”

  • Mark77

    Once again a very good article Mr Oddie, but the question that I would like answered is why is this weak leadership so prevalent throughout all of English society?

    We see it everywhere from our football managers through to our politicians – and even those who hold them accountable. Consider the mild-mannered, polite questioning that the Murdochs receieved from the Select Committee, compared to the grilling they would have got in America. The same can be said for the way our bankers were questioned, compared to the treatment they got in the U.S. There seem to be so few public figures courageous enough to ‘tell it like it is’ these days.

    From the Catholic perspective I suspect it has something to do with the years of persecution we’ve received in this nation; peoples’ suspicion of a religion and a faith they now know so little about; and the still very present institutional prejudice that is present against Catholics in England. But I think it goes deeper than those issues: perhaps it is because our national identity is so weak? perhaps it is because our abortion rate is so high (which reflects much on hundreds of thousands of weak men walking away from their responsibilities)? perhaps it is because the Anglicans’ fondness for mild-mannered polite engagement has permeated through to the rest of us… “whatever you do, don’t upset the cart”.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  • Poppy Tupper

    If you are going to be so rude as to put “ordination” into inverted commas when referring to Anglican ministry, perhaps you could be consistent and also put “priests” in the same sentence in inverted commas too. After all, no Anglicans are priests according to the official Roman standard. It is the equivalent to some rabid Paisleyite referring to the Roman Catholic “Church”.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately ‘Who knows what’s down the road’ is not the only concern Catholics have about Vincent Nichols. There are the soho masses, the Vaughan etc etc. Secularism today is militant, robust and very self-confident. There seems very little opposition to it. The given is that secularism is the default ideology and it thrives on the militants in the media and elsewhere and their gullible supporters and on the sad apathy from those confused people who may have a vestige of Christianity somewhere.
    In this culture we Catholics need robust intelligent leadership from our shepherds and many bishops are not up to this task. They want to be all things to all men and Vincent Nichols appears to belong to this  clique. He is not a safe pair of hands.
    Do we want the robust faith in the Risen Christ that St Paul boldly preached or  the vacuous counterfeit of Christianity now prevalent in the secular West that saps Christians of their meaning and vitality?

  • Stewart Griffin

    “I really do not believe – I just have an instinct about this – that Archbishop Nichols could never be an Anglican”

    You DO NOT BELIEVE that Archbishop Nichols could NEVER be an Anglican? I assume this double negative is a mistake.

  • Anonymous

    According to The Tablet http://thetablet.co.uk/latest-news.php Archbishop Nichols has expressed doubts about man-made climate change, perhaps he has been reading some of Dr Oddie’s blogs on that subject.

  • Anonymous

    Been waiting for this:

    RCYouthworker – on Wednesday night you opined to Austen Ivereigh that the issue regarding Archbishop Nichols’s statements on Civil Partnerships was :

    ‘all a storm in a teacup’

    You said this AFTER Austen Ivereigh declared LifesiteNew had been ‘Silly’
    in its reporting http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/uks-most-important-catholic-bishop-endorses-gay-civil-unions/

     And Dr Ivereigh had told Caroline Farrow that the Church [Vatican even] opposition to same-sex unions referred to Gay Marriage and NOT civil partneships.

    AND That Dr Oddie himself was

    “exploting the ambiguity of the term “same-sex unions”

    Now as you flood the internet with continual praise for Dr Ivereigh & Catholic Voices [first to recommend their book on Amazon weren't you?] We MIGHT possibly question your motives in denouncing those who participate on here.

    Why exactly are some individuals ‘nuts’?

    Is it possibly the case that they feel outraged and scandalised that an Archbishop can state something which is simply not true? i.e. that the Church supports Civil Partnerships when it absolutely does not.

    Do YOU also feel outraged that a friend and associate, a Co-ordinator of Catholic Voices  [the self-declared Alastair Campbell for the Church in England & Wales]
    Dr Ivereigh:
    - someone who is supposed to be informed on such ‘neuralgic issues’
    - someone who appears in the media ‘Speaking for the Catholic Church in an authoritative way” [their words - most definitely not mine]
    also declares the same thing – that the Church does not oppose Civil partnerships – WHEN IT DOES!!!!???

    Now as no official Catholic body either chose to [or dared to] repudiate & refute Dr Ivereigh’s claims; SPUC [having been authorised by its governing council to speak on the issue] chose to counter Dr Ivereigh’s claims – only to be attacked by, among others, members of Catholic Voices for entering into an issue which wasn’t their remit or job description; and they were undermining the ‘pro-Life’ cause for doing so!

    So RCYouthworker – before you continue – why don’t you tell us:
    Does the Church support Civil Partnerships?
    Are you going to back +Vin & Ivereigh and say it does not oppose them?

    Of course maybe you think, like His Grace; that I’m just being ‘mischievous’?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t usually respond to comments etc, but I think you make some fair points here.

    Yes, ‘nuts’ is probably an unwise term to use. I always try to ‘bring light, not heat’ and it makes things easier when people don’t think you’re out to insult them personally. Terminology matters, and I could have found better terms there.

    As for the point about free speech, again I agree, but as somebody who runs a website (and a pretty big one) I have actually found that discourse works so much better when you don’t allow anyone and everyone to comment. Hence, all comments are pre-approved. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that bodies of the media are required to give everybody a platform. Those bodies must decide what their mission is and then make sensible, sound decisions around that.

    As for the point about obscene and defamatory comments, I would agree. I am only really talking about a very small handful of comments, but I tend to find that the more, let’s say, extreme, they are, the more rude they are too. People seldom say the more extreme things politely.

    As I say, fair point on the ‘nuts’ comment though. I rather fell foul of my own advice there :)

  • W Oddie

    Yes it is. It is in the course of being corrected

  • W Oddie

    I just wanted to keep my rudeness within bounds.

  • W Oddie

    No: most people who agree with me are perfectly sensible; far more of those those who regularly disagree with me are, like you, boorish and offensive. 

  • W Oddie

    Also, “ordination” refers here not to anglican ministry, but to the ordination of women to the priesthood, which we anglo-catholics held was simply invalid, i.e. not ordination at all. Of course, as a Catholic, I don’t (I can’t) believe in the validity of Anglican orders at all: but it’s not something I want particularly to make a point of. 

  • Bob

    Archbishop Nichols evangelizes a Zoroastrian:

  • W Oddie

    Now it has been.

  • Peter

    A good article Dr Oddie because many of the comments worry me too.  There are many things you and I disagree about but “much as you and I disagree about many things, I can see that we both believe in, and are united within, the same religion.”  And that comment of yours succinctly sums up the relationship.  Rudeness and insults directed towards yourself, other posters and the hierarchy are inexcusable. Robust polemic is another matter.

  • Joel Pinheiro

    As a reader who sometimes comments, and sometimes disagrees with you, Mr. Oddie, I think you’ve wirrten a great post, by charitably trying to understand where the Archbishop comes from.

    Allow me, however, to disagree with your conclusion: I think the prelates and priests (and all Catholics, actually) should present the Faith in a way as to attract the attention and interest of readers. Stopping at “it’s just the way it is” makes us seem stubborn and close-minded. Let’s always give reasons for our beliefs, and if there are no reasons, or if the issue is not absolutely essential, have the humility to say so.

    Gay couples being legally united and adopting is a prudential matter still not resolved. Who knows whether children raised by homosexuals are really worse off than living in an orphanage or with a single parent? Where is the evidence? So the least we can do is keep an open mind about it: show and voice our concerns and objections, but not in a dogmatic and stubborn way. This attitude is a straight ticket to that “pure and small” Church (or gueto?) that internet traditionalists yearn for.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    But Mr Pinheiro there are reasons for our beliefs, in particular that sex outside of marriage is wrong.  “Gay couples being legally united” – well of course it depends upon what you mean by that.  If you are referring to gay couples who are indulging in sex between themselves and asserting the rightness of such behaviour then they are patently not suitable for the adoption of children – their assertions would be a very bad example for such children.  I think you must be careful not to adopt a utilitarian approach.  By the way dogmatic, to us Catholics, means in accordance with the teachings of the Church and we have to be stubborn about such matters and not give a false impression that somehow we can accommodate behaviour which is contrary to that teaching.  I think you will find that many people are attracted to the Church just because it is dogmatic and stubborn on certain issues.

  • OPN

    I have seen RCYouthworkers site and I definitely get the impression they are liberal. They posted on their site recently that doing business with Barnado’s (who support abortions) was possibly alright. This is a zero tolerance issue and it is never ‘possibly’ alright to support any organisation that supports abortion if you are Catholic. It is extremely worrying that RCYW seems to crop up with these liberal comments.

    They also seem to have a problem with the ‘right’ of the church. What RCYW seems to fail to understand is that it is never an issue of left or right – it is only ever an issue of being faithful to the magisterium of the church. This is always a zero tolerance issue.
    It is extremely worrying that someone so influential in youth ministry does not seem to grasp this point.

    I know a number of Catholic youth workers from the 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s, and although maybe they could be accused of not being perfect, even they are growing more and more concerned about the growing liberalism in Catholic youth work in the UK. It seems that the momentum is in the evangelical and pentecostal youth ministries. They tend to have a stronger (if not harder) Christian message in their teaching at grass roots and national level. Despite this they are far more successful at getting the youth to stay in their churches.

  • Joel Pinheiro

    I think it is a question of knowing what our essentials are. That homosexuality is a distortion of what human sexuality should be doesn’t necessarily lead us to the conclusion that they should not be allowed to adopt. Do they have wrong moral opinions? Sure. But so do so many adoptive parents. Actually, so many parents nowadays think there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. That doesn’t make their children homosexual.

    One piece of data that would be very relevant: are adopted children raised by homosexual parents more likely to be homosexual when they grow up than those raised by heterosexual couples? 

    That Catholics don’t feel comfortable discussing this rationally, but feel bound to assert a particular answer dogmatically just because the catechism and the curia said so, is troubling. A whole lot has changed in Catholic morality over the centuries; even teachings that had been declared and reaffirmed by pope after pope (usury – simply taking interest on a loan – was being condemned by a pope up to the 18th century! By the beginning of the 19th manuals for confessors were advising priests not to ask about interest-taking any longer). 

    I agree with you on a point: a certain degree of apparent “stubborness” is attractive. But precisely because it is not actually stubborness, but merely having principles, something which our society has lost. The question is; what are our principles rooted on? The say-so of pope and catechism? Or a deeper knowledge and love of something higher?

    Is it possible that the present official opinion on homosexual adoption is wrong, or at least exaggerated? If so, let’s not stake our faith on it and treat it as a non-negotiable. This is not the Trinity or the Incarnation or the Eucharist.

  • Don Gaffney

    Aquinas says the Church is like a stone arch. Remove any one stone (dogma) and it all crumbles. Re protocol : Would it be more correct to refer to an archbishop who questions dogma as a broken arch or a fallen arch ?  Don Gaffney

  • Poppy Tupper

    There was a continuum of views among Anglo-Catholics on the ordination of women, even in your day, from those who subscribed to the opinion that you have just expressed, to other such luminaries as the late Gerard Irvine who accepted and even supported the idea of women priests. So it is very presumptuous of you to think that you speak for all Anglo-Catholics.

  • Humbridge

    Debate is good, and I think Archbishop Nichols is a big strong boy who can look after himself. I think these are serious issues, which need to be addressed. But we should avoid insults and anything that tastes of bitterness. They bring the “traditionalist” side into terrible disrepute and put people off. Please let’s be charitable. Clear and straightforward yes, but always charitable. The conservatives do themselves no favours by making nasty comments- it plays into the hands of the liberals who always portray us as twisted old lemons. Keep up the good work, Mr Oddie, and thank you.

  • Anonymous
  • Nicolas Bellord

    Mr Pinheiro you ask whether they have wrong moral opinions.  It is not just wrong moral opinions but wrong moral acts which give the bad example.  If a heterosexual couple were indulging in immoral acts, of whatever kind, and holding that they were right in so doing then I would not place children with them.   There are plenty of people trying to adopt so why not choose the best parents?

    You go on to ask:

    “One piece of data that would be very relevant: are adopted children raised by homosexual parents more likely to be homosexual when they grow up than those raised by heterosexual couples? ”

    If we are thinking of a Catholic adoption agency then I would hope that they would want to place a Catholic child with Catholic parents and not with a couple who are openly defying the law of the Church.  Whether the child would turn out homosexual is not the point.   The likelihood that it would not grow up as an orthodox Catholic is more than probable.

    Why is it troubling that Catholics rely upon the magisterium?  There are many areas of life where one has to trust authority.  When I board an aeroplane I take it on trust that it has been properly built, maintained etc.  Life is too short to become an expert on everything.  We have the assurance that the Church cannot err in faith and morals and therefore it is quite rational to follow the teaching without going into all the reasons as to why the teaching is there.

    “A whole lot has changed in Catholic morality over the centuries”  I think you will find that nothing fundamental – in particular sexual morality – has changed.  It may have developed and we may have a better understanding of the issues but fundamental change no.  You quote the example of usury.  Usury is a sin against the seventh and tenth commandments.  However the actual nature of what is usury is something that needs developing very urgently.  It is not just lending money at interest but lending money regardless of any moral considerations e.g lending money to someone when you know they have little chance of paying the interest.  The recent financial crisis has in large part been caused by usury.  For example lending money for house buying in the United States at very low rates of interest but then putting in a clause whereby the rate of interest rockets after two years in the hope that the borrower will not  notice.  I think you will find that much of our previous law on money-lending was swept away by the Financial Services Act 1986 as was some of the law on gambling (another sin in certain circumstances) all with disastrous results.

    I would like to see the Church getting its head round making a study of what usury and gambling are.  They could start with an interesting article by Hilaire Belloc on Usury written shortly after the 1929 crash.

    I think to suggest that fundamental principles of morality are negotiable is very dangerous.  Most of us have to struggle with improper sexual desires whether we have heterosexual or homosexual leanings and to be told that we may have been wasting our time resisting those urges because something else is “down the road” is particularly unhelpful.  The failure to give proper support to Humanae Vitae has been the cause of much of the falling away from the Church.

  • Poppy Tupper

    No, he wants to keep in with Cardinal Pell in case he gets Pope hext time round.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Dr Oddie is quite right about the difference between Anglican bishops and Catholic ones. Many of the key moments which convinced me that Anglicanism was not my home were during sermons or other performances by Anglican bishops. Whilst I sometimes hope for a clearer statement of orthodoxy from Catholic bishops, I’ve never heard anything like the nonsense that came from some Anglicans.

    On not trying to appear reasonable to an aggressive enenmy, I’m not sure. Catholicism is essentially based on reason, and while it needs to be careful not to bow to false standards of reason set by a secular agenda, it does need to present rational arguments. And the problem is that it’s very difficult to do this in a live encounter and get every nuance and tone right. Perhaps a division of responsibility? Bishops need to present the faith loud and clear whilst the laity need to get down and dirty with the media…?? Catholicism has a philosophical tradition lacking in other forms of Christianity. We need to use it and the nature of live philosophical debate is essentially risky.

  • W Oddie

    No, I just spoke for the real ones. The others weren’t any kind of catholic at all. They just liked the bells and smells.

  • James

    “Sex outside marriage is wrong”. Why is it then that conservative Catholics regularly fulminate against civil partnerships but not against civil marriages of divorcees. The latter are equally guilty of having sex outside of marriage as defined by the Church. Also, as they are living in sin, they  are surely equally unsuitable to be adoptive parents.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    I’ve never understood that term, applied to religion: “right wing” or “too far to the right”.

    Would you explain it for me please?


  • Anonymous

    Perhaps because the fulminaters can imagine how two people of different sexes in the same marriage can come unstuck; many such Catholics will themselves come from homes in which this has happened. Divorce is wisdespread, and there are millions of divorced Christians – Catholics included – in Britain alone.

    Gay people OTOH are relatively rare. Probably more Catholics have heard of condemnations of “homosexuality” (it’s an unsatisfactory word, but it has the advantage of familiarity) than have met a gay person. Gay people still have oddity value; they are still sufficiently unfamiliar for Catholics to be ignorant of what to expect should they come across one. And divorce does not have the cachet that comes with being a “sin crying to heaven for vengeance” – “the sin of Sodom” seems to be remembered, while the others escape notice. It is not even 50 years since sodomy was decriminalised; and there are various myths about gay people that don’t help them to be accepted without further ado. Myths about AIDS being a “gay plague” probably didn’t help. And the present Pope has spoken far more about gay people than about divorce. In addition, “conservative” Catholics – another unhelpful label – are fairly like to adopt the position that being gay is worse than being divorced; that gay people are a far greater threat to marriage, for that very reason. And another reason given for the attention devoted to gay people is that they are active in trying to have “the gay lifestyle” accepted as socially normal, whereas there are no “Divorce Pride” marches. In short, gay people are unfamiliar, are objects of suspicion, & have a very bad reputation: they are in much the same category as Freemasons, Jews, Communists, liberals, Protestants, atheists, & other such favourite objects of Catholic suspicion. If people are warned against “the enemy” by informants they trust, how likely is it that they will investigate whether “the enemy” really is as described ?

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I think there are several answers to your question.

    Firstly civil partnerships are a live issue in the sense that they are a new thing whereas divorce has been around for a long time.  But I think you will find there was a great deal of fulminating when the divorce laws were introduced.  Civil marriage of divorcees where any previous marriage has not been annulled is a sin.  I would have thought that a Catholic adoption agency would have reservations as to  such being a suitable environment in a similar way they would not be happy with a civil partnership between active homosexually people.

    By the way the issue with adoption is that the Church is claiming the right to choose the best environment for adoption taking into account many different factors.  They have been frustrated in this policy by the assertion that where homosexuality is an issue they are forbidden to take account of that factor.

    Secondly there is difference between adultery and fornication on the one hand and homosexual acts on the other.  The former are a misuse of sexuality ‘which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses’.  A good is being used improperly.   Homosexual acts  however are  “intrinsically disordered … Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    Thirdly there is a natural revulsion in most people to homosexual acts.  This has led, in the past, to unjust criminalising of these acts which I in no way endorse but I do not think one can claim that that revulsion is in itself wrong.  (By the way it was a Protestant, Thomas Cromwell, who introduced the first Act against Buggery in 1535 or thereabouts).

    I must say I disagree with much of what Parasum has said in his comment.  Was it a myth that HIV was mainly the concern of the gay community?  I am sure that most Catholics have met gay people in the course of their lives and on the whole treat them with the same kind of respect as they would anyone else.  Frankly I have difficulty in identifying whether people are gay, adulterers or fornicators.  Most of us have been guilty of sexual sins.  The difference is that some gay people seem to be intent on claiming that their activities are not sinful in a way other sinners generally do not.

    Lastly I would say that lay Catholics of a traditional or orthodox leaning are just as, if not more so, fulminating about sex education in our schools at the present moment.  The deathly silence of most of our Bishops on that subject is more worrying than the confusing statements of the Bishops on civil partnerships.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Of course, of course.

    The ex-Vicar of S.Thomas, Oxford liked to say things like that, too – and look where it’s got him. No wonder your Ordinariate has been such a spectacular flop.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    paulpriest:  Thank you for providing a link to that.  It is a transcript put out by Catholic Voices of part of the Question & Answer session last Wednesday 7th December 2011 at Netherall House when His Grace was asked questions about his attitude to Civil Partnerships.  The headline that Catholic Voices has put to this extract is ‘”Keep focus on marriage” Archbishop Nichols spells out position on civil partnerships’.  

    Well I am just as confused as ever.  First of all His Grace says there has been “mischievous talk in newspapers, or Catholic newspapers I should say, and subsequently on websites”.  As far as I know the only Catholic newspaper that had mentioned it prior to last Wednesday evening was The Tablet.  Was he calling it mischievous?  Perhaps though he was referring to on-line newspapers of which there were several.  As I have said before I think calling this talk “mischievous” does not help.  There are genuine, sincere and honest concerns about this.

    He goes on to say:

    “I think what I have done is recognise the existence of legal arrangements for same-sex partners who wish to avail themselves of protection to do with rights and property, inheritance and access to each other.”

    What does he mean when he says “recognise”.  The first modern meaning of “recognition” in the SOED is “The action of acknowledging as true, valid, or entitled to consideration; formal acknowledgement as conveying approval or sanction of something”.  That is what I would call the strong meaning.

    There is also a weak meaning where recognition is merely the apprehension of something.

    Which meaning did His Grace have in mind?

    For me I believe that in the context of what he had said earlier in November (“The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships…”) and what he has now said (“We too are in favour of commitment”) it is the strong use of the word “recognise”.  He seems therefore to be indorsing civil partnerships between same-sex partners, most of which will be sexually active partnerships, as being good because expressing commitment in relationships.

    His desire that we should just concentrate on the marriage issue is not sufficient.  That is a separate and very important problem.  Personally I fear that his indorsement of civil partnerships has sold the pass on that problem.


  • Nat_ons

    Do many here recall the debacle between the Westminster Snake Pit, Central Hall and Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, from earlier this year. Well, this attitude of accommodation to the world is the root, a most highly visible cause, and the mainstay supporting the clash between oversight in the church and the faithful holding such oversight to account. Clearly, and swiftly, heaven acts again to show the reasons for this clash; a test on faith, fiery bright and burning too, as any purging furnace – judged not by other men but by a divine light shone on the antagonists’ own words (and what a terrifying judgement they face, all the pastors into whose hands the care of souls is set .. when these pastors, obdurately and consistently, prove unfaithful).


    Yes, I know there is a world of difference between the embarrassing lack of fidelity to Catholic Truth among so many in oversight of the church catholic today and the embarrassment that swirled around a Vatican Office – which could have been avoided, even if PEeP (rightly) believes it need not have arisen – nonetheless, they are merely symptoms of an enduring dis-ease not the mortal disease itself.

    ‘The Church should fear the sin of its own members more than hatred against Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said.While the Church has suffered from persecution throughout its history, it “is supported by the light and strength of God” and will always end up victorious, he said.Overcoming trials and outside threats shows how the Christian community “is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all ideologies of hatred and selfishness,” he said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception today.“The only danger the Church can and should fear is the sin of her members,” the Pope said.’Church should fear sin of member more than persecution, says pope, Carol Glatz, Catholic Herald, 8th Dec 2011.

    Here, in these few insightful words, the awesome Benedict XVI lays bare the sin of so many in charge of overseeing, administering and witnessing the Faith in its catholic orthodoxy – including Archbishop Nichols, it would seem – and that is: a penchant for accommodating faith to passing human ideologies (whether of outspoken hatred and selfishness or not). 

    Of course this is unfair to his Grace, the Archbishop is – I trust – an honest man as well as a struggling Christian, neither of which any soul can rightly complain against (if that soul is also honest and struggling in, for and under Christ). Rash judgement can indeed and all too often lead to unnecessary tears before bedtime, whether at Westminster, with faithful witnesses, or in the onlooking critic; yet toys need not be throw from the pram, nor little feet stamped below red-faced, no-one-understands-me, tantrums. The danger, rather, is in allowing the sun to go down on our anger – this is doing wrong, and all wrongdoing is sin – in this, if nothing else, the ideology of ‘self’ has prevailed throughout the history of the church catholic (and its conflicts) and that from the very earliest days of the Faith .. it does so in Archbishop Nichols’ habitual conformity to a now-relevancy-viewpoint ideal as it does in the saintly flaws of traditionalism-correction-incontrovertiblity in idea as witnessed by PEeP (for we are not babes to be fed on milksop, but adults, called to gird ourselves for battle .. in spirit).

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    You are clearly a person who is  trying to be charitable in your remarks about the hierarchy and, in the popular understanding, you succeed, spectacularly.

    Where you fail, in equal (spectacular) measure is your apparent unwillingness to admit that it is “the awesome Benedict XVI” who alone has the authority and the power to do something about dissenters like Archbishop Nichols but who chose, instead, to affirm his dissent during the papal visit to England – his final words on departure were that he left the Church here strong and vibrant or some such patent nonsense (which he KNOWS to be patent nonsense.)

    Your “charity” towards + Nichols himself is also a matter of concern. If + Nichols is “an honest man” the Great Train Robbers should be canonised.


  • Joel Pinheiro

    Being against homosexual adoption is not a “fundamental principle of morality” at all. It is a particular judgment, a practical conclusion, ideally flowing from more basic precepts which are themselves conclusions from first principles.

    As for your discussion on usury, I won’t get into it now; but be aware that what the official magisterium condemned for centuries was not your deeper understanding of the issue, but something rather more basic: lending at interest in each and every case, regardless of moral context. You can redefine usury, making it something more narrow. What you cannot do is to pretend that it was this narrower definition that ecclesiastical authorites had in mind in centuries past.

    Finally, I’m not agasint trusting the magisterium. I’m not against adoption agencies choosing not to allow homosexual couples. What I’m criticizing is not trust, but blind obedience; two very different things.   Trust and respect don’t preclude frank rational discussion, or even disagreement on particular points.

    If God gave intellects to all (and not just to the members of the curia), why should we forsake ours when it comes to the most important questions of life: the meaning of life and morality?

    Faith, Hope and Charity can exist without fanaticism, arrogance and blind obedience.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I do not think that I ever said that being against homosexual adoption is a fundamental principle of morality.  Being against sex outside of marriage is such a principle?

    As to usury I can agree that the earlier view was probably as you say – but the fundamental idea was against depriving someone of something unjustly.  It is that fundamental idea that needs refining to specify exactly what is okay and what is not okay in lending money.

    If you trust the magisterium but have little or no grasp of the rationale is it blind obedience to obey the magisterium?  I think maybe that you mean that one should be able to discuss these matters as well as obey.  But remember many of us do not have the necessary intellectual aptitude or the time to do so.  I am minded of Christ’s word to Thomas.  I do not think you should equate or join blind obedience to fanaticism and arrogance.  Do not many religious give blind obedience to their superiors?  Actually that is something with which I have some problems!

  • Anonymous

    But truly Catholic and Papally-endorsed Anglican; which is more than any of your lot may validly claim Poppy

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry but it is quite clear that some people commenting border on deranged.

  • Nat_ons

    True, in all – or almost all – respects; and thank you for the sincerely faithful correction.

    You misunderstand me, I suspect – through my own fault, in the charity I desire to show to His Grace; it is not that of covering up his sin, but in exposing it – along with my own, and that of us all (in part or whole). My poorly expressed, loving, remarks seek not to stand in judgement on him, but as a recollection – in mind of His Holiness –  that the real danger to the Faith of the church catholic is us, and our choice of doing wrong .. freely and even knowingly entered (and sadly, as often as not, indulged). In this I would refer to a far better expression of this truth of Faith offered by Saint Augustine in Book 12 of The City of God – on seeking to find a efficient cause of evil in the act of will; there is none, it is a deficiency not efficiency that marks out this sin; a defection from the Supreme Existence, Good himself, God.

    Archbishop Nichols is good, just as God made him; like his conferes at Westminster he is also called to do good, in ministering for Christ; in this he is, as they are, like us all, so often defective .. repentance, therefore, is the key, not merely superior authority (which can lead the workhorses of church to refreshing water, but cannot make them drink).

    One feels – far too often – that the hierarchy in so many places could do with refresher course in the Faith, at Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice as a fine (if humanly flawed) start. One almost wants to take Archbishop Nichols (and others) aside, hand him a Penny Catechism and say: ‘Now, Vincent, we are going to go through the teaching of the Faith together; So, join me, and – Why Did God Make Me? He made me to .’ Yet this, even where sincere if impracticable, is part of the mortal disease, not only the symptomatic dis-ease with current leadership (clerical and lay) in witnessing the faith; His Grace is not a babe, nor are we, needing to pretend at teachers and scholars .. here the harsher judgement must rest on the Archbishop, for it is into his hands that the care of our souls have been committed.

    PS: His handling of the needs of genuinely committed Catholics, in sincere orthodoxy of faith, who happen to share a same-gender sexual attraction is woeful. He means well for this woefully maligned (if often self-defeatingly political) group of souls also committed to his pastoral care, and every bit as much so as you or I; yet he does them (not only himself) grievous harm – for willing good and yet doing evil is not so unusual a paradox, under the rule of law. Here – if anyone would want my opinion, which I doubt – I must disagree with the public venom of the tradition-for-tradition’s-sake mentality so often the only public face shown toward these fellow sinners called to repentance; and, of course, I shrink from the writhing of the poisonously worldly Snake Pit (while snakes are good as God’s creatures, and even blessedly helpful if treated with individual care, fiery images of Christ as these human souls ought to be, still on being cast into their collectedly hostile midst, all the loathing of a far from irrational phobia will rise up); in reality, as with Vincent Nichols, it is the men and women who need, desire and seek an up-building love in pastoral care from us all who must also, of themselves, step forward to witness the Faith not a political agenda, and so correct His Grace in the forms of his kindness toward them (background sniping noises merely distract), just as he must, of himself, begin to show that he is not a Cranmer but, if necessary, a Becket in witnessing Christ to our world (either way, such sacrificial life – please God not such a death – is the call given to him .. whether it pleases or not).

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Since writing the above I have come across Hebrews Chapter 11.  It starts with a question “What is Faith?” and then goes on with a list of actions by people who in obeying the Lord showed their faith such as Abraham being prepared to sacrifice Isaac.  It strikes me that Paul is here equating Faith with acts of blind obedience to the Lord.

  • Poppy Tupper

    How nice for them, Paul. And I’ve got the first three discworld novels signed by Terry Pratchett.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Rather than calling them deranged why not reply to what they say with your reasoned comments?

  • Anonymous

    because they are deranged and will not listen to sense.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    I think it means that the user of the phrase wishes to discredit a loyal son or daughter of the Church who fails to exhibit sympathy for the user’s favorite form of dissent.

  • barbara clemen

    Case in point,your response to this post…only affirms our opinion of your state of mind…

    Cheezy smiles….displaying lots of teeth…:-)