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The visit led by Baroness Warsi to the Vatican ended in feelings of good will all round: all the same, the Holy See made it plain it is preparing for battle

The Church’s values are not those of the Cameron government; there could be trouble ahead

By on Friday, 17 February 2012

Pope Benedict XVI greets Baroness Warsi on Wednesday (CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI greets Baroness Warsi on Wednesday (CNS)

The recent visit of the excellent Baroness Warsi and a group of senior British government ministers to the Holy See appears to have been, generally speaking, a good thing, and it has left behind it positive feelings all round. The government representatives had a talk with Cardinal Bertone and then a meeting with the pope himself; then they issued a communiqué about their talks. These documents always make me wonder: if you really believe this one, they discussed just about every issue in world affairs in some considerable detail: that would have taken several days, if they really did. Did they really talk about all these things? Or did someone read out a statement (maybe this one) after which everyone said: “Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. That puts it all perfectly.” Here, for instance, is the section about recent developments in the Arab world, and about the Middle East in general:

With regard to the changes which have occurred in North Africa and the Middle East, the Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government stressed the importance of undertaking real reforms in the political, economic and social realms, in order better to ensure the unity and development of each nation, in responding positively to the legitimate aspirations of many people for peace and stability. In this context, reference was made to the role which Christians can play and to the importance of inter-religious dialogue. The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government expressed the hope for a resumption of negotiations in good faith between Israelis and Palestinians so as to bring about a lasting peace. They renewed their appeal for an immediate end to violence in Syria and stressed the need for co-operation to overcome the present crisis and work towards a harmonious and united coexistence.

It’s difficult to see what either the Holy See or Her Majesty’s Government might actually do about any of that, or indeed, how they could hold any other opinion about any of it than those which they expressed in such irreproachable terms. But not everything in the communiqué is expressed in terms of such bland generality: how about this, which begins in high-flown general terms, and then comes down to earth in the most intriguing way: “There was in addition a good exchange of views on a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural issues, including on developing the UK’s collaboration with the Vatican Museums.” That must, I suppose, be a reference to the loan of the Vatican Museum’s Raphael Tapestries, to coincide with the state visit of the Pope to the UK. The exhibition, in September and October 2010, displayed four of the 10 tapestries designed by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel alongside the full-size designs for them – the seven famous Raphael Cartoons, which belong to HM The Queen, but which have been in the V&A since 1865. Sure enough, the V&A’s annual statement for 2011 tells us, the “exhibition of the Tapestries was made possible by a collaboration between the V&A and the Vatican Museums”: but the communiqué talks about actually developing that collaboration: does that mean there are plans afoot for more displays at the V&A of Vatican treasures? Or maybe a loan actually TO the Vatican museum of some of our treasures; maybe the Raphael cartoons? I really would like to know.

Inevitably, where the scope of the talks (or at least the communiqué) is so vast, there are some issues which, though agreement and good will and so on are expressed, you wonder whether the two sides really have the same views on how all that would work out in practice. Towards the end, indeed, the Vatican’s side of the conversation is expressed unilaterally, and not as something on which the two sides are in fact agreed: and this leaves me feeling somewhat uneasy, for it does look as though the Church has identified issues on which it is going to be ranged against our government.

The statement slides at one point from the mode of general anodyne agreement into a definite stance, in which the Church is clearly in heel-digging mode: “appreciation was expressed for the significant contribution which the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, have made and continue to make to the good of British society”. And then: “The Holy See emphasised the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions and stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”

What is that all about? Well, we know that our Prime Minister is all in favour of marriage: but he also believes that marriage should be open to couples of the same sex. The Church emphatically does not:

The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.(3) No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.

Incidentally, I bet Baroness Warsi agrees with every word of that, even if Mr Cameron doesn’t: it’s from a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document snappily entitled “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons”; and it spells out very clearly that here is another area in which (if Cameron proceeds to embody what he believes in law) there is once more going to be conflict brewing between the Church and a British government over the issue of gay unions: the last time, we lost our adoption agencies; hence, perhaps, the Holy See’s unilateral insistence in the communiqué issued after the Warsi visit on “the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions”. This is, incidentally, a principle which, as I have recently written here, President Obama is presently trampling under foot in the US: and the Catholic Church in the West has probably to prepare itself for many such battles in the future. It could be worse, I suppose; at least, nobody is blowing up our churches or massacring our people, as they are in Nigeria and increasingly the Middle East.

Well, not yet.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder why Cardinal O Brien was not there? He is after all the UK s most senior cleric.

  • Katerina

    because he (O’Brian) wouldn’t be seen dead with that lot

  • Trockfield

    “The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason”  It would be laughable mumbo-jumbo if it wasn’t such patent bigotry

  • theroadmaster

    The belief that marriage has been historically constituted as the sacred union between one man and one woman open to new life, has been the common experience socially, religiously and anthropologically across different global communities for at least 2000 years.  Well, you may call it “laughable mumbo -jumbo” but this the influence of the Natural Law on the hearts of men and women. Maybe it is you, who is spouting “mumbo-jumbo”, as your words imply that marriage should be redefined into something that it was never mean’t to be 

  • James H

    Motes and beams, anyone?

  • Parasum

    “Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.(3) No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”## This is just wrong. It is rotten history, rotten if applied to the OT, worthless as applied to Ottoman & Mesopotamian & Chinese history (the harem is a constant feature of all three cultures – not much unity between “one man & one woman” *there* !); an analysis of marriage that ignores polygamy & polyandry would score very low in a theology exam. As for its property of perpetuity – does the Pope really need to be told that divorce was usual in Antiquity ?  If marriage has changed before, no amount of dogma about it can possibly guarantee that it will not change again. If the culture favours the construction of gay marriage – then there will be gay marriage. What has been contructed in one way, can be constructed in other ways – & that is what happening when people of the same sex marry. The Pope is at liberty to say that a particular construction or constructions count or counts as being alone valid as marriage for the belief & practice & laws of the CC – he is not at liberty to universalise a single construction of marriage & to claim it applies to all historical cultures, when in fact it does not.   

  • buckingham88

    I think that the point is drawn by the statement ‘evident to right reason’,code for the natural law.Another approach to the problem of the stability of couples and hence society could be to do a ‘thought experiment’ and ask the historical question ‘How many societies based eg on polygamy are surviving and thriving today?As an analyst just apply Occums Razor to the question,the answer is self evident.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    “The harem is a constant feature of all three cultures”.  Really?  Just how do you arrange things so that every man can have even a small harem of say half-a-dozen wives?

  • Nat_ons

    Of course, marriage is both a contract and a sacrament. As a Sacrament of the Catholic Church its character is – and must always be – viewed in terms of divine self-revelation recorded in the texts customarily accepted as ‘all scripture’. It is the contractual character that opens the issue to debate; and one that has its roots in the protest reform movements of the 16th. century rebellion against Rome – shorn of its context in sacrament (God’s power to act in accord with his pledged word, and thus an outward sign of an inward favour), the contract drawn up might be viewed solely as a social convention.

    The basis of a binding contract had been set most usually on some notion of the common sense of a divinely-gifted moral reason in man, that is, for Catholics at least, divinely revealed under natural law – until a libertine humanist consensus prevailed as the common sense for liberal ideology, and it was eschewed. Moral reasoning – whether of human or divine origin and expression – places contract on a transcendent rather than a social footing; thus, political ideas (to meet the needs of civil government) had to be secondary to the measure of a human-wide or divine vision (human rights, God’s will, immemorial custom). So when moral reason specifically precludes God and custom from the measurement of value, leaving only human ideals as the standard, the real or imagined needs of civil government – in all its exigencies – immediate demands have greater weight than eternal truths.

    In fact, as with the current case of marriage, the concept of an eternal truth is most often specifically denied in the political verities of liberal ideology – allowing relative facts (ideas made out of available data) to prevail. There is little wonder that the orthodox catholic view of divine will revealed even in natural law (flawed as man’s comprehension of this is, due to his limitations e.g. sin, habit, party-mind) must conflict with the libertine view of nature as man’s self measurement (ever progressing in evolution toward the future well being of all men, or some such meaningless slogan). Yet this divergence in humanly perceived truth need not be so utterly devoid of common sense as it presently appears (in the polemical bluster of mediated political struggle); it is not only Islam and Catholicism that can agree on a common sense of truth applicable to and knowable by all men (of good will, as God so ordained), for while God acts in his sacraments, he is not limited to those celebrated by the church in communion with Rome; a modern Aquinas is needed to shine the divine light in the darkest recesses of the human mind and allow all men to see – if they will – that there is a universally available common sense of truth even where its application in particulars may and must differ .. in the absence of another Aquinas, the next best thing has to be an understanding of him (and his angelic clarity) as this is found in Chesterton’s ‘Dumb Ox’.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Original-Saint-Thomas-Aquinas-ebook/dp/B0070Q4YOU/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=A3TVV12T0I6NSM 

    For my own part, the diverging particulars of a civilly permitted contract between men, or women, in regard to sexual experience, financial partnership and future division cannot undermine or invalidate the universal – and divinely revealed – purpose of the marriage contract between a man and a woman. It is only when a particular expression of contract, as legally binding according to civil governance, seeks to replace the universal truth of ‘contract’ – any contract whatever between human beings – that an issue arises which must be opposed and vigorously (for the sake of all mankind under law, not only the freedom of religion or the Church). The present assault on a transcendent character in marriage, according to custom of contract, a human perception of the divine will, and not least as Sacrament in the Catholic Church, and its replacement with merely relative values of social equality – however right or necessary – is just such an issue of universal concern, not merely that of Rome’s communion in particular; that a contract mutually binding on two individual women or two individual men, with freely-given adult consent, might be deemed legal by a particular state, or universally binding in truth as a human right, is not what should disturb any believer in God .. or any soul concerned with freedoms, rights, duties or laws .. rather it is the assertion that man may at any time change the existing character of a contract (of marriage, commerce, state etc) simply to suit the tyranny of his present ideological will that must disturb all moral reasoning.

    http://www.freeclassicebooks.com/Chesterton,%20G.%20K/The%20Appetite%20of%20Tyranny.pdf 

  • theroadmaster

    Because polygamy and polyandry existed in other places and times does not nullify the main points that the Pope was making regarding the central point about the persistent thread which ran through  the history of marriage i.e that it constituted the sacred union between one man and one woman and open to procreation.  Yes, there were variations, often in a perverse form, which were consequently regulated and even banned, as in Western societies i.e the legal prohibition of polygamy.  This was started in the US over a century ago in Mormon Utah.  It is outlawed now in all 50 states.  It is now restricted mainly to African and predominantly Muslim states.

  • Charles Martel

     Parasum is not a Catholic

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I wonder whether Nat_ons argument is not reflected in English civil law where marriage is regarded as a status and not a contract.  A status is something in which there is a public interest whereas a contract is purely a private matter between two parties dissoluble at the will of those two parties.  However marriage has increasingly come to be regarded as a private contract and modern divorce law has almost reached the point where a marriage can be dissolved purely at the behest of the parties.  One does not need to point to the interests of society at large in any marriage.  But where is the public interest in a civil partnership between two people of the same sex? (pace +VN) And yet civil partnerships have been dressed up with all the trappings of marriage both in the legislation and in reality as if it was a status akin to marriage.  No doubt when filling in forms CP will be regarded as a valid answer to a question about status.  I await the howls of those in CPs complaining that they are much too difficult to dissolve and should be regarded as mere contracts dissoluble at will.

  • Trockfield

    ‘Natural law’ – what on earth are you talking about? ‘Nature’ is a human construct.

  • Trockfield

    Oh dear – and what exactly is this ‘natural law’, the law of nature perhaps? Which nature would that be then – human ‘nature’? Nature ‘out there’? Nature is a human construct – just look at how it has changed over even the last 200 years.  And what’s so special about which societies are ‘surviving and thriving today’, unless you have a (false) teleological view of the world that simply isn’t borne out by any reasonable explanation.

  • buckingham88

    When you suggest ‘Nature is a human construct’ do you mean the natural world ,ie existential reality,or Natural Law?Since Natural Law is derived from an observation of existential reality it is not clear to me that you make this distinction.This is why I suggested to Parasum that the best way to approach this,for those who do not accept Natural Law was to do the thought experiment and ask the hard questions about the underlying stability in our society.Its just a matter of observation,your critical faculties can be used to work this out.
    As you appear to be of scientific bent why not try another approach.Set up a null hypothesis ,say “There is no difference between a society which actively practices polygamy and one that is based on heterosexual stable unions ,and attempt to prove it.

  • theroadmaster

    What are you talking about?  Natural law is the observable truth about human nature and the world around us e.g sexual complementariness of men and women and the nurturing balance that a father and mother give to children in marriage.  Societies have realized this for a couple of Millennia now.  Catholic believers and fellow Christians realize that “Nature” was created by a beneficent Creator and to subvert it leads ultimately to the degradation and decline of society.

  • http://coracaoconfiante.blogspot.com/ Araujo Ferreira

    the Pope said “major cultures”. Even when we had polygamy, there many ancient texts talking about the excellence of one man-one woman mariage, like the histoy of Jacob and Rachel, the love of David for Micol (how would be that in English?) or the Taj Mahal. All that are reflexions from cultures where poligamy was accpeted. And certainly there is none regarding homossexuals couples, even among greeks or romans, I doubt if Plato would conceive something like a gay marriage as an acceptable basis for a society, even if he had some kind of sexual attraction by a man, for the simple fact of the procriation and ordination of the society.

  • http://coracaoconfiante.blogspot.com/ Araujo Ferreira

    I am sorry but…do I really have to explain to you why a man and a woman are complementary and two men are not?!

  • http://coracaoconfiante.blogspot.com/ Araujo Ferreira

    ok, so why dont you contruct a wolrd where two men are sexually complementary?

  • Nat_ons

    Yes, that is the idea – and put much more clearly than I could. The Christian is, by sacrament, a priest and a sovereign (in his own life of commitment to the holy things of God), that is a status – once recognised as binding by civil society and the state. So, for example – as with a priest, his bishop and the people of God – Her Majesty enters her life of rule as part of a covenant with her peoples not a contract, and they with her, sacramentally; it is the civil servant and parish worker who must sign a contract – that of employment.

    The Sacrament of Marriage confers a social status, indeed, not offering solely a privately engaged civil contractual agreement; the covenant entered by one man and one woman under the will of God for the weal of humanity (and creation) differs in kind of contract rather than degree of civil approbation.

    Most who would currently like to alter the meaning of this sacred contract, its sacramental character and its divine purpose would vigorously deny any and all theological content .. or at least repudiate the orthodox Catholic understanding of it. No one, that I am aware of as yet, denies the power of the state to supervise, bind and loose contractual agreements for the better governance of the commonwealth – and a private contract between two men or two women, or one man and four women, even one woman and many men, for better or worse, as long as it lasts, could indeed effect the commonwealth. What this civil arrangement may do is change the character of the society not the character of a specific contract; your note of the present worthlessness of the civil marriage contract (a pie crust promise, easily made as easily broken) contrasts gravely with the intensifying of the contract of employment (for it is easier to dispose of a spouse legally than a teacher etc); civil arrangements are what they are, particular social expressions of a universal principle, the pledge of contract, and the divine pledge in covenant is what it is, a universal principle with particular human expressions: the former, a human contract, is worth no more than its contents and often worth a great deal less (being ‘only a piece of paper’), the latter, a sacrament (of the Church or some other form), its worth is in the divine word accepted by man and woman .. but only when in accord with the divine will for it and so, man cannot sunder its contractual obligations or remodel them to suit his prevailing tastes.

    PS: Chesterton’s view of the Prussian penchant for treating contracts as pieces of paper to be used as weapons not covenants is an apt, and fearsome, insight into the prevailing Nietzschite philosophy of today. Man has made himself superman, in his own eyes, permitting no control, no guidance, no supervision but his own will as the final truism of all Truth; and want he wants now, he will have – now. A militant use of this superhuman ‘truth’ is the great threat to what we still commonly conceive of as civilisation and its commonwealth (not the privately arranged and legally protected commitments of two men or two women).

  • Gskineke

    I’m confused about why you assume Baroness Warsi agrees with the CDF statement on marriage. Her Muslim faith offers a different view of marriage, being neither exclusive nor permanent. She may respect the Christian view, but would no doubt posit that there are other approaches as well.

  • Linus

    I’m glad you added ” Well, not yet. ” We may not be far from that. The Obama administration has taken on tones of totalitarianism, I doubt if anything is beyond possibility. They seem to lack any conscience whatsoever and we know Obama’s personal convictions are far from democratic. His actions, speeches, and policies are nothing if not dictatorial. And we all know where that leads. Was there ever a benign dictatorship? We have had ample evidence of what they are capable of doing. I can’t think of any that ever led to anything but horror for large numbers of people. What makes anyone think the U.S. imune from such night mares?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682186715 Savia D’cunha

    There have been many kinds of marriages, but the union of one man and woman is ideal for women, children, and society in general.

  • Sszorin

    Your quote, Mr. Devil’s spokesman :  ”If the culture favours the construction of gay marriage – then there will be gay marriage.” In your deviousness you forgot to add : If the culture favours the construction of the concentration camps – then there will be concentration camps. Say ‘go to hell’ to your boss.

  • m francis

    And the Muslim view on homosexuality. case closed

  • deMOAOC

    RE: Araujo Ferreira: “ok. so why dont you contruct a wolrd where two men are sexually complementary?” [sic]

    Because truth, by definition, is not something that we can create or manipulate: truth just IS. Truth is not dependent on its being accepted or agreed to: truth is not relative.

    And that is the problem for many people: they have no control over what is true, which can seem scary at first glance, but is actually very freeing.

    Consider this analogy: A person has cancer; all the tests show this truth, it can be seen inside the person’s body. If the person doesn’t have surgery (very painful) and doesn’t take medicine (many unwanted side effects) the person will die. The person finds the idea of dying very scary, yet finds the way of avoiding this scary also. So the person chooses to “construct a world” where he has no cancer (denial). Problem solved, right? NO, because the cancer is not dependent upon its being accepted or acknowledged. And while the person is in denial of the truth of the cancer, the cancer is growing and causing more damage until there is nothing that can be done to save the person’s life.

    (Now before anyone replies saying homosexuals are ‘born’ that way, the truth of the matter is that there is no ‘gay’ gene, AND has rather been found to be linked to childhood issues which have been successfully worked out in therapy for many who formerly identified as homosexual. This is VERY basic info. as this is a comment, not an article that I’m writing.)

    It might be hard for you to understand and believe right now, but it is out of our love for you and all of our fellow humans that we will never abandon the truth and “construct a world” that denies truth.

  • W Oddie

    Excellent: precisely the point. 

  • W Oddie

    Are you really claiming to be so ignorant that you have never heard the term ‘natural law’, and that you didn’t know that this is a term with a quite precise definition, known to all educated people? The natural law is a body of unchanging moral principles generally regarded as a basis for all human conduct. (Catholics, of course, believe that it is implanted in our hearts by God). Please don’t pretend you didn’t know that; and yet, re-reading your  contribution, it does look possible that you didn’t. Dear me.

  • Parasum

    Cruella de Vil I know of (& her husband – he makes a very brief appearance): but Mr. Devil ? No, no heard of him. If he’s not a typo, is he a  friend of yours, perhaps ? You seem to know of him.

    I don’t have a boss, sorry. So, can’t do as asked

  • Parasum

    That is an argument worth dealing with. THe position I argiued against, OTOH, is not., at least in the form in which it is stated. If the Pope meant what you say, he has only himself to blame for stating it in a way that is so vulnerable to objection on historical grounds. No-one is blame for the inadequacies of a statement, except the person making it – whether the person is Pope or not. Those who read the statement have to avoid being unfair, of course: but they cannot be expected to know what someone means expect from what he says. Fair ?

    Islam is still “surviving and thriving today”. The only reason Mormons are not polygamous, as they were before 1890, is that Utah had to drop polygamy to enter the Union. Had that requirement not been made, they wouild probably still be polygamous – as indeed one group of Mormons is to this day.

    If a practice is ended by the action of an external party, as this was, one cannot fairly blame the group that drops it for not keeping it up; such a prohibition says nothing about the social value of the practice. Would ancient cultures have allowed polygamy, if it did not have benefits ? At least with polygamy a ruler who has twenty sons (Ramses II had a hundred) has a good stock of future successors; he does not have Henry VIII’s problem of a lack of a male heir. And other sons can be given positions or honour, or be married to the womenfolk of other rulers. Some will die from various causes, but if there are enough, the throne should be stable for the next generation. The only people who went in for large-scale fratricide seem to have been the Israelites & Ottomans.

    There is a lot to be said for polygamy – it has its drawbacks; but so does monogamy, even in its Christian forms, sacramental or not. If the practice of many  cultures in having a place for polygamy or polyandry is not “evident to right reason”, or is against the “natural law”; what account is to be given of the practice ? “[E]vident to right reason” seems to mean “axiomatic, so obviously right as to be beyond argument” – if that is meant, then why did so many people think otherwise ? The natural law argument has to cope with historical facts, otherwise it is useless. It cannot rely only on the traditional sourvces of knowledge such as 13th-century exegesis, 13th-century philosophy, & 13th-century  knowledge of history: it has to account for  Ancient Near Eastern & US history & Ottoman history. The Church’s arguments look simply weird, if they are built on ignoring a great mass of historical (& other) facts. Simply to quote St. Thomas is not good enough – he did not have to bother with the marriage-habits of the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, etc. – modern theologians have to, because these people have been rediscovered.

  • Parasum

    Principles matter, definitely – but they are abstract; so concrete realities, such as those of history or the sciences, or even theology, may very well contradict them. There is no point in having logically water-tight & self-consistent ideas (& principles are ideas), if they do not square with the actual facts of how the world concretely is. Australia exists, regardless of all the principles which make the existence of Australia  a theological and Biblical & doctrinal monstrosity. The whole world had not been evangelised, even though the Fathers were sure it had been – the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Florence did not allow for the existence of the Americas; but the Americas existed even so, as did Australasia. Theology & doctrine have to accept the concrete  existence of the Americas & Australasia, regardless of the principles this may affect, & no matter what re-adjustments may be required. Otherwise, the Church is telling fibs.
    If the Church can adapt to accepting those places as concrete realities – why can it not accept the concrete reality of types of marriage that it has not taken into account ? It has no right to tell fibs about marriage – least of all in the cause of Christ’s Gospel.

  • Parasum

    I didn’t say, or imply, that it was universal in all three – but it was certainly
    practiced in all three, & for a long time. 

    Having an Upper House is a constant feature of English history: this does not imply either that England has always had one; nor does it imply that everyone in England belongs to it. So with the other matter.

    “Stable” might have been a better choice of word; but it would not have made the chronological point so clearly.

    Sorry about the confusion. 

  • Parasum

    “…the Pope said “major cultures”.”

    ## I noticed – STM that the Egyptians, Chinese, Sumerians, Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, all qualify.

    Whether the Israelites & the Judahites count as “major”, OTOH, is another matter. They lasted a far shorter time than those named. Politically they were pretty insignificant – not a patch on Babylon. Sumer gave the world literacy – which is more than the Jews ever did. The only way to give the two “Jewish” cultures  status as major, is to attend to the theological facts instead of the historical ones; but if the Pope wants to make an historical argument, only historical data will do; one’s theological estimate of am historical culture is valid only as a theological argument; not as an historical argument. By any *historical* standard, the two Jewish cultures were not exactly of the same major status as the others; whether culturally, politically, in longevity.

    Abraham was (to judge from Genesis) a semi-nomad. Nothing wrong with that – but neither is there anything major about it; there were a lot of them. The only reason he matters is that he was important to a small Semitic culture in what is now Israel.

    Point about Plato taken – but what would he have made of Christian sacramental marriage ? That something is unimaginable in a particular culture, is not much help in saying whether it is good or  tolerable or an outrage or even God’s Will. Christian belief in Christ was pretty shocking for Jews & Greeks, as St. Paul found. “X is disgusting” applies as readily to Christian belief in a crucified Jew as to anything Christians regard as immoral.

    A little while ago, no Pope would have tolerated mixed marriages, inter-religious services, burial of non-Catholics in Catholic cemeteries, etc.- but look how things are now: some things are now seen as positive goods that were once regarded as unconscionable. Just as some things formerly defended as doctrinally right and proper are now regarded as bad (torture) or unfounded (the Limbo of Infants). That X is condemned today is therefore no reason to think it will never be allowed or praised. To take for granted that the Church will not allow in 4,000 AD or 10,000 or 100,000 what it now condemns, presupposes that the same ideas will be present in society in the future (& therefore in the Church & her theologies) as are now; but what right have we to think that ? How is that different from imagining an Anglo-Saxon Bishop like St. Cuthbert thinking that the ideas of the 670s would be the same one as in the 1970s ? He would have been mistaken, had he thought that – why should we be less mistaken, if we think that the Church in the future will be the same in its ideasas the Church is today ? God rules the future – man, & the Church, does not.

  • Trockfield

    Of course I am familiar with the term ‘natural law’, I’m just assuming that no one who is even vaguely familiar with various strands of thinking within the natural and social sciences over the last seventy-five years or more, can even begin to treat the term with any degree of seriousness. 

  • Trockfield

    Please see my reply to W. Oddie (below).  There is certainly a large enough volume of discourse within the fields of cultural studies, critical theory, and the ‘hard’ sciences, to render an ‘innocent’ invocation of the term ‘Natural Law’ highly highly specious to say the least.  If one takes only one (emergent) strand – feminist theory – as an indicator of how traditional concepts of ‘nature’ (including that of nature as an ‘existential reality’) have been critiqued as ‘gendered’ (i.e: constructed both through and as gender), then the concept of ‘Natural Law’ becomes highly questionable, particularly when it is used in defence of ideas and practices that themselves have emerged from historically hegemonic contexts (such as the institution of the Church).  Of course, it is in the interests of any ruling class, of whatever bent, that these practices seem in themselves to be ‘natural’ (another inflection of the word) in order that they be constantly reinforced.  From Raymond Williams’ ‘Ideas of Nature’ (1980), to more recent work by the likes of Sarah Franklin and Rosi Braidotti, analyses of these dominant traditional discourses have been in the public arena for long enough – perhaps you should read them?
    (and it’s OCCAM’s razor by the way…)

  • Trockfield

    I shall simply repeat my response to W. Oddie (above).  There is certainly a large enough volume of discourse within the fields of cultural studies, critical theory, philosophy, and the ‘hard’ sciences, to render an ‘innocent’ invocation of the term ‘Natural Law’ highly specious to say the least.  If one takes only one (emergent) strand – feminist theory – as an indicator of how traditional concepts of ‘nature’ (including that of nature as an ‘existential reality’, or ‘observable truth’) have been critiqued as ‘gendered’ (i.e: constructed both through and as gender), then the concept of ‘Natural Law’ becomes highly questionable, particularly when it is used in defence of ideas and practices that themselves have emerged from historically hegemonic contexts (such as the institution of the Church).  Of course, it is in the interests of any ruling class, of whatever bent, that these practices seem in themselves to be ‘natural’ (another inflection of the word) in order that they be constantly reinforced.  From Raymond Williams’ ‘Ideas of Nature’ (1980), to more recent work by the likes of Sarah Franklin and Rosi Braidotti, analyses of these dominant traditional discourses have been in the public arena for long enough – perhaps you should read them?

  • Trockfield

    ???

  • Trockfield

    What you first have to do is explain what you mean by ‘complementary’.

  • Trockfield

    Hilarious! And, if you actually believe what you’ve written, very scary…

  • Tridentinus

    From the time of the Reformation, quite a while ago, Catholics and Protestants were marrying each other and have done so ever since. Charles I, Charles II, James II all married Catholic Queens. The English nobility has survived with a large number of Catholic families who have plenty of Protestants in their pedigree. Similarly thousands of Catholics are buried in the graveyards of Protestant churches; some of my ancestors in Ireland are interred in the local Parish Church.

    In the year 4000, 10000 or 100000 I am absolutely confident that idolatry, murder, theft, lying, stealing, sodomy, fornication, abortion, masturbation, remarriage after civil divorce, apostasy will still be mortal sins according to the Catholic Church.

    “And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” If I do not have this assurance then my Faith is in vain.