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Nadine Dorries is right – poverty is the biggest issue facing us

Rightly or wrongly, the prime minister and chancellor do not give the impression that they care about the poor

By on Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Health and Social Care Bill debate

Nadine Dorries is right, isn’t she?

I do not mean that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are “posh boys who do not know the price of milk” , though that may well be the case; who can judge? What I mean is that Nadine Dorries is right to highlight that the single biggest question facing us all is the question of poverty.

Nadine Dorries knows that there are people in this country who “go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunch boxes.”  This is sobering. And the whole point of politcs – I take this to be self-evident, though it seems that we need reminding of it – is to solve the problem of poverty.

Concern for the poor is something that should motivate us all. As Catholics, we should want to improve the lot of the poor – in continuity with a long tradition of Catholic social teaching and social action. We should be inspired by people like Saint Francis and Saint Vincent de Paul and the great Don Bosco. I don’t think we need to argue people into thinking that the Fransican or Vincentian approach, or that of Don Bosco, is somehow the “right” one. People like the saints transcend the category of right by being so good. Their goodness is an argument in itself.

As human beings, too, we should want to improve the lot of the poor; you do not have to be religious to want to help the poor (though being religious may help, and religion certainly does provide a strong motivation for social action). But all of us should find the matter that Ms Dorries raises a spur to our slumbering consciences. Those of us who are well off must know that poverty is a problem for us too, for how can we have a cohesive society when a sizeable minority languishes in poverty?

Finally, we must be worried by the morally corrosive effect that a lifetime of poverty will have on human beings. Being poor wears down the human spirit. Lives lived in poverty are often tragic, wasted lives.

Do Cameron and Osborne care about the state of Britain, and that two and a half million people are unemployed? I wonder…. Perhaps Ms Dorries is wrong, and they are not arrogant and out of touch. But if that is the case, Ms Dorries is still right to highlight the pressing nature of the poverty problem, and the need for the government to show us a lead in this matter.

 

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you, and certainly governments have shown a blatant disregard for the poor – although I don’t necessarily consider material poverty to be the greatest evil. But I’m curious, why should it be self-evident that the “whole point of politcs …is to solve the problem of poverty”?

    So long as we don’t equate politics with government, however, I’m willing to go along with you….Although with a wider definition of povery than purely the material. I just don’t think it’s self-evident. It’s certainly not the view held by the political parties of any country of which I know.

  • ms Catholic state

    Poverty is not the most pressing problem…..legalised abortion is. Unlike poverty, it is a pre-medidated, willed moral evil of the most heinous and unatural kind.  Also it drains the life-blood of any nation….leading to an ageing, economically and demographically unsustainable society.  Yet we pretend there are no adverse effects from abortion on wider society. So is it any wonder our ageing society is now experiencing economic pain which is only going to get worse.
     
    Poverty is not willed and the economy is influenced by many things that are not under our control.  Affluence can lead to moral decay and a turning away from God, so is not always the highest good.  We cannot solve our problems of poverty unless we get society back on a sure moral and Faith footing.  Spiritual poverty is a more deathly disease than material poverty.  Ask any fatherless child on one of our depressing and dangerous, godless sink estates.

  • gene

    and here i thought it was the nuns

  • TreenonPoet

    Finally, we must be worried by the morally corrosive effect that a lifetime of poverty will have on human beings. Being poor wears down the human spirit. Lives lived in poverty are often tragic, wasted lives.

    I totally agree with that paragraph.

    It might be comforting to think that there might be an after-life in which misfortune is balanced out (or to have some alternative idea that offers equivalent hope), but not only do we have no evidence to support these ideas; we find that all those who seriously advance them are, at least, intellectually fraudulent. Current knowledge does not support an after-life, reincarnation, etc. so we should accept that this life may be the only one we have, and it is indeed a tragedy to waste it.

    There is no natural law against poverty, but humans have the intelligence required to be able to alleviate it. Greed exacerbates it, but alleviation requires more than just a lack of greed. Aid can result in temporary local alleviation and can result in greater problems later if the aid is not well directed. Long-term solutions are required. By long-term, I don’t just mean solutions that last a lifetime, but ones that will benefit many generations. Ignoring the consequences for future generations is a form of collective greed, as is ignoring the consequences for other countries. It is irresponsible to assume that some imaginary all-powerful being will suddenly decide to look after the poor.

    Praying for the poor only serves to waste your own time. If you want to feel that you have contributed to the alleviation of poverty, then do something effective, and preferably something that will have lasting results. There are many directions such efforts can take. One is towards education. A decent education facilitates self-help and the helping of others. A decent education does not inculcate superstitious ideas such as that God will provide. It is quite clear that, in parts of the world, God does not provide. It is also blindingly obvious that in a world of limited resources, population must be limited. Why, then, does the Roman Catholic Church do its utmost to frustrate attempts to control population and thereby create more poverty?

    If poverty is a big issue, then so is population. Yet the subject is almost taboo. Could that be because to show concern would be to oppose Catholic doctrine? Cameron says he does not regard the population in the UK to be a problem, backs ‘faith’ schools, and says that the Pope gives an incredibly important message. To me, that shows that he does not care about Britain.

  • Alan

    Poverty is not an absolute concept.  Here in the UK there are millions in relative poverty (and, under the official definition of “below 60% of average income” there always will be) but hardly anybody is in REAL poverty which many millions in the third world experience.  Nobody here is starving, and being deprived of the latest technology does not constitute poverty.  It is third world poverty which should be the real priority. 

  • Seangough

    One might think France’s Phillips just wrote a pro abortion article.

    I know you want to sound uba catholic and everything, and that’s fine but can I ask you, where is the contradiction between alleviating material poverty and reducing abortion? Youve just gave great defence of banning abortion and that commendable, but how does that negate francis’ point? It like saying we shouldnt worry about having a bath, because its more imprtant we eat healthily.It’s both/and, (and jesus and pretty much every saint can attest to that) and furthermore they both compliment each other! As a “fatherless child [to be fair im 22]on one of our depressing and dangerous, godless sink estates” I can tall you that when I was growing up I had far more spiritual nourishment that the majority of middle class people. Material help was however very short coming.

  • Brian A. Cook

    Thank you, Father Lucie-Smith.

  • ms Catholic state

    I’m just saying that legalised abortion and not poverty is the biggest issue facing us…..as it is the greater evil and unlike poverty, it is willful.  And yes we must try to end both abortion and poverty.  Also societies will survive poverty, but will not survive legalised abortion.  (And as I pointed out….legalised abortion leads to poverty) 

    I think today all of society is in deep spiritual poverty that only Catholicism can eliminate.  God Willing. 

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    My pleasure!

  • Alan

    Just to add – most of the (relative) poverty in the UK today is among the young, not the old.  This is very different from, say, 20+ years ago, and many people have not yet come to terms with this.

  • Recusant

    So many wrong ideas, here are the first three I see :

    1. The idea that population must be limited has been self-evident to everyone since Malthus, and wrong. I suppose there must be some theoretical carrying capacity of the planet, but we are not close to it and never have been. The more humans there are, the more human ingenuity provides. Famine, for example, is always and everywhere a political problem, and not due to lack of food. And the idea that the subject of population control is taboo is hilarious, it gets mentioned virtually every day and is being pushed round the world by Obama.2. Education is seriously over-rated as an anti-poverty tactic. Compared to, for example, free trade it has very little effect. In fact, the educated castes in Africa and central America cause more problems than they solve. Education is great and all that, but without a free market it does very little.

    3. Prayer is always effective. We have a world in which this is doubted, yet a world in which awareness-raising ribbons are considered a brilliant weapon. Nuts. People with a strong prayer life are always more self-sufficient and happier than they would have been without it.

  • theroadmaster

    Poverty can take many forms although we associate the word with a state of having insufficient material means to maintain an equitable standard of life in terms of , food, heating or shelter. People can be materially rich and yet deeply impoverished in regards to things of the “Spirit”.  Real charity begins at home and the Christian ethos animates a gratuitous giving which does not demand anything reciprocal in return.  

  • theroadmaster

    While people of good-will can agree that relief of material poverty is both a noble and good thing to achieve, it is disingenous to play the overpopulation card as a direct cause of poverty in nations.  The real scandal is the monopolization of resources and income by a tiny disproportionate, small numbers of families in developing countries, who deny the majority the fruits of their labour.  We have organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International with UN approval distributing contraceptive/abortifacient pills like candy to women in these countries to halt the dangers of a so-called global over-population.   The reality is that there has been a persistent trend over the last 15 years or more, concerning a sharp drop in the average size of families, across the developed and developing world.  The level has dropped below the required fertility levels for population replacement in many of these countries.  Some experts expert the world’s population to peak around 8 blllion in around 2030 and then drop back.  Science has developed the necessary technology to optimize food production which can potentially feed a population beyond the forecasted total.
    As for your dismissive attitude to Cameron’s approval for Faith schools and perceived lack of future population growth in the UK,  it shows a rather shallow and one-sided approach to these issues.  Faith schools consistently top league tables for assessments, based on their intellectual,social and moral development of children under their care.   Non-Faith schools with mainly secular curriculums, could take a leaf out of their books.   Regarding population density, certain cities seem to be bursting at the seams with people, like London, but huge swathes of rural Britain have relatively low numbers of people living in them.  Possibly more imaginative planning could be instigated by government bodies, in terms of expanding the living space to include sparsely uninhabited territory beyond the oversubscribed home counties area.

  • TreenonPoet

     1. Here (in PDF form) is a UN report that describes global difficulties, but while mentioning the rising population as a contributory factor, avoids any suggestion that it might be a good idea to control population. Why?

    2. I am all in favour of a fair market system. To ensure that enough people are aware of the problems of trade and the way in which ethical solutions can be developed, a decent education is required (free from commercial bias). That such an education might be misused by a few is no reason to deny it to all.

    3. You can’t possibly know whether people with a strong prayer life are always more self-sufficient and happier than they would have been without it. Anyway, I said “praying for the poor” – that is, trying to use prayer for remote effect. Scientific experiments show zero remote effect, whatever the effect might be on the happiness and self-sufficiency of the person praying.

  • TreenonPoet

     I agree with what you say about the monopolisation of resources and income. Dealing with that is another practical direction one can take in trying to alleviate poverty. (I won’t go into how the Church fails on that score.)

    The population level predictions you give are on the optimistic side, but UK and global populations are already far above the optimum levels for stability. The sustainable level for the UK is about half of its current level.

    What population level is considered to be sustainable can be modified when sustainable technology (i.e. technology not too reliant on oil, water, or certain elements, for example) becomes a reality; not before.

    Cameron has also used the school league table argument. It does not take selection of intake into account.

    Britain is not self-sufficient in food. Building on arable land will not improve this situation. This would not be such a concern if we had a reliable means of paying for imported food. One of the few assets we have (even today) is our standard of education (which Cameron/Gove/Hill/etc. are compromising).

  • TreenonPoet

     Athiests who give to charity don’t even expect the reward of going to heaven.

  • Recusant

    1. So when Obama spends $1b a year on contraception and abortion for the developing world, you don’t think this is for population control? The return of eugenics will become very obvious in the next few years, it is being pushed in academia and will be just as disastrous as it was in the past. 

    2. Look, education is good. I like education. And in developed societies a child who gets enough education to become a lawyer or doctor can become wealthy. But for poor people in undeveloped countries there is no relation between being educated and escaping from poverty. In Africa, for example, farming is a much more reliable way of generating wealth, and diversion of resources to school fees is a misuse of resources – there is no correlation between the number of graduates and economic development. And by the way, educated castes are very, very common : Castro, Mobuto, Mugabe were all more educated than their compatriots, and spawned a caste of civil servants that drained their nations. I am not against education, just pointing out that your assumptions are wrong.

    3. Of course I can know prayer works. I have seen it, it is deeply impressive. And scientific experiments on prayer are a crock, probably conducted by convenient undergrads rounded up for a fiver each. 

  • theroadmaster

    Poverty in it’s material sense we agree is a lamentable failure by society to grant  access to those effected by it, because of the immoral domination of resources by a tiny number of families in certain countries.  The Church has contributed immeasurably to the debate concerning social justice over the last 150 years or so with a number of papal ground-breaking encyclicals and teachings e.g “Rerum Novarum” authored by Pope Leo X111 in 1891.  Throwing contraceptives at these problems, is a short-sighted and spiritually impoverished alternative that shortchanges the populations that it is aimed at, on many levels.
    In regards, to Faith-school intake, your implication that this type of school discriminates on grounds of selection is misleading, as e.g Catholic schools are more inclined to accept children from non-Catholic/non-religious and poor backgrounds than their secular counterparts and produce better outcomes for them.

  • theroadmaster

    No-one is entitled to be judge and jury over another person in terms of their personal character.  Christians and people of Faith leave that to the Great Creator of us all.  Humans make very fallible judgments on their fellow men and women.

  • TreenonPoet

     Based on this report, I accept that Catholic schools more likely to have more pupils from a poor background than Anglican schools, but considering Voluntary Aided schools of a religious nature overall, comparable community schools are likely to have about 50% more free school meal children. However, this deviates from my original point because I was criticising faith schools on the basis that they are more likely to promote the counter-productive beliefs that I mentioned. In principle, a community school is just as capable of encouraging compassion as a faith school is, but the faith school is more likely to encourage the idea that a deity is in control, thereby promoting complacency.

  • Benedict Carter

    Poverty is NOT the biggest issue facing us at all. 

    What underlies poverty is a moral vacuum and it is the moral collapse of not just Britain, but the whole West, which is (by far) the biggest issue facing us today. 

    I would have thought a Doctor of Moral Theology would have spotted that for himself. 

  • Alan

    Promoting complacency?  Quite the opposite!  A recent report from the Charities Aid Foundation showed that religious doners give on average more than double to charity than non-religious doners.  This is only to be expected, because religious people are, in my view, more likely to adhere to their moral principles than non-religious, who do not have the divine sanction to back them up.  (Note: I am NOT saying that non-religious people never stick to their principles, just that they have more reason to let them lapse.)

  • Seangough

    Also, sorry for calling you Francis in my last post!

  • TreenonPoet

     An example of the sort of complacency that I am referring to is demonstrated by the Illinois politician John Shimkus here. The notion that God is looking after us (and all the evidence to the contrary is just something we should not expect to be able to understand), or the notion that we need not worry too much about climate change because if that is what God wants, then who are we to interfere, or similar notions, are less prominent in the UK because, despite having an established church (or perhaps because of it), the UK is less religious. (About half are nominally Christian, but the percentage who hold such complacent notions is lower.) But we share an atmosphere with the US, so there is no room for complacency about complacency.

    It is interesting that those of religious faith give much more to charity than the non-religious (per person). I wonder why that is – your suggestion is one of a number of hypoyheses that could be offered. What is clear is that being religious is not a necessary condition for giving to charity. I don’t think that the amounts given are an indicator of relative complacency. The ratio of numbers giving to certain charities might be.

  • theroadmaster

    Faith schools inculcate a spiritual dimension into the lives of their pupils which goes beyond a materialist version of our existence.  They essentially teach that each human being is precious and deserving of respect and gratuitous help when it is required, with no strings attached.  It means  that the worth of a human being is more than the mass of atomic particles, cells, neurons and muscle tissue which make up him or her.  Thus I think that Religious schools impart a more profound teaching with regard to humanity than the well-meaning but multi-cultural PC classes which are taught in secular schools.

  • TreenonPoet

     ‘Materialism’ in the philosophical sense does not negate the worth of human beings, but neither does it elevate them above other animals by more than is rationally justifiable. For some purposes, thoughts and social interactions can be considered in terms of physics, but that does not mean that they cannot also be considered at a higher level of abstraction for other purposes, and I would be extremely surprised if any community schools did not do so, and I would expect them to promote consideration for the poor to some extent. I am not so sure about materialism in the sense of greed for material things. It seems that a selfish form of capitalism pervades society. Schools cannot isolate their pupils from this, and it would not surprise me if there was a lack of encouragement to question it (especially considering the business interest in alumni) and so, perhaps, an insufficient consideration for the poor.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “multi-cultural PC classes“, but it is possible that I agree with you. Cultures can comprise good and bad aspects, and the bad should not be ‘respected’. But merit should be determined rationally, not on the basis that if it is close to ‘our’ culture, then it must be good.

    Your characterisation of faith schools does not match my observations. I think the recent attempt by Catholic schools to get pupils to sign a political petition is despicable. There are also practices in Church of England schools and Islamic schools (and probably other faith schools) which reflect doctrine and encourage divisiveness. The prejudices are in the scriptures and contradict claims of compassion.

  • Isaac

    “But I’m curious, why should it be self-evident that the ‘whole point of politcs …is to solve the problem of poverty’ ”

    Yes, me too. Moreover I’m curious as to why you [Fr. Lucie-Smith] think this is true.

    Thank you for this article. One of the things I find distressing about American politics is how much contempt, even hatred, there seems to be for the poor. 

  • theroadmaster

    My point concerning materialism is that it has a limited and limiting effect on our concept of ourselves in relation to the true value of each one.  The insight of Faith instills a transcendence that overcomes those shortcomings and points to an ultimate spiritual source for the goodness that is in the world.  I do not doubt that state or community schools inculcate in their pupils the value of rendering service to people in need etc.  But religious instruction, as in the Catholic perspective, looks beyond the idea of doing good for it’s own sake and puts it in a metaphysical context.  This in turn links up with the whole raison d’etre for our existence in this world and the philosophical questions which surround it.
    My reference to “multi cultural PC” teachings in state schools, was in the context of pupils being encouraged to have a general tolerance for all beliefs and none, without setting out to offend anyone.  I think that non-judgmentalism can only take one so far and because of it’s subjective nature can leave societies open to many negative influences if people have no objective moral standards to adhere to. 

    You characterize Faith schools in a very narrow and distorted fashion, as being “divisive”, when the opposite is very much the case.  Why do you think people of non-Catholic or non-religious background are queuing up to get their children enrolled in Catholic schools, besides the decent academic education that they offer?  It is because they provide a safe and secure haven for children to learn, where moral values are emphasized  If that is “divisive”, then you will have to re-evaluate your understanding of the term?

  • TreenonPoet

     When I was a teenager, I occasionally had too many beers and experienced something not dissimilar to the state of mind that you seem to be describing – a feeling (not derived from any logical reasoning) that, fundamentally, all was well with the world, and any human conflicts ought to be amicably soluble if only everyone had the same state of mind. (I also observed that, on some students, beer seemed to have quite the opposite effect.) But those feelings did not represent harsh reality. Rational thought was impaired, so if I had acted on those delusions I might have made things worse or no better. It seems to me that the damage done by some well-meaning missionaries is analogous, except that they might be convinced that their delusions represent reality.

    I agree with your second paragraph regarding moral standards in schools, though I suspect I would disagree with you on what those moral standards should be. I am not accusing all those who regard themselves as Catholics of having the morals of those who tortured heretics, supported New World genocide, protected paedophiles and war criminals, etc., but does that not suggest to you that Catholic moral standards are not the best?

    I gave an example of divisiveness in Catholic schools (in that case, encouraging those of normal sexual orientation to feel superior to others). Anti-Jewish literature in Islamic schools would be another example. But the whole concept of schools promoting particular religions as superior is divisive, more so if most parents are affiliated to the religion of the school that their children go to. Even community schools are expected to push Christianity by default, and I know from personal experience how this can alienate those not in the in-group. Look at world news and see just how much conflict and persecution results from religious polarisation and from prejudices based purely on religious notions. But I do not think that this is in the forefront of the minds of those queuing up to get their children enrolled in Catholic schools. Some queing are non-religious parents responding to the situation that has resulted from intake filtering.

  • Lindi

    Yes , I do agree with you Father,but what is worrying  most are the number of people who have been damaged in childhood by violence , substance abuse  and a lack of love. If you know you are loved you are when you grow up less likely to drop out of education , sleep around , get involved in an abusive relationship , use drugs/alcohol to deaden emotions.  This has always occured – Victorian times were dreadful although there was a quite strict morality in society as a whole. Individuals did so much to help the poor. We need to return to personal charity in the Church and become involved with local projects – if we can.
             As for putting things back on the shelf in supermarkets – lots of mums have had to do that . In itself it doesn’t describe poverty. Being exhausted and depressed , bringing up your children in a violent neighbourhood , living on bread and marge so that the children can have a dinner is more an indication of poverty.

  • theroadmaster

    Certainly when one takes a few too many beers, the feeling that “everything is right with the world” can take hold.  But intoxicants are clearly not on the same level as inspired values which make people reach beyond themselves.  The former is a distorted state of mind induced by chemicals, whereas the latter is based on a set of teachings which are founded on the inherent worth of each human being, created by a God(which I know that you dispute).  People in the first case,  are 
    obviously  effected by substances which they have no control over, whereas in the second one, they are free to accept or reject the proposals with a clarity of mind. You erroneously compare the sterling work of missionaries in foreign fields, to the effects of alcohol abuse.  Missionaries in innumerable cases, through the ages, have released populations from belief systems which have tyrannically oppressed them e.g blood sacrifice cults within indigenous peoples in Latin America, cannibalism in the South Pacific Islands.  They have setup hospitals/medical dispensaries, schools, industries.  The list of endowments that they have brought goes on and on.  In a small minority of cases, missionaries have brought conflict when they did not respect particular cultural sensibilities of people but in the vast majority of cases, they brought enlightenment and humane values based on the gospels.
    As for you reference to the past and present sinful conduct of the representatives of the Church, this is very much to be regretted and it signifies a betrayal of all that Catholicism teaches.  Because some members of the Church at times fall below these exacting standards, does not undermine the validity of the moral teachings.  Rather it is for individuals to evermore centre their lives on Christ.
    The Church teaches that each human being is precious, whatever his/her sexual/ethnic/political orientation happens to be.  But this does not mean that Catholic ethics with regards to e.g sexual mores, tolerates certain practices or behaviors which contradict the natural order of things.  This goes for heterosexual as well as homosexual behavior.
    Your point about religious schools being the source of conflicts around the world does not stand up when you examine the reality of separate  Faith school systems in e.g European countries, US or Canada.  I do not see any widespread religious conflict within the boundaries of these nations. 

    Catholic schools while primarily articulating a viewpoint based on their foundational Faith, inculcate into their students a respect and love for people who are not non-Catholic/non-religious/atheistic.

  • theroadmaster

    In my last point I mean’t ^inculcate into their students a respect and love for people who are non-Catholic/non-religious/atheistic”

  • TreenonPoet

     I was comparing states of mind (however induced) that might offer the host false insight into the way things should be.

    I don’t doubt that some missionaries have done much good. I’m sure that replacing blood sacrifices and cannibalism with the celebration of a crucifixion and pretending to eat the flesh of Christ is an improvement, but replacing mild religions or atheism with Catholicism is a backward step. And in an over-populated world, proscribing contraception and encouraging proliferation are backward too.

    I am glad that you accept (if not approve of) the variety of beliefs that so-called Catholics (including Popes) hold. With regard to Catholic teachings, I would go so far as to say that I am in favour of institutions attempting to formulate moral guidance. But such guidance must, to the best of the formulators’ abilities, be consistent with rationality and the latest knowledge. If an error of reasoning is discovered, or new knowledge changes in a relevant way, then the guidance should be updated. Religious institutions are not only extremely reluctant to do this (conflicting, as it does, with their raison d’être), but sometimes demonise those who do (which, in itself, displays immorality).

    What is “the natural order of things“, and why should it be a basis for moral guidance?

    Even when you restrict the list of countries to the US, Canada, and those in Europe (thus excluding the worst), there is sectarian conflict. Until recently, this resulted in considerable violence in Northern Ireland. In the US you might think that the restriction on religion in schools would help, but, by one means or another, there is plenty of religious schooling, and there is conflict between Christians and atheists. Recall Bush openly opposing athiest citizenship. (If you want to know what the persecution of an athiest looks like in the US, google Jessica Ahlquist threats.) I am opposed to the religious indoctrination of children whether or not it is aided by faith schools.  

    When the Pope compared atheists to Nazis at the start of the 2010 papal visit, where were the voices of protest from those educated in Catholic schools?

  • theroadmaster

    The fact remains that Catholic teaching does not require any intoxicating substances to make it attractive to it’s listeners, once presented in a clear and attractive way. 
    There is no equivalence between the human sacrifice of human victims to appease whimsical false gods and the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God to leave open a path of salvation to humankind.  Death on a cross would normally be regarded as an ignoble end to anyone’s life.  But in this case, God the Creator(whoseexistence you do not accept) gave up His only Son as the ultimate sign of His love for humanity.  You disparage the doctrine of transubstantiation but the theological, spiritual reality behind the material accidents of bread and wine generally escapes those who are limited to materialist explanations for our environment.
    There is no conflict between reason and religious belief. One purifies the other.  Indeed Catholic Christianity has adopted the logical approach to reality inherent in Greek philosophy and has used it to purge Christian belief of unnecessary superstitious hangovers. The Good Doctor, Thomas Aquinas introduced this approach to Latin Christianity in the high Middle ages.
    The Natural order of things describes how humans interact with eachother and their environment. e.g. complementariness between men and women on a social,sexual and psychological level.
    You cite N. Ireland as an example of conflict caused by separate schooling, but the political conflict in that part of Ireland predates the founding of Faith schools by many centuries and are falsely used as by some as favorite whipping boys to blame the conflict on.  The fact remains that where Faith schools exist, societies have not experienced communal religious disturbances 
    because of them.
    The pope did not mean to compare all atheists to the tyrannous criminal nazi regime, but was making the observation that the zealous nature of that regimes opposition to the presence of Christianity has some resonance concerning the  anti-religious opposition of certain atheists in western nations.  Perhaps he was unwise to use the nazis as an example, but his point still stands.

  • GFFM

    Poverty is not the biggest issue facing us. The dehumanization of the person is the most profound issue facing us. It’s the primary attribute of modernity and the unprecedented and gratuitous destruction of human life in the 20th century and continued into our own time proves this. We are called on to help the materially poor of course. But the poverty of the religious life is a much more profound issue.

  • Robin Leslie

    I absolutely agree with GFFM, that the dehumanization and demoralization of the human person in almost every dimension of life has, tragically, become the experience of most of us. In the workplace, in the polling booth, in the legal system, in the education system people are becoming slaves, they are serving a totalitarian economic, political and cultural system that irrationally serves the dictatorship of money and power, and nobody has been able to stop this neo-liberal tyranny which has poisoned the world.
    Unless we, like our European friends are prepared to confront this modern evil now then we will be
    faced with a new Nazism with horrors for all and scapegoats aplenty in future years!.

  • Rosemary Alabaster

    Brilliant, Benedict. The Labour party, as a party is poison in our national cup. It is probably down to their atheistic brain training that even so-called Conservatives follow their anti-God agenda.