Tue 22nd Jul 2014 | Last updated: Tue 22nd Jul 2014 at 14:13pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

The Holy Father’s warnings on secularism and religious liberty are borne out by the consequences of the same sex marriage Bill.

But will the next pope carry on the struggle against the dictatorship of relativism with the same clarity and determination?

By on Friday, 15 February 2013

POPE BENEDICT RECEIVES HIS NEW BOOK FROM GERMAN JOURNALIST  PETER SEEWALD

One of the most central insights of Pope Benedict’s pontificate was summed up in his phrase “the dictatorship of relativism”. In his now famous conversation with the German journalist Peter Seewald (the same one on which he said that popes can abdicate), he said this, in explanation: “In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”

Later, he said this: “the reality is in fact such that certain forms of behavior and thinking are being presented as the only reasonable ones and, therefore, as the only appropriately human ones. Christianity finds itself exposed now to an intolerant pressure that at first ridicules it – as belonging to a perverse, false way of thinking – and then tries to deprive it of breathing space in the name of an ostensible rationality.”

There can be little doubt that this secularist dictatorship is being rolled out in this country today, notably in the education system, where in certain key areas, certain forms of behaviour must be presented as being valid and acceptable whether or not teachers believe they are. Only a few days before Pope Benedict’s bombshell, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury spoke out about the implications for religious liberty of the vote last Tuesday on the same sex “marriage” bill now being pushed (probably irresistibly) through the Commons by the “Conservative” Prime Minister, David Cameron. Bishop Davies last week told married couples gathered from all over his diocese to celebrate landmark anniversaries at an annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Marriage that it was possible to “see the absurdity of changing the identity of marriage in the name of a false understanding of equality by the desire to even strike out the cherished names of ‘mother’ and ‘father’”.

That was a predictable enough criticism. But he also repeated a warning he has given before: having said that recognising the truth of marriage was not “an injustice to be remedied” he went on to predict that soon it could even become an offence to repeat “the beautiful teaching of Christ” that marriage is the lasting union of one man and one woman which forms the foundation of the family.

He is hardly alone, though I didn’t notice even Catholic MPs sounding the same warning in last week’s commons debate (I hope to be corrected; I did nod off once or twice). Many others have made the same prediction. Last month, no fewer than 1,000 Catholic bishops and priests signed a letter to the Telegraph:

“SIR – After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.

“Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.

“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.”

This is not, of course, the only unfolding secularist threat to religious liberty in the Western world: such challenges take different legal forms depending on where you are, and there are analogous threats all over Europe; even in the US (supposedly more religious than we less churchgoing Europeans are), the government is mounting an anti-Christian, and more specifically an anti- Catholic, threat to religious freedom, which has spawned legal disputes all over the country.

The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance, and the Obama administration says an insurance plan must pay for basic preventive care, including contraceptives. Earlier this month the Obama administration proposed a compromise for some nonprofit religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and colleges, that would allow them to avoid paying directly for such insurance. But the administration refused to consider a similar exemption for private, for-profit employers. The Catholic bishops say this exemption should apply to any employer who has a conscientious objection to providing contraception (this includes abortifacient drugs).

The Holy Father’s influence can be seen very clearly in the American Bishops’ struggle against their authoritarian government. Over a year ago, in an ad limina viit to Rome, Bishops, with the Obama regime’s health provision legislation on mind, he said this to them: “it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion… concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”

We are not alone in this country. But there is one sense in which the threat to Catholics here is even more serious. There is a threat to the education system which is more serious here, where the detailed content of most education is state controlled to a degree inconceivable in the US. If the State insists that children are taught, even in Catholic schools, that the view that marriage can be between those of the same sex has the same validity as the Catholic view that it can only be between a man and a woman, then a teacher who refuses to teach this will be breaking the law. And then what?

It’s high time for Catholics to mount a sustained and convincing fight on this issue. But we need leadership. So where, apart from Bishops Davies and Egan (“the usual suspects”, they are already being called) are our bishops? Where? I know some of them signed that Telegraph letter: but we need more than that.

And now another question imperatively presents itself. Will the new pope give the same clear teaching on this issue as we have had from the present Holy Father? We all face an uncertain future; there is a lot to pray about.

  • whytheworldisending

    You cannot change Nature. You can either cooperate with Nature, or fight it, and if you fight it, you will lose. Men and women are made for one another. Men and men are not. Women and women are not. Man made laws come and go, but God’s laws remain. 

  • whytheworldisending

    Neither does an organised minority of MP’s who are ignoring the wishes of their constituents and who are led by a party leader who is ignoring th ewishes of the majority of the MP’s in his own party. The people will decide what marriage means, even if the MP’s they voted for (before they knew what they were up to) change the law – and I the word that ordinary people use to refer to same sex marriage will be one that fully expresses the repulsion ordinary people feel towards those who would hijack our democracy for their own selfish reasons and whoi would try to dictate to ordinary people and their children.

  • guest

    Having read these interchanges with some interest, the two things which were missing were a definition of what marraige is and a definition of what “gayness” is.
    Marriage arose from the simple practicality that the natural purpose of the sexual act is procreation and because it takes around fourteen years  for a human child to develop.  It still does.  Such a child, because of the genetic connection best develops with the help of its parents, who are, also because of the genetic connection, most likely to be committed to the child.
    Society recognized this and, later, the church gave the parents a religious status with a sacrament.
    With regard to homosexual relationships, such people I have known who practice such acts fall into several categories.  I have got on with them to greater or lesser extents and liked them to greater and lesser extents, but all of them had problems.
    Until the nature of homosexuality can be discussed calmy and objectively, my view is that politicians should keep their noses out of it.  Thankfully, those I have known who practice homosexual acts were unlike the strident proclaimers of imagined rights the media encourages,  However, as no one has a right to get married, any group which demands marriage outside of the social purpose of the state of marriage, and gets its way, at least does the service for the rest of us of illuminating the lack of moral direction of those we have put into a postition of power. 

  • majorcalamity

    Are you serious? Every opinion survey shows that there is a large majority in favour of the extension of marriage, especially amongst the young. Not perhaps in the circles you move in, or in the Daily Wail, but amongst the population at large. Maybe there was a majority still against within the conservative party, but obviously not amongst the whole parliament, who were given a free vote. We aren’t governed by the conservative party. We are governed by parliament, and Mr Cameron deserves much credit for being brave enough to lead, and not follow. To suggest that there is anything selfish going on, or that we are being “dictated” to, is just ridiculous nonsense, which is indicative of the paranoia infecting some of the reasoning being raised by objectors.

  • majorcalamity

    Man made laws evolve. They get revised and improved as our knowledge and understanding increases. Nature does change. That it doesn’t is a fallacy propounded by those who wish to remain locked into attitudes which existed 2000 years ago, and hidden behind a cloak they call God.