Friday, 1 October 2010

Monitor takes a holiday

The reporting on the UK papal visit now all but over, Monitor is taking time out to ponder its function and future. Judging by the many emails we have received, the demand for it to continue monitoring press reporting of the Church, pointing up the good, the bad, the marvellous and the mythical -- and offering expert briefings on key points -- is very great; and we are certain to be back, once plans for the future of Catholic Voices are more clearly defined. Comments and suggestions to are, as always, very welcome.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Revealed: secrets of the 'We love you papa more than beans on toast' campaign

Niamh Moloney, diocesan youth officer in Northampton, and creator of the vivid signs (and those yellow wellies) which attracted TV cameras and photographers during the papal visit, spills the, er, beans at the Catholic Herald:

We are just three normal young people. Brendon is 19 and Rachel is 21 and I am 25. The day the Pope arrived we went out and bought some permanent markers and some old pieces of cardboard and decorated them with messages such as the famous “We love the Pope more than beans on toast”. We had no idea that pictures of us would go around the world. We had been disheartened by the media in the week before the visit and we just wanted to make some joyful noise for the Holy Father. We only wanted the Holy Father to see our signs and know that the young people in England loved him ... 
We had some incredibly moving conversations with people who were from all sorts of different backgrounds. We were outside the nuncio’s residence in Wimbledon one morning and a young man going for a morning run stopped to get a glimpse of the Pope. He was an atheist but spoke of how he agreed with the Pope and had been truly touched by his words. Following the visit we have all been inspired to witness to our faith all the time with joy.  We are incredibly grateful to God that our little wacky message of love for the Holy Father was seen by millions.

The fictions of Geoffrey Robertson

A letter from Neil Addison in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Geoffrey Robertson is disingenuous in claiming he does not want the Pope arrested and blaming the media (''Holding Pope responsible for abuses is not too dangerous'', September 29).

In the British newspaper The Guardian on April 2, Robertson specifically accused the Pope of a ''crime against humanity'' contrary to the rules of the International Criminal Court. It is only the realisation that this suggestion has made him look ridiculous in the eyes of other lawyers that has caused him to backtrack.

As far as the legal status of the Vatican is concerned, Robertson is presenting his personal opinion that the Vatican should not be a state and pretending that he is putting forward a legal argument.

More importantly, Robertson is pretending that the legal status of the Vatican is protecting abusive priests, but the reality is that Catholic priests and bishops throughout the world are citizens of their individual countries and not the Vatican and they are answerable to national law.

No country has ever suggested that the legal status of the Vatican has prevented the proper investigation of any allegations of abuse by any Catholic priest.

Neil Addison national director, Thomas More Legal Centre, Warrington (England)

CNN film: 'What the Pope knew'

A documentary with an identical title to that screened by BBC Panorama on the eve of the papal visit was shown on American television last weekend. But unlike Panorama, CNN's documentary took at face value the wild assertions of the lawyer Jeffrey Anderson, who is seeking to lay the groundwork for legal action against the Vatican on clerical sex abuse. Monitor has not seen the CNN film, but recommends the comments on it by Greg Erlandson and Matthew Bunson at their Our Sunday Visitor blog, which monitors the reporting on Pope Benedict and the sex abuse crisis. Erlandson and Bunson are the authors of a useful book (photo) on the subject.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Papal visit inspires conference on equality and religious freedom

A conference on the tension between equality and religious freedom organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin has been inspired by Pope Benedict's call for Catholics in the UK to take a stand against "aggressive secularism". The Irish Times reports:
FREEDOM OF conscience and religion is meaningless if we do not allow freedom for beliefs and practices we do not share, a conference in Dublin was told yesterday.

“That is the foundation of democracy,” the conference organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin was told.

Prof Roger Trigg [photo] of Kellogg College, Oxford also described as “nonsense” the idea “that religious freedom is at odds with human rights”.

Religious freedom was “one of the most basic of human rights. It cannot be simply trumped by other rights,” he told the conference on freedom of conscience and religion.

When rights clash “the solution is not for one to override the other but for ‘reasonable accommodation’ of both”, he said.

He said that in Ireland “the recent debate about civil partnerships has exposed an unwillingness on the part of Government to allow any legal exceptions to cater for freedom of conscience or manifestation of religious belief”.

Similar attitudes were gaining ground in Britain, he said. “Because every exception cannot be allowed, it is assumed that none can be. Yet allowing conscientious objection in time of war provides a ready example of existing tolerance, in the face of deep principle. . .” he said.

In Europe “the pursuit of equality, non-discrimination and ‘human rights’ is seen as overriding any claim to freedom of conscience, or of religion”. An example of this in Britain was that Catholic adoption agencies had “recently been forced to give up rather than give children to homosexual couples”, he said.

Barrister Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre in England, told the conference that “religion is often subconsciously seen in Britain as not merely a harmless eccentricity but as a potentially dangerous eccentricity”.

The Irish Independent report is here. Neil Addison's speech is here.

Lord Patten: 'a visit to remember'

In an interview with the Rome-based news agency Zenit, the government representative who oversaw Benedict XVI's Sept. 16-19 journey to the United Kingdom says Pope Benedixt XVI's visit was a "huge success" and a "triumph."
"His four days with us in September were a triumph for His Holiness, for the Catholic Church and its partner Christian denominations, for other faith groups in our country and for all those from civil servants to police officers who helped to organize his visit," he said.
Lord Patten spoke of the "huge and enthusiastic crowds of well-wishers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike" who greeted the Pope.

"I will long remember the crowds in Edinburgh when he arrived, the throng along the Mall in London on his way to the Hyde Park prayer vigil and the mix of worshippers -- young, old, and from every race and class -- on all the pastoral occasions," he said.

Citing the role of Catholic education in the country and the government's partnership with the Church on certain issues, Lord Patten said that the visit "reminded us, in case we had forgotten, the role that faith groups play in our domestic life."

He affirmed that the Pope was "clearly impressed by the evidence that the Christian legacy is -- in his own words -- 'strong and still alive in every level of social life' in Britain."

Lord Patten called the Pope's series of speeches and homilies "remarkable," and said that he "challenged us all to observe the relationship between reason and religion and the importance of establishing an ethical foundation for political action and policy making in the public arena. Success is not just about advances in consumerism."

The government official made particular reference to the Pope's speech to representatives of British society at Westminster Hall. He said this address "will have a substantial impact on public debate for many years to come."

"So Pope Benedict’s stay with us was in the most profound sense a visit to remember," Lord Patten concluded. "Some of its lessons and messages will reverberate down the years.”

Westminster priest vocations on rise since 2005

There are 46 men studying for the Catholic priesthood at London’s Allen Hall seminary, according to figures put out today by Westminster Diocese. Eleven of them have just started. Of the 46, 33 are preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Westminster; three more are studying for Westminster diocesan priesthood at Vallodolid, Spain; one is at the Beda College in Rome;  and another is at the Venerable English College in Rome.

Between 2002 and 2005, numbers of men training for the priesthood at Allen Hall were never more than 34. In 2006, there were 37; in 2007, 40; 2008. 43; 2009, 45; and this year, 46. 

Pope 'ranks 6th in world influence'

In its ranking of the "50 people who matter today", the left-wing weekly puts Pope Benedict at No. 6, up from 26. Before "Papa Ratzi", as the magazine calls him, come the Murdochs, Barack Obama, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Steve Jobs. The brief, sneering text focuses exclusively on sex abuse cover-ups and the alleged "financial power" of the Vatican. In describing Pope Benedict's UK visit, the magazine mentions only the "reaction" to it, which demonstrates, says the NS, "the divisive but enduring impact of the pontiff today".

By publishing a front-cover article by Geoffrey Robertson in the week of the papal visit, the NS showed itself to be, along with the Independent, the mouthpiece of British secularism. The Independent has since come close to admitting it got the Pope badly wrong. No such humble recognition from the NS.

Philip Lawler on Pope's disarming radicalism

The director of the Catholic Culture project explains the paradoxes of the papal visit.

Throughout the trip, Pope Benedict was quietly, humbly, but persistently staking a claim. He was not coming to Britain as a visitor from outside, hoping to be welcomed by the nation's leaders. He was claiming, as St. Peter's successor, to be the rightful moral leader of this old Christian society. He was inviting Britain to end its 400-year flirtation with Protestantism and reclaim its Catholic heritage. He was promising that a nation founded on the truths of the Catholic faith could be a prosperous, pluralistic, and successful modern society.

The Pope was making an astonishingly bold series of claims, really. He made them with disarming humility, so that his audiences did not take offense. Still the challenges were unmistakable. Now with the Pope back in Rome, a stunned British society has time to digest the papal message, to realize the implications of what he said, to sit up and think.

Stuart Reid: 'Valero right on media bias'

Catholic Herald columnist Stuart Reid agrees with Jack Valero that there is no "institutional anti-Catholic bias" in the media. The counter-protest website 'Protect the Pope' had earlier criticised Valero for his remarks to Zenit. Responding crossly to Reid, Protect the Pope reveals something of itself:

I apologise for not meeting Stuart Reid’s high journalistic  standards for nuance, irony and scepticism but its been enough of a challenge trying to keep up with the deluge of anti-Catholic attacks in the media over the past two months.  This is a one-man operation, balanced between my other responsibilities as a deacon in the Diocese of Lancaster.
For its part, Catholic Voices salutes the Rev Nick Donnelly for his tireless work and many useful posts.

It helps, in any discussion about the so-called "anti-Catholic bias" of the media, to distinguish between the latent ignorance of and hostility to the Church in wider society, and the media itself; naturally, the latter will reflect the former -- not in the sense of reproducing the ignorance, but in asking the Church to confront those criticisms. That's why the media can look anti-Catholic.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Blair on the media: is this what happened with clerical sex abuse?

Tony Blair's memoir is almost entirely devoid of any reference to his Catholic faith. But it contains some very interesting analyses, not least of contemporary media mechanics. Monitor is struck by the following passage on how the media generates a "scandal": is this what has happened with clerical sex abuse?

Then, in April, there was Charles Clarke and the foreign offenders who on completion of their sentence should have been deported and removed from the country and weren't. This was serious, but Charles made the mistake of trying to be too open too early, when the full facts could not be known -- the problem, as with many such things, had existed for a long time, well before we came to power -- and he suffered a mauling with bad consequences for me, him, and the government.

As with any such issue, what happens is that the spotlight suddenly shines in a corner that has lain dark for ages. That's fair enough; but what then occurs is that a complete ex post facto attitude is imposed on it, so that you end up with a ludicrously exaggerated sense of wrongdoing. So when the foreign offenders' 'scandal' is uncovered, it leads the news and this is perfectly sensible; but then because the media focus is so intense, every detail becomes another headline as if the politician in charge, in this case Charles, has literally been doing nothing else for months on end and is therefore incompetent in not having sorted it all. Then, for sure, someone pops up and says: Ooh, I warned them all about this (usually in paragraph 193 of some memo) and then the frenzy develops into hysteria.

Anyway, you have to go through it, and by the end I became quite deft at dealing with these kinds of furore. Basically you have to get on top of the detail quick, and then grind people down with fact, context, rebuttal, explanation and the art of blinding with science.

'The politics of atheism'

Writing for the Australian ABC 'Religion and Ethics' site, Professor John Milbank, one of the leading exponents of Catholic social thought in the UK, ponders the rise of atheism in the politics of the Left.

Marxism was the first current within socialism to think of economics in entirely materialist terms and so to regard capitalism as a necessary phase of development. The Chinese Communist Party is witness to how easy it is for this to mutate into the idea of the final necessity of Capitalism after all.

But pre-Marxist socialism was mostly religious, and the Labour Party up until recently continued this legacy. Sometimes we think of religious and moral socialism as the "soft option."

But to the contrary, it was this legacy - inspired by Methodism, Anglicanism and Catholicism, and not by hyper-Augustinianism - which seriously hoped to render all economic practice moral. It sought a just distribution in the first place, and, prior to Anthony Crosland's revisionism in the late 1950's, not just an ameliorative "redistribution" that was entirely predicated upon the promoting of capitalist growth.

The truth is that the differences between social democracy and neo-liberalism are in the end trivial, and that both sides have covertly to borrow from each other. This is because the worst ravages of an amoral market have to be plastered over by the State, but in the end the main game for either ideology is producing 'wealth' that is defined indifferently to questions of true human flourishing.

It is for this reason that a secular Labour Party today tends to abandon its critique of a market where things and money dominate people ('capitalism' if you like) and defines itself instead as against all tradition and in favour of unfettered personal choice.

A programmatic atheism is at work in the growing hostility to the Crown, to the House of Lords (which needs reform, not total mutation into a second House of Commons which would likely be a less radical body), to the Churches, to the family and to group-rights, and in favour of foxes, exclusively metropolitan life-styles and absolute value-pluralism.

Indeed, it can sometimes appear that for sections of today's Left, as for past totalitarianisms, a naturalistic atheism is the main program. This is why political categorisation is increasingly made in terms of attitudes to sexual issues, to traditional cultures and to religious belief, rather than to issues of substantive economic justice. 'Culture wars' have come to displace older debates about just distribution.

But the evidence of history is that the politics of atheism drifts towards a nihilism of the rule of power alone. The evidence is equally that advocacy of the sovereign power of the individual soon gives way in practice to the absolute power of the amoral market and of the sovereign State whose only purpose is itself.

In the face of this drift of the Left towards secularism and away from radicalism, there is today a remarkable counter-tendency that is a real source of hope. This is a new tendency of religious bodies, and especially of the Catholic Church, in despair at the nihilistic drift of secular politics, more directly to articulate and enact its own political views, often outside current conventions of what counts as Right or Left.

These views, as exampled by Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate, refusal to be resigned to the notion that there is any aspect of human life where justice cannot be implemented.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Osservatore: the Kindly Light

This week's English-language edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano carries an editorial by Gian Maria Van on the success of the papal visit. Snip:

It was thanks to the broadmindedness of the media in this great country marked by what, today, has become a multi-ethnic society in relaying his gestures and words on a perfectly organized Journey, that multitudes were able see Pope Benedict speaking to elderly people and conversing with them, "as a brother above all". They saw him gently caressing children just as on his last day, on leaving the Nunciature, he caressed a blind child in the arms of his mother who, moved to tears, could not stop thanking him and adoring the Blessed Sacrament in the impressive silence of the 80,000 young people who had gathered for the Vigil a few hours before Cardinal Newman's beatification.

Indeed the tenderness Benedict XVI shows to the little and the weak explains his powerful words renewed and repeated in the face of the crimes of the abuse of minors by members of the clergy and his meeting with some of the victims and with a group that works for the protection of children.

The British Episcopate, which collaborates with the civil authorities, is exemplary in this regard, in line with the age-old tradition of the care and education of young people which, in the past, was undeniably to the credit of the Catholic Church and her many institutions in every part of the world.

In brief, this was a historic journey. It was marked by the official and cordial Visit to Elizabeth II, a universally esteemed Sovereign, by the solemn meeting with the civil authorities in Westminster Hall (where the Pope paid tribute to the institution of the British Parliament), and by conversations with several political leaders and with Prime Minister David Cameron, who in his farewell address emphasized the positive contribution of religion to the public debate.

At the end of a State Visit which also because of the friendship with Archbishop Rowan Williams proved very important for the development of relations with the Anglicans, with representatives of other Christian denominations and with other religions. And above all Benedict XVI made the Visit shine with the kindly light that leads every human person, just as it led Newman.

How many Catholics are there?

Andrew Brown wonders.

CV debates Protestant Truth Society

CV Peter Williams debated Duncan Boyd of the Protestant Truth Society on Revelation TV on 9 September. Here is the clip -- on the subject: "We believe the Papal Visit will be good for this country".

Chief Rabbi to Pope: what faith offers Britain

From the speech of Dr Jonathan Sacks to Pope Benedict at the meeting with faith leaders at Twickenham.

Britain has been so enriched by its minorities, by every group represented here today and the intricate harmonies of our several voices. And one of our commonalities is that we surely all believe that faith has a major role in strengthening civil society.

In the face of a deeply individualistic culture, we offer community. Against consumerism, we talk about the things that have value but not a price. Against cynicism we dare to admire and respect. In the face of fragmenting families, we believe in consecrating relationships. We believe in marriage as a commitment, parenthood as a responsibility, and the poetry of everyday life when it is etched, in homes and schools, with the charisma of holinessand grace.

In our communities we value people not for what they earn or what they buy or how they vote but for what they are, every one of them a fragment of the Divine presence. We hold life holy. And each of us is lifted by the knowledge that we are part of something greater than all of us, that created us in forgiveness and love, and asks us to create in forgiveness and love. Each of us in our own way is a guardian of values that are in danger of being lost, in our short-attention-span, hyperactive, information-saturated, wisdom-starved age.

And though our faiths are profoundly different, yet we recognize in one another the presence of faith itself, that habit of the heart that listens to the music beneath the noise, and knows that God is the point at which soul touches soul and is enlarged by the presence of otherness.

Labour must learn again to 'do God'

CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh in the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' argues that Labour under Ed Miliband (photo) now needs to recover some of Tony Blair's ability to tune into the concerns of  churches, lost under Gordon Brown.
Most people are not in churches and mosques. But millions are. And in political terms those millions are dynamite. Fired by strong values, believers in a better world, members of organisations built on strong bonds of trust, and willing to turn out to demonstrate and build power – churches were, and for Labour can be again, potent sources of political renewal. True, there are plenty of secular people with ideals, but they are less organised; or, if they are organised, they tend to know better what they oppose than what they stand for. Contrast the 10,000 who protested Pope Benedict with the 200,000 lining Whitehall to welcome him.

Ed-led Labour needs to know that you can't have the fruits without the roots. If what the party must now do is galvanise people where they gather – and especially where those who gather are hardest hit by joblessness and cuts – it must first remove the single biggest obstacle in the way of the party reconnecting with communities: its dogmatic, sneering secularism.

Pope on UK visit: 'all just wonderful'

Richard Owen, The Times's shortly-to-retire Rome correspondent, was granted a brief audience with Pope Benedict on the flight back from his UK visit. 
I was curious to know how he really felt his tour of England and Scotland had gone; not just the official communiques, but his personal reaction. I asked him what had been the highlight of his trip. Meeting the Queen, perhaps? The service at Westminster Abbey? The turnout of crowds, despite the protests over birth control and child abuse?

Benedict shook his head. "Everything," he said in Italian. "Everything."

Then he added in English: "It was all wonderful."

He looked out of the aircraft window at the coast of England sliding beneath us as we headed across the Channel. "It was all just wonderful," he repeated.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Breda O'Brien: papal visit 'triumph of civility'

Writing in today's Irish Times, the teacher and columnist describes how Benedict XVI confounded those who sought to paint him as an authoritarian.

Whatever Benedict did in Britain, he did not bore. People used to the slur, “Nazi pope”, saw instead an elderly man who suffered under Nazism, forced like so many of his generation to join Hitler Youth.

According to the Holocaust Education and Archive Research Team, Hitler Youth was the largest youth group in the world, with 7.3 million members. Any parent who held out against it was threatened with forcible removal of their children to an orphanage.

Ironically, it may have been Benedict’s experience of Nazism that shaped his commitment to truth as a boundary against totalitarianism. John L Allen jnr, the respected reporter on the Vatican, agrees. “Under Hitler, Ratzinger says he watched the Nazis twist and distort the truth. Their lies about Jews, about genetics, were more than academic exercises. People died by the millions because of them. The church’s service to society, Ratzinger concluded, is to stand for absolute truths that function as boundary markers.”

For some people, the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church has been fatally undermined by the nature of the response to the abuse scandals. Benedict mentioned the scandals four times, and made clear his abhorrence. However, the UK visit showed that while the scandals are and should continue to be central, this does not negate every other contribution that faith can make. In a sense, Benedict was not there just as a representative of the Roman Catholic faith, but as an articulate exponent of the right of religion to be treated with respect and tolerance. Much was made of his references to aggressive secularism, and the fact that he spoke of attempts to prevent celebration of Christmas struck a particular chord with British listeners. However, the pope has made it clear that while aggressive secularism exists, he is a proponent of what he calls “positive secularity”.

As Raymond d’Souza says: “He has argued not so much as a Christian combatant against secularism, but rather in favour of a secularism that preserves the great achievements of European culture.”

Archbishop Rowan Williams echoed this theme. “We do not, as churches, seek political power or control, or the dominance of Christian faith in the public sphere, but the opportunity to testify, to argue, sometimes to protest, sometimes to affirm – to play our part in the public debates of our societies.” It’s a modest enough hope, and one that came closer as a result of the recent visit.

The visit was a triumph for civility, and for mutual respect. It showed there is a limited tolerance for verbal abuse, and an ability to see goodness beyond the caricatures.

+Vincent reflects on papal visit in pastoral letter

The Archbishop of Westminster's pastoral letter to be read out at Mass in his diocese this weekend:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have been very blessed indeed by the Visit of Pope Benedict during those four marvellous and unforgettable days. His presence has brought such joy and given a great boost to so many. I am immensely grateful to Her Majesty The Queen for extending the invitation to Pope Benedict to come on a State Visit to the United Kingdom.

There is so much to talk about. But at this point I offer some brief initial reflections.

The Holy Father has given us new heart for our mission. In our Cathedral he spelt out that task. He said we are to be witnesses to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ.

We have glimpsed the beauty of holiness especially in the moments of prayer during this Visit. The holiness of God is reflected in the reverence shown in the liturgies, in the actions of the Mass, in the music and song we have offered and most vividly in the silence of prayer. The beauty of this holiness permeates us from within as ‘heart speaks unto heart’. I will never forget the richness of the silence of 80,000 people at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Hyde Park. I hope every celebration of Mass contains times of shared silence in which we can draw close to the Lord.

We witness best to the splendour of the truth of our faith when we follow the example given by Pope Benedict. In speaking of our faith he was always so gentle and courteous, so sensitive to the achievements and anxieties of his listeners, so clear and reasoned in presenting difficult points, so humble and open-hearted. We must strive for these same qualities when speaking about our faith, in witnessing to its truth.

The Holy Father has also asked us to witness to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ. He certainly did so himself, with his own serenity and unfailing generosity of response to both individuals and great crowds. We can do the same, day by day, as long as our focus remains on the Lord and, particularly, in his power to forgive and heal us. We find our joy and freedom in the saving sacrifice of Christ. From it we draw the strength to be generous and self-sacrificing ourselves. Young people, too, gave witness to this joy and freedom. Outside our Cathedral they exclaimed their desire to be saints in the third millennium! Their pathway will be that of heartfelt prayer and generous service.

With the blessings of this Visit we can be more confident in our faith and more ready to speak about it and let it be seen each day. A small step we can all take is to be quicker to say to others that we will pray for them, especially to those in distress. Prayer is the first fruit of faith in the Lord and we grow so much by giving prayer its place in our homes and in our hearts. Even the simple step of more regularly using the greeting ‘God bless you’, gently and naturally, would make a difference to the tone we set in our daily lives as would the more frequent use of the Sign of the Cross. Making faith visible is so much a part of the invitation the Holy Father has extended to us all.

In these ways we can begin to respond to the urging of the Holy Father ‘that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.’

I thank everyone who worked so hard in preparation for this Visit, through difficulties, doubts and criticism. I thank all who came to show their love for the Holy Father. Travelling with the Holy Father in the Popemobile gave me a unique experience of the joy, delight and love in the faces of so many. I thank God for our Pope and for all the blessings of this Visit from which we have so much to ponder and learn for a long time to come.

Britain to have ordinariate 'by end of the year'?

Two of the Church of England's "flying bishops" will take up the ordinariate offer by the end of the year, according to Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald. She quotes unnamed "sources" for this. As of a couple of months ago, no application had yet been received by the bishops' conference of England and Wales. It wouldn't be surprising if one were to be made by the end of the year, as Arco suggests. But the headline is misleading. One thing is for Anglicans to apply for an ordinariate before December; another thing altogether is to have the ordinariate -- ie establish it -- by then. Rather a lot of negotiation has to take place first. Anglicanorum coetibus provides the legal means of setting up an ordinariate; the terms of that ordinariate have to be negotiated with the bishops' conference - ie who leads it, what flexibility can be allowed in liturgy, and so on. That takes time.

Catholic populations in Britain and Ireland now level

This seems to be the most interesting finding of the respected CARA institute at Georgetown University in Washington. In 2008, the Catholic populations of Britain and of Ireland were roughly the same: 5.2m in each case.

The study also confirms that, despite being many fewer than Anglicans, there are Catholics in church to Sundays than their Anglican counterparts -- 35 per cent of Catholics go to Mass once a week or more.  

Although fewer in number, Catholics in Britain are more likely than Anglicans to indicate that they regularly attend religious services. Thirty-five percent of British Catholics say they attend Mass once a week or more often and 19% say they do not attend weekly but go to Mass at least once a month. By comparison, just one in ten Anglicans attend services weekly and 13 percent attend at least once a month (all of these attendance estimates are likely overestimated due to social desirability pressures; see: The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance). The difference is very significant because it means that the number of weekly church attending Catholics (3.2% of the total adult population) is greater than the number of weekly church attending Anglicans (2.8% of the total adult population) in Britain.
Here is the relevant table:

Friday, 24 September 2010

Christians must fight for their place in society

The director of the Iona Institute, David Quinn, writing in the Irish Independent about the Pope's UK visit:

Benedict spoke of a growing threat to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and, in Scotland the previous day, of "aggressive forms of secularism" and the "dictatorship of relativism".

Bizarrely, there are people who doubt that aggressive secularism even exists, who deny that the rights of religious believers are under increasing assault in Western societies. But if Richard Dawkins and company are not examples of aggressive secularism then what is?

And if the forced closure of Catholic adoption agencies in the UK and elsewhere because they want children to be adopted by married, opposite-sex couples isn't an example of a direct attack on the rights of religious organisations, then nothing is.

In some parts of the US, Christian nurses have been fired for not performing abortions. In Sweden, you must be willing to perform an abortion if you work in a public hospital. Pharmacists are increasingly being forced to dispense the morning-after-pill (an abortifacient), regardless of their convictions.

In Britain, a nurse was suspended from work for offering to pray for a patient. Christians have been investigated by police for "hate crimes" after handing out literature deemed "offensive" to minorities. In Ireland, a Catholic infertility doctor was recently investigated on a professional misconduct charge because he would only treat married couples.

Also, the Government and opposition parties refused to add a conscience clause to the Civil Partnership Bill, a true example of the "dictatorship of relativism" which insists that no distinction can be made between one "lifestyle choice" and another, and that those who make such distinctions must be penalised.

The most obvious impact of the Pope's visit to Britain was its success as a public spectacle. But he also had a message, and his message was that Christians have to start fighting back against attempts to drive them from public life and deprive them of their legitimate rights.

The visit will have been a real success only if Christians begin to take up that fight. If not, then one day they will wake up and discover that they have been reduced to second-class citizenship.

John Allen on the hope the papal visit brings

The veteran Rome-watcher John Allen gives an upbeat assessment of the success of Pope Benedict's UK visit, from which he draws "two rays of hope":
First, even in what appear to be thoroughly secularized societies, the religious instinct has hardly been extinguished. Benedict’s crowds exceeded expectations, buoyed by substantial Catholic turnout. What was most fascinating, however, was the appeal of the trip to other Christians, members of other religions, and ordinary secular folk who still somehow feel the tug of faith.

Aside from the activists who have a specific beef with the pope, most people seemed curious about what Benedict was saying and doing, and also genuinely impressed with the sincerity and good will of the throngs of pilgrims they saw over these four days. (As a footnote, one of the fruits of a papal visit is that ordinary believers have the chance to tell their stories to a national audience.)

Benedict did not magically refill the churches or win waves of converts, but the largely favorable interest in religion his presence stimulated offered a reminder that many people, even in the heart of the secular world, do still want to believe – even if, as sociologist Grace Davies has put it, they find it much tougher to belong.

Second, the trip was a reminder that when wielded wisely, the papacy is still a unique bully pulpit, the single greatest asset Catholicism has in shaping public debate. It’s difficult to imagine any other figure on the planet who could have come to Great Britain and led a four-day national examination of conscience about the role of religion in public life like Benedict XVI did.

In part, the reason Benedict was able to pull it off was because he gave those prepared to dismiss him no excuse to do so. He did not ride into town breathing fire about the equality laws, abortion, gay marriage, or any of the other fronts in the culture wars. Instead, he went to the foundations of the issue -- the right of citizenship of people of faith in a secular culture that prizes tolerance, and the positive contribution believers can make to common humanitarian and social concerns.

Put that way, it was virtually impossible to paint the pope as an extremist, and it made Dawkins’ claim that Benedict is an “enemy of humanity” seem faintly ridiculous. In effect, Benedict’s U.K. trip offered a model of how religious leaders can successfully engage secular conversation, through the template of “affirmative orthodoxy” -- no compromise on church teaching, but phrased in terms of what the church says “yes” to, rather than its well-known catalogue of “no’s.”

This was Benedict’s 17th foreign trip, and many of them have left behind the same kind of warm afterglow, only to be quickly swamped by some new crisis or PR meltdown in Rome. One can only hope that in this case, the past is not prologue.

Chaplin responds to secularist manifesto

Dr Jonathan Chaplin (photo), Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, has spotted the lack of pluralism in Evan Harris's "secularist manifesto". 
First, it proposes a restrictive interpretation of the right to conscientious objection within the public sector, which would be limited to "rare and specific" exemptions agreed by parliament. His stance is in accord with the trend of recent employment tribunal and court decisions but it departs from the generous British tradition accommodating conscientious objection wherever possible.

Why, for example, must a marriage registrar be legally compelled to perform a same-sex civil partnership ceremony against her religious conscience when other colleagues are readily available to do so? Protecting conscience would not imply a "blanket religious exemption based on subjective feelings" but rather a better balancing of objective legal rights.

Second, it fails to recognise that an effective right to "manifest" belief is not only individual but organisational. For many religious believers, manifestation is a corporate not a solitary enterprise, coming to expression in a wide range of faith-based educational, welfare, charitable, publishing or campaigning associations. Some operate outside the public sector while others come within its purview either through historical incorporation by the state (eg church schools, religious hospitals) or through having entered into contracts with the state to pursue specific public purposes (eg faith-based social service agencies).
But Harris wants to impose severe legal restrictions on the ability of such religious organisations to act according to their distinctive religious beliefs the moment they enter the public sector, thereby frustrating the very reason for them existing as distinct bodies rather than mere replicas of secular agencies. For example, it could have the effect of coercing church schools into hiring staff who might repudiate the very religious beliefs or moral practices defining the school's distinct identity, or of preventing such schools from teaching RE from their own perspective.

Third, it elides the distinction between a separation of church and state and a separation of religion and state. The meaning of the first is plain enough but Harris is worryingly unclear about what he means by the second. Like many who call themselves secularists, he claims to be against "banning religion from the public square", yet the tenor of this and other public interventions suggest a desire to keep it on a tight leash.

The Pope and safeguarding

Eccleston Square has put out the following release in respect of the Pope's meeting with safeguarding officials -- which Monitor earlier reported on here

Interview with Bill Kilgallon (photo), Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC)
 "When we knew that the Pope was visiting England and Wales, we suggested to him that he meet people who were involved in safeguarding within the Church because we knew that this was a high priority for him.
 The meeting took place at St Peter’s Residence, Vauxhall on Saturday 18 September.  It was attended by Archbishop Vincent Nichols; Cardinal Keith O’Brien, myself (Bill Kilgallon as Chair of the NCSC), a parish representative, a Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, the Chair of a Diocesan Commission, one of the Vice Chairs of the National Commission representing the Religious and the Director of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) and two Safeguarding Representatives from Scotland.

Key points from the meeting with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI:

Our approach in England and Wales is that safeguarding flows from the gospel.  A culture of safeguarding enables people to have a fulfilled life in Christ in the Church based on trust and that’s particularly important for children and for vulnerable adults.  We explained the system in England and Wales:

•    That each parish has a representative - a volunteer, a lay person - who takes responsibility for implementing safeguarding practice in the parish.
•    Within each diocese, there is a Safeguarding Officer - sometimes more than one - who is usually professionally qualified. Each diocese has a Safeguarding Commission made up of people drawn from relevant professions such as the police; the probation services, social services, health and the law.  The Commission has an Independent Chair. Religious Orders have similar structures.
 •    Nationally, we have the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) Commission with the job of setting the safeguarding policies of the Church and monitoring compliance. The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) is the Church’s national office with people who are experts in safeguarding, training and development.
 •    In England and Wales, the policies and procedures apply to the whole Church, not just to the dioceses, but also to religious orders.  The NCSC is mandated by the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Religious.  This is a very important feature of the approach that we take in England and Wales.  The presence of my colleague, Sr Jane Bertelsen FMDM, Vice Chair of NCSC at the meeting highlights the English and Welsh one Church approach.
 •    We report all allegations to the police or social services; depending on the nature of the allegations.  We work in co-operation with the statutory authorities throughout the procedure - this brings a clear element of independence into the whole process. 
 •    We invest time and energy in promoting safeguarding and training people. We have very robust selection processes to try and ensure that people who are working in the Church, whether in full-time ministry or as volunteers, are appropriately vetted before they work with children and with vulnerable adults.
The Pope spoke very warmly of the work that we are doing and he was very interested in our key principles:
•    Independence at every stage – involvement of independent people.
•    The bringing in of professional expertise.
•    Close co-operation with the police and statutory authorities.
He was extremely positive about the work that we are doing.

During the course of the Papal Visit, the Holy Father spoke three times about abuse within the Church:
•    In the plane to journalists
•    In his homily at the Westminster Cathedral Mass:
•    At Oscott College, in his final address to the Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales:

On each occasion, the Holy Father said that the Church must respond better to those who are victims of abuse - that is the challenge for the Church in England and Wales.  We’ve done well on the policies and procedures; we’ve done well on the structures that we’ve set up – although there is never any room for complacency because we always need a culture of vigilance - but we need to look for improvement in our response to survivors of abuse.  That’s a determination of our Commission to increase the dialogue with survivors; the conversation has already started, but it needs to receive more focus.

Next Steps
Our policies and procedures could not necessarily be transferred to other countries because the legal system is often very different. The principles which could be applied elsewhere are the partnerships with statutory authorities and the need for independent people being involved at every stage - this is a particular strength in England and Wales.  In many countries, these matters have been dealt with internally within the Church and that has led quite rightly to severe criticism; that the Church was not being open and was covering up and this angers people almost as much as the abuse.

The Holy Father met people who had experienced abuse and he heard from them directly about their experience and about the impact that it has had on their lives.  He thanked us for arranging that meeting and said that it had been a moving experience."
 The Pope's Address to Safeguarding Professionals is here.

Birmingham Three priest 'breaks his silence'

... is the odd title of a post by the Telegraph's Damian Thompson about an article by Fr Dermot Fenlon on Newman in Standpoint. Odd, because there was never any silence imposed on the three members of the Birmingham Oratory who were asked to leave it following internal disputes lasting years -- except in so far as they weren't allowed, like the other Oratorians, to discuss the Visitation which led to their removal. But they have always been quite free to speak and write about anything else -- not least Newman, as Fr Fenlon does, rather beautifully, in his article.

The really curious thing is why the Standpoint's editor, Daniel Johnson (photo), chose to insert into a box within the article a reprise by Ruth Dudley Edwards of the bizarre and entirely fictitious conspiracy theory -- scotched by the statements by two of the three in the fortnight before the papal visit -- that the removal of the Three was due to their "defence of traditional teachings on sexual morality, and their belief that Church should challenge State, that posed an unwelcome intellectual challenge to the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, during his time as Archbishop of Birmingham." 

This nonsense was put out at length by Dudley Edwards in Standpoint the previous month, but dismissed by the Oratorians, rebutted in statements by two of the Three, and exposed as an urban myth. Why does Johnson give Dudley Edwards a platform to repeat it -- especially as it adds nothing to what she said before? Very curious.

Pope sets an example to non-believers

From the Catholic Herald editorial:

[T]he Pope set a further example to non-believers, of a great religious leader who radiated love, communicated by his winning little smile as well as by his words. From now on, militant secularists will find it very hard to sustain their odious caricature of Joseph Ratzinger: these were a terrible four days for anti-Catholicism.

The troubling authoritarianism of the No-Popers

The saintly Brendan O'Neill has fired another delicious salvo against the Nope Pope brigade -- this time landing wtih surgical precision on the deeply illiberal mindset which lurks within it. O'Neill, Monitor readers will not need reminding, is editor of the humanist magazine Spiked, and while disagreeing with the Pope, is deeply troubled by the totalitarian impulses of many of the secularists -- not least Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society who called on the Pope to "get out" of Britain. Says O'Neill:

It was extraordinary stuff. Consider what is being said: that because the pope’s views run counter to the British state’s views, he has to leave the country. Because he does not support gay rights or women’s equality, he must go home. Partly this is a creepy echo of the old prejudice about Catholics not being sufficiently loyal to the state - but more fundamentally, it speaks to a serious warping of the liberal humanist outlook. If you had to distil the profound, historic tradition of liberal humanism into one principle, it would surely be that no one should be persecuted for having views that are the opposite of the state’s or of mainstream political thought. Yet here was a gathering of so-called humanists clamouring for the expulsion of the pope on the basis that he does not accept ‘British values’, as the QC Geoffrey Robertson described them on Saturday.
 But no snip can do it justice. Enjoy the whole.

British Catholicism an example of the Pope's 'creative minority'

The Tablet editorial on Hyde Park:

At the Hyde Park rally British Catholicism set out its stall, saying simply, “Here we are, this is what we do.” It displayed its diversity, its contributions to the common good through its care for disabled and elderly people and for the education and welfare for young people, its inclusive concern for immigrants, strangers and refugees, its commitment to international development and to protecting the environment. This is precisely what the Pope, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, once called a “creative minority”; and it is, as Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said afterwards, a display of post-Constantinian Catholicism that eschews political power in order to stand, as the prophets of old had stood, alongside the powerless.

3m watched papal visit online

says the organiser of the webstream at the official papal visit website.

Will the PM re-open the adoption agencies?

William Oddie is not holding his breath. But he thinks the Big Society vision means little if he doesn't.

'The Pope's intuitions were right on target'

The Tablet's Rome correspondent Robert Mickens records the journalists' fears about the trip on the papal plane to Britain; how they got it wrong -- and how the Pope's predictions were bang on.

Valero on Catholic Voices

CV coordinator Jack Valero has been interviewed by the Rome-based Catholic news service ZENIT.

I don't believe in [the] "anti-Catholicism" of the media. As I said, there is much religious ignorance and much indifference.

On the other hand, the media is interested in dramas and controversies, and not in happy stories: this is how they function. That is why the majority of religious news that appears has a negative context -- sexual or financial scandals, hypocrisy, etc.

In Catholic Voices, we have studied how to do a "re-framing" of news to speak of the subject in positive terms and hence communicate better the message of the Catholic Church, but without evading the question.

Thus, for example, with news about the abuse of minors, one must accept -- as the Pope does -- the culpability of not having dealt with the issue well in the past, but to speak also of the norms that the Church has here for the protection of minors, which are the best of any institution in Great Britain -- something that is recognized also by the government.

[W]hat we have learned in Catholic Voices is that it is the laity that can communicate the Catholic message better in the media. The laity are the ones who live and work together with all the rest, the ones who must pay the mortgage and take care of the sick baby at night. When they say things on television or radio, they connect easily with the public, and have the proper vocabulary to explain things well.

I think that in the future, the Church can make its message reach farther if training courses are established for the laity who have that facility to communicate. It could be said that we must discover in the Church the vocation of communicator.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Humanist calls for 'rapprochement' with Catholics

Paul Sims, news editor of the New Humanist magazine (motto: "Ideas for Godless People") has posted a thoughtful piece on the NH website which exemplifies the true humanist spirit of tolerance and respect. He ponders the question of whether it is time for a "rapprochement" between Catholics and secularists. He quotes with approval the Pope's words in Westminster Hall -- “the world of reason and the world of faith - the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief - need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue" -- and thinks this underlines the need for engagement.

He disapproves of some of the protesters' more lurid slogans. "For progress to be made, critics of the Church need to find sympathetic ears among Catholics, and some of the stronger rhetoric we have heard during the Pope’s visit can only reduce the chance of this happening," he notes, before taking note of the huge crowds who waited for the Popemobile to pass; "the fact is," says Sims, "that in the eyes of many Benedict XVI was welcome here. Many oppose the Church, but many support it. The Papal Visit was an opportunity for both sides to debate the reasons for this, but what we have seen are two distinct groups in our society that appear to be talking past one another, while many others (perhaps the majority) look on in confusion."

Agreeing with Sims about the need for engagement -- Catholic Voices was created for that purpose -- Monitor has been in touch with him to suggest a Catholic-humanist dialogue in print, looking at the topics which divide Catholic humanists from secular humanists. We are now "in discussion".

Why were the protesters so white?

Ed West at the Telegraph thinks the call by some secularists at the Protest the Pope rally for the Pope to "get out of our country" sounded a little -- he doesn't say this, but -- BNPish, given the overwhelmingly white, middle-class nature of the Nope Pope brigade.

[D] espite the most prominent theme of Saturday’s protest being the Church’s condom policy in Africa, there was not a single African in the march as far as I could see. There were a handful of black British people and a handful of Asian women, but the crowd was 99 per cent white and very middle-class looking.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of the noblest protests, from Prague 68 to Tehran 09, have been dominated by the middle-class; neither does their racial composition make any difference to their message – either they’re right or wrong. But it is strange that no Africans came to protest Vatican policy in Africa.

In contrast thousands of Africans came to welcome the pope in Hyde Park, Ugandans, Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Malawians and many others, as well as thousands of Filipinos, Indians, Iraqis, Poles, Germans, and Irish. The masses gathered there largely represented the children of immigrants brought in to work while Europeans enjoyed the labours of their ancestors. Undoubtedly they want to be part of European civilisation and our way of life – and it’s represented best by the man in the white Mercedes-Benz.

Papal visit: the downside

It seems spending too long covering the papal visit for Sky News has put Ann Widdecombe behind in training for the 'Strictly Come Dancing' competition.

Bishops 'delighted' at success

A statement earlier today from Eccleston Square:

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are delighted at the success of the recent Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

The Bishops wish to express their sincere appreciation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for extending the invitation to the Holy Father to make this State Visit and their thanks to the countless number of people who came to express their affection and support for His Holiness. Particular tribute must be paid to all those who helped to organise and implement the Visit, both nationally and locally.

Most specially, the Bishops extend their profound gratitude to the Holy Father for the time that he spent among us. His four day visit has been remarkable in so many ways and has given new life and hope to people both within and beyond the Catholic community in these lands. There is much to be gained, in many different ways, from further reflection on this Visit not only for Catholics but for our wider society too.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The mind of the Guardian's religious correspondent

The Guardian's Riazat Butt, who is capable of a kind of silliness impossible to impute to her sceptical but well-informed predecessor, Stephen Bates, claims that the success of the papal visit is due not to the Pope himself, nor the organisers, but entirely to "the Catholic faithful". Surely all three were ingredients of the success? Is the attempt to deny credit to Pope Benedict and the bishops' conference of England and Wales Butt's way of dealing with the evidence that contradicts what is in her mind ideologically impossible -- that the "people" and the "institution" may after all be the same?

Hear the CVs

Following on from the earlier post on which CVs did what during the papal visit, here is a sample of the interviews to listen to -- mostly from the first two days.

  • Chris Morgan on BBC World Service here.
  • Laura Crowley on BBC R4 World at One here
  • Jack Valero on BBC World Service here.
  • William Johnstone on BBC Radio Wales here and here
  • Fiona O'Reilly on Premier Radio here.
  • Fr Paul Keane on BBC WS here and here.

'Protest the Pope' defeated by its own extremism

.....says William Oddie at the Catholic Herald.
In the event, that headlong confrontation of values, between the Pope’s transparent humility and goodness, and the vicious hatred and arrogance of Protest the Pope, could only end in one way: with the utter failure of the atheist campaign to gain the hearts and minds of the British people – a people who, in the end, will always choose decency over gross incivility. In the end, British fair-mindedness was the Holy Father’s secret weapon. Protest the Pope was just not cricket.

Before the visit, I was interviewed for the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS): are you aware, I was asked, “of any papal visit which has been preceded by a campaign of such fury and loathing?” Well, no. But the fact is that Protest the Pope and its allies peaked too soon, and they went too far – much, much too far. They discredited themselves and underestimated their enemy. In the event, it was just no contest.

BBC coverage 'too favourable'

According to the Telegraph
Almost 400 people said the Corporation had given the events too much airtime and more than 150 claimed the broadcasts had been too favourable towards Benedict XVI. However another 200 viewers believed the coverage on news bulletins and documentaries had been too critical, while more than 100 praised the BBC for its work.
 The BBC says on its website:
The visit by Pope Benedict XVI was the first ever State visit by a Pontiff and was of huge historic significance to millions of Catholics and other people in the UK. It was entirely appropriate that the BBC, as the nation's broadcaster, would provide coverage of the event.

The Pope's Visit 2010 has to a certain extent divided public opinion and been the subject of much debate. In order to offer both balance and perspective to this historic occasion, the BBC marked the visit with coverage of the five major ceremonies across BBC television, radio and online, as well as using documentaries and other output to look at different aspects of the Catholic Church's affairs. As is absolutely right for an independent news organisation, this included transmitting some programmes which investigated issues that have negatively affected the Catholic Church, such as the recent child abuse scandals.

In its News and Current Affairs coverage of any subject the BBC is always committed to impartiality and accuracy, seeking also to reflect the different sides of any debate. The coverage of the current Papal visit was no different, and careful planning went into making sure that we provided the most comprehensive and authoritative coverage for our audiences. 

'Pope charms, challenges UK' -- Ivereigh in OSV

CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh writes about the papal visit for the mass-circulation US Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor.

Benedict XVI hails new phase of Holy See's relations with Britain

From the Vatican Information Service (VIS): 

During this Wednesday's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope turned his attention on his recent apostolic trip to the United Kingdom, which took place from 16 to 19 September and which he described as "a historic event marking a new important phase in the long and complex history of relations between that people and the Holy See".
Referring to the first event of the trip, his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in Edinburgh, the Holy Father recalled how "it was a highly cordial meeting, characterised by a deep and mutual concern for the wellbeing of the peoples of the world and for the role of Christian values in society".

In Glasgow, where he celebrated the first Mass of his trip on the feast of St. Ninian, the first evangeliser of Scotland, "I recalled the importance of the evangelisation of culture, especially in our own time in which an insidious relativism threatens to darken the unchanging truth about the nature of man".

The second day of the visit began with a meeting in London with the world of Catholic education, at which Benedict XVI dwelt on "the importance of the faith in forming mature and responsible citizens. I encouraged the many adolescents and young people who welcomed me with warmth and enthusiasm", he said, "not to follow limited goals, or to satisfy themselves with comfortable choices but to aim at something greater: the search for true happiness which is to be found only in God.

"In my subsequent meeting with the leaders of other religions present in the United Kingdom", he added, "I pointed out the ineluctable need for sincere dialogue, which in order to be fruitful requires respect for the principle of reciprocity. At the same time, I identified the search for the sacred as a ground common to all religions, upon which to build up friendship, trust and collaboration".

The Pope went on: "The fraternal visit to the Archbishop of Canterbury was an opportunity to underline the shared commitment to bear witness to the Christian message which unites Catholics and Anglicans. This was followed by one of the most significant moments of my apostolic trip: the meeting in the Great Hall of the British parliament" where, he explained, "I underlined the fact that religion, for lawmakers, must nor represent a problem to be resolved, but a factor that makes a vital contribution to the nation's historical progress and public debate, especially by recalling the essential importance of ensuring an ethical foundation for choices made in the various areas of social life".

The praying of Vespers with the Christian communities of the United Kingdom in Westminster Abbey, the first visit made there by a Successor of Peter, "marked an important moment in relations between the Catholic community and the Anglican Communion", Pope Benedict said.

He then recalled how, on Saturday morning, a Eucharistic celebration was held at Westminster Cathedral, which is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord. "I as overjoyed to meet large numbers of young people", he remarked. "With their enthusiastic presence, ... they showed that they wanted to be protagonists of a new period of courageous witness, effective solidarity and generous commitment to serving the Gospel".

Later in the apostolic nunciature, "I met with some victims of abuses committed by members of the clergy and religious. It was a moment of intense emotion and prayer", said the Holy Father. At his meeting with people responsible for protecting children and young people in Church environments "I thanked them and encouraged them to continue their work, which is part of the Church's long tradition of concern for the respect, education and formation of new generations".

The old people's home he visited on Saturday afternoon testifies, he said, "to the great concern the Church has always had for the elderly, and expresses the commitment of British Catholics to respecting life irrespective of age or condition".

"The culmination of my visit to the United Kingdom was the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, illustrious son of that land. By way of preparation, it was preceded by a special prayer vigil which took place on Saturday evening at Hyde Park in London. ... To the multitude of faithful, especially young people, I presented the shining example of Cardinal Newman, intellectual and believer, whose spiritual message can be summed up in his the witness that the way of knowledge does not mean closing in on oneself; rather it means openness, conversion and obedience to He Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life".

Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by highlighting how "this apostolic trip confirmed my profound conviction that the old nations of Europe possess a Christian soul which merges with the 'genius' and history of their respective peoples, and the Church never ceases to work to keep this spiritual and cultural tradition alive".

Reflections on papal visit at 'Thinking Faith'

Over at the high-fibre Jesuit e-journal Thinking Faith there are some insightful reflections on the papal visit.

Oliver Rafferty on "the real harmony and unity of purpose despite division and diversity" achieved by the Pope's meeting with Anglican leaders; Angela Kitching on the Pope at St Peter's home for the elderly -- which "should inspire us to demand a culture which is more open to presentations of frailty"; Michael Barnes on the meeting with faith leaders, where the Pope speaks "not as the leader of the Catholic tribe but as an advocate of a reasoned faith recognisable as much in Southall as in Lambeth Palace"; the Jesuit provincial, Michael Holman, on the message from Twickenham: that education is about "growth in holiness, in true happiness and fulfilment"; and Gemma Simmonds on his message to Religious: "We teach best what we model, whether it be a life of radical simplicity in the face of rampant consumerism, single-hearted love in the face of the commodification of the human body, brotherly and sisterly forbearance and love in the face of the fragmentation of families and communities, or the rule of communal discernment instead of narcissistic individualism."

CVs on air during the papal visit

The Catholic Voices team have been involved in well over 100 interviews, debates, broadcasts and articles in the weeks running up to and during the papal visit. Much of these were in the month before the trip began, facing down attacks from Protest the Pope and other critics. But this is what the CVs did during the four-day visit itself.

Fiona O’Reilly went out live from Scotland at 7.30am on BBC 1 Breakfast News, together with Magnus Linklater; she was on a pre-rec which went out on Premier Radio; and that afternoon was live on Sky News coverage from Bellahouston Park. Austen Ivereigh was on a BBC R4 ‘Today’ programme pre-rec iv about the Pope’s agenda at 0810. Jack Valero was on a BBC Three Counties Radio debate with Peter Tatchell and in the evening at 8pm debated celibacy against John Deery on BBC World Service. He was also on RTE News, with Mark Dowd. Christopher Morgan was on a BBC World Service pre-rec which went out 1am and again at 5pm, and in the evening on Al-Jazeera and again on BBC World Service (Arabic service). Jim Carr appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Call Kaye’ between 0930 and 1000. Laura Crowley was on BBC R4 ‘World at One’ with Martha Kearney. Madeleine Teahan appeared on Premier Radio’s ‘inspirational Breakfast’ between 0745 and 0845, and that evening on BBC London radio between 1815 and 1830. She also wrote an article, ‘Give the Pope a chance’, on the Channel 4 News website. Marie Jones appeared in an article in Famille Chretienne, and in a BBC TV pre-record which went on that day. She was also interviewed live on Radio Notre Dame, and on Vatican Radio (in French) at midday; she also went out (again in French) on French national TV at 1915. Neil D’Aguiar was on BBC World Service Radio at 5pm, debating on significance of religion today, with the president of the European Humanist Federation. Patrick Cusworth discussed clerical sex abuse on TalkSport Radio with Ian Collins. Fr Paul Keane was the studio guest between 7 and 9am on BBC Essex Radio, and in the evening appeared on BBC World TV discussing the papal visit with Tina Beattie. William Johnstone appeared on BBC Good Morning Wales commenting on Cardinal Kasper’s remarks, and joined a BBC Radio Wales phone-in debating with Terry Sanderson. He also tells the story of his conversion from Anglicanism on Agence France Presse (APF) TV. Ella Leonard was on BBC Radio Cornwall.

Fr Paul Keane from Twickenham did a number of interviews and commentaries for BBC World Service Radio. At 6pm he gave a live interview for BBC London Radio following the Westminster Hall address. Austen Ivereigh and Jack Valero were interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live from Twickenham and both gave interviews (in Spanish) to a Spanish-language cable channel for the Americas and (Valero only) NTN24. Austen also gave an interview from Twickenham to BBC Radio 4, which went out on the PM programme, and was interviewed by the Italian television RAI for a future programme on the papal visit. He also wrote an article which appeared in The Independent, and was interviewed by the Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Reporter about Catholic Voices. Edward Rennie was on BBC TV News at 0940. Marie Jones was interviewed by BBC Radio Surrey Breakfast at 0720. Madeleine Teahan appeared on Premier Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’, and that evening debated with Sr Myra Poole on BBC London TV News. Laura Crowley was on BBC London TV News at 1.30pm discussing Twickenham and secularism. Ella Leonard was on Premier Radio discussing Catholic schools, and live on BBC Radio Belfast qt 6pm. Around 3.30pm Laura was interviewed alongside Poppy McDonald by Anita McVeigh on BBC News24. Jim Carr appeared on BBC Radio Coventry ‘Annie Othen’ show between 0910 and 0930. Fiona O’Reilly was on BBC London TV News at 1830 debating with Michael Walsh. Christopher Morgan was part of the panel for a phone-in BBC World Service ‘Have Your Say’ TV edition with Ross Atkins; and that evening at 6pm appeared on BBC WS ‘Have Your Say’ radio phone-in discussion of the Pope’s remarks with Terry Sanderson and Ruth Gledhill. 

Fiona O’Reilly was interviewed on Sky News  ‘Sunrise’ programme at 0710 on the key messages from the Pope the day before. That evening after 1800, together with Patrick Cusworth, she commentated on the Pope’s journey to Hyde Park for BBC News24. Edward Rennie after 3.30pm was interviewed by LBC. Madeleine Teahan was on Sky News Live between 1530 and 1600. Marie Jones was interviewed by German TV from Hyde Park.  Fr Paul Keane went on BBC World Service Radio to talk of the Pope’s apology on sex abuse. William Johnstone appeared on Premier Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’ programme, debating with Duncan Boyd of the Protestant Truth Society, and on its ‘Premier News Tonight’ programme, discussing ‘What Catholics believe’.  

From Cofton Park, Jack Valero appeared at 8am on various BBC local radios on the significance of Newman’s beatification; he gave running commentary on the Mass for BBC West Midlands Radio; and at 3pm gave an interview in Spanish to Chilean TV. Madeleine Teahan was on Sky News Live Breakfast at 7am. Fr Paul Keane was on BBC World Service Radio, discussing Newman. Peter Williams appeared on Al-Jazeera TV that night, debating with Keith Porteous Wood. Jim Carr was on Premier Radio’s ‘Worship at Home’ slot. Christopher Morgan was on BBC World Service on ‘World Today’ ay 0805 and again on the 1305 News. Austen Ivereigh was interviewed for a Guardian podcast wrapping up the visit. Patrick Cusworth discussed sex abuse on BBC Radio Five Live at 1030pm.

The Pope's religious defence of democracy

Exclusive for Monitor, by Adrian Pabst.

Throughout his four-day state visit to the UK, Pope Benedict XVI has made a compelling case for the enduring presence of faith in the public realm, not just in secular Europe but across the entire world. By combining a critique of secularist attempts to marginalise religion with a call for renewed dialogue between religious belief and secular rationality, the Pontiff has changed the terms of debate on the complex links between religion and politics – one of the greatest challenges in the current context of a global religious resurgence.

Far from being defensive or reactionary, Benedict has once more confounded his critics by acknowledging profound errors in religion. These include the “unspeakable crimes” of child abuse by Catholic priests and the social problems caused by religious sectarianism and fundamentalism. But instead of privatising faith and enthroning reason as the only standard of validity (as staunch secularists and atheists demand), the Pope argues that religious violence and hatred can only be overcome by an ongoing public engagement between rationality and belief.

Benedict’s argument is that reason and faith are mutually corrective and augmenting. Without each other’s import, both principles can be distorted and instrumentalised at the service of egoism or absolute power. Just as rationality acts as a controlling organ that binds belief to knowledge, so faith can save reason from being manipulated by ideology or applied in a partial way that ignores the complexity of the real world.

Without each other’s corrective role, distortions and pathologies arise in both religion and secularity – either religious extremism that uses faith as a vehicle of hatred or the secular, totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century that legitimated genocide and total warfare.
Moreover, faith and reason are intimately intertwined in beneficial ways. Faith can reinforce trust in the human capacity for reasoning and understanding. Secular rationality can help religious belief make sense of its claims and give coherence to its intuitions.

Crucially, reason and faith can assist each other’s search for objective principles and norms governing both personal and political action. What binds rationality to belief is the shared commitment to universal standards of truth, even if these are never fully known and always deeply contested. As such, the relatedness of reason and faith is not merely a concern for religion but in fact lies at the heart of politics, the economy and society.

The trouble is that the dominant models of democracy and capitalism are indifferent to common ethical foundations and matters of truth. Instead, they operate largely on the basis of majority opinion and mass preference, manipulating the public and exploiting popular fears. It is therefore hardly surprising that democratic politics and market economics are associated with demagogy and dispossession.

Remarkably, Benedict offers a religious defense of democracy and the market economy that outflanks secular ideologies of left and right. He argues that the democratic and capitalist systems require the vital contribution of religion if they are to be saved from their own worst excesses. By locating faith firmly at the heart of the shared public square, the Pope seeks to correct both secular liberal intolerance vis-à-vis religion in politics and religious extremist opposition to democracy.

Contrary to accusations leveled by his secularist and atheist detractors, Benedict does not advocate a model of coercive theocracy. On the contrary, his vision is based on the separation of state and church and on the distinction between religious and political authority.

In his historic address at the houses of Parliament last Friday, he put it thus: “the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply [the objective norms governing right action], as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles”.

Since all political and economic decisions involve ethical choices and have moral consequences, both governments and businesses must reflect on the foundations of the fundamental principles guiding their decisions. Neither the ever-changing social consensus nor pragmatic, short-term policy responses are an adequate basis on which to decide complex societal matters.

Marginalising or privatising religion deprives the state, the market and civil society of a rich intellectual and practical resource – underpinned by both faith and reason. That resource is indispensable for the right application of universal, objective principles to our most pressing problems. The pope’s theological defense of democratic politics and market economics has the potential to change the way we think about a plural search for the common good in a multicultural context.

For over one century, secular reason has sought to impose the norms of democracy and the market economy on religious traditions. Now that secular rationality is so manifestly in crisis and religion increasingly resurgent, Pope Benedict’s call for the enduring presence of faith in politics has resonance across the United Kingdom and the whole world.
 Adrian Pabst is a lecturer in politics at the University of Kent, UK, and a visiting professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), France.