Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lord Patten on 'Hardtalk'

The Government's papal visit organiser Chris Patten's interview with Stephen Sackur is here.

In response to a question about the "shambles" over the preparations, Lord Patten said that "it hadn't helped that a general election intervened at a crucial stage of the preparations" and that the complexity of the arrangements had been underestimated. But the arrangements were now well in place, and the Protocol Office of the Foreign Office had "played a blinder".

The former Hong Kong governor was educated by Benedictines in Ealing, West London.

On the Pope's "lack of charisma" compared to John Paul II, he said: "It's incredibly difficult to be a public intellectual... like the Archbishop of Canterbury I think he sometimes finds it hard to cope with a world which wants to reduce everything to soundbites."  He said the "central theme" of this papacy was "to show the relationship between faith and reason. Far from being an introverted conservative, he has been seeking to develop a discussion with European society." Pope Benedict, he said, was a "world-class theologian" and one of the greatest intellectuals ever to be Pope. His 16 previous visits had all "confounded the critics".

On clerical abuse he said the Pope had been "tougher, quicker" on abuse than anyone else in the Vatican.

Asked if the Church was "in crisis", Lord Patten said that "the Church began in crisis. What was Good Friday and Easter if it wasn't a crisis?"

But while this was "not the greatest crisis since the Counter-Reformation", he said the Church had "serious institutional problems to deal with" as result of the way it had been shaped in relation to the Reformation and the Enlightenment. That "raises acute problems for the Church in the 21st century when it has to be more open to the world and in closer dialogue with the world", he said, adding that the Church needed now "to be more transparent and more accountable."

Asked about homosexuality, he said "the church is presumably full of devout gays" and that "the Church must repent that sometimes in the past it has encouraged discrimination." He said the Pope had not opposed civil partnerships.

Lord Patten said whatever his views on particular issues, "I am intellectually and in the marrow of my bones a Catholic."

He said Benedict XVI was "a defender of strong faith because he wants to have a dialogue with those who don't", adding: "Without faith, reason and a rule book simply aren't enough".

The Pope's "core argument", he went on, was that European civilisation had three great roots: Greece -- Aristotle and reason, Rome- rule of law; and Jerusalem - biblical religion. He said Benedict "would argue that if you take faith out of that you get into all sorts of difficulties, as in the 1930s and 40s in Europe", and concluded: "When we look at a Europe which too often defines itself in terms of GDP and per capita, one realises how strong and important his argument is."