Saturday, 11 September 2010

Pope to launch 'defence of religious freedom' in UK

Jonathan Wynne-Jones and David Harrison in the Sunday Telegraph reckon they know what's going into the Pope's speech at Westminster Hall.

In a speech to political and religious leaders in Westminster Hall, the Pontiff will deliver a thinly veiled attack on the perceived liberal direction of the country.

He will praise Britain's role in establishing religious liberty, but warn that it will suffer if it allows a secular agenda to destroy its Christian heritage.

Senior Roman Catholic sources said his message would be seen as a criticism of the introduction of equality laws that have impinged on the freedom of religious groups, although he will not directly refer to government policy. 
Those are good guesses, for anyone who has been reading the tea leaves -- not least recent interviews with the present and previous Archbishops of Westminster.

It's worth putting this prognostication alongside an article by CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh in The Tablet.

'Roots of the Big Society' contains interviews with Philip Blond and John Milbank (both in photo), the former the author of the 'Big Society' idea. The article shows how the thinking of Catholic civil society in Italy has influenced -- via Caritas in Veritate -- the thinking of the new coalition Government. The 'Big Society' is potentially what Catholic social teaching would call a "vigorous civil society" -- one which puts checks on, and holds accountable, the overweaning state and market.

But Ivereigh notes "a challenge here for Government" -- one that Benedict XVI might well be wanting to pose, however gently and discreetly. 
"Will it allow faith-inspired civic organisations the freedom to witness to their values – even when these values are abhorrent to the “rights” of some groups? Would the Big Society Government have allowed Catholic adoption agencies to go to the wall in 2007 because they refused to consider same-sex couples as adoptive parents? Can you have the fruit without the soil of greater religious freedom?"