Monday, 6 September 2010

The face of English Catholicism

'Beyond Belief' on Radio 4 this morning was a state-of-the-Church discussion featuring Fr Marcus Holden of Evangelium, Francis Davis from the Las Casas Institute in Oxford, and Sr Gemma Simmonds of Heythrop College. There is some vigorous disagreement, as well as consensus. Well worth a listen here. Catholic Voice Edward Rennie (pictured) speaks of his conversion and values between 12:15 and 15:54.

Guardian: papal trip is 'wholly justified'

The Guardian today pays a lot of attention to the papal visit -- the long article on global Catholicism posted earlier, this article by Madeleine Bunting (until six months ago, a churchgoing Catholic; now, not so sure) which concludes that the Pope deserves a hearing; and an editorial which ends: "Unattractive as the holy visitor is in so many respects, his trip is wholly justified".

Not bad for a paper many Catholics wrongly think is unsympathetic to the Church. The Guardian gives more space to faith -- of all sorts -- than any other newspaper,  and the quality of its coverage often superior.

The case against Geoffrey Robertson

Over at America magazine, CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh challenges Robertson's wild claims.

The hidden hand of the Vatican

With Geoffrey Robertson QC planning on Wednesday to mount an absurd legal argument for the Pope to be denied Vatican sovereign immunity, there will be no shortage of discussion this week about the Holy See and its international status.

Worth pondering, then, this example from the New York Daily News of the Vatican taking advantage of its remarkable global diplomatic ties to help prevent a woman in Iran from being stoned to death. And not for the first time. Britain, which finds it hard to bring any influence to bear on Iran, has often relied on the Holy See's good offices -- not least to help with releasing 15 British sailors there in 2007. The Holy See, we understand, played a major role in that success.

The chance to connect

Nick Spencer of Theos -- which published its much-discussed survey of British attitudes to the papal visit at the weekend -- says in the Guardian that there are some important findings for "Catholic spin-doctors to dwell on". Above all this:

The British public does not agree with the pope. They say so, loud and clear. Only 18% agree that "the pope generally responds wisely to problems in the world today". By comparison, 40% say that they "generally disagree with the pope's views on current affairs".

Or, at least, they think they don't agree with pope. Present them with things he has actually written and the story is rather different. The survey tested 12 statements taken directly – but anonymously – from Benedict's most recent encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate (CiV), to see if the public agreed with them. They did, strongly.

On the environment, 82% of people agreed that "technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption," (CiV, 49) and 79% agreed that "the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure" (CiV, 48). On economics, 63% agreed that "investment always has moral, as well as economic significance," (CiV, 40) and 69% agreed that "the consumer has a specific social responsibility" (CiV, 66). On human rights, 90% agreed that "food and access to water are universal rights of all human beings," (CiV, 27) and 59% agreed that "an overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties" (CiV, 43). Most remarkably, a majority of people agree with Catholic teaching about sexual behaviour, with 63% agreeing with Benedict that "it is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure" (CiV, 44). The only statement with which people disagreed, again strongly (81%), was that "poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love" (CiV, 53).
He concludes:

What can be said with some confidence is that even in comparatively anti-Catholic Britain, there remains enormous potential for the church to connect with the general public.

Catholic Voices at 'bearpit' debate with Protest the Pope

Last Wednesday saw Catholic Voices patron Fr Christopher Jamison ([pictured) and its coordinator Austen Ivereigh go up against AC Grayling and Peter Tatchell to oppose the motion, 'The papal visit should not be a state visit'. The debate, held by the Protest the Pope coalition at Conway Hall, and chaired by Polly Toynbee is reported by the Catholic Herald here and by the New Humanist here. Fr Christopher's speech is here. Excellent photos here.

'Protect the Pope' wanted to know why CV accepted Polly Toynbee as chair. Ivereigh replied: "We knew Polly Toynbee would be scupulously fair in her chairing — and she was, making sure that pro-Pope people had their voices heard at least as much as the PtP lot. The humanists hosted the debate, and were therefore entitled to pick their own chair. As it happened, Toynbee and the other humanists were gentle and reasonable — trying, in vain, to get their people to listen and give Catholic Voices the courtesy of a hearing."

In fact, Toynbee at one point uttered the immortal line: "Could I please appeal to my fellow rationalists to let the Catholics speak?"

Rees-Mogg on Newman

in the Mail. Some good insights, not least that

"Newman's decision to become a Roman Catholic had as great an impact on the public mind as Darwin's doctrine of evolution."