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.

Malaysian media quotes Valero

“Saya rasa beliau akan berusaha menambat hati penduduk Britain,” kata Jack Valero, koordinator kumpulan progereja Catholic Voices. “Itu menjadi keistimewaan beliau, beliau ingin memenangi masyarakat sekular melalui pujukan.” 
 Monitor is not sure how to translate this. But a computer Malay-English translator renders it thus:

"I think he will try to charm the people of Britain, "says Jack Valero, coordinator of the Catholic Voices project. "That is a privilege, he would like to win a secular society through persuasion".

La Razon on CV

Writing in the Spanish daily La Razon, Celia Maza comments (Monitor's translation):

"Catholic Voices, a group of Catholics aged between 19 and 44, was created as a volunteer body in anticipation of the papal visit in order to present the Catholic perspective in an attractive way to the media. They are not the spokespeople of the Bishops' Conference, but their exceptional work and closeness to the press has earned them the bishops' blessing."

CV reaches the US Catholic media

The Washington-based Catholic News Service -- owned by the US bishops' conference -- has produced a video about Catholic Voices, narrated by CNS Rome correspondent Cindy Wooden. It includes an interview with CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh and two members of the CV team -- Neil D'Aguiar and Madeleine Teahan.

It's one of their rolling "Crossplayer" video news service items embedded in Catholic diocesan sites across the US -- and as far as Australia. Access it by clicking on the video roll here. Or here. Or here.

'I can't imagine marriage without monogamy'

CV Bonnie Lander Johnson describes what Catholic marriage means in this short film on Channel 4's, broadcast last night.