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.