Monday, May 17, 2010

Clifford Longley: Pope Benedict has problems getting his message across.

On Thought for the Day this morning (listen here, transcript here), Clifford Longley suggested that, on his apostolic trip to Portugal, Pope Benedict should have said:
Let me assure you - God loves gay people. In fact he loves them especially because they have suffered persecution and discrimination in their lives, and Christ's message of liberation and justice applies particularly to people like that.
Pope Benedict should have gone on to say that
The Catholic Church regrets its historical role in encouraging prejudice against homosexuals, and is anxious to do what it can to correct that, now.
Longley also affirmed that the
Catholic Church in England and Wales no longer opposes civil partnerships, though it resisted the legislation when it first came in. Not long ago it was specifically stated that a Catholic would not be refused a job as a head teacher in a Catholic school simply because he or she was in a civil partnership.
In this Mr Longley is using a highly clericalised view of the Church, one that I thought that promoters of "the Spirit of Vatican II" would reject. The fact that Bishop Malcolm McMahon has promised that the Church will not investigate the private lives of applicants for the headships of Catholic schools does not mean that the whole of that part of the Body of Christ which is located in England and Wales no longer opposes civil partnerships. Many Catholics, cleric and lay, were profoundly disturbed by Bishop McMahon's statement.

However, Clifford Longley's observations point to the profound difficulty the Church in this country now faces in presenting with integrity the Church's teaching on marriage and family.

If the Church in England and Wales has a view which is not consistent with the one which is maintained by the rest of the Church in communion with Rome, how can it continue to claim to be part of that Body? As I recalled in my blog post Catholic Education - a nail in the coffin? the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons reminds us that
all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.
This is not to be uncharitable towards 'gays' but simply to uphold the natural law.

Far from failing to get his message across, Pope Benedict was extrememly clever in conveying precisely the message he wanted to get over. I have read the Holy Father's Portugal homilies through and found the following, some of which I quoted in my homily yesterday, Ascension Sunday.

The Holy Father did indeed say that (my emphases):
Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.
In this he implied that the legal recognition of homosexual unions is a threat to the common good.

The Pope spoke to the Portuguese Bishops about those who are silent about their faith, ashamed of their beliefs and co-operating in the promotion of secularism:
Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed above all in those human situations where the silence of faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.
Without a doubt Pope Benedict is referring to politicians and others (including catholics) involved in forming public opinion who wish to promote public policies that undermine the observance of the natural law. By contrast are those in those same professional milieux
who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the magisterium.
He urged the Catholics of Portugal to
maintain a stong prophectic dimension, without allowing yourselves to be silenced.
and reminded them that
if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place?
He says:
Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic.

I take this to mean that we must not allow the possibility of 'adverse publicity' or the fear that the media will focus on the 'wrong message' to make us afraid to proclaim the truth.

To priests, religious, seminarians and deacons, he said:
Many of our brothers and sisters live as if there were nothing beyond this life, and without concern for their eternal salvation.
and so the witness of consecrated men and women to the eschatological Church by observing the evanglical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience is all the more necessary.

Of course the Holy Father was not only referring to the fact that in a country where the vast majority of the population (and, presumably, its politicians) is catholic laws against such fundamental institutions of marriage and the family are to be passed. He wanted to invite the Portuguese to
proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity.
But this proclamation contains within it the whole Gospel and an integral presentation of the whole of the natural law. I believe Pope Benedict certainly succeeded in getting his message across, contrary to Clifford Longley's assertion.

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