Benedict XVI Bigot-rustling is the Pope’s latest insult to Rowan Williams
Bigot-rustling is the Pope’s latest insult to Rowan Williams
By Terry Sanderson
Of course, in a strictly secularist sense, the NSS should not concern itself with the internal machinations of religious organisations. If the Pope wishes to stab the Archbishop of Canterbury in the back (in a wholly ecumenical sense, of course) then that’s nothing to do with us. If the Pope wants to change the rules of his club so that he can steal personnel from the opposition, that’s his business. Let them slug it out, betray each other, lie and steal from each other. Or, as Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper put it “The Vatican’s welcome ... is a Trojan horse. It appears to enhance Christian goodwill while inflaming the doctrinal battles between and within the two churches.” As long as they don’t try to involve the state in their hostilities, they can rip each other to shreds as far as we are concerned.
But wait a minute. The state is involved in this. We have an Established Church, the head of which is also the head of the State. So when the Roman Rat plays such a comprehensively dirty trick on Rowan Williams, we all have to consider whether there are constitutional implications.
Since the Holy See is at once both the government of the Catholic Church and also of the State of the Vatican City, any bishops who sit in the House of Lords who decided to opt for Rome would owe allegiance to the Holy See, which, when wearing one of its hats, is a foreign government.
In other words, because there’s an established church at this end and a church-state at the other, the constitutional implications could be enormous. If half of the Church of England is going to end up under the Vatican umbrella, then can it really remain “by law established”?
After all, the Church of England was created with the sole purpose of thwarting the authority of the Pope. Now that the Pope has moved his tanks on to the lawn of Lambeth Palace, it is time for the whole constitutional arrangement to be urgently rethought.
The Church of England must now be disestablished – and soon. If it is not, there could be a constitutional crisis that may bring the whole shambolic house of cards tumbling down. This week’s events have left it in tatters under the leadership of a man who is clearly incapable of the job.
In his anxiety to keep the “Anglican Communion” intact, Rowan Williams abandoned his own humane, liberal instincts and threw in his lot with the worst elements of bigotry within his flock. They have now rewarded him by conniving with the “Holy Father” to pile on the humiliation. The fact that the Vatican didn’t tell the Archbishop about its plans until a week before they were announced indicates just how irrelevant they consider him to be. Or, as one commentator put it: “The faces of many Church of England bishops have turned as purple as their cassocks.”
But let’s step away from this nasty piece of Machiavellian cunning and take a look at the bigger picture.
The Catholic Church in Britain is dying on its feet. And rightly so. The Church of England is already on life support, but it continues to twitch. Both institutions provide a playground for some of the most gruesome and horrible people you could ever wish to meet (particularly if you are a child).
They argue endlessly and violently over which bell to ring and which language to say their prayers in. They spend their lives bowing down to the bones of a dead girl and pretending that a biscuit is actual flesh and that wine is really (that is, literally) blood. They swan about in their ridiculous costumes, which were originally designed to intimidate simpletons, a trick that still seems to work among politicians.
The Catholic priesthood claims to disown its own erotic nature in order to remain “pure” – and yet endless court cases show many of the “fathers” to have been wallowing in a pit of unimaginable sexual depravity. They concoct elaborate lies to sustain their “teachings” (“There are tiny holes in condoms through which HIV can pass”), they care little for the death, destruction and suffering their senseless dogmas create in the developing world. They are more concerned about the damage the child abuse crisis has done to the Church than about what it has done to the people they tortured. As Matthew Parris said in The Times: “The more reactionaries Pope Benedict can gather around himself and his Church, the faster the whole thing will sink under the weight of its own weirdness.”
And yet, throughout history, the Vatican has managed to convince those in highest authority that it is entitled to unique and unquestioned respect. Politicians and diplomats bow down to these monsters and let them get away with murder (quite literally sometimes). Whatever corruption the Vatican is involved in (and it has been involved in every conceivable immorality in its time) no-one in high secular authority (the UN, for instance) dare point the finger and ask for an explanation.
Through forming alliances with some of the worst dictators and tyrants the world has ever seen, the Vatican has managed to gain for itself a small patch of land where no international law can intrude, where no inspections take place, where no questions have to be answered. And from that protected base it stretches its poisonous tentacles around the world.
We need to ensure that the bigots and reactionaries that infest those few acres in Rome do not get a grip on Britain. We can begin by disestablishing the now-defunct Church of England and establishing a secular constitution that will put an end to the Vatican’s political ambitions once and for all.
Oliver Kamm on Divisions of the Pope
And the Daily Mash puts the whole thing in perspective
Fri, 23 Oct 2009
Divisions of the Pope
Oliver Kamm is a leader writer at The Times. Subscribe to a feed of this blog at: http://timesonline.typepad.com/oliver_kamm/rss.xml
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October 21, 2009
Divisions of the Pope
The Times leads today on an extraordinary piece of diplomacy by the papacy:
"As many as 1,000 priests could quit the Church of England and thousands more may leave churches in America and Australia under bold proposals to welcome Anglicans to Rome. Entire parishes and even dioceses could be tempted to defect after Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to offer a legal structure to Anglicans joining the Roman Catholic Church."
I'm an outsider on this, and I'm unmoved by the observation in our leading article that the position of the Church of England has been dangerously weakened. But it is interesting that the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain is as confident and assertive as I can recall. The Church was in a deep malaise in the 1970s, under Cardinal Heenan and some mediocre lieutenants. Very little of the reforming ideas of the Second Vatican Council permeated British Catholicism. Things are different now, when the ethos of the papacy is different. Catholicism has reversed its steady decline, and the influx of traditionalist Anglicans is plainly designed to hasten that revival.
Not just an outsider: I'm a non-combatant. I wish to see moderate religion, which makes its accommodation with science and secular education, supersede absolutist forms of it. But my position is that of the fine American social critic Susan Jacoby: "I do not regard 'moderate religion' as a threat to freedom of thought, but that does not make moderate religion rational."
One of our guest columnists today regrets the "weaken[ing of] the Church of England, at a time of real embattlement with radically secularist agendas now under way".
Secularism is the separation of civic and religious authority, and the consignment of religious beliefs to the realm of private conscience rather than public policy. I strongly favour it, and therefore am entirely unfazed by the declining authority of the Established Church. Bring it on.
And that leads me to the humiliation of Catholics by Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. The description is not mine but that of Andrew M. Brown, a Catholic columnist for the Telegraph, who writes:
"I have just witnessed a rout – tonight’s Intelligence Squared debate. It considered the motion “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, opposing the motion, comprehensively trounced Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke for it. The archbishop in particular was hopeless.
"The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon, who’s a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember."
I was there too, and it was as Brown describes it (though he misremembers the disastrously evasive words used by the Archbishop, on being asked a tough question: "that's the wrong question"). If you read on, you'll see that he refers to the Archbishop's being "discomfited", a word that is often misused but is right in this case - it means "routed", not merely "rendered uncomfortable". It will be broadcast at some point on BBC World, and is worth watching for the most unequal rhetorical contest I've ever seen. I have to feel sorry for Ann Widdecombe, whom I disagree with on almost everything apart from her defence of Classics but whose willingness to speak her mind merits respect.
But Brown's honest account veers into futile lament at the end:
"It was a gripping evening’s entertainment but a little discouraging for those of us who are Catholics. I found myself wishing, one, that the Catholic debaters would for once not content themselves with offering pettifogging excuses but instead actually own up to some of the charges, and, two, I wished that there still existed a great Catholic apologist like Chesterton or Belloc, someone who was not only brave and prepared to square up to the Hitch, but was his intellectual equal. Surely there is someone today who could do that?"
Hitch is a great guy, but Brown has severely underestimated the problem here. It's the intellectual paucity of the case not of the people. I'm a great admirer of Chesterton: I have a signed photograph of him above my desk, and treasure a signed edition of his collected poetry. But he would have been hopeless too in this debate. At the height of his prowess as a Catholic apologist, the Catholic Church ensured the triumph of fascism. As the late Adrian Hastings, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian, noted in his History of English Christianity, 1920-2000, 2001, pp. 168-9:
"So Mussolini got his way. Italian democracy disappeared under the pressure of murder, the administration of castor oil and the Vatican's decision to back him. It is clear in retrospect that the only force strong enough to have held Fascism in check would have been whole hearted Catholic commitment to democracy, including a willingness to co-operate with Socialists. Pius XI was interested in neither."
Chesterton was unconcerned. He wrote a terrible book, The Resurrection of Rome, recounting how impressed he was on meeting Mussolini. And as another admirer of Chesterton (unlike me, a theist), Martin Gardner, has written (The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, 1985, p. 348): "Whenever he touched on science (as in his essays deriding evolution), he revealed an ignorance exceeded only by that of his faithful friend Hilaire Belloc."
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That's OK, Oliver. Continue on your happy secularist way.
Islam is about to give the spiritual waste land that is modern hedonist Britain, a rude shock. Fry, Hitchens and other Catholic haters will long for the day when they could take cheap pot shots at Catholicism.
If only these fools knew that Christianity is their only hope against the coming onslaught.
Posted by: Brendan Marshall | 21 Oct 2009 16:40:54
That's OK Brendan. Continue on your happy christian way while Hitchens et al denounce Islam even more than popery.
We secularists believe in freedom of religion, does catholicism now support that? Maybe, but when Iran demanded Rushdie's muder the pope condemned... Rushdie!
Hindus, Pagans, Zoroastrians, yes even Christians can be fine. But please, no more immune from criticism than Atheists.
Posted by: Christopher | 21 Oct 2009 17:49:47
Those who engage in the contests about which religion is ‘better’ always puzzled me.
Are they so stupid that not to notice that they undermine one of the main arguments regularly advanced in support of religion, namely that religion is the depository of morality?
If you must decide which religion is better, you obviously must use a moral standard that is extraneous to (any) religion. But by doing so, you contradict your basic premise.
Posted by: Consider | 21 Oct 2009 18:12:01
It is, I think, worth noting that Brown, whatever his denominational affiliation of origin, is in fact agnostic verging on atheist (or possibly vice versa) in his present actual thinking. He is, however, consistently unpersuaded that the rhetoric of many of his fellow non-believers is as rational or as rigorous as it is presented to be either by its advocates or their camp-followers.
Posted by: Doug Chaplin | 21 Oct 2009 23:48:56
Confusion of Browns here. The one who writes for the telegraph is Andrew M. Brown. He is indeed a catholic, or at least a protege of Damian Thompson's. I am neither, and don't use any of my middle initials. I edit, and blog at, the Guardian's religious web site.
Posted by: Andrew Brown | 22 Oct 2009 11:08:18
Thanks for that. I wasn't confused between you and your namesake, but by dropping his middle initial I have inadvertently caused it. I shall restore it in the text.
Posted by: Oliver Kamm | 22 Oct 2009 11:25:57
If Chris Hitchens is said to have dominated the debate, we can conclude one fact: the opposition wasn't very good. One question emerges: If Catholicism is so intellectually vacant, as Oliver claims, then why are atheists, such as Dawkins totally reliant upon Catholic theology for their intellectual conclusions?
Posted by: Tony Francis | 22 Oct 2009 16:50:25
Oh Lord, Francis is resurrected.
Posted by: peteralexander | 23 Oct 2009 09:28:35
POPE IN BOLD TRANSFER SWOOP FOR EIGHT MILLION ANGLICANS
THE Pope has made an audacious bid for eight million worshippers in a move that has infuriated Anglican manager Rowan Williams.
Experts say the transition should be easy as they all believe in the same impossible shit
Pope Benedict has promised the incoming flock greater freedom to oppress anyone that confuses or frightens them and will unveil his multitude of new signings in St Peter's Square next month.
The Pontiff said: "They are a great bunch of guys and it will be a real boost to have them on the team. They bring with them years of experience in arranging jumble sales and hating science.
"And now they have the opportunity to not only help us pay off all the people we abused, but they'll also get access to our state-of-the-art range of pointy hats."
The new flock will begin training with head liturgical coach Archbishop Charlie Reeves once their applications for worship permits have been approved by the International Tribunal Of Churches.
Reeves said: "I'll be getting the cones of incense out and then we'll do some work on the basic sacraments, followed by half an hour of chin-ups and a quick game of leapfrog."
Anglican boss Williams has hit back by offering an undisclosed sum for millions of Muslims disaffected by 'racist beatings, constant explosions and the exquisite agony of denying yourself a bacon sandwich'.
But Pope Benedict feels his expanded crop of worshippers will see the church triumphant when the two denominations meet at the Last Judgement.
He added: "Unlike other religions, we can offer the best facilities for fidgety Anglicans who love to obsess over where people put their cocks."