Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Tony Blair does not teach the Catholic faith

The BBC News website reports Tony Blair's interview with Attitude under the title "Blair questions Papal gay policy"; and The Times reports it under the title "Tony Blair tells the Pope: you're wrong on homosexuality".

The two headlines, of course, each disguise a hidden assumption. The first disguises an assumption that the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality has the nature of a "policy", in a political sense, a "policy" that can be changed. It isn't a "policy"; it is Catholic teaching; doctrinal teaching on faith and morals, to use a quite unambiguous turn of phrase. It is expressed as follows in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the most comprehensive presentation of Catholic faith:
Tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual compementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.... Homosexual persons are called to chastity.

And, one might add, equally called to chastity (in the sense of abstention from sexual activity) by Catholic teaching are those of any sexual orientation who are not married. I am sure that, somewhere on this blog, I have posted along the lines that the question of a correct understanding of male/female sexual complementarity is not just a matter of morals, but also a matter of theology. It is present in how the nature of the Church (female, bride of Christ) is understood in relation to her spouse (Christ, the bridegroom, male). But I can't find that post at the moment!

And the second headline, though it seems to admit that we are dealing with a teaching rather than a policy, assumes that Tony Blair is allowed to define what is and what is not Catholic teaching. Which he isn't. It should be quite clear now, and the evidence is there in Tony Blair's own words: his views on homosexuality are not compatible with Catholic teaching.

Two clear consequences follow:

1. Tony Blair should not be allowed to be seen as in any way a spokeseman for the Catholic point of view on matters related to homosexuality. The teaching office of the Bishop seems to be a most appropriate vehicle for achieving this.

2. Tony Blair's Faith Foundation should not be seen as representing in any way a collaboration with the Catholic Church. Since its founder is not being true to Catholic teaching - and, one assumes, fidelity to other religious traditions is not going to be a feature of the work of the Foundation - then it should not be seen as a genuine dialogue between the different religions. It will be a forum for liberal religion. As a real exercise in inter-religious dialogue it is a dead duck, and needs to be seen as such. This could be seen by prominent Catholics simply steering clear of the Foundation and not allowing it to be given any credibility.

UPDATE: A more detailed comment on the interview itself, and links to other media coverage, can be found at The Hermeneutic of Continuity under the title "Blair openly attacks the Pope".

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