Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Big Debate: party leaders answer question on the Pope's visit

A video clip of the party leaders' responses to a question which, so far as I can see, asked whether or not the Pope should be confronted about child abuse, can be found here. [UPDATE: The question asked was as follows: "Good evening. The Pope has accepted an invitation to make an official state visit to Britain in September at a cost of millions of pounds to tax-payers. If you win the election, will you disassociate your party from the Pope's protection over many years of Catholic priests who were ultimately tried and convicted of child abuse, and from his fierce opposition to all contraception, embryonic stem cell research, treatment for childless couples, gay equality and the routine use of condoms when HIV is at an all-time high?" The transcript of the debate can be found here,: the question about the Pope's visit is at the top of page 12.]

All three leaders were united in expecting the Catholic Church to respond firmly to the scandal, in justice to the victims and in support of them. A statement by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales on the issue can be found here.

I think David Cameron's pitch to those of a more liberal/progressive point of view was very clear. Yes, I welcome the Pope's visit, and, if I were your prime minister, I would want to do everything I can to make it a success. But that doesn't mean I agree with everything the Pope says. I don't agree with what he says about contraception and I don't agree with what he says about homosexuality. No attempt there, then, to win the votes of Catholics.

Nick Clegg mentioned that his wife is a Catholic and his children are being brought up as Catholics, though he himself is not a believer. He described the anguish that many within the Catholic Church feel over the abuse scandals. Like the other two party leaders, Nick Clegg also said that he welcomed the visit.

But I think it was Gordon Brown who put his finger on, and responded to, the force of secularist intent behind attacks on the Pope and his forthcoming visit to the UK:
I welcome the Pope's visit to Britain, and I want him to come to Britain for two reasons. One is the Catholic Church is a great part of our society and we should recognise it as such, and I hope every British citizen wants to see this visit by the Pope take place. And secondly we must break down the barriers of religion that exist in our world ... I support the visit, but I not only support it, I want religious faiths to work more closely together.
It was very clear from Gordon Brown's remarks that he wants the Pope to come to Britain, and welcomes his visit. I think such a clear and unambiguous statement that there is a legitimate part in society for the Catholic Church is most welcome in the current climate. Watching the video clip, I sensed a greater degree of conviction in Gordon Brown's welcoming of the visit than was apparent in the responses of the other two party leaders.


Francis said...

Joe, you wrote of Cameron, '"I don't agree with what he says about contraception" No attempt there, then, to win the votes of Catholics.'

Why do you say this when it is patently obvious that the majority of Catholics in the UK don't agree with what the pope says about contraception either? LOL!

Joe said...

My ecclesial engagement - and, as I think should be apparent from the content of this blog, that engagement is not "traditionalist" - suggests that there is a greater faithfulness of Catholics to the Church's teaching on contraception than many would have us believe.

But, like most individual Catholics, I have no way of knowing what the real extent of faithfulness or otherwise is ...

I suspect that a greater faithfulness is found where the sense of practice of the faith as whole is stronger.

Which, I suppose, kind of says, "prove it".

Francis said...

Well, I don't say I can prove this academically. However, I notice that most Catholic couples I know have beween 2-3 children, which is much the same as the non-Catholics I know. This may be accounted for by i) end of regular sexual relations after the birth of the last child b) effective use of the rhythm method...but somehow I doubt it. ..

So, I suspect there is not that much faithfulness of practice as you imagine, Joe, and that the reason for this is because most married Catholics remain unconvinced by the Church's doctrine.

I found this from The Tablet (I have a vague feeling The Tablet is not your preferred reading, Joe, so this may not count!):

The Tablet survey
A 2008 study suggests that most practising Catholics are ignoring the Church's teachings on contraception and sex.

The Tablet magazine surveyed 1,500 Mass-goers in England and Wales; 40 years after Pope Paul VI forbade birth control use in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life).

82% of people are familiar with the Church's moral teachings but more than half of 18-45 year olds still cohabited before marriage. The contraceptive pill is used by 54.5% and nearly 69% had used or would consider using condoms.

The survey also found that more than half think that the teaching should be revised.

Rita said...


The numbers game just doesn't work. Play it and statistically Jesus comes out as a pretty poor teacher. If we just consider those closest to Him, only one of his 12 remained with Him on Calvary, the rest had all fled. They had not learned much, had they? Even those who directly encountered the Son of Man couldn't hear Him.

Our faith is about an encounter with the risen Lord (who has conquered death and sin for us), who enters our hearts and thus transforms us, if we let Him.

Only in this light does His teaching make sense and stick with us.

Francis, we are all crap Catholics, we have all caused the wounds and lacerations on the body of Christ.

No one can in anyway be superior to those people selected for the survey in the Tablet.

Do not measure us by how poorly some of us claim to know our teaching. There will be future saints amongst them, they just haven't circumcised their hearts yet. Others will be lost, that is the way of it.

It is a good job God is patient with us.