Over the past few years Christmas has become a bit of a battlefield between those who value the customs and traditions we associate with the season and the P.C. brigades. While some of the age-old traditions might seem to be on the losing side, all is not as it might seem. With their blatant excesses the “politically correct” may be their own worst enemies in the long run. The latest that caught the eye was in the school in Britain where little children were singing – hopefully Advent carols – about Mary and Joseph making their way to Bethlehem. They were stopped and told to change the lyrics for fear that someone might be offended. In the original words they sang, “little donkey, carry Mary safely on her way.” This was far too explicitly Christian, they were told – Mary was the offending word, – and were ordered to change the lyrics to “carry Lucy safely on her way.” With friends like this the multi-culturalists don’t need enemies. They are so devoid of logic and common sense that they inevitably bring down so much ridicule on their heads that sensible people – who are really in the majority when they put their minds to it – see through their folly and begin to think again for themselves. They even begin to find their way back home. This is probably part of what happened over the past few Christmases. A survey just reported on has found that in spite of all the multicultural ballyhoo about Christmas being “offensive” to non-Christians, in spite of all the rampant materialism which invades this most spiritual of seasons, in spite of all the consumption and self-indulgence, Church attendance at Christmas services in Britain has gone up 15 percent since the beginning of this millennium. There are, presumably, multiple factors contributing to this – among them the influx of Catholic immigrants from Eastern Europe – but surely the folly about Lucy, added to the follies we read about when schools feel they have to avoid putting on Nativity plays because they might offend non-Christians, must be making people think. Do some of not them say to themselves, “how dare they try to take our valued traditions away from us?” Is it any wonder that parents might decide to bring their children to something which will speak to them of the event which is at the heart of our very civilization? Perhaps there is also in this something of a reaction to the onslaught of Richard Dawkins – and his cohorts – over the past few years, branding us all as deluded – if not dangerous – dreamers. The great advantage of being challenged is that it makes people think and thinking then may urge them to act. OK, this is just Christmas attendance at a communal celebration of faith. The attendance at services throughout the rest of the year is still in decline. But this is a celebration of when it all started and perhaps it may help a lot of people to start all over again. Bring it on!
Not too far removed from all that was the spectacular own-goal by the pseudo liberals in La Sapienza University in Rome who made themselves the laughing stock of Europe by insulting the Pope after Christmas. Last time it was Muslims who were up in arms when Pope Benedict quoted a medieval Emperor’s not too flattering question about Islam’s contribution to religion. This year it was the “intellectuals” of La Sapienza who staged a protest sit-in when the Pope was invited to address the university. His crime? He had quoted – 18 years ago – an Austrian philosopher who had the temerity to suggest that Galileo’s treatment at his trial was “reasonable and fair” by the standards of the time. The Pope’s office responded with dignity and issued a statement saying that “Following incidents known to all” it seemed best to cancel the event to which the Rector had invited him. “However,” it went on, “the Holy Father will send the university authorities a copy of the address he intended to give.” And what an address! It must have heaped coals on the heads of the silly protestors. He spoke of truth, goodness and the proper relationship between the Church of God and the university in which men sought above all to search for these things in freedom.
“What does the Pope have to do with, or have to say to the university”, he asked? “Surely he must not attempt to impose the faith on others in an authoritarian way since it can only be bestowed in freedom. Beyond his office as Shepherd of the Church, and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral office, there is his duty to keep the sensitivity to truth alive; to continually invite reason to seek out the true, the good, God, and on this path, to urge it to glimpse the helpful lights that shine forth in the history of the Christian faith, and in this way to perceive Jesus Christ as the Light that illuminates history and helps us to find the way to the future.”
This, and the 200,000 people from all over Italy, intellectuals, politicians, ordinary people, who turned up in St. Peter’s Square on January 20, to categorically disassociate themselves from the clique who had insulted the Pope and shamed the University, was a perfect response to a shameful folly.