From dysphoria to dysfunction?

gender-wars

Pia de Solenni is an American moral theologian. Last night she talked in Dublin to a group of people who came to hear her views on issues related to gender and the deconstruction of millennia of understanding about human nature and the sexes which is now in progress.

While the question was asked, and answered, about where all this has come from – with Descartes being something of a villain of the piece – and the question of where it was all going being at least tentatively answered – down the tubes being one scary option, the real quandary was something we had to go home and think about: what can be done to save the day?

My notes from her talk were not very comprehensive and  I would not dare to try to recapitulate all that she said. However, in 2013, the National Catholic Register published an article which she wrote. In it some of the key influences and observations which underpinned last night’s talk are contained in it. They offer some clues as to how we might escape from this quandary.

It was entitled ‘Theology of Women in the Church’ Only Beginning to Be Revealed. It harked back to some words of Pope Francis on this now famous exchanges with journalists on this flight back from World Youth Day in the summer of that year, when he simply observed that  ‘we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church.’ Her article continues :

His comments were a timely preface for the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity and Vocation of Women), marked by this year’s Solemnity of the Assumption.

When I was doing graduate theology work in Rome, the document had been out for many years. John Paul II had continued to teach on the topic and had articulated the need for a “new feminism.”

However, as one of my friends observed, the common translation of this “new feminism” was a type of elitist feminism. It was applicable to women who were well educated, had successful careers and were married with children and household help.

While I was on my way to being well educated, I certainly didn’t have the rest of the ensemble. I was studying with priests and seminarians, mostly. I had no desire to join their ranks, despite our common discipline. At the same time, my friend was educated and married with small children. But working outside of the home would have placed too great a burden on her family. We also knew there were plenty of other women who didn’t fit the mold. I was convinced that the new feminism had to include all of the various states in the lives of women, not just educated, affluent wives and mothers.

This became the impetus for my doctoral work, in which I surveyed various feminist and gender theories to explore why the questions of feminine identity and vocation remained. I then used the thought of Thomas Aquinas, a saint and a brilliant doctor of the Church (sometimes inaccurately identified as a misogynist), to develop a feminism of complementarity or an integral feminism, one that sees the sexual differences as constructive. I wanted a feminism that considered a woman in her entirety, not just in terms of what she did or didn’t do: a new feminism.

As I progressed in my research, I realized just how visionary Pope John Paul II had been. He wasn’t offering a Catholic version of a fascist salute to motherhood. He was taking the concept of motherhood in a wholly different direction. After all, by the time he was writing, the developed world knew that women could match, and even surpass, men in most things. Instead of answering a question that had long sought an answer by defining women in terms of what men do, he focused on who a woman is, a much more elusive topic.

Still, my first reading of Mulieris didn’t satisfy me. I thought it was fine, but not meaty enough. It took a while before I saw that it was both subtle and groundbreaking, particularly in light of his other work. Six years after this apostolic letter, he wrote another, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone). For such a controversial topic, it was certainly a short document, just a few pages. He summarized Church teaching and almost abruptly concluded, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

From this point on, John Paul II stopped talking about women’s ordination. He focused on Mary, the woman, whom, in Mulieris, he had set up as a paradigm for all humanity, including himself and every other priest, by virtue of her response to God’s call.

The shift to Mary emphasizes the change in emphasis from doing to being. We actually know very little about what Mary did. But we know who she is: the Mother of God. Her ability to become a mother fundamentally enabled her to be open to God in a relationship that only a woman could have. Her response, uniquely feminine, paradoxically, became the model for all humanity.

Toward the end of John Paul’s life, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued a letter to the bishops, The Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, which emphasized that women “have a role in every aspect of society.”

If we follow the example of Mary, that means working from within, wherever we happen to be, whether as chancellor of a major archdiocese, a mother home with small children, in business, politics or countless other places. It means recognizing that women bring something to the table by virtue of who they are rather than simply by what they do.

If Mary’s role as homemaker had been so vital, Jesus would have left the preparation of the Passover meal to her and not to the apostles. (I’m willing to bet she would’ve put on a better spread.) She was defined by who she was, by her relationship with Jesus, not by what she did. Similarly, we know that the apostles weren’t the smartest or the holiest bunch of men. But Jesus didn’t pick them for their accomplishments.

Twenty-five years after Mulieris Dignitatem, women have more positions in Church offices, and certainly women could have more leadership, but the vocation of women can’t be limited to a clericalist framework. Women, like men, exist in every sector of society, and both have critical contributions to make, regardless of what they do, because being a woman or a man should constructively influence the outcome. Within the Church, women need to be able to have a unique voice, not one that mimics that of men.

Pope Francis’ comments indicate that this work has only just begun.

Much, much more will be required to get us to the point where we understand both women and men for who they are.

On the more explicit gender confusion issue which she spoke about last night this article which she posted on Crux last year covers many of the points she made to us. Again, they give us something to chew on and think through about what might be the best way to rescue ourselves from the quagmire into which we find ourselves sinking fast.

Throughout history, women have been denigrated and oppressed by men. While I don’t always agree with some feminist activists, I certainly acknowledge that I would not have had the opportunities that I have without feminist efforts to right so many wrongs.

Despite these advances, today’s “trans movement” (particularly the transwoman sector) inadvertently takes us back to a time when women were valued based on their appearance, and whether they fit someone else’s preconceived notion of femininity. In essence, all it takes to be a woman today are [fake] breasts and good hair.

As a culture, we are telling women that the feelings and sentiments of a particular group of men – in this case, men who regard themselves as women – matter more than they do. That’s patriarchy by definition, even if women happen to agree to it.

Yes, some individuals suffer from gender dysphoria, but I am very hesitant to say that their struggle gives them the right to identify with the sex of their choice. As a woman, I cannot concede that being female simply means that one wears makeup, sexy lingerie, and a hair-do.

In fact, I was raised in a post-feminist environment where my femininity was not measured by my bra size and whether I could arouse a man. Rather, my female identity was confirmed by science, which demonstrates that every cell of my being is female no matter how I look or what I do.

My being a woman literally has to do with my being, not my doing. Hence, I can live out my life without fitting some ideal of a woman, whether it’s Mad Men’s or anybody else’s.

Let’s be clear here: No one cares about a woman using the men’s restroom. The Target debate has focused on men using women’s restrooms, because most people understand that women and girls are physically vulnerable in a way that men are not.

Whether we’re talking about Target, or states that have passed legislation along the same lines, the practical result now is that any man, whether he’s identifying as a woman or looking for his next victim, may use the women’s restroom because he feels like it.

So much for women’s rights.

Nevertheless, the bathroom discussion is couched in the language of civil rights and discrimination. Talk about a culture-war trap. In fact, on Monday the Justice Department filed a civil-rights suit against the state of North Carolina because it refuses to rescind a bill that requires individuals to use the bathroom correlating with their biological sex.

Some forms of patriarchy include attempts to protect women from other males, but that’s really more of an excuse to protect women for a particular man or group of men. Worse types of patriarchy utterly disregard the dignity and significance of a woman.

Rather than a civil rights issue, I would argue that the bathroom wars indicate that we’re entering an entirely new phase of patriarchy which declares victory every time it destroys a safe space for women, including bathrooms, fitting rooms, locker rooms, and so on.

This new patriarchy scored a breakthrough when Bruce Jenner, in his April 2015 interview with Diane Sawyer, casually commented that he looked forward to becoming a woman so that he could paint his nails and drink wine with his girlfriends. Jenner equated being a woman with the most trivial accidentals, while mainstream media outlets, including awards from Glamour and ESPN, celebrated his courage.

Never mind that he couldn’t even stand for his Vanity Fair debut, lest we see that his male anatomy remained.

Another defeat for women came after Jenner’s transition to a new identity as Caitlyn, when he (perhaps channeling his inner Dionne Warwick) famously stated that the hardest part about being a woman was deciding what to wear each day. Patriarchy triumphed again.

Time after time, the new patriarchy reinforces that being a woman is simply about the externals, what you look like. Cue Hugh Hefner.

Again, some individuals suffer greatly from gender dysphoria, and they should be treated with respect and dignity. But their struggles cannot justify yet another era in which women are reduced to nothing more than body parts and their ability to satisfy a man, even if it’s one and the same person.

Pia de Solenni is a moral theologian and cultural analyst. She serves as the Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute – Orange County, California.

The ghost of Edmund Burke at the Vatican?

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A pearl of wisdom from Pope Francis’ Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia:

The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that can only say, “Then was then, now is now”, is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth: “Recall the former days” (Heb 10:32). Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country. A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future. “A society that has no room for the elderly or discards them because they create problems, has a deadly virus”; “it is torn from its roots”. Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives, challenges us to make our families places where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.

It echoes the writing of Edmund Burke so closely in his great debate with that apostle of isolationist individualism, Thomas Paine, that we might even think that the ghost of that greatest of Irishmen was among the Pope’s advisers before he presented us with this splendid document about life and love.

Jesse Norman, one of Burke’s most recent biographers, sums up Burke’s thinking:

 

As Burke shows us, the individual is not simply a compendium of wants; human happiness is not simply a matter of satisfying individual wants; and the purpose of politics is not to satisfy the interests of individuals living now. It is to preserve a social order which addresses the needs of generations past, present and future.

In his own life, Burke was devoted to an ideal of public duty, and deplored the tendency to individual or generational arrogance, and the “ethics of vanity”. His thought is imbued with the importance of history and memory, and a hatred of those that would erase them. He insists on the importance of human allegiance and identity, and social institutions and networks.

 

A raw deal for some?

5/4/2015. Easter Rising Commemorations

The symbolism and the irony were striking. This was the day which Irish people gathered in their thousands, probably over one hundred thousand of them, to commemorate the rebellion which Northern Irish unionists saw and resisted as the violent harbinger of Rome Rule on the island of Ireland.

Nevertheless, as Irish Catholics searched through their native broadcast channels for a transmission of the Easter message Rome’s ruler, Pope Francis, to the city and the world, Urbi et orbi, they failed to find one. The message was ignored by the Irish broadcast media this morning. Anyone who wanted to see and hear it had to go to the Internet service provided by that quintessential British medium, the Daily Telegraph.

If the aspirations of those men and women in 1916 was at heart Catholic – and for not a few of them it was an important part of the mix in their hot heads – it has surely now proved to be an abysmally fruitless one. The policy decisions of Ireland’s broadcast media certainly seem to underline the apostate stance now being vaunted by Ireland’s establishment. If the hearts and minds of the Irish people are not quite there yet we cannot say. But if they are not it is no fault of the country’s mainstream media and the sheepish political class which dances to their tune.

On Irish television this evening, at a prime viewing time for young and old, one of Ireland’s national television channels is broadcasting a film called The Queen of Ireland, a transvestite romp fronted by the sometimes-man-sometimes-woman, Rory O’Neil a.k.a. Panti Bliss. Another Irish television channel broadcast its post gay marriage referendum analysis/celebration programme from his/her gay bar in the centre of Dublin last year. This is the face of Ireland’s insurrection one hundred years on. It cannot be said for sure that everyone celebrating on the streets this weekend knows that this may be what is being celebrated. But it is certainly at the heart of the ambivalence of some about the whole elaborate event.

Up north in the six counties of Northern Ireland, faithful Protestant Christians look on and wonder how their forebears go it so wrong. Either way, they are probably thinking, we are better off not to be associated with that lot. They are thankful that they kept their allegiance to a jurisdiction which is tolerant and happy to provide as fair a service as it can to all its citizens – in broadcasting and in other fields . Meanwhile, Catholics in the res publica which comprises the rest of the island wonder, quietly, if they got a bit of a raw deal 100 years ago.

Given their experience this morning, as they searched through their native broadcast channels for the message of peace from the Vicar of Christ in Rome, maybe there weren’t many other conclusions they could come to?

The death penalty “does not do justice to the victims, but foments vengeance”

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“Justice will never be reached by killing a human being”, Pope Francis, quoting Dostoevsky,  tells campaigners for the end of the death penalty.

In this letter to the President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Federico Mayor, he outlines loudly and clearly the Christian case against the state’s taking on itself the right to end the life of human beings as a punishment or a way of doing justice to the victim of a crime. He writes in the letter:

 

The Magisterium of the Church, beginning with Sacred Scripture and the centuries-old experience of the People of God, defends life from conception until natural death, and supports full human dignity in as much as image of God (Cf. Genesis 1:26).

Human life is sacred because from its beginning, from the first instant of conception, it is fruit of the creative action of God (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2258), and from that moment, man, the only creature God loves for itself, is the object of personal love on the part of God (Cf. Gaudium et spes, 24).

Life, especially human life, belongs to God alone. Not even the murderer loses his personal dignity and God himself makes himself its guarantor. As Saint Ambrose teaches, God did not want to punish Cain for the murder, as He wants the repentance of the sinner, not his death (Cf. Evangelium vitae, 9).

On some occasions it is necessary to repel proportionally an aggression underway to avoid an aggressor causing harm, and the necessity to neutralize him might entail his elimination: it is the case of legitimate defense (Cf. Evangelium vitae, 55). However, the assumptions of legitimate personal defense are not applicable to the social milieu, without risk of distortion. Because when the death penalty is applied, persons are killed not for present aggressions, but for harm caused in the past. Moreover, it is applied to persons whose capacity to harm is not present but has already been neutralized, and who find themselves deprived of their freedom.

Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime of the condemned. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person that contradicts God’s plan for man and society and His merciful justice, and it impedes fulfilling the just end of the punishments. It does not do justice to the victims, but foments vengeance.

For a State of Law, the death penalty represents a failure, because it obliges it to kill in the name of justice. Dostoevsky wrote: “To kill one who killed is an incomparably greater punishment than the crime itself. Killing in virtue of a sentence is far worse than the killing committed by a criminal.” Justice will never be reached by killing a human being.

The death penalty loses all legitimacy given the defective selectivity of the criminal system and in face of the possibility of judicial error. Human justice is imperfect, and not to recognize its fallibility can turn it into a source of injustices.

With the application of capital punishment the condemned is denied the possibility of reparation or amendment of the harm caused; the possibility of Confession, by which man expresses his interior conversion; and contrition, gateway of repentance and of expiation, to comer to the encounter of the merciful and healing love of God.

 

As I expressed in my allocution of last October 23, “the death penalty implies the denial of love to enemies, preached in the Gospel. All Christians and all men of good will are obliged not only to fight for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also for prison conditions to be better, in respect of the human dignity of the persons deprived of freedom.”

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The full text of the letter is here.

 

A Chesterton for our times?

Ross Douthat

How we should learn learn to stop complaining and love the New York Times! How could we not, for it has given us a Chesterton for our times. Who would have believed it? It did not begin this week – but it certainly reached a new level of power this week.  The latest shining of this new and welcome light began last Monday with the  First Things Erasmus lecture in New York City. Then today we have a penetrating column, a veritable gauntlet for the cause of orthodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church thrown at the feet of its heterodox academic theologians, in one of the free world’s greatest liberal newspapers.

We are talking about New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. His star as an interpreter, explainer and sometimes warrior in the culture battles of our time has been rising for a number of years. Since his move to the Times a handful of years ago it has reached super-nova dimensions.

Don’t buy the jibe that he is the Times’ token conservative. The Times is a genuinely liberal paper and as such will inevitably give voice to – and at its top level may also sincerely subscribe to – a view of human nature which is wide of an accurate reading of the real nature of the human condition. But its first ideal is to  try to give voice to intelligent human beings who are seeking the truth. This it will generally do regardless of what the paper’s own view of the truth at any time might be. The Times may even be as confused as Pilate was about the very possibility of Truth. Its starting point is, however, unarguably a good ideal, one which is at the very heart of our civilization. Because of a commitment to this ideal we can hear the voice of Ross Douthat.

This week Douthat gave us a razor-sharp analysis – for me at any rate – of where the “Catholic moment” is today. This was the 28th Annual Erasmus Lecture. It presents a challenge to be sensible, honest and continuously courageous in thinking about where we have been, where we are and where we are going with out Christian civilization yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You can watch and listen to this lecture here courtesy of First Things (firstthings.com). Now in its 28th year, the Erasmus Lecture has been bringing world-renowned speakers to New York—including Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Gilbert Meilaender, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks—to address an audience of over five hundred people each year.

Ross Douthat, who like Chesterton – but without the semantic and rhetorical fun and games – is nothing if not provocative, is the author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012), Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (Hyperion, 2005), and the co-author, with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (Doubleday, 2008).

Last week he was challenged by a group of academic theologians who must surely now regret their silly passing remark casting doubt on his “authority” to speak about religion at all since he had no qualification in theology. In fact they did not challenge him. They complained behind his back – like true liberals – to the New York Times for giving him a platform at all on “their” subject. Today he answers their silliness – silliness which all honest people will laugh at but which nevertheless they should also take seriously, as he does. He begins:

I read with interest your widely-publicized letter to my editors this week, in which you objected to my recent coverage of Roman Catholic controversies, complained that I was making unfounded accusations of heresy (both “subtly” and “openly”!), and deplored this newspaper’s willingness to let someone lacking theological credentials opine on debates within our church. I was appropriately impressed with the dozens of academic names who signed the letter on the Daily Theology site, and the distinguished institutions (Georgetown, Boston College, Villanova) represented on the list.

I have great respect for your vocation. Let me try to explain mine.

A columnist has two tasks: To explain and to provoke. The first requires giving readers a sense of the stakes in a given controversy, and why it might deserve a moment of their fragmenting attention span. The second requires taking a clear position on that controversy, the better to induce the feelings (solidarity, stimulation, blinding rage) that persuade people to read, return, and re-subscribe.

Both his lecture, his column today and on many other occasions, make compelling reading.

He concludes today’s column, making reference to their elitist and Gnostic jibe, where they imply that all these things are above his pay grade and that he does not understand them because he is not a theologian: “…indeed I am not. But neither is Catholicism supposed to be an esoteric religion, its teachings accessible only to academic adepts.”

What is their real position on doctrine and the teaching of the Church, he asks? He suspects that it is that almost anything Catholic can change when the times require it, and “developing” doctrine just means keeping up with capital-H History, no matter how much of the New Testament is left behind. He concludes:

As I noted earlier, the columnist’s task is to be provocative. So I must tell you, openly and not subtly, that this view sounds like heresy by any reasonable definition of the term.

Now it may be that today’s heretics are prophets, the church will indeed be revolutionized, and my objections will be ground under with the rest of conservative Catholicism. But if that happens, it will take hard grinding, not just soft words and academic rank-pulling. It will require a bitter civil war.

And so, my dear professors: Welcome to the battlefield.

It is good to have another Chesterton among us.

Misreading the heart and head of Pope Francis

David Quinn is, like a lot of us, amazed to read and listen to reports that essentially pit Pope Francis against the teachings of his own church. Writing in Friday’s Irish Independent, he parses the words of the Pope and equates his papacy more with that of Pope John XXIII, seen by many as a “liberal”, than with that of his two predecessors.

But was John XXIII a liberal? He was a Vicar of Christ, faithful in every detail to his Master’s teaching and the Tradition of His Church – that is tradition with a capital “T”, which should not be confused with tradition with a small “t” – just as his successors were and just as Francis most emphatically is. Both of them, John XXIII and Francis, very clearly distinguish between the two. Nor is there any evidence to show that any of the three popes (the short reign of the fourth, John Paul I, we leave aside for the purposes of this consideration)  who occupied the Chair of Peter between these two were in thrall to tradition with a small “t” either.

Is there any word more corrupted by usage than the word “liberal”? If liberal were really understood to mean what it is supposed to mean we could avoid a  great deal of confusion.  We would have no difficulty in accepting the actions of those who wish to preserve traditions that are good as equally free – in other words liberal  – as the actions of those who are prepared to discard traditions which have passed their sell-by date. Christ was a liberal in the truest sense of the word and anyone who claims to follow him should also be a liberal. He is the very ground of freedom, he is its author. It is on this ground that all five popes who are now the focus of so much speculation stand.

David Quinn attributes a great deal of the confusion which is now rampant to the “wishful thinking” of the liberals. But these “liberals” seem to live in a world, a fantasy world, where the word liberal means in many cases the contrary of what it really means. It really signifies a kind of slavery to their own ideological perceptions of the truth. It must be said that conservatives are guilty of a similar distortion of language and end up enslaved to the act of conserving regardless of the value of what they might be conserving. The liberality of valuing a free and open discussion is not the same as a “liberality” of compelling the endorsement of change driven by one particular ideology or way of seeing this world or the next.

John XXIII, David Quinn writes, was happy enough to see various aspects of church life and teachings discussed openly and a new approach adopted in certain areas but he was in no way a radical who supported a radical transformation of the church’s essential message.

The public are receiving an extremely skewed version of Francis. They hear that he said he does not judge gay people who are “seeking God”, but they do not hear that in the very next breath he said the Catechism explains the church’s teaching on homosexuality very well.

Whenever he criticises people in the church who are “rigid” it is widely reported. But when he criticises the opposite tendency, it receives far less coverage.

In his speech closing the synod on the family last weekend in Rome, the Pope spoke of both tendencies.

 On the one hand, he spoke of “a temptation to hostile inflexibility” which is “the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – ‘traditionalists’ and also of the intellectuals.”

Did he mean John Paul II by this? Did he mean Benedict XVI? No, he did not. After all, he recently presided over the canonisation of John Paul. Would he have presided over the canonisation of a man he believes was guilty of “hostile inflexibility”?

On the other hand, he spoke of, “The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the ‘do-gooders,’ of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals.'”

David catalogues some of the positions held by the “liberals” who would see themselves as allies of Francis – or, more likely, see him as their ally. In doing so he shows how far removed many of them are from reality. The positions they hold are profoundly at variance with the teaching of the Church which has been so clearly preached in countless sermons by this pope, even in his short reign so far. David Quinn explains:

They don’t believe in the hierarchy. They don’t believe that the church is “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”.

They don’t believe Jesus founded an ordained priesthood, even indirectly.

They don’t believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration.

They don’t believe marriage is indissoluble, despite what Jesus taught. They don’t believe that marriage is by its very nature the sexual and emotional union of a man and a woman.

Some don’t even believe in the Incarnation. They don’t believe that Jesus rose literally and physically from the dead.

They dismiss all the miracles performed by Jesus and explain them away in purely naturalistic terms. (Question: if you believe God created the universe, isn’t it fairly trivial to then believe in the miracles of Jesus? After all, if God can create the universe, don’t you think he could turn water into wine, or multiply the loaves and fishes?)

Pope Francis is absolutely not a liberal in this sense. What he is simply trying to do is make the church’s message more convincing, that is, to present the Gospel of Jesus in a new way.

He knows that when many people think about the church’s teaching on relationships and sexuality, they think “harsh and judgmental”, even though you would be extremely hard pressed on any given Sunday to hear a priest preach about the family in a way that is even remotely harsh and judgmental.

You would also be hard pressed to find many people who even understand the church’s teaching on the family and why it thinks marriage is so important and why weakening that teaching, far from being an act of “mercy”, would in fact do a huge disservice to society.

The model for all Christians is Christ. The model for the Vicar of Christ on earth is, par excellence, the Good Shepherd. That model, preached explicitly by Christ, was lived in practice by him and that living example was recorded for us in a number of instances.

One was when he scandalized the Pharisees by dining with sinners – and we are not told that they were just considered to be sinners. He even dined with arrogant Pharisees. The scandal of the Pharisees many not be that far removed from the scandal of those shocked by the merciful words of Francis towards us in our struggles to live up to our faith.

Another was when he rescued the woman about to be stoned for adultery. In neither case did Christ say a sin was not a sin. In one he explained that he came to heal the sick, not the healthy. In the other, while he said “neither do I condemn you”, he also exhorted the woman to “go an sin no more”. He “welcomed” and loved all these people.

Pope Francis, in our time, is giving us all the living example of Christ. He is, as St. Catherine of Sienna said, “the sweet Christ on earth”. He is saying to us, “Go and do likewise.” He is giving us a great deal to think about – and for a bonus he has galvanised the attention of the world to the Word of God in a positive manner we have not seen since the early days of the pontificate of St. John Paul II.

Mozilla, Mozilla, what DO you stand for?

Some words of Pope Francis on Christian tolerance for Muslims receive a loud echo in a Fraser Nelson piece in today’s Daily Telegraph (London). Meanwhile across the Atlantic a newer kind of jihad takes off yet another head. Some weeks ago the defenders of the gay lobby mocked Ross Douthat of the New York Times when he expressed the controversial view that the gay marriage campaign seemed to be heading for certain victory and that no quarter was going to be given to those who opposed it. The news today seems to bear him out on at least the question of the campaign’s intention.

Nelson takes some pride in what he sees as the remarkable and admirable way in which – in spite of some horrific provocation – Britain has assimilated its imperial legacy of a significant Muslim population. It is a two-way street and the majority of the Muslim minority in the UK cohabits agreeably alongside a majority population whose way of life is still rooted in Christian values.

Would that another very militant minority were as accommodating to the Christian values of the majority with whom they live side by side.

The gay jihadis in the United States have now chopped off the head of Mozilla-Firefox with their creeping and creepy war on Christians and the Christian conscience. For them it’s “no peace, no quarter” for the adherents of a 2000 year-old religion who dare to hold by a belief that marriage should remain what they understand it to be, and the nature and purpose of human sexuality and the institution of the family requires it to be.

The Pope, in his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, has asked all Catholics to embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to their countries in the same way that Christians hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. He entreated those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries. Clearly work remains to be done in this area, but movement is in the right direction.

Christians and Muslims are deeply divided on matters of faith and the practice of their respective creeds. Yet the leaders in the mainstream of both faiths in the West have found a way to tolerance and respect for the freedom of conscience of each other’s followers.  No such tolerance is being offered by the gay jihadis who now have all the appearances of becoming one of the more sinister enemies of democracy in our world today.

In 2008, Brendan Eich gave money to oppose the legalisation of gay marriage in California, a mere $1,000. In a truly democratic world this should be no problem. Let the people decide. Let those of opposing views on the matter openly help along the argument which they feel carries the greater weight. This democratic right is outrageously denied by the gay jihad. “You will be punished in whatever way we feel you can be punished if you oppose us”, is their banner.

The Pope went on to exhort Christians to show a spirit of tolerance to Muslims, even in the face of violent opposition. Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, he said, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence. Elsewhere and unambiguously he has asked Christians to show the same spirit towards homosexual people.

Christians faced with persecution – and the treatment of Brendan Eich is nothing short of persecution – from gay activists across the Western world have the same spirit demanded of them. They will be as good as their word and seek to live by this spirit. But they cannot and will not ignore the voice of their conscience and accept a false understanding of human sexuality no matter how many governments, corporations and pressure groups seek to make them do so.

The Christian faith is not homophobic. It is against its deepest principles to hate or denigrate any human being. But it holds, and has held for thousands of years, as its Judaic sources have held, a belief and a reasoned view of what it is to be human – in all its dimensions. The late 20th century change to that “narrative” is a long way from offering any serious reasonable basis for a radical rejection of that position which is still accepted by the vast majority of human-kind. It is this that makes what is now going on, exemplified by the hounding out of his job of a gifted genius, so outrageous, even frightening. The echoes of the worst kind of totalitarianism known to the last century are unmistakable.

Fraser Nelson rejects the notion that there is a clash of civilizations on British soil today. What he says of Britain might also be said of Ireland.

Those who believe in a clash of civilisations, in which British values are pitted against those of the Muslim world, have not been short of examples in the past few days. The BBC reports on an “Islamic takeover plot” by hardliners to seize control of several Birmingham state schools. Two Morrisons workers are suing the supermarket for not being able to take holiday during Ramadan, after being told that they submitted their applications too late. Such stories do make the blood boil, and may lead the less charitable to ask if such people should move to a country that better reflects their prejudices.

But one hears such complaints rarely, and this is what marks us out in a Europe that is paranoid about Islam and identity. Britain is, through empire, the original multi-ethnic state. When Churchill was writing for The Daily Telegraph as a war correspondent, his criticism of the Afghan tribesmen was that their behaviour was un-Islamic. Then, the Queen had tens of millions of Islamic subjects and her ministers boasted of running the greatest Muslim power on earth.

The integration of Muslims can now be seen as one of the great success stories of modern Britain. While the Dutch and the French have huge troubles with integration, and are caught in agonised struggles about their national identities, Britain is marked out by the trouble that we are not having. Dig a little deeper, and the real story is the striking amount of harmony.

But where there is no sign of harmony is in the relentless campaign of a militant minority of homosexual people and their allies from the anti-Christian “liberal” establishment who want to expunge from Western society some of the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith about what it is to be human and how men and women should give expression to their sexual identities in a way that is moral.

Pope Francis is number one in ‘Fortune’ magazine’s top leader list

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Linkedin reports that Fortune has just published a list of the top 50 leaders inn the world today. At the top of the list was Pope Francis.

The world is at last beginning to look up. We can only hope that it will now listen as well.

Listen, for example, to this excerpt from Evangelii Gaudium, combining a quote from one of his recent predecessors:

“Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’. [Pope John Paul II]”. Note, “The prime form of charity”.
An excerpt from Fortune’s piece about the Pope seems to indicate that some are listening: “His hardest work lies ahead. And yet signs of a ‘Francis effect’ abound: In a poll in March, one in four Catholics said they’d increased their charitable giving to the poor this year. Of those, 77% said it was due in part to the Pope.”
Sorry for adding a drop to that ocean of words, but in this case it is surely worthwhile.

 

Thinking about it… Racism

The Help is not a great film but it is an honourable film and worth watching because it once again reminds us of things we prefer to forget – the banal injustice and ludicrousness of racism.

A few hours after watching it I was again reminded of it and its heroines when I read these words:

“The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised”
– Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation

There are still many mountains to climb.

Obama and Pope Francis: an imagined conversation

 

“He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion,” Obama said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera before the his meeting with Pope Francis.

Obama being the man he is, believing what he believes, attacking his Catholic electorate in the very depth of their Christian consciences, one is tempted to decode this. It is hard to take.

We know where Obama’s sense of decency and compassion is taking America: abortion and the killing of millions of infants awaiting birth, the deconstruction of the institution of marriage, and an anthropology as bizarre as anything that might be generated by the logic of Humpty Dumpty. With apologies to Lewis Carroll – and to Pope Francis – perhaps this was part of their conversation:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘marriage,’ ” Pope Francis said.
Obama smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you.”

“When I use a word,” Obama said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Pope Francis, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Obama, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Garvan Hill tries not to do cynicism. But sometimes the public face presented by men who are walking us all into a hell on earth makes it impossible to resist. I’m sorry. No, maybe I’m not.