FaithWorld

from John Lloyd:

England’s inevitable gay union

Earlier this week the British Parliament housed a restrained, sometimes mawkish and at times moving debate on gay marriage – and the bill passed the House of Commons, 400 to 175. The story was not that it passed, which had been expected. Instead, it was the split in the major governing party, the Conservatives, more of whose 303 MPs voted against the bill than for it. (Conservatives voted 136 in favor of the bill, with 127 voting no, five abstentions and 35 not registering a vote.) Prime Minister David Cameron, still intent on ensuring that his party is liberal as well as conservative, was emollient and understanding of those against the measure but presented his support in the context of a “strong belief in marriage. … It’s about equality but also about making our society stronger.”

His remarks signal that while there is division on the right over gay marriage – at least in Europe –and that while prejudice and bigotry still exist, the serious debate is between contending notions of conservatism. For liberals like Cameron and many in his party, gay marriage extends the benediction of an ancient rite upon modern couples, drawing them into the rituals of homebuilding and long-term affection that have so far been claimed as a heterosexual monopoly. For opponents, marriage must be just such a monopoly, since it is a union of one man and one woman for the purpose (if not always the practice) of procreation, of continuing society’s values in particular and the human race in general.

On values, Britain – in this case, England – is an anomaly: The Church of England is established, the Queen is its head, bishops sit in Parliament’s second chamber, the House of Lords, and the country’s canon law is part of the law of the land. Yet the country is largely irreligious as far as observance goes – the churches are mostly empty – priests and bishops are largely unattended and polls show a sizable majority in support of gay unions of any kind. Indeed, it is only if religion is put in a subaltern position to secular values like equality, fairness, inclusion and the right to pursue happiness that gay marriage could be approved.

That the approval has happened is seismic – not just because it extends rights to a large group of men and women who have suffered discrimination and worse for centuries but also because it signals yet again the primacy of values that are not just secular but are the fruit of the cultural struggles that began in the 1960s. At the time, those causes were viewed with horror by conservatives of every stripe. Today their acceptance is seen as a mark of civilized behavior. 

Culture Secretary Maria Miller (who is also the minister for women and equality) made this clear in her introduction to the bill in Tuesday’s debate, arguing that “the depth of feeling, love and commitment between same-sex couples is no different from that depth of feeling between opposite-sex couples”. Later in the debate, a Labor MP, Gloria de Piero, read a letter from a constituent in which she had written, “Marriage is a matter of love, love is for all, not for a select few.” The Beatles first performed All You Need Is Love, with the refrain “Love is all there is,” in 1967. A little less than a half century later, a Conservative woman with three children endorsed that sentiment, and extended its rights and ceremonies to all.

400-year-old King James Bible found in English church

king james bible 1611

(Frontispiece to the King James' Bible, 1611)

A printing error helped a 12th century English village church realise it owned a rare 400-year-old King James Bible, the book that changed the world. The edition that had been sitting on a ledge in the pretty Anglican church in Wiltshire, central England for the past 150 years, barely touched and much less read, is one of only a handful that still exists.

Although a sign above the book indicated it dated back to 1611, it was only after the parochial church council of St Laurence in Hilmarton decided to get it authenticated during the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible that they made their discovery.

“I noticed it like everyone who uses the church noticed it as an old Bible that was sort of there, but no one was sure about its origins until very recently,” council member Chris Mastin-Lee told Reuters.

New Catholic subdivision for ex-Anglicans will not be a ghetto

anglicans (Photo: Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, (C REAR) follows former Anglican bishops (L-R) John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton after their ordination as Roman Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral in central London, January 15, 2011/Andrew Winning)

The new Roman Catholic Church body set up to house disaffected Anglicans would not become a ghetto within the Church, the priest appointed to lead the group said on Monday. The ordinariate, a special subdivision in the Church created by the Vatican to allow the converts to retain some of their Anglican customs, would also seek to evangelise while maintaining good relations with Anglicans, the former Church of England bishop Keith Newton told reporters.

The ordinariate, announced by Pope Benedict in 2009, allows those Anglicans opposed to women bishops, gay clergy and same-sex blessings to convert to Rome while keeping many of their traditions. Newton said there was a danger that people would think of it as an ex-Anglican ghetto within the Catholic Church, but “we want to make clear it is not.”

“There are no second-class Catholics,” he added.

Newton, who will be the ordinary or leader of the ordinariate, was ordained into the Catholic Church on Saturday along with two other former Church of England bishops, John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham.

UK mosque denounced Stockholm bomber for militancy

lutonA man linked to two bomb blasts in Stockholm at the weekend had stormed out of a mosque in England several years ago and never returned after its leader challenged him over his radical ideas. Taymour Abdulwahab, a Swedish national of Middle Eastern origin who died in one of the blasts he is believed to have triggered, attended an Islamic Center in the town of Luton, southern England, and also studied at the local university. (Photo: Islamic Centre in Luton, December 13, 2010/Eddie Keogh)

Farasat Latif, secretary of the center, told Reuters that Abdulwahab had spent three to four weeks at the mosque in 2006 or 2007 during the month of Ramadan. “He was very friendly, bubbly initially and people liked him. But he came to the attention of our committee for preaching extremist ideas,” Latif told Reuters.

Latif said the centre’s chairman took Abdulwahab aside and told him that his views were incorrect and a “distorted view of Islam.” He was told not to air them again, but after initially agreeing, he resumed preaching his radical views.

Excerpts from farewell comments by PM David Cameron and Pope Benedict

cameron pope (Photo: Pope Benedict and Prime Minister David Cameron before the pope’s departure, 19 Sept 2010/ Eddie Keogh)

Following are excerpts from comments by Prime Minister David Cameron and Pope Benedictbefore the pontiff left for Rome on Sunday after four days in Scotland and England.

Prime Minister David Cameron:

“Your Holiness, on this truly historic first State Visit to Britain,  you have spoken to a nation of 6 million Catholics but you have been heard by a nation of more than 60 million citizens  and by many millions more all around the world.  For you have offered a message not just to the Catholic Church but to each and every one of us,  of every faith and none.  A challenge to us all  to follow our conscience,  to ask not what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities? To ask not what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for others?

“…this common bond has been an incredibly important part of your message to us.  And it’s at the heart of the new culture of social responsibility we want to build in Britain.  People of faith – including our 30,000 faith-based charities – are great architects of that new culture.  For many, faith is a spur to action. It shapes their beliefs and behaviour; and it gives them a sense of purpose. Crucially, it is their faith that inspires them to help others. And we should celebrate that. Faith is part of the fabric of our country. It always has been and it always will be. As you, your Holiness, have said, faith is not a problem for legislators to solve but rather a vital part of our national conversation. And we are proud of that.

Excerpts from Pope Benedict’s speech to bishops of England, Wales and Scotland

pope bishops (Photo: Pope Benedict surrounded by bishops in Birmingham, September 19, 2010/Simon Dawson)

Pope Benedict urged the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland on Sunday to confront the assumptions of modern culture, help the poor, protect children and work together with Anglicans.

Here are excerpts from his speech to them:

“… In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fullness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you…

“… The spectre of unemployment is casting its shadow over many people’s lives, and the long-term cost of the ill-advised investment practices of recent times is becoming all too evident. In these circumstances, there will be additional calls on the characteristic generosity of British Catholics, and I know that you will take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. The prophetic voice of Christians has an important role in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources. In their teaching document Choosing the Common Good, the Bishops of England and Wales underlined the importance of the practice of virtue in public life. Today’s circumstances provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living.

Excerpts from Pope Benedict’s sermon on Cardinal John Henry Newman

newman (Photo: Pope Benedict at a beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham, September 19, 2010/Darren Staples)

Pope Benedict declared the 19th century English Cardinal John Henry Newman blessed — the first step on the road to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church — at a ceremony in Birmingham on Sunday.

Here are excerpts from his sermon:

“…This particular Sunday also marks a significant moment in the life of the British nation, as it is the day chosen to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. My thoughts go in particular to nearby Coventry, which suffered such heavy bombardment and massive loss of life in November 1940. Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms…”

“… In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.

Seats still going for pope’s visit to Britain this week

pope glasgow (Photo: Workmen prepare altar for pope in Glasgow, September 14, 2010/David Moir)

Thousands of seats have yet to be filled for Pope Benedict’s public masses in England and Scotland this week, a far cry from the warm welcome his predecessor received nearly 30 years ago.

The pope arrives in Scotland on Thursday on a state visit at a time when the Church is struggling with a global sex-abuse scandal and hostility from one of Europe’s most secular nations.

The current pope has had a hard time inspiring the same enthusiasm as charismatic Pope John Paul II did during the first papal visit to Britain in 1982, when hundreds of thousands turned out to see him.

UK’s Archbishop Vincent Nichols welcomes “historic” papal visit

nichols 1Pope Benedict will make his first visit to Britain as head of the Roman Catholic Church on September 16-19. This will also be the first official papal visit to the country. Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, talks with Reuters about the trip in the context of the Church’s child-abuse scandal, tensions with the Anglican Church and planned protests. (Photo: Archbishop Vincent Nichols (L) and the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, July 5, 2010 in London/Peter Macdiarmid)

Here’s our news story on the interview — Archbishop of Westminster says pope not fishing for Anglicans — and below are excerpts from the transcript.

Q: The pope is due to arrive in Scotland shortly. What keeps you awake at night about the visit?

Catholic sex abuse scandal fallout spreads in Europe

vatican st peter's

Fallout from the Catholic child sex abuse scandal spread across Europe on Thursday as the Vatican retired an Irish bishop, a German offered to step down and prelates in England and Wales apologised for the “terrible crimes” of priests. 

The Vatican said Pope Benedict, under criticism from victims for not doing enough about past cases of abuse by priests now being revealed, had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to leave over the scandal. Pope Benedict meets ith Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010. A top Vatican official on Monday told Irish bishops in Rome for talks with Pope Benedict on the Irish church's vast paedophilia scandal that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts". The message came in the sermon of a mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly before the bishops began two days of crisis talks with the pope to formulate a response to the revelations of abuse by clergy that have shaken devoutly Catholic Ireland. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict meets Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010 to discuss the sexual abuse scandal/Osservatore Romano