Wednesday 8 September 2010

A "Culture of Life" and Ferment in the UK Church

Soho LGBT Mass: Scene from a "culture of death? is rather surprising to find Archbishop Nichols now claiming, when he does reply to letters from concerned Catholics, that they are, by their own description only of a homosexual orientation …. who struggle to be part of the Catholic Church and conform their lives accordingly! Can he really believe this against so much evidence to the contrary ? Doesn't he realise that faithful Catholics with this orientation who are really striving to follow Church teaching don't want to call attention to themselves with special Masses? Some of these noble souls have contacted us to express the distress these Masses with their sacrilegious Communions cause them while they, who really deserve it, get so little pastoral care. Recently the Holy Father told Bishops in Rome You have the duty to teach, with audacity, the Truth. Hopefully he will tell our bishops to once more start guiding their flocks responsibly by issuing Pastoral Letters and Ad Clerums insisting that true and only true Doctrinal and Moral teaching is given in our parishes and schools again.
This hope is unlikely to be realized, as she admitted to Lifesite News
Daphne McLeod, the head of the Catholic campaign group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, told that the situation has not improved under Nichols. The Soho Mass group, she said, is “getting worse, more brazen. They’re spreading and have groups now to attract the young people.” McLeod has organized prayer vigils outside the church where the homosexualist events are held. “I see these nice young people go in there and I’m sure they don’t know how wrong it is. They’re not being taught about it in Catholic schools.” McLeod’s organization has written to and visited Vatican officials begging that the situation be addressed. “We write to Rome all the time, we went to Rome, with all those dossiers and nothing was done. We spoke to Cardinal [Francis] Arinze [then-head of the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments] and he said, ‘I’m not going to do anything about the Soho Masses.’” (emphasis added).
- Lifesite News
John Smeaton, director of SPUC, ("Society for the Protection of Unborn Children") wrote an incoherent piece last month in support of the PEEP campaign against Soho Masses, arguing that the bishops could somehow help the unborn by stomping on gay and lesbian worship. The same theme was then picked up by Edmund Adamus, diocesan director of pastoral affairs, who was breathlessly described in the press as one of the country's "most senior" Catholics, who lamented the UK "culture of death", which for which he cited as supposed evidence, the advances for equality legislation:
A leading adviser to the Archbishop of Westminster has blamed abortion and gay rights for turning Britain into a "selfish, hedonistic wasteland" which has become "the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death". Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the diocese of Westminster and an adviser to Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said Parliament had turned Britain into a country which is more culturally anti-Catholic than nations where Christians are violently persecuted such as Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan.
This is theological shorthand which, in fairness, doesn't mean quite what it appears to do, but it is palpable nonsense all the same, as Paul Vallely made clear in a useful riposte at the Independent. More interesting to me than the argument and its flaws, was the response. Vallely concluded his piece with the prediction:
All this is spectacularly unhelpful on the eve of the papal visit. The Catholic Church has insights to offer the rest of society about the dangers of putting materialist individualism before the common good; about social justice at a time of spending cuts. It has good questions to ask about the relationship between laddish culture and attitudes to women and sexual violence. But that will not be heard above the indignation generated by Mr Adamus's incitement to cultural war. He is no doubt about to get a major ticking off.
This was prescient - the anticipated ticking off came swiftly:
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster has distanced himself from an aide who said gay rights and the commercialisation of sex had turned Britain into a "selfish, hedonistic wasteland" and "the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death". The comments from Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the diocese of Westminster and an adviser to the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, have angered gay rights and secularists groups and provoked embarrassment among the Catholic hierarchy weeks before the pope visits Britain.
Senior figures, including Lord Patten of Barnes, have been keen to stress that the UK, while secular, is not anti-Catholic and that the pope is not flying into hostile territory. A spokesman for Nichols said the views expressed by Adamus "did not reflect the archbishop's opinions".
I confess to some special interest, and some schadenfreude, here. My understanding is that it is Adamus, exercising his authority as head of pastoral affairs for the diocese, who steadfastly refuses to allow the diocesan website to make any reference to the diocesan initiative which gives pastoral backing to the Soho Masses. Is too much to hope that this rebuke is a sign of further sidelining  to come? (I understand that Adamus was scheduled to appear on BBC Ulster’s Sunday sequence programme this week - but did not appear. Is the first sign of some muzzling?)
With the papal visit now less than a fortnight away, the British media are increasingly obsessed with print and broadcast stories on the Catholic church. The BBC alone will have a radio report by Mark Dowd, an openly gay ex-Dominican and member of our congregation, on Thursday morning this week, and a TV programme on Thursday evening, which will include material on our Masses (for which I was one of the interviewees. It remains to be seen if I make it onto the screen, or end up on the cutting room floor.) Next week Wednesday, there will be a programme by Dowd on "The Trials of Benedict" - which the Scottish primate Cardinal Keith O'Brien has decribed (unseen) as a "hatchet job" on the church.
Unlike Cardinal O' Brien, I do not want to comment definitively on the content of programmes before they have been aired. However, I suspect that they will demonstrate something very different from the "culture of death" described by Adamus: I hope and believe that they could well show instead a British Catholic Church which is vigorously, ebulliently, alive - and that one side of that life and vigour is a willingness to speak up and engage with the world, instead of simply regurgitating slogans from a nineteenth century Catechism.
I will be waiting with interest the programs to come - and will report on them here.

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