Friday, May 12, 2006

Taking a bore for Team RC

Richard Waghorne posts that Ruth Kelly is being "bored to death" by calls for her to make her position clear in respect of matters which the Roman Catholic church, of which she is a member, has declared to be immoral. This may not seem interesting at first blush if you didn't know that Ms. Kelly is the current Minister for Equality in the United Kingdom's Labour Government, and that in recent years the Catholic Church has re-affirmed the duty of opposition to laws legalising and facilitating such matters as abortion and gay unions.

In 2004, the Vatican told U.S. bishops to refuse communion to pro-choice legislators, which caused a controversy involving John Kerry during his bid for the presidency. Controversy in respect of Catholic politicians is recurrent in Canada, not least because of the number of Prime Ministers from the heavily Catholic province of Quebec such as the two most recent holders. In the same year, Paul Martin was accused of moral incoherence by the Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry. (Although for a Prime Minister labelled "Mr. Dithers" by the Economist, incoherence may not be a surprising trait). Henry had said in 2003 he would refuse communion to Jean Chretien and that his soul was in jeopardy.

Henry alluded in his pastoral letter on Martin to the Vatican's Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, a document which while declaring that the objective was not for Catholic legislators to impose a sort of sharia, that support of laws legalising or facilitating practices which the church had deemed to be wrong in all circumstances was not tenable.
"no Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements." (at III/5)
Henry says Martin should have emulated Thomas More, and be "God's first". Henry in his turn was merely emulating Innocent X who declared the Treaty of Westphalia, which moved Europe away from religious states toward nation states, to be
null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time
One of these "morally settled issues" in the mind of the Vatican is gay marriage/unions. Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons states:
Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.
(my emphasis) and
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
(both from II/5).

Clearly, this has an effect not merely on legislation proposed but also current law. Richard claims Kelly has not taken a position at all, but she is recorded as having voted with the DUP and Tories to restrict gay unmarried couples from adopting in circumstances where straight couples can - a straightforward matter of equality.

Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's letter to The Times defending Ms. Kelly would be music to the ear of "a la carte Catholics" like myself but plainly in contrast to the Vatican documents cited above. How can this be reconciled without calling His Eminence a liar, a heretic or both?

That Kelly is alleged to have links to Opus Dei is not something I'm going to get into here beyond noting the frequent speculation. That is one organisation I have no idea what to make of.

Does this mean all this mean Kelly should not be an MP? That is a matter for her electors, not for regulation - although certain positions defined in the Catholic Relief Act 1829 may still be excluded. However, she should have refused Tony Blair's invitation to be Minister for Equality when she could not be fully supportive of the brief. Not only does her previous record indicate this, but already groups such as Stonewall are not being invited to sessions with equality agencies and the Department. Her previous post, Education, has been a historical battleground on rights issues in matters of religion and in respect of the Thatcher era Section 28 forbidding "promoting homosexuality" - and when that latter law was repealed, she was absent. Here's Colin Richardson in the Guardian:
What we need, what we're crying out for, is someone in government who is an active champion of lesbian and gay equality. Not some Catholic technocrat who holds her nose while implementing policies she loathes, but a true believer.
Perhaps she would do better in the Iranian Cabinet, given their President's recent declaration that the religious state is on the way back.
Post a Comment