To Benedict, we Irish liberals are not going away you know…

Father Kevin Hegarty in the Irish Times fights back against Benedict’s contemporary, counter Reformation:

There is a tendency of conservative church commentators to argue that liberal clerics are an ageing, disgruntled minority who have turned their misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council into a kind of holy writ.

To them we are castaways on a remote island, brazenly holding aloft the tattered banners of the 1960s. They won’t like this but I have to disillusion them.

Anecdotal evidence, coupled with the results of a number of professional surveys, indicate that the majority of Irish Catholics support radical change in the church’s ministry and moral teaching.

To paraphrase Gerry Adams in a different context, we are not going away. The Vatican has been a “cold house” for liberal Catholics in recent years. The least we expect is respect for our freedom of speech and conscience.

A reform of the church which excludes these rights is a form of repression. It seems that Pope Benedict thinks “a creative minority” of Catholic conservatives will transform the church in Europe. To me that sounds like a polite euphemism for an assembly of Rick Santorum lookalikes.

Fighting talk, certainly. But as mentioned over the weekend, Benedict’s concern is not with democracy, but with the failing health of his western church… I suspect Father Hegarty has a different remedy in mind from the one favoured by the head of his church…

  • ” The Vatican has been a “cold house” for liberal Catholics in recent years.”

    Hans Kung appears to blame an ultra-conservative Curia for beginning to unpick Vatican II liberal ideas before the ink had dried.

  • Brian Walker

    This sort of stuff should have gone out with the Galileo. The whole authority of Nihil obstat and imprimatur from old boys in the Vatican looks increasingly embarrassing. Like Chinese communists they fear that if they let go an inch the whole kit and caboodle will come crashing down. Maybe it would. How many would miss it? Is there anybody left who takes them seriously? The answer I fear is yes. Recall the great Open Letter from Hans Kung a couple of years ago?

    (Extracts below)

    Even the supposedly right-on Catholic Herald took a tilt at him in an abusive piece of character assassination that failed to engage with the arguments and held that “traditio,” did not need a seriious defence. Just the kind of complacent response that Fr Hegarty has identified

    It’s surely time this whole centralised machinery of a dead orthodoxy was scrapped, rather than diplomatically skirted around Catholic-style by the faithful with brains of their own. We are all Protestants now!

    From Hans Kung’s open letter
    “I deeply appreciated that the pope invited me, his outspoken critic, to meet for a friendly, four-hour-long conversation shortly after he took office. This awakened in me the hope that my former colleague at Tubingen University might find his way to promote an ongoing renewal of the church and an ecumenical rapprochement in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

    Unfortunately, my hopes and those of so many engaged Catholic men and women have not been fulfilled. And in my subsequent correspondence with the pope, I have pointed this out to him many times. Without a doubt, he conscientiously performs his everyday duties as pope, and he has given us three helpful encyclicals on faith, hope and charity. But when it comes to facing the major challenges of our times, his pontificate has increasingly passed up more opportunities than it has taken:

    Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches:
    Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews:
    Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust: Instead, in his ill-advised but symptomatic 2006 Regensburg lecture, Benedict caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity and thus evoked enduring Muslim mistrust.

    Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America:
    Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.
    Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.

    Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including the Vatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church.

    This last point, respected bishops, is the most serious of all. Time and again, this pope has added qualifications to the conciliar texts and interpreted them against the spirit of the council fathers. Time and again, he has taken an express stand against the Ecumenical Council, which according to canon law represents the highest authority in the Catholic Church”

    .He refuses to put into effect the rapprochement with the Anglican Church, which was laid out in official ecumenical documents by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and has attempted instead to lure married Anglican clergy into the Roman Catholic Church by freeing them from the very rule of celibacy that has forced tens of thousands of Roman Catholic priests out of office.

    He has actively reinforced the anti-conciliar forces in the church by appointing reactionary officials to key offices in the Curia (including the secretariat of state, and positions in the liturgical commission) while appointing reactionary bishops around the world.

    Pope Benedict XVI seems to be increasingly cut off from the vast majority of church members who pay less and less heed to Rome and, at best, identify themselves only with their local parish and bishop.

    I know that many of you are pained by this situation. In his anti-conciliar policy, the pope receives the full support of the Roman Curia.

  • Alias

    Why do these oddballs join a Church when they don’t agree with its policies and doctrines and understand that it doesn’t operate as a democracy?

    The Pope would be better served by promptly ejecting these idiots rather than letting them cause trouble within the ranks.

    Perhaps they feel they’ve wasted the best years of their lives as members of the clergy and are a tad bitter about it? If so, that isn’t the Church’s problem.

  • I think a well known local cleric once said that the best Protestants in Ireland are the Catholics.
    Local bishops tend to owe their position to the Pope (or more precisely his advisors) so in the main, paying attention to them is similar to paying attention to the Pope. “Religious Orders” are a different matter. While some tend to more liberal than others……I would note that an increasing number of Catholics are attending Churches where they feel “at home”.
    For example a young couple who were heavily influenced geographically and emotionally by Clonard in West Belfast might well feel ill at ease in a small village, where the local priests were two elderly men brought out of retirement……and might well gravitate back to the “Mother Church”…..
    Are liberal priests emboldened? I think so. Theres not much to lose and some seem heartened by the feedback they have had in the last two years.
    They are in alliance with laity, notably women and thats a key factor.
    Pope Benedict does not have the charisma of Pope John Paul II and I think that Benedict is simply too overtly conservative. There are few features that mitigate in his favour.
    An empowering fact is that 84% of the Irish population in the 2011 census describe themselves as “Catholic”. Attempts to talk this down by anti Catholics as the “Polish Factor” dont seem to be accurate.

  • Alias: “Why do these oddballs join a Church when they don’t agree with its policies and doctrines and understand that it doesn’t operate as a democracy? ”

    Infant baptism?

  • Big Boss

    Aww i love all this liberal/Conservative Catholic nonsense.

    Please stop confusing politics with religion, The Church is NOT, and i repeat is NOT a democracy, it is not open to a liberal debate. You are either a catholic who lives by church teaching… or you not a catholic at all.

  • Alias

    Mark, if the the absence of credobaptism had anything to do with it then there wouldn’t be a shortage of priests among a population that declares itself to be 84% Catholic, would there?

    Therefore, why did he join a Church when he fundamentally disagrees with its policies and doctines? That isn’t the act of a sane or sensible person, just like his present wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  • Rory Carr

    Does, I wonder, Alias’s description of those Catholics who find themselves in sympathy with the teachings of Vatican II as “oddballs” and “idiots” have the full authority of papal infallibility behind it.

    Might not those who find themselves in disagreement with Vatican II also be so described “…when they don’t agree with its policies and doctrines”, or is such description to be confined (in Alias’s own inimical and unchallenged style) only to those with whom he finds himself momentarily at odds ?

  • Taoiseach

    “Pope is a Catholic” shock.

    In other news the Man Utd Supporters Club have suspended two members who have announced they actually support Liverpool. Commentators have expressed outrage at this heavy handed treatement. “We all wear red and should be able to support who we like”.

    “Reality” Magazine has been attacking orthodox Church teaching for years and if it were a private magazine that would be fine – but it’s not, it’s a publication of a Catholic religous order.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Non members of the orange order promise not to comment on orange order busines, shocker………read all about it…….

  • Alias

    Rory, as Pope Benedict said, folks should only join the priesthood if they “are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.”

    There is no role for priests in formulating Holy Sea policy. That is the contract they signed when the joined.

    That is why the Pope should now eject these oddballs from the Church. It is idiotic to think that the Pope will alter fundamental doctrine and policy to suit the transient needs of a small number of fickleminded priests, and idiotic to campaign accordingly.

    If said oddball doesn’t agree with fundamental doctrines and policies then he should join a church that is more suited to his particular mindset. It’s not like there is a shortage of options, is it?

  • Alias

    Or Holy See policy for that matter…

  • Henry94

    To paraphrase Gerry Adams in a different context, we are not going away.

    But in that case they did eventually go away.

  • “There is no role for priests in formulating Holy See policy.”

    The application of Holy See policy appears to be somewhat dependent on the presence of a liberal pontiff like Pope John XXIII or the past two conservative ones. Perhaps Pope John XXIII would have made a better fist of the clerical child abuse debacle that has done so much damage to the Church.

  • susan

    There is a certain Waldorf and Statler in the Balcony predictability in the hammering you get from some of Slugger’s atheists and conservative Catholics when attempting to discuss the ambiguities involved for most of us in actually being Cathoic in 2012.

    Which doesn’t mean many of the points conservative Catholics and atheists may have to make are not valid, but when their starting point is that anyone discussing reason and ambiguity in modern Catholic existence is either a.) a sentimental nut job or b.) not Catholic, there isn’t much common ground to build on.

    Nonetheless, I very much appreciate these threads and the more thoughtful comments on them.

    As I was saying on the “Vatican moves against turbulent Irish priest” thread, there are fascinating articles this morning on both The Irish Central website and the Daily Beast on what just might be the beginning murmurings of a “Catholic Spring.”

  • susan, I spent a lot of spare time at Corrymeela as well as co-ordinating an inter-schools community service group in Coleraine during the height of the Troubles. We had support from all camps: liberal, conservative and other. These kind words from the late Sr Souboris are worthy of repetition:

    “Thank you for directing to us young people of suchunselfishness andreliability. Each in his own way made avaluable contribution to the holiday.I personally learned atremendous amount from their unselfishness.Ionly wish more people in our divided communities could experience how easy itis to love and live together once.thewill to do so is there.”

    I remember once asking a member of the DUP youth wing if he didn’t have a problem taking part in JCSS activities in Coleraine and Corrymeela and he said, “No, there were girls in it.” 🙂

    Some folks, sadly, can get in an awful lather over what may be, at times, the small print.

  • Thank you Susan.
    I think there is a certain double-think in the mindset of Irish Catholics. When Cap’n Boyle first mentions priests to Joxer Daly, he is scathing about them. A few pages later he berates a confused Joxer for not praising priests.

    Its a conversation much repeated in Irish Catholic households. “Father Murphy was great at my sons wedding”, “no he was horrible at my daughters Christening”.
    Some facts from the Irish Census 2011. There are 4.6 million people in the Republic. 84% are Catholic.
    Thats the biggest population since the first half of the 19th century (Famine years) and probably 3.9 million “Catholics” represents the highest number of actual Catholics in the 26 counties since the decade after Catholic Emancipation (1829).
    With the number of priests etc in 2012 now much lower than for well over a century……this puts a lot of pressure on Catholic “authorities” and puts a great deal of power in the hands of the men (and women!!!) in the pews.

    Benedict XVI will not be around for ever. As conservative as John Paul II but lacking the charisma, there cannot be much doubt that the next Pope (Benedict is 84/85 ish) will be a very different person.

    Obviously the Catholic Church moves slowly…..a constant game of “catch up with modernity” (Reformation, French Revolution, Democracy, Womens Rights) but it tends to get there in the end.
    But there is a kinda “upstairs room in Jerusalem” attitude. Being Catholic should never be an embarrassment (although being embarrassed that other people are Catholic is a different matter) but appropriately enough for the season perhaps there is a kinda empowerment going on at the moment.

    As always to those who dont “get it”, no explanation is possible. To those who “get it” no explanation is necessary.

  • susan

    Wonderful posts, Nevin and fitzjameshore1745; a breath of the new Catholic Spring, if you will. :o)

    There are millions of us who will never feel at home in either the “You’re Catholic, therefore you cannot think” school of thought or the “You think, therefore you can’t be Catholic camp. I do not know if Father Hegarty will be the tipping point; I only know that a tipping point there will be.

    As the Chilean poet, politician and Catholic Pablo Neruda once said, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

  • Alias

    Catholicism won’t be acceptable to sections of the (Irish) media until it becomes the predominant religion in the UK. If it ever reformed along the lines that ‘liberals’ waffle on about (allowed women priests, married priests, etc) and thereby regained the popularity that they claim it has lost by the means they claim will popularise it, those wafflers would be horrified that it is regaining popularity and would promptly dins something else to knock it for. The wafflers, as always, merely parrot the agenda that the media promotes in services of its own masters.

  • Thank you Susan. But I must point out that I have not (to my knowledge) expressed any inkling as to my religious thoughts on this website. I do not think it appropriate.
    Others may assume things of course or read stuff that I have written on other sites which are more appropriate.

    Interestingly Father Seán McDonagh a leading light in the Irish Association of Catholic Priests has just appeared on Irish TV News to talk about a survey conducted by his organisation. In beief it shows that there around half of Irish Catholics attend Mass once a month and that the vast majority feel Vatican teaching on areas of sexuality are out of step with modernity.
    Challenged by the interviewer that issues such as married priests, women priests and Ne Temere (perhaps the latter is of historic concern to the interviewer) are non negotiable……Fr McDonagh pointed out the 1908 diktat that Catholics were obliged to take Genesis literally.

    In fact Pope Gregory XVIs banning of railways (chemins d’enfer……the devils roads) is probably a more apt parallel.
    The Church…like a lot of institutions moves at the speed of the slowest horse in the troop.
    I note todays Huffington Post also carries a report of the survey.
    Fr McDonagh also pointed out that when he was taught “mission protocol” at Maynooth, the lecturer advised finding out the needs of local people and pointedly suggested that this was what the Church needed to be doing.
    Certainly there is a wedge that the Association of Catholic Priests can exploit. The “visitation” (inspection) imposed by the Vatican on the Irish Church is seen as (at best) patronising and (at worst) colonialism. The “Inspector” for the Armagh Archdiocese is former English Primate Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor who despite the name is unapologetically “English”. It has not gone down well.

    The Association of Catholic Priests can therefore be seen to be leading a “who do they think they are?” movement which actually has the tacit support of several Irish bishops. It would be a mistake to think that all Irish bishops are traditionalist or “Marian”.
    Raising the spectre of an “aristocratic (Bavarian) church and Laudabiliter (1155) is a powerful rallying call to the peasant tradition of Irish priesthood.

  • jthree


    Surely a better analogy is lifelong Liverpool fans, with a deep attachment to club, say Andy Carroll is one of the worst ever buys in top class football and that Kenny really needs to win the FA cup to salvage the season. Those fans would not be kicked out of a supporters club on that basis.

  • HeinzGuderian

    During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.
    – “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice,” Europe and Elsewhere

    Mark twain

    But hey,Alias is obviously right,the religious types should just be allowed to get on with it……….

  • susan

    Cheers, fitzjameshorse, I was not presuming to know your religious preferences one way or another, apologies if I misspoke. If there ever is a Catholic Spring, I doubt it will be exclusively Catholic – it may not even be Catholic at all.

    Interesting insights into the ACP.

  • susan, I’ve probably mostly seen Catholic religious at their best. I remember back in ’73 (not long after the Sr Souboris praise) whilst helping to organise a week for kids, needing some assistance with transport, asking a Mother Superior for help and a minibus and driver turned up plus a message that anything I needed I only had to ask. Powerplays in politics and related matters might well have been a different story.

  • No problem Susan.
    I just wanted to make it clear to all readers that nothing should be assumed.

  • 241934 john brennan

    ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church’. At Sunday Mass, I stand with all others present to publically affirm this particular belief, included in the Creed, and which is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the Apostles’ faith.
    True faith requires the individual’s freedom to accept, or reject. If I adopt an a la carte to the Apostles Creed, then I would not be true to myself – privately rejecting what I publically affirm. So what does the Church say about itself?
    The word ‘Church’ means ‘convocation’. It designates the assembly of those whom God’s Word ‘convokes’, i.e. gathers to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.
    The Church is both visible and invisible, a hierarchical society and the Mystical body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept. (Catholic Catechism 777 & 779).
    Of particular importance within the Church is the role of its shepherds (bishops and priests). Of and to them could the following verse have been written?

    ‘Pluck one thread and the web ye mar;
    Break but one
    Of a thousand keys, and the paining jar
    Through all will run.’ (Whittier).

    Of what use to lost sheep are the discordant and dissenting calls of the comparatively few stray shepherds?

  • abucs

    Well that Pope Gregory that wasn’t keen on railways did like many Popes before him argue against slavery in 1839.

    “We have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men…….By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately”.

    This was of course more than 20 years before Lincoln was elected President.

    Of course other Popes hundreds of years earlier condemned human slavery as a great crime including Pius II, Paul III and Eugene IV.

    So much for ‘catching up’ with the slowest horse theory.

  • abucs

    The Christian Church basically abolished any persecution of witch-craft after it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christian Theologians wrote off witchcraft as many would write of daily horoscopes today as having no real meaning.

    There was a period of course more than a thousand years later where the persecution of so called witches went on in America and Europe on a large scale. It is also worth mentioning that the places where the inquisition was set up is inversely correlated with the persecution of witches at that time as the same mentality towards so-called witchcraft still existed within dare i say, the official Church.

    Not exactly ‘catching up’ there either.

  • abucs

    In the centuries past (as now) Catholic women could and did run hospital, schools and a plethora of social institutions commanding huge numbers of men and women and resources and effecting society in a huge way.

    With the exception of the position of Queen assuming her birth rite nowhere else on the planet could women wield such power.

    So much for catching up with the slowest horse.

  • abucs

    And of course the establishment of schools and Universities across Europe was funded, built and staffed by the Church which is where we get our critical reason and scientific traditions of today.

    For centuries the only people who attended these Universities were priests simply because the pursuit of knowledge was a Christian imperative. Priests would be taught Theology and Science and Medicine in these Universities and be sent in their tens of thousands all over rural and urban Europe to establish Churches, hospitals, schools and if possible Universities. This more than anything has built modern Europe.

    Not exactly catching up with the slowest horse there either.

  • Coll Ciotach

    There is something in the theory that the Irish Church is playing catch up. The Church is turning back from the disastrous interpretation of Vatican 11 and moving towards a more Traditional interpretation. These priests and religious, and yes, their supportive lay, are behind the times. The SSPX are close to sealing a deal, the only stumbling point seems to be how ecumenism is defined, with the 16th of the month, (April), being named as decision day. The liberal window of opportunity has passed them by.
    The seminaries are now starting to produce a less liberal, deforming, cleric. We are all Traditionalists now. Asparges me hysopo et mundabor lavabis me et super nivem dealbabor [

  • HeinzGuderian

    And of course the establishment of schools and Universities across Europe was funded, built and staffed by the Church which is where we get our critical reason and scientific traditions of today.

    One word……..Galileo !!!

  • HeinzGuderian

    A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
    Albert Einstein

    So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
    Bertrand Russell

    I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
    Bertrand Russell

    What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
    Christopher Hitchens

    The kindly God who lovingly fashioned each and every one of us and sprinkled the sky with shining stars for our delight — that God is, like Santa Claus, a myth of childhood, not anything [that] a sane, undeluded adult could literally believe in. That God must either be turned into a symbol for something less concrete or abandoned altogether.
    Daniel Dennett – Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

    To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy.
    David Brooks – The Necessity of Atheism

    The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.
    Delos B. McKown

    We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart

    Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration–courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.
    H.L. Mencken

    “Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all… I personally resent it bitterly.” ~Isaac Asimov

    What have been [Christianity’s] fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
    James Madison

    The fight both for and against slavery in the United States was waged first along scriptural lines. . . . There was also the theory of the descent from Ham which attained great vogue and still does in certain quarters. . . . With the superseding of religion by science the battle of inequality shifted from a scriptural wording to a scientific one. Now it was no longer what “God had said” but what color, hair, and skull showed. . . . In other words, the pro-slavery faction and the antislavery one had entered the stage in new costumes. Underneath were the same bodies.
    Joel Augustus Rogers- Sex and Race, vol. 3

    Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.
    Jon Stewart

    The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said, “There’s a Chaplain who never visited the front.”
    Kurt Vonnegut

    If Jesus had been killed 20 years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little Electric Chairs around their necks instead of crosses.
    Lenny Bruce

    Man is a Religious Animal. Man is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven…. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

    The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive…but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.

    There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but one– the pulpit. It yielded last; it always does. It fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession– at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery texts in the Bible remained; the practice changed; that was all.
    Mark Twain

    Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.
    Napoleon Bonaparte

    When I think of all the harm the Bible has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it.
    Oscar Wilde

    Who will say with confidence that sexual abuse is more permanently damaging to children than threatening them with the eternal and unquenchable fires of hell?

    I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

    We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

    The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudoscientific charlatans.

    Hot on the heels of its magnanimous pardoning of Galileo, the Vatican has now moved with even more lightning speed to recognise the truth of Darwinism.

    No doubt soaring cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit. But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the accident of birth.

    The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn’t seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as ‘faith’.

    …it is a telling fact that, the world over, the vast majority of children follow the religion of their parents rather than any of the other available religions.

    With so many mindbytes to be downloaded, so many mental codons to be replicated, it is no wonder that child brains are gullible, open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion, easy prey to Moonies, Scientologists and nuns.

    I doubt that religion can survive deep understanding. The shallows are its natural habitat. Cranks and fundamentalists are too often victimised as scapegoats for religion in general. It is only quite recently that Christianity reinvented itself in non-fundamentalist guise, and Islam has yet to do so (see Ibn Warraq’s excellent book, Why I am not a Muslim). Moonies and scientologists get a bad press, but they just haven’t been around as long as the accepted religions. Theology is a respectable discipline when it studies such subjects as moral philosophy, the psychology of religious belief and, above all, biblical history and literature. Like Bertie Wooster, my knowledge of the Bible is above average. I seem to know Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon almost by heart. I think that the Bible as literature should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum – you can’t understand English literature and culture without it. But insofar as theology studies the nature of the divine, it will earn the right to be taken seriously when it provides the slightest, smallest smidgen of a reason for believing in the existence of the divine. Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns.

    There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?

    Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

    Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don’t know it.

    The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.

    Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the “know-nothings”, the “know-alls”, and the “no-contests”

    You’re basically killing each other to see who’s got the better imaginary friend

    Religion diminishes humanity,by encouraging belief in the patently absurd……science adds to the sheer joy of living,with the even deeper joy of comprehension.
    Richard Dawkins.

    The inspiration of the bible depends on the ignorance of the person who reads it.
    Robert G. Ingersoll

    Who needs Satan when you have a God like this?
    Robert M. Price

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
    Seneca the Younger

    It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.
    Sir Arthur C. Clarke

    “Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
    Stephen Hawking

    (Religion) With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion
    Steven Weinberg

    I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology..

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.
    Thomas Jefferson – Letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 1816

    Deaths in the Bible. God – 2,270,365 not including the victims of Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc because no specific numbers were given. Satan – 10.

    Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.

    “Not exactly catching up with the slowest horse there either.”……..Errrr,when you keep falling at every fence,playing catch up is all religion ever does !!
    Me 😉

  • abucs

    Arguments of one word are often so because there is not the intellectual capacity nor historical accuracy to back them up.

    More quotes by a ‘socialist progressive’ who didn’t like Christianity :

    “Christianity is the invention of sick brains”.
    Adolph Hitler.

    “Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure”.
    Adolph Hitler.

    “But there will never be any possibility of National Socialism’s setting out to ape religion by establishing a form of worship. Its one ambition must be scientifically to construct a doctrine that is nothing more than a homage to reason”.
    Adolph Hitler.

    We’ve had over a hundred years of socialism’s war on Christianity. By any standard, scientific, cultural, moral or intellectually it is inferior to the Christian position.

    Simply quoting peoples erroneous assertions is no match for the reality of the scientific and educational culture that was established by the Church in Western Christendom.

    All of the people you cite have come out of that tradition. They may distance themselves from Christianity but it from the Christian development of reason and science that they do this.

    Their big mistake is to forget where this tradition has come from and to try and label Christians as everything that is opposite to science and reason.

    History does not support that view.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Quotes from atheists quoting other atheists prove nothing. Neither does faith alone. Good works provide solid proof of genuine faith.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith out of my works’. (St. James the apostle)

    Christians believe in the historically attested facts of the life, death and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ. We believe because many contemporary witnesses also suffered death for expressing convinced belief that Jesus was God. Doubting Thomas doubted because he thought his eyes may be deceiving him, so he applied the scientific method of touch. Then convinced of the reality, acclaimed “My Lord and my God.”

    Anyone who has visited Rome will know that, rather than the mighty Caesars, it became, and remains, the city of Saints Peter and Paul, who did nothing more than proclaim that, in Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth became manifest – that He is The Truth – and Peter and Paul accepted rather cruel deaths for proclaiming this harmless, but eternal life saving message.

  • Newman

    Could someone please explain which of the documents of Vatican 2 suggested we should have (i) women priests (ii) gay marriage; (iii) married priests; (iv Remarriage of divorcees; (v) contraception…issues which focus entirely on gender and sexuality and say little about the call of Jesus Christ. Was it Lumen Gentium ? or perhaps wishful thinking from secular interpreters who have lost the run of themselves. I particularly highlight Brian Walker’s haughty disdain for orthodox Catholicism which reveals a complete ignorance of why the Catholic church has survived since the Last Supper. Protestantism is essentially fissiparous which is why it divides after an argument…why would Rome think this is a good idea?. We are not “all protestants now” some of us because as we study history we begin to see that in a real sense the gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church

  • Newman, all of the Christian sects go back to the same root; the Reformation wasn’t the first schism. Some might regard priestly celibacy as a deviation.

  • Newman

    Nevin…No the reformation was not the first schism..but the filioque debate within eastern orthodoxy resulted in a very different outcome which one can see even from afar is remediable..problem with the Reformation is that there is no internal coherence within modern Protestantism with which to resolve the ecclesiological dilemma. Priestly celibacy has been mandated since the 11 hundreds so in the context of the magisterium it is venerable and Jesus and St Paul had some pretty encouraging things to say about that state It is theological possible that it may change but we would lose something of great value if that were to come about. Core issue here is understanding that scripture tradition and the hierarchy are required to create a magisterium not a poll commissioned by disgruntled priests who eagerly seek to reflect back to the secular world answers to their particular dilemmas…and when we have paid our dues and changed the doctrine..the result will be renewal and church which exemplifies the teaching of Jesus Christ?…forgive my scepticism

  • Newman, I’d have thought that priestly celibacy was introduced to deal with the circumstances of the time. Don’t our Irish and Scottish Gaelic surnames indicate that married clergy continued to officiate for quite some time after the 12th century?

  • Newman

    Nevin..That may well be correct and indeed there is current provision in the Anglican Ordinariate and in certain Eastern Catholic churches for married Catholic clergy . I have no objection in principle..I just believe that it is not the panacea to the current crisis and in jettisoning or abandoning same the Church would lose something of inestimable value which was emphasised by Christ himself.

  • 241934 john brennan

    In the long march of the Church Militant, the current debate about women priests and dissident priests is mere trivia. In this Easter season our attention is focused on the cross and the empty tomb – sure guarantees of victory over death and absolute proof that that we sinners will tire of sinning, before God tires of forgiving. Of course we have the freedom to reject.

    Relating to the present subject:
    The whole idea of organisation is the unification of the many. From the member up through the ascending grades of authority must the principle of connection exist. Without connection there is a departure from the principle of life. In voluntary organisations the cement of connection is loyalty – In the Catholic Church, loyalty of the member to his parish – the parish to diocese – the diocese to Rome (the Pope)

    The test of loyalty is obedience and the test of obedience is to accept situations and decisions which are unpalatable – and to accept them cheerfully. ‘Deep harm to disobey, seeing obedience is the bond of rule’, said Tennyson.

    Finally, the sacramental church founded by Christ, is also ‘catholic’ because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole human race – a definite apostolic mission for all its members. A vague idealism with general appeals to do good in their surroundings, is always attended by the vaguest performance. ‘For if the trumpets give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?’ (Cor. 14:8)

  • HeinzGuderian

    Quotes from religious types quoting religious types proves nothing……

    Take away your religions,and what would be be fighting about today ?

    India and Pakistan ?
    The Arab World and Israel ?
    Fundamentalist nut jobs salivating over the thought of Armageddon ?

    No…….just Sunny Ulster,fighting over nationality.

  • abucs

    Heinz i understand the mentality you are coming from but with respect you have been duped.

    First of all they are not ‘our religions’. We don’t own them nor are we affiliated with ‘religions’ as if they are a inclusive entity. Perhaps in your mentality you have been trained to see it that way.

    But with respect that is a perjoritive and downright scary way of thought that isn’t based on reality.

    To your dated 1960/70’s John Lennon mantra :

    Take away your religions,and what would be be fighting about today ?

    Take away your governments,and what would be be fighting about today ?

    Take away your big business,and what would be be fighting about today ?

    Take away your family connections,and what would be be fighting about today ?

    We’ve been down that socialist road Heinze dozens of times last century, it was the biggest human rights disaster in the entire history of mankind.

    It is based on social philosophical nonsense which has at its starting point the assertion of materialism where there is no right/wrong, beauty/horridness, good/evil, truth/lies but everything is simply a construction of human cultural thought where if we con enough people into believing a certain thing it becomes truth.

    That assertion of reality is the very definition of madness.