Thursday, 3 October 2013

Lord Leveson Who?

Two days ago The Independant published a thoughtless piece which realised that the pope is a Catholic.


Being a meddling kid, I felt that this should not go unchallenged, so published a response in the comments box. It was quite a lengthy response because the errors contained in the article were so numerous and profound. In hindsight, I think I should have altered the tone to be less confrontational and more conciliatory, but that's how it goes I suppose.

For me one of the most startling things was that Ms Smurthwaite does not seem to have learnt the lessons of the Leveson enquiry. Simply because a person is in the public eye does not give you free reign to defame their good name. I believe that her last sentance: "He might have been media-unfriendly, hard line, sexist and homophobic, but at least we knew what we were getting with Pope Benedict" does precisely this.

Below is my entire response:
Dear Ms Smurthwaite

This has so many basic misunderstandings in it. I'm amazed that a reputable newspaper felt able to publish it. Please do your research before you write about any Catholic next time.

It is not a hard-line Catholic stance to oppose Gay marriage or abortion. In fact both are fairly secular issues. Marriage is a thing and is therefore not other things. Just as a pencil is a thing and is therefore not a typewriter, though there are similarities between them. It existed before government or Church did so neither have the right to attempt to alter it. Marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman to bring up children. Matrimony is when that relationship has a theological element, but that is not what is being discussed. "The family, founded upon marriage freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society." Without a true understanding of marriage (not matrimony), society will suffer. We have seen this with the Divorce Act which has created socially vulnerable single parents and children deprived of equal and free access to both parents. The rights of the parents to the protection of the other parent of their child, and the rights of the children to their parents have violated. Further tampering with marriage will have similar effects. The way in which the Gay Marriage Bill was brought before parliament without a mandate from the electorate is shocking and an affront to the democratic traditions of this country. If this were not enough, as I see it, that it was raised at the time it was, was prompted by nothing more than the petty motive of distracting the headlines while the Tory government snuck some fairly hefty news about just how badly they were managing the economy under the radar.

Abortion is a similarly secular issue and one which I feel is far more important than the gay marriage palaver. You appeal to science and to human rights, the same two concepts which mean that abortion can never be a moral act. If you will permit me to repost a few paragraph's of a blog post (for the rest, please see I published earlier today:

"The necessity for the preservation of human rights is discernable by reason alone. It is true that the preservation of human rights promotes a safe society for the individual. All individuals need safety in order to flourish and their flourishing benefits other individuals and society. Human rights do not work as a protection for society unless all living humans are afforded equal rights. Human rights are not innate or self evident or magically imbued into every person, they are social necessities which society affords to all living humans for its own benefit. These rights operate in a similar way to a jenga set, piled on top of each other with those lower down being more integral to the structure of the edifice that those higher up. You can afford to take a piece from high up without the whole thing collapsing. The right to life is the table upon which the jenga tower rests. Remove that and the whole thing comes tumbling down because one cannot have any rights if one is already dead."

"The right to life must, therefore, be accorded to every living human."

"There is an objective definition of what is alive discernable by science. An organic entity which is capable of moving, respiring, reacting to changes in its environment, growing, reproducing, excreting and taking on nutrients. At the moment of conception a zygote is objectively and undeniable alive. There is also an objective definition of what is human: an entity with human DNA."

Whilst we Catholics have additional beliefs which preclude the possibility of us procuring an abortion such as the sanctifying nature of the incarnation and that the gift of life is from God, these reasons would not be sufficient for us to campaign against non Catholics doing so. For example, we believe that we should go to mass each Sunday, you don't see us campaigning for a law enforcing that view on others because it is purely from a theological perspective that we believe it is important to attend mass.

Clearly if Pope Francis were to attempt to change the Church's doctrine on abortion it would not only be a denial of the Incarnation and of God's generosity in giving us life, it would also be a denial of objective reason. If he were to do so, which, being a Catholic, he would not, it would be a grave problem. Beyond that, I believe that in two or three hundred years our descendants will be horrified to think that we performed 40-50 million abortions a year. I look back at situations in the last 2, 000 years and wonder why the Church didn't do more about them. I hope our descendants do not find the Church lacking in our dealings with the abortion industry. One would hope that the 20th century alone would teach us what happens when the rights of unseen millions are removed.

From this fairly terrifying prospect, you then move onto what you see as yet more terrifying. At once you make it clear that you know that Vatican City constitutes the territory of the Holy See, it is a sovereign state and that the laws apply to that state. You then lament that the Church in the past has not obeyed "long-established secular laws". Pope Francis has not introduced some new law for the worldwide Church, he has introduced legislation for the territory of the Vatican City State, those who live and work there or have Vatican citizenship. At some point your comprehension of these issues got lost... presumably it was not a deliberate conflation...

Clearly this was necessary. Then again, having established that the laws enacted apply to a sovereign entity and those who work there, including in its government, you say that it's shocking that the sovereign head of that state has banned leaking. What provoked this was the theft and publication of state documents which were leaked by Benedict XVI's butler about the machinations of the state's civil service. In the United Kingdom such a security breach would constitute a criminal act. If you think that the current state security provisions are problematic in the United Kingdom, might I refer you to a certain first century Jew of whom I am most fond who said "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Finally, let's address the calumny that constitutes your last sentence clause by clause:

"He might have been media-unfriendly". I'm sure you'll forgive him if he had bigger things on his somewhat massive mind than how he came across to journalists of a calibre that anything but the most basic research into what their writing about seems too much effort. If you were to take the time to read some of his work, you'd realise just how subtle and incisive his thinking is. It is probably not the sort of thing that translates well into a couple of quick paragraphs, especially with the lamentable standard of journalism currently predominant, as exemplified in your own article.

"hard line", Since you've already demonstrated your utter lack of comprehension of what constitutes "hard line" for the Catholic Church it seems a bit of a waste of time to go into this further, but never mind. This is the pope who gave practical guidance on the pastoral application of the Church's doctrine on contraception. He basically said that if someone is going to have sex in a situation which it is inappropriate to do so and the consequences of not using contraception would be worse than if they did, that in those situations it's less of a sin to use contraception than not. He used the example of a male prostitute, it would apply just as much to a boy who was adamant that he was going to have sex with his girlfriend. Hard line... sounds it doesn't he...

"sexist": Benedict XVI thought and wrote a great deal about gender theory. He saw in it good and bad. This sort of nuanced thinking may be beyond the possibilities of today's journalism. In 2004 he wrote that "the promotion of women within society must be understood and desired as a humanization ". Oh the wicked old misogynist! How dare he!

"homophobic": Similarly I suspect that Benedict XVI thought much more thoroughly about this issue than you have. The idea that he had anything but love for homosexual people is rubbished by the fact that he said "the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin".

All of these epithets, hard-line, sexist and homophobic, are ways in which you seek to discard Benedict's views without having to address them. This is an unfortunate state of affairs and sums this article up nicely. Not a great deal of thought, but an awful lot of bluster.

"at least we knew what we were getting with Pope Benedict": well, we know that we'll get the same from Francis as we got from Pope Benedict: the truth. Benedict XVI just didn't care what other people thought of what he said because he had justified confidence in his own intellectual prowess. Francis seems to be treating the media as a means of evangelisation in itself, which is certainly a fine way to go about things. The style may have changed, the substance has not changed one iota. Everyone knew that once the media realised that, it would turn against Pope Francis, it's inevitable.

Sincerely yours,
A young catholic lay person.

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