I don't know. Really, one has to wonder what the point is of explaining things to people who haven't developed even the most modest intellectual tools. Telling things about religion to secular liberals is like trying to explain to conspiracy theorists that it is simply a lot more likely that the Islams blew up the Trade Centre. But once in a while, the urge comes on...
Andrew Brown writes, in grand old Protestant style about
Pope Benedict's view on equality and dissent will cause shock and outrage ahead of his visit.
[Now, let's start with an examination of cause and effect. A few years ago the pope gave a speech at Regensberg and there was "shock and outrage" then too. But it was funny that this "shock and outrage" didn't actually start happening until the media started telling people it was happening. So what I'm wondering here is who is causing what effect.]
Just when it seemed that Roman Catholicism was a normal and natural part of the English religious scene,
[just when the English Catholic Church appeared to have completely capitulated to the sexual revolution's zeitgeist in the person of Tony Blair and his old buddy at Westminster ... indeed, I can understand your disappointment.]
[a foreigner, a GERMAN for Pete sake!...did we mention he was in the Hitler Youth?]
has to come out with a statement that raises every residual Protestant hackle in the country. Authoritarian,
[actually, we call it "authoritative" since he is, you know, in authority over the English Bishops whom he was addressing]
tactless, [the worst sin there is in let's-not-talk-about-it England]
and without the muscle to back it up, [so it bothers you why, exactly?]
he says that
"In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate."
This sounds exactly like the papacy of Ian Paisley's darkest imaginings, totalitarian in its ambitions and utterly dismissive of disagreement.
[Ok, I'll try to use small words for you. We have this thing in Catholicism, it's called "religious doctrine". That means the "teachings" of the Catholic Church. Because Catholicism is a religion, not an ethnicity, you have to do certain things to belong to it. These include believing in the "religious doctrine" or "teachings" of the religion. These are about the nature of God, the relationship of man to God, the nature of the Church, the meaning of life...that sort of thing. Now, if you believe the things the Catholic Church teaches about all that, you can be a Catholic. If you don't, you can't.
This is what we like to call "the logical principle of non-contradiction", which isn't a religious doctrine at all but was believed by some very important and clever English People of the Past like Sherlock Holmes and Aristotle. According to that principle (which isn't religious, just logical) one thing can't be the same as a thing that is opposed to it. I can't both be in the room and not in the room at the same time, for example. Now, applying that principle to our topic, it goes, "You can't be a Catholic who doesn't believe what the Church teaches." That means that Ian Paisley can't call himself a Catholic without everyone laughing at him, which I understand he really hates. Similarly, a Catholic bishop who doesn't uphold and teach what the Catholic Church teaches, is going to be in a bit of hot water with the boss.
I realise this is hard. Try to keep up.]
"It is the truth revealed through scripture and tradition and articulated by the church's magisterium that sets us free." writes Benedict.
[Now, don't panic. This is actually just in the bible. Remember? 'The truth shall set you free'. It's not a hard concept: Catholics think their religion is true. The truth sets you free, therefore the head of the Catholic Church tells a group of Catholic bishops to tell other people that the Catholic religion will set them free.]
Presumably the other things that anyone else might mistake for truth, whether they are Anglicans, Muslims, or post-Christian simply bind us in error.
[There, you see? Now you're getting it! I told you it wasn't hard.]
It is difficult to think of anything which could more effectively enrage and energise the opponents of his visit.
[Actually, I think the opponents of his visit, Stonewall, OutRage, the National Secular Society, are just plain enraged most of the time about everything, but most particularly about the continued existence of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI. I'm pretty sure they would be able to find things to enrage them without your generous offer of help.]
English atheism descends very clearly from protestantism,
[Now this is one of the most useful things I've ever seen a Guardian writer say. Protestantism is the cause of English atheism. 500 years of the Let's-Not-Talk-About-It religion and we're where we are now.]
and tends to regard Catholicism as the purest and most evil religion.
[Again, v. helpful insight. And one we can work with. It means that among our enemies the basic intellectual tools are not so moribund as we fear. Here is a clear acknowledgement of the existence of objective evil, right and wrong and that one thing cannot be the same as a thing opposed to it. The L. P. of non-C.
One of the things that enrages me is all the smarmy huggykissiness that goes on at English 'ecumenical' gatherings. (Did you know the Anglicans and the Catholics got together for an ecumenical service at the Tower of London a few years ago to "commemorate" the Protestant Reformation?) It is why Rowan Williams is so universally reviled. All those guys trying to pretend to be friends. There's nothing more refreshing than a clear statement of enmity. Now we know where we are, who our enemies are and what is required. The dominant religion in England is atheism, the demon-spawn of apostate Anglicanism. Let's stop pretending to be friends with our mortal enemy.]
Its noisiest current spokesman, Richard Dawkins, once said in Dublin that "Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.
But at the same time, the Pope's remarks are clearly prompted in part by a sense that the secularist forces are mounting an aggressive campaign that the Catholic church must resist,
[and he has had to do this, noisily and in front of the world's press, directly into the faces of the English bishops because they are the ones who have allowed this situation to metastasize by their determination to continue to pretend there are no enemies to fight. English Catholicism's determination to fit in and be, what was it you said? Oh yes, "a normal and natural part of the English religious scene." The true Church has never and never can be just a part of the landscape.]
as last week's battles over the equality bill in the House of Lords made clear.
So if he wants political support here, why say anything so divisive?
[Because he wants political support. I love it when liberals use the word "divisive" as a weapon against anyone who disagrees with them. It's the final expression of Let's-Not-Talk-About-Itism. Anyone who has an opinion of his own that differs from that of the cool kids will have his glasses broken in the school yard at lunch time. Of course, this could be considered an improvement over the good old days of the Elizabethan Settlement when such "divisiveness" would get you hung drawn and quartered. Or pressed to death.
In England, the great political sin is indeed "divisiveness" (also known as "having an opinion"). This is the reason the two dominant political parties are indistinguishable in their policies. It all comes back to the dominance, for 500 years, of the English-Tea-Party-Religion. The war against the Faith was won by violence and brutal political suppression, but the "Settlement" that eventually ended it in favour of protestantism 200 years later with the ascension of the Hanoverians was, essentially, a permanent state of threat: "We promise to stop killing you Catholics, as long as you never, ever venture out of your ghetto again." I think in the face of this, a little divisiveness is just what the country needs.]
I don't think he meant to be overheard.
[Except for the part where he submitted his talk to the Vatican Information Service for publication two hours after it was delivered. They have rooms in the Vatican with doors, you know. If he didn't want to be overheard, they can manage that in there.]
His talk was clearly addressed only to people who already agree with him – bishops in the first place, and lay Catholics after that. In that context "dissent" has a technical meaning which makes his remarks a little less outrageous.
[Oh come on, don't start getting all objective and factual now. You're just going to confuse your readers who are, after all, only people who already agree with you...]
What he is in fact trying to say is that the bishops should crack down on liberalism within their own church.
["crack down on liberalism" suddenly the delightful image has popped into my head of sober-faced Papal Gentilhuomini, circulating, at a gesture from Msgr. Georg, with silver platters carrying ornate baroque hammers. The bishops each take one in hand and solemnly start thwacking each other's heads.]
"The Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice."
This is important because the Catholic church in Britain has never been as divided, as it is now. Not only is it shrinking in numbers, with an ageing priesthood, but there is now a vociferous right-wing party
[For just one second, I thought you were going to get it. But alas. The "right-wing party" in the Catholic Church in England huh? I wonder who he means. Of course, as a secular liberal, I guess you couldn't understand the incongruity of talking about "right-wing parties" in the context of religion. You would be unlikely to be corrected by any of the bishops in attendance at the pope's talk.]
which blames all its troubles on liberalism, wet bishops, and the lack of Latin masses.
[...lack of Catholicism, in short. Once again, the Catholic religion is not a political party, not an ethnicity, not a country club and one does not acquire it by being born into an ancient recusant family. One is Catholic by believing what the Catholic Church teaches,
and nothing else.]
The division lies roughly between the Catholic Herald, on the right, and the Tablet on the left.
[As Damian Thompson said, "No, the division lies "not between the Pope and the Catholic bishops on one side and (Harriet) Harman on the other. It lies between between the Pope, some bishops and orthodox lay Catholics on one side and, opposing them, Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman and countless other Government ministers, MPs and quangocrats – plus Labour’s apologists in the Left-leaning Catholic bureaucracy."]
When Pope Benedict announced earlier this year that there would be special arrangements made to welcome disaffected Anglican priests as a body, this looked like a triumph for the right in the internal Catholic struggle. But the Anglicans at whom it was aimed are now dithering at the prospect of actually leaping where they have so long looked longingly. The pope says "I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire church" but I don't know many other Catholics very convinced.
His vision is clearly of the Catholic church leading Europe away from both secularism and Islam, and restoring the whole continent – not just this country – to its Catholic roots.
That is why he has fought so hard against equality legislation. It is difficult to imagine anything that could make this cause less popular than his own speeches.
[Oh, I don't know. Less popular with whom? With people who already hate him and everything he wants to do? Small loss, I'd say.]