Thursday 23 September 2010

Archbishop Nichols undermines Pope Benedict on gay unions the day after his return to Rome

Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, was interviewed on BBC Two on Monday evening for a programme reflecting on Pope Benedict's visit to Britain. The archbishop was interviewed by Huw Edwards, along with Diarmaid MacCulloch, a homosexual Anglican and Oxford professor of church history, Tina Beattie, a Catholic academic and notorious dissenter from Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching, and Lord (Chris) Patten, a Catholic diplomat who helped organise the papal visit.

At 21 minutes 30 seconds into the programme, Huw Edwards to put it to Professor MacCulloch that Pope Benedict:
“clearly sees a country where there is a lot of growing hostility to faith communities. Is that the right reading?"
Professor MacCulloch replied:
“That is a code, and it’s a code for something quite specific. The code is: now Britain treats gay people as equal with heterosexual people, and gay partnerships are on the statute book, and the Catholic hierarchy hates that fact. You seem them across the world as gay marriages are introduced in country after country...”
Archbishop Nichols intervened in a firm manner to tell Professor MacCulloch:
“That’s not true, in this country. In this country, we [JS: the Catholic hierarchy, i.e. the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales] were very nuanced. We did NOT oppose gay civil partnerships, we recognised that in English law there might be a case for those. We persistently said that these are not the same as marriage.”
Later (at 24mins50secs into the programme) Archbishop Nichols said:
“The times we [the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales] interfere most in British politics is on poverty and education. Of course the media are obsessed with certain issues [JS: referring to a previous reference by Dr Beattie to homosexuality] but if you want to know what it is we’re really passionate about, it’s about the fight against poverty and [about] the education of young people.”
Later (at 27mins30secs into the programme), Professor MacCulloch said:
“I’m pleased to hear what the archbishop has to say about sexual questions, and it has to be said that the English Catholic Church has rather taken its own line on this, not the Vatican’s line, there is always a certain independence in the English Catholic Church. It’s is good that that should be so.”
No response to Dr MacCulloch’s claim appeared from Archbishop Nichols (though I cannot say whether the filming was edited prior to broadcast and Archbishop Nichols’ response was edited out).

Archbishop Nichols' comments constitute the third set of comments he has made undermining Pope Benedict's teaching on the issue of gay* unions (see my blog-posts of 4 July and  11 September for the first two sets. His comments on the Soho Masses for dissenting homosexuals complement these other comments). Here is what Pope Benedict taught on 13 September:
"The Church looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life ... the success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this sense, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativisation of all legislation and confusion about values in society". [my emphasis]
Archbishop Nichols has clearly failed, not only to listen to Pope Benedict, but also to listen to some of his own brother-bishops in Britain. In July Philip Tartaglia, bishop of Paisley, said that the Catholic Church will never celebrate same-sex unions:
"not now, not in the future, not ever".
And even Archbishop Peter Smith said at the time of the Civil Partnerships Bill:
"The government has effectively established same-sex marriage in all but name."
In his regular Wednesday address yesterday, Pope Benedict said:
"Dear brothers and sisters, in this visit of mine to the United Kingdom, as always I wanted in the first place to support the Catholic community, encouraging it to work tirelessly to defend the immutable moral truths that, taken up again, illumined and confirmed by the Gospel, are at the base of a truly human, just and free society." [my emphasis]
Yet within 24 hours of the Holy Father's return to Rome Vincent Nichols, as the head of the Catholic community in England and Wales, was publicly undermining that work.

As I blogged on Monday, faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics must not get carried away by the papal visit and close their eyes to the tragic fact that their official leader is, to say the least, not on their side.

* The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

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