3 Feb 2010

The Pope, the Equality Bill and unholy laws

Today it’s the turn of the Catholic church – don’t worry, Snowblog has not gone religious. Actually today’s is a more political than religious issue.

But as my Snowblog of two days ago triggered a reference to the Pope’s reported intervention into British politics, I feel bound to return to the matter.

I’m discussing the supposed spat involving the Pope and the Equality Bill being pushed through parliament by Harriet Harman.

The Pope is reportedly angered that the bill threatens the human rights of the Catholic church.

He is also said to be angered by the Adoption Act, which it is claimed has led to the closure of Catholic adoption agencies which refuse to accept the requirement to consider gay people as potential adoptive parents.

But there is some confusion as to whether the Equality Bill does exclude the church or not. Some clauses may still affect church staffing. But should any religious institution be excluded?

Has there not been enough evidence of singularly unequal activity in the Catholic church to require legislation by the civil power?

Consider the activities of the Catholic church as exemplified from Boston to Dublin. In short, it displayed the practice and cover-up of activities that were both exploitative and abusive. Paedophilia has long-stalked the celibate end of the Catholic church with disastrous consequences.

Many have argued that celibacy in the human male is a rare and often unachievable condition. The current president of Paraguay, a former Catholic bishop, became a father while still a bishop.

Catholicism is not alone in refusing “holy orders” to women. Why are women unequal when it comes to entry into the priesthood?

Worshippers at mosques, temples and churches argue that their own human rights are being violated if they are not allowed to pursue the ancient beliefs upon which their institutions are founded.

In decrying the record on human rights to which some churches, and some other religious foundations have demonstrated, it would be very wrong to tar every practising priest with such criticism.

Anyone who has worked in Latin America, and Africa is strongly aware of the incredible work done by Liberation Theologians and the priests who followed them in defending the poor from brutal regimes.

But in my experience, these people did not prioritise church teachings on celibacy. In my youth, I worked for a year in a Catholic mission school and developed real admiration for the work the two priests achieved there.

As Irish and American victims testify, it is the priestly bad apples who reap the harvest of pain, suffering and lifelong mental damage in their victims.

Isn’t it they in the end whom the temporal law must protect? If in the future this takes the form of according equal rights to those who work for the Catholic church, in a mosque, a Hindu temple, or the Anglican cathedral, why not?

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