The Guardian’s not quite got this religion thing

A quite extraordinary piece. About the usual contraception, remarriage of divorcees and so on:

Sooner or later, the Catholic church must recognise the reality of remarriage. But it must do so in a way that weakens patriarchy

Absolutely no conception even (sorry) of the idea that what the Church says is what God wants it to say.

No, agreed, I don’t believe that, many here won’t believe that, the Guardian doesn’t believe that.

It has been difficult for such a profoundly patriarchal organisation as the Catholic church – whose boss is known as the Holy Father – to come to terms with feminism. Just as the 19th and much of the 20th centuries were marked by the church’s struggles with (and against) democracy, it is plausible that much of the coming century will be marked by its struggles with feminism.

But if you are going to discuss a religion you’ve got to get to grips with the central point of it all. Which is that the people who make it up really do believe that they’re doing what Go tells them to do. And maybe, you know, God doesn’t like feminism?

65 thoughts on “The Guardian’s not quite got this religion thing”

  1. Yes, yes.

    But why should Catholics listen to their God or their bishops or their time-tested traditions, when they can listen to a newspaper that absofuckinglutely despises them?

  2. “the people who make it up really do believe that they’re doing what Go tells them to do”

    No offense, but this is nonsense. The proportion of believers amongst the decision makers is unknown.

    But this is to miss the most important point. The RCC can indeed change its teaching, as it has before. This doesn’t mean doing what the Guardian tells it to do, however God’s Word is not immutable.

  3. “But the point is that religions, especially hierarchal ones, change their doctrine all the time.”

    For their own reasons –not because the fucking Guardian tells them to.

    If I was Pope I’d lose the bit about turning the other cheek and use some of the gold to send an large team to smash up the Guardian and beat the shit out of everybody in the building.

  4. If I was Pope I’d lose the bit about turning the other cheek and use some of the gold to send an large team to smash up the Guardian and beat the shit out of everybody in the building.

    Mr. Ecks for Pope.

  5. Steve,
    Forget the Guardian.

    Bluntly, Catholicism is on its arse in Europe and North America. One of those time-tested traditions is to amend or junk time-tested traditions that have gone off. It may well be the Bishops that are asking for new ones.

  6. “it is plausible that much of the coming century will be marked by its struggles with feminism.”

    Lol. Given the demographic trends in Europe feminism isn’t going to be around by 2030. I think the Church will have bigger enemies, less screechy and far more violent.

  7. Jack C – Catholicism is on its arse in Europe and North America.

    Yes.

    Because of their post-Vatican-2 hippie freakout and subsequent junking of everything that was solemn, ancient, dignified and beautiful about Catholicism.

    Turns out nobody, apart from a few comically confused cat ladies and womanish bishops, wants to sit in ugly modern churches and listen to godawful happy clappy Jesus folk music accompanied by gurning mongs with tambourines while a wet dishrag of a priest in cheap polyester vestments drones on about climate change and the blessings of civilisational self-enucleation via immivasion.

  8. But the point is that religions, especially hierarchal ones, change their doctrine all the time.

    Catholics ( of all kinds ) will say that doctrine changes as a result of theological reflection within the traditions of the church, tradition here meaning something different from its normal usage. As Tim says it’s a matter of opinion ( or faith ) whether one believes that but catholics do and most non catholics don’t even understand the concept,* hence the incomprehension when catholicism fails to respond to whatever is agitating progressives at any particular moment. The arguments over female ordination in the CoE were a good example of that, expressed largely in terms of feminist orthodoxy on the one hand and in theology on the other, with the inevitable generation of heat rather than light in the media.

    * Another good example is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

  9. I wonder when the grauniad is going to get around to demanding the end of patriarchy in the more vibrant areas of the country?

  10. Steve,
    You think that made any meaningful difference?

    Besides, Catholicism is still very much in the Gloom business; it’s the Good News with Tambourines crowd who are staying afloat.

    Besides, would you really condemn yourself and your loved ones to an eternity in Hell just because Vatican 2 wasn’t to your own personal taste? Wouldn’t you put up with some cheap polyester for an eternity in Paradise instead?

    What if there’s polyester in Hell? Then you’ll look silly.

  11. Besides, Catholicism is still very much in the Gloom business; it’s the Good News with Tambourines crowd who are staying afloat.

    If you take Christianity seriously being in the gloom business as you put it is in fact a matter of facing reality, something that the modern world isn’t too good at. Perhaps John Donne should have junked all those metaphysical poems and serious reflections on mortality in favour of some comic rhyming couplets set to a hey nonny no beat.

    The happy clappies are popular precisely because they reflect a modern preference for comfort rather than stoicism. They also, to be fair, have stepped in to answer the sort of social need in a religious context that the CoE seems to have lost the knack for.

  12. ““And maybe, you know, God doesn’t like feminism?”

    Slipping down to earth for a night out & getting a Jewish virgin knocked up? Never wrote. Never phoned. Doesn’t look like it, does it?

  13. Jack C – You think that made any meaningful difference?

    Yarp. Can you imagine the modern Catholic Church inspiring converts like John Henry Newman?

    Catholicism is still very much in the Gloom business

    There’s nothing gloomy about Latin, incense, scary penguin nuns and graphically violent Stations of the Cross. It’s metal.

    it’s the Good News with Tambourines crowd who are staying afloat

    Hellfire and damnation with tambourines. Evangelicals may have naff taste, but they aren’t wishy-washy. Today’s left-footers are both.

    Wouldn’t you put up with some cheap polyester for an eternity in Paradise instead?

    False premise. Ball-sweatingly polyester garments are the work of El Diablo. A hairshirt and cilice would look better.

  14. On the subject of the Catholic church changing it’s dogma, you will probably know that the reason the Catholics oppose abortion and contraception is that God wants souls and killing or not making new souls deprives Him of these.*

    Which is why eyebrows were raised when Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. was appointed to help the Pope make up his mind about climate change.

    The good Professor is a fully paid up member of the club of Rome and views abortion and contraception as neccessary tools for the global state to reduce the population to his preferred 1bn from it’s present 7bn. **

    So it seems that Franny feels that dogma can be at least compromised.

    * A bit of a simplified explanation but you know what I mean.

    ** No one ever asks these Optimum Population johnnies whether mass genocide plays a part in their plans for population control. It would be interesting to see, say, Jon Snow badgering dear Hansie, (or even our own sainted Sir David Attenborough), about how they plan to get rid of six out of seven people.

  15. Thornavis,
    The promise of Eternal Life in Paradise is not inherently gloomy. It’s rather a selling point I would have thought.

    God might have thought Donne self-indulgent and wet.

  16. Steve,
    False premise? Hardly.

    Choosing a polyester-free life on Earth at the cost of an eternity in Polyester Hell just so you can say the choice was yours?

    The Fashionistas may make a Saint and Martyr of you, however you risk an eternity of regret. And nylon.

  17. “The arguments about divorce and remarriage which have led to the most extraordinary public bitterness among cardinals are not, in the pejorative sense, theological.”

    Maybe it’s because I ‘m a believer, but I’m racking my brain and really struggling to remember any time anyone has ever used ‘theological’ in “the pejorative sense”.

  18. Steve,

    “Turns out nobody, apart from a few comically confused cat ladies and womanish bishops, wants to sit in ugly modern churches and listen to godawful happy clappy Jesus folk music accompanied by gurning mongs with tambourines while a wet dishrag of a priest in cheap polyester vestments drones on about climate change and the blessings of civilisational self-enucleation via immivasion.”

    Dear god that’s beautiful.

    But yes. If you want to find a modern church that works, find the evangelicals, who stuck to the knitting of saving souls and making it entertaining and uplifting. I can’t think of many organisations where the leadership is so out of touch with their customers as the Church of England, who are much more likely to be Conservative voters than the average person.

  19. Steve/Ecks

    Come to Liverpool for a Saturday evening/Sunday morning (not a tourist invitation).
    The full – on lefties are Catholic by birth a tribe. The two world views aren’t compatible but they only get the Church on Sunday; the Guardian gets the rest of the week. So we get a corrupted teaching from pulpit and pew, twisting it to fit with Socialism in a way that would make Murphy blush.
    The Liverpool Archdiocese has a ‘Justin and Peace Fieldworker’ on the payroll (I asked him where the field was). He puvlically preaches that “shopping at supermarkets kills”, “the Earth does not have the resources for everyone to join the 1st World”, ( how Malthusian) that Chima has created poverty by embracing the market and he refuses to recognise any famine during Chairman Mao’s time.

  20. The promise of Eternal Life in Paradise is not inherently gloomy. It’s rather a selling point I would have thought.

    Again if you are a believer the promise of eternal life is conditional upon certain requirements it’s not a benefit entitlement, so it’s right that a certain amount of trepidation is involved in the contemplation of eternity.

    God might have thought Donne self-indulgent and wet.

    I have no insight into the mind of God ( if he exists ) so can’t comment on that, except to say that wet isn’t a word I would have ever have thought to apply to Donne.

  21. Ironman

    I seem to recall we had a discussion once before about the nature of RC social doctrine, to me that leftist boiler plate fits in quite well with the record of countries and movements where Roman Catholicism had a strong impact on political policy. There is for example the Distributionist movement beloved of DBC Reed with otherwise sensible people like Chesterton advocating national socialist solutions to the world’s problems. The present Pope’s liking for a deep green tinge to his vestments is just another expression of this.

  22. Thornavis,
    But not conditional on many requirements. Just knowing and loving Jesus, correct? Or pretty much.

    Living by His Laws is of course required, but transgression is covered by repentance (which will come naturally with the knowing and loving).

    Two choices:

    1) The unbeliever knows that he will live, die not long afterwards, and then become worm food.

    2) The believer knows that eternal paradise awaits.

    Of course there will be some trepidation for the believer; not making the grade is a big cut to miss.

    However, self-indulgent maundering won’t win you any points. A touch ungrateful, wouldn’t you say?

  23. Remarriage and heaven are antithical. It stuffs up the accommodation allocation.

    Although, channeling NickM, if eternity plus eternity equals eternity, then I suppose you could spend eternity with both of them?

  24. “junking of everything that was solemn, ancient, dignified and beautiful about Catholicism.” Wot, burning heretics and stuff?

  25. “The role of religion is to console the unfortunate people of the world.” – Napolean Bonaparte

    The West has become so prosperous that there just aren’t that many unfortunate people left.

  26. Jack C

    But not conditional on many requirements. Just knowing and loving Jesus, correct? Or pretty much.

    A protestant evangelical view rather than catholic.

    You mean English RC social doctrine I think (at most).

    No not in the context of that original discussion.

    However, self-indulgent maundering won’t win you any points. A touch ungrateful, wouldn’t you say?

    Poetry follows different rules to theology and it was in the context of Steve’s comment on the aesthetic shortcomings of modern religion and your response that I drew attention to Donne. There are plenty of others of course, much less doleful, with similar reflective and serious theological views expressed beautifully to draw on. George Herbert as a near contemporary of Donne’s for example, a wonderful poet. Not in the least self indulgent either.

  27. I agree with Thornavis.

    Christian doctrine tells us that humans are capable of eternal life. Most accept without thinking that that would be a good thing.

    People tell us (threaten us?) we will lose that capacity unless we behave as they tell us to. That’s people telling us, not God telling us. (Anyone notice a little problem there?)

    Christianity is a threat. Trepidation is in order.

  28. That’s the problem with all hierarchies, they get between the client and the service provider, and tend to evolve into a system that preserves the hierarchy instead of serving the client.
    With a true free market solution, the supplicant would have direct access to the diety without all the interveening layers of gatekeepers telling you that they know how better to organise your life and your access to the diety.

  29. Gamecock,
    I agreed that trepidation is in order. The question is whether trepidation is an excuse for gloomy, self-indulgent introspection.

    Thornavis,
    So what are those additional Catholic requirements?

  30. Thornavis,
    You missed what I said:

    “Living by His Laws is of course required, but transgression is covered by repentance (which will come naturally with the knowing and loving).”

    That’s the Works.

  31. I agreed that trepidation is in order. The question is whether trepidation is an excuse for gloomy, self-indulgent introspection.

    If you are still referring to Donne that seems rather a reductionist summing up of his poetry. If it’s a wider point about the nature of Hope as a theological concept and the avoidance of despair, all that has been well covered by a wide selection of theologians and philosophers. There seems to be a common view now that anyone who prefers a contemplative form of religious worship and who thinks that being upbeat all the time is facile is some kind of doom laden miserabilist. It has panicked large parts of the church into abandoning much of it’s artistic and liturgical traditions.

  32. Jack C

    No, works covers more than that, which is why catholicism requires the taking of sacraments and attendance at Mass, amongst other things.

  33. “Living by His Laws is of course required, but transgression is covered by repentance (which will come naturally with the knowing and loving).”

    In my days of attendance at an Anglo-Catholic church it was often stressed that the ‘knowing and loving’ of Christ did not come at all easily to most people. The receipt of the sacraments, particularly at the eucharist, was therefore an essential as it led to knowledge of Christ directly. We may choose to disbelieve such things but not I suggest if you are taking catholicism seriously.

    This is something that I have always found problematic in evangelical Christianity, it all seems just a bit too easy. There is also the temptation of thinking that the mere profession of faith ensures salvation and we all know where that can lead. If you want to find self indulgence that’s where to look, rather than in metaphysical poetry

  34. Bloody Hell, the sacraments and Mass are part of the Law for crying out loud. I don’t know how I can make it clearer.

    Like it or not, the RCC is rather “miserabilist”. I don’t think this is in tune with the Gospels, and the promises made therein, and this attitude is finding few if any takers in Europe.

    Meanwhile in the US, South American immigrants are delaying the end (and providing new Priests … they can’t find any amongst the locals).

    The RCC did not get where it is today, or was yesterday, by standing still, however much it claimed to be doing exactly that.

  35. “The receipt of the sacraments, particularly at the eucharist, was therefore an essential as it led to knowledge of Christ directly.”

    Yes. This is known as the Doctrine of Producer Capture.

  36. Bloody Hell, the sacraments and Mass are part of the Law for crying out loud. I don’t know how I can make it clearer.

    Well I don’t think you made it clear to start with and I’m still not entirely clear what your point is in relation to the alleged miserabilism. It seems to be based on a personal dislike for particular kinds of liturgy and devotional writing.

    As for the RC church being in crisis, has there ever been a time when it wasn’t ? It’s still here though, my guess is it will be for a long time yet. Btw what does it matter if the priests are immigrants, Is Roman Catholicism somehow in terminal trouble because it is losing ground in one of its more traditional strongholds ? It survived the loss of large swathes of Europe when there weren’t many other places it had a presence.

  37. The Guardian doesn’t get this religion thing because it does no research. Visit any church or (heavens! Pass the smelling slats, Mary!) attend a service and you’ll see that women outnumber men by at least 3:1.
    So it’s a female organisation, even feminist, as you’ll find out if you cross those fearsome flower arrangers.

  38. Yes. This is known as the Doctrine of Producer Capture.

    That comment is guilty of the fallacy of importation of irrelevant economic concepts.

    If you wants to put the worst interpretation on the actions of those you disagree with it it’s useful as a rhetorical device I suppose.

  39. “As for the RC church being in crisis, has there ever been a time when it wasn’t ?”

    Is that a serious question? The Church had fairly humble beginnings you know.

    And you’d have to have a Ph.D in Gloom from the University of Oxford to regard adoption by Constantine as a “crisis”.

  40. As for importing priests …..

    You may not be concerned, but the RCC very much is.

    Inspiring new recruits was part of the motivation for the Pope’s recent visit.

  41. Philip Scott Thomas

    Steve –

    Turns out nobody, apart from a few comically confused cat ladies and womanish bishops, wants to sit in ugly modern churches and listen to godawful happy clappy Jesus folk music accompanied by gurning mongs with tambourines while a wet dishrag of a priest in cheap polyester vestments drones on about climate change and the blessings of civilisational self-enucleation via immivasion.

    Quite possibly your best work yet. Well done.

  42. Steve

    You wom’t like this, but my wife has just had a read of that wonderful post of yours and wonders if I write as Steve. Everything I’ve been saying that upsets the local priests so much was summed up by you.

  43. Another little gem from the Graun:

    “Just as the 19th and much of the 20th centuries were marked by the church’s struggles with (and against) democracy”

    Oh right. So that KGB bullet the Polish Pope took, that was all a part of the Church’s struggle against democracy was it? Well, you are the paper that keeps Seamus Milne on the books.

  44. @ Thornavis
    I offer my support (if you can find that tolerable – give you some good practice in forgiveness).
    Jack C seems to think he knows some theology but exhibits a degree of ignorance. The mainstream CoE follows James who tells us that good works are a consequence, not a cause, of salvation. Some of the happy-clappy subset of evangelicals think they are unnecessary.
    Importing priests from Ireland to the UK is not likely to be affected by the Pope’s visit to the USA. The USA is still providing hundreds of missionary priests to South America and the “Third World” so I do not understand why he mentions the topic in that context.

  45. @ bif
    That may be true in France but there isn’t that disparity in my current parish church and there wasn’t in any of my previous four: the latest one actually had a male majority.

  46. It was called the Distributist movement and was the most completely anti-statist philosophy devised ( by Chesterton, Belloc and ,in the US, Dorothy Day).To associate Chesterton with National Socialism is wonderfully wide of the mark: he was the only leading figure in the UK to denounce Eugenics, unlike Keynes, Wells, Shaw ….and didn’t really believe in the State at all, let alone the strong State beloved of the extreme left and right.
    You could try reading Belloc’s “Servile State” or Chesterton’s “What’s wrong with the World” but I realise being well-informed is considered rather namby pamby on here.

  47. john77

    Yes, James has been subject to another revision by the Merseyside Marxist – so called Catholics. The salvation part is just plain embarrassing, all that eternal salvation hocus pocus. Much better to invoke him to claim you’re not a true Christian if you don’t want to take in 1 million migrants from Calais.

  48. @ Ironman
    I don’t want to take in *any* migrants from Calais – if they are in France they are not threatened by ISIS etc.
    I want us to take in *genuine* refugees – wet Cameron is right for a change when he offers to take refugees from camps around Syria – it would be better to take a million from there than a thousand from Calais. Secondly, if someone is fleeing from genuine threats of murder, torture, rape etc (with a fairly narrow definition ot etc.) then we should welcome him/her and care for him/her – this does not mean we should ban you from working to earn a crust and simultaneously say “we will pay you enough to survive – oh, but since you are refugees we expect you to survive on HALF the sum that Britons need to survive”. Why do I hate Gordon Brown? The big issue is that all the other governments in my lifetime reduced the wealth gap between the rich and the poor but New Labour increased it: the crunch issue is how he treated refugees.

  49. DBCR

    I’m well aware that Chesterton wasn’t any sort of a statist, still less a National Socialist and my reference to that is in lower case, a description therefore of a way of thinking about economics rather than an adherence to Nazism.

    Distributionism is an odd fish, one of those attempts at a Third way that pop up regularly, its influence lingers on in a lot of Green thinking. Whilst you might insist on its anti-statist credentials it’s a documented fact that it had a certain appeal to those of a decidedly collectivist bent, including some proper National Socialists. Essentially though it’s just another lot of agrarian romantics who don’t like filthy lucre.

    The Roman Catholic origins of Distributionism amd the RC attempts at creating some sort of specifically Catholic economic and social doctrine naturally made it attractive to Chesterton and Belloc and catholics like them. This is an example of letting one’s heart rule one’s head when thinking about these things, it’s always disappointing to see people you otherwise admire doing that.

    Belloc in particular was all over the place at times, hence his weird devotion to both Ultramontane Catholicism and the French Revolution. Somewhere else you can see this kind of intellectual incontinence is in the support many catholics displayed for Mussolini whilst despising Hitler. The thinking seems to have been that Fascist Italy was RC whereas Nazi Germany was Prussian and therefore Protestant, saloon bar political theology.

  50. john77:

    “Importing priests from Ireland to the UK is not likely to be affected by the Pope’s visit to the USA. ”

    Who said it would be?

  51. john77 at 10.01pm

    “The big issue is that all the other governments in my lifetime reduced the wealth gap between the rich and the poor but New Labour increased it”

    ====================

    You say that as if reducing the wealth gap is a good thing. How statist of you.

  52. @Thornavis
    Why do you keep calling it Distributionism? Chesterton and Belloc ran the typically rather shambolic Distributist League which had a very boozed up meeting-place in London, some of whose habituees I met in my younger days.As far as I remember Distributism was begun by Belloc who took the famous and heavily political papal encyclical Rerum Novarum as a starting-point.
    A mate of mine wrote a very good academic paper tracing the Distributist influences in Orwell’s 1984.

  53. Why do you keep calling it Distributionism?

    Well isn’t that what it is ? Like saying communism to describe the beliefs of communists and the party, the Distributist philosophy wasn’t confined just to the Distributist league.

  54. Ironman,

    > The Liverpool Archdiocese has a ‘Justin and Peace Fieldworker’ on the payroll

    Yes, yes, I know it was a typo, but dear God that’s brilliant.

    > He puvlically preaches

    I just bet he does, the saucy minx.

  55. It’s not a matter of the Church changing doctrine; it’s a matter of how fast they do it. When I was younger, I was somewhat outraged to discover that the Vatican only officially stopped preaching the guilt of Jews in 1965. Now I’m older and almost mature, I look at the history of the Church and realise how incredibly fast that is and that that speed reflects how very seriously they took the Holocaust.

    The Church may well need to embrace some feminist concepts at some point. The trouble with the likes of The Guardian is that they just can’t get their heads round the timescales involved.

    When the Left were going on about how brilliant it would be if the next Pope were African so that the Church could send the right message by having its long overdue First Black Pope, Mark Steyn said that presumably they meant “the first black Pope since Elvis died”.

  56. @ Gamecock
    I think that making everyone richer is a good thing and lifting the bottom end out of desperate (or even moderate but real) poverty is more valuable than adding a few million to the Rothschilds and Grosvenors (or Branson and Sugar). That does not mean I support the idea of reducing the wealth gap by simply making the rich poorer.
    My vehement complaints are about making the poor poorer – under Brown, the share of disposable wealth owned by the bottom half of the British population declined to one-third of the level to which it had *risen* under Mrs Thatcher. That is bad. [National wealth did not treble in the dozen years]

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