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Pope Benedict announced yesterday that he would be traveling to the United Kingdom this September for a visit. Benedict also said a few other things as he spoke to English and Wales Catholic Bishops visiting the Vatican yesterday. The 'few other things' should make for some interesting fireworks when the Pope arrives in Britain this September.....
Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.
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.
Some context for Benedict's first paragraph.....
The pope's broadside appeared to be aimed squarely at recent (English) legislation that prevents Catholic adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples, and the proposed equality bill, which would make it harder for churches to exclude job applications from homosexuals or people who have changed their gender.
The error in papal thinking here is obvious, I think. One could very easily insert "discriminating against mixed-race married couples", "black couples", "Jewish couples", "Muslim couples", etc. where Benedict inserts "gay couples." Discrimination, no matter the flavor, is discrimination. Equality in a free society is a radical thing.
It's interesting to note here that Jesus, himself, refused to go along with establishment-religion's discrimination practices in his day. He, unlike Benedict, welcomed the outcasts, the marginalized, those being discriminated against by religious leaders. What Jesus did not do was tell those outcasts, those marginalized that their status violated "natural law." Benedict, apparently, understands the deep and mysterious ways of God better than Jesus did. Perhaps Jesus was simply immature.
Along those same lines.....why is it that the Catholic hierarchy believes that the Catholic Church is entitled to discriminate in their hiring practices? I wonder if Benedict thinks it is perfectly fine for other "faiths" to discriminate in their hiring practices, say, against Catholics?
But the Pope's second paragraph above is so full of dripping arrogance and condescension....non-self-aware triumphalism, really.....that it made me nauseous when I first read it.
"....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."
Re-read that sentence to capture the Pope's mindset.
During the time that the Christian, you know, Christ, was alleged to have lived as a man on earth.....where did the most threatening "dissent" come from? Wasn't it Jesus, himself? Didn't the Jewish "high-priests" turn Jesus over to Roman authorities because he was causing too much trouble with his rabble-rousing "dissent" of the majority-religious authorities?
Was Jesus not acting maturely when he often spoke his "dissent?" Would the Pope argue that Jewish leaders didn't make a "mistake" in not "recognizing" the "dissent" coming from Jesus as a "mature contribution" to the religious debate of his time? Would Benedict agree with the "mature" rejection of Jesus' "dissent?"
What did the Pope mean when he said that Catholics must "recognize dissent for what it is?" What is "dissent?" Is "dissent" evil? Can it be that simple for Benedict and his worldwide flock?
Did the religious establishment of Jesus' day "recognize" the "dissent" of Jesus for what it was? And what did the Jewish establishment leaders do when they "recognized" the "dissent" from Jesus was not, in their opinion, a "mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate?"
Correct me if I'm mistaken.....but didn't those "dissent" rejecting Jewish leaders, didn't those in the 1st century Jewish Sanhedrin do exactly what Benedict encourages today? Did Jewish authorities, then, really make a "mistake" after all, when they rejected Jesus and his message of "dissent?"
Is Benedict saying that 1st century Jewish leaders did the right thing when they recognized dissent from Jesus for what it was.....not a "mature contribution" to 1st century Jewish debate?
If Jesus were here today, wouldn't he be recognized by this Pope as simply a dissenter from Church authority? Wouldn't this Pope tell his modern-day disciples that it would be a "mistake" to consider Jesus' dissent as a "mature contribution?"
Or am I misunderstanding the Vicar of the Son of God on Earth?