Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

FAITH MAGAZINE March-April 2013

The Editor, St Mary's and St David's, 15 Buccleuch Street, Hawick TD9 OHH, editor@faith.org.uk

WILLIAM ODDIE AND 'GAY RIGHTS'

Dear Father Editor, From time to time William Oddie has asked if "gay rights" are now the most prominent defining issue delineating the gulf between the Catholic Church and the modern world {Faith magazine January-February and November-December 2012). I am not certain. While few reasonable people across the divide dissent from the Catechism of the Catholic Church's teaching that homosexual people "must be accepted with respect compassion and sensitivity", few too, in my experience, support a notion of "gay rights" which involves intolerance and oppression of those whose views differ from "gay opinion".

Writing in The Times, Henrietta Royle, chief executive of the coaching and strategy consultancy firm Fanshaw Haldin, made the point that while most Conservatives have no difficulty with equality for gay people, "a significant chunk of the party's core supporters clearly doesn't think that has to include redefining the traditional concepts of marriage to suit a small portion of the population without so much as a by your leave". She continued: "There are plenty of Labour supporters who feel the same, as that party well knows."

Tim Montgomerie, founder of the Conservative Home website, also writing in The Times, seemed to question the wisdom of "a plan to introduce gay marriage which will so enrage some Christian voters that they'll form a campaign that endangers [Tory] MPs in marginal seats."

And Paul Simons, writing in the Times correspondence columns, described as "dysfunctional" a society which is willing to "enshrine gay marriage in law on the grounds of equality of right for all, while in the name of the same principle of equality forcing Catholic adoption agencies with long and successful records of placing children in loving homes to close down because those agencies will not place children with homosexual couples".

The above were writing in a national newspaper of liberal inclination within a few days of each other, so I do not think Catholics or Christians in general can claim a monopoly of concern over aspects of "gay rights" campaigning.

Furthermore, the judge who ruled against the Leeds Adoption Agency said very firmly: "Those who follow religious beliefs long established across Europe cannot be equated with racist bigots. Christian views have a legitimate place in a pluralist, tolerant and broad-minded society." The era when gay presumptions cannot be questioned and challengers are silenced by police intervention or smeared as phobic has passed.

Susie Leafe, a member of the General Synod from the Truro Diocese, and a feminist, provided us with a wider and useful analysis. She pointed out that we have become used to thinking that equality has been achieved when the state ensures that everyone is treated in the same way. She went on to say that George Orwell recognised that "when the authorities claim they are acting in the interests of 'equality' it is usually little more than a thinly veiled attempt to establish the supremacy of one factional interest over all others". She believes that in any organisation which tries to legislate its way to equality some will end up being more equal than others.

Homosexual people do not form a homogeneous group; they hold a range of opinions on gay rights, equality and tactics. The fanatical impetus for change is coming not from gay people as such but from a small caucus surrounding David Cameron, whose interests and affiliations make interesting reading, and from Nick Clegg. With the emergence of the black churches, which are engaged in electoral registration drives and are seeking to become a political force as in America, the Coalition parties risk punishment in the marginal seats.

It could be argued that "gay rights" are but a side show and that the defining issue delineating the gulf between the Catholic Church and the modern world, or the "wider world" as Dr Rowan Williams calls it, is the acceptance or rejection of the Jesus of history, his Revelation and the structures he left for the transmission of that Revelation.

Yours faithfully,
Kenneth Kavanagh
Byron Crescent Bedford



RICHARD DAWKINS AND CARDINAL PELL

Dear Fr Editor,

I welcomed the commentary in Faith magazine (July-August 2012) regarding the "debate" between Cardinal Pell and Richard Dawkins.

It appears to me that Professor Dawkins is presented as some kind of "bogeyman" to frighten those with faith.
Yet having travelled through his book The God Delusion it is clear that Dawkins has a very childlike image of God. He seems incapable of understanding that a mature faith, like a mature relationship, knows and accepts that life between the lover and the loved is not always easy.

Dawkins presents his ridicule of faith as a positive proposition: there is probably no God so we should just get on with life. If he is going to adopt this stance he must be prepared to accept the philosophical burden of proving the non-existence of God.

Dawkins has failed to debate with that excellent American Protestant apologist William Lane Craig - why? Because in Dawkins' view Lane Craig is an apologist for a genocidal deity with an inferiority complex who delights in dashing children's heads against walls. If this were true we could equally argue that Mr Dawkins is an apologist for the men who brought us the Nazi death camps, Cambodia's Year Zero and the Soviet gulags.

Interestingly, a fellow Oxford professor and atheist, Dr Daniel Came, said: "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part." If you want to see Lane Craig in action there's a YouTube video of him beating Christopher Hitchens in a debate.

I have no problem with reconciling a form of evolution with scriptural accounts of creation: does not Genesis tell us that God formed Adam from the (pre-existing) dust and breathed life into Adam? Faith and science are complementary.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Keeffe 155 Butler Road
West Harrow Middlesex



EVOLUTION AND THE ORIGIN OF THE HUMAN BODY

Dear Fr Editor,

In your comment on Fr Kevin O'Donnell's letter, in your November-December issue, you use the words "emergence", "progress" and "evolution" in connection with the origins of the human body.
What strikes one about these words - all of which denote a process - is that they owe everything to Charles Darwin and nothing to Holy Scripture. The Bible is eloquent that God created by His Word - by fiat. One has only to read Genesis and the Psalms to see this. There is also an ineluctable chemical obstacle to Creation as process. There isn't a shred of evidence of any living thing ever evolving into some different kind of living thing capable of breeding but infertile with its parent stock. All living things go on producing young after their own kind and no other kind.

The Church's teaching is incompatible with an evolutionary origin for Eve's body. LeoXIII's encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae speaks in a way that would rule out such an origin. He also uses the word "mirabiliter" to describe the formation of Eve's body from the side of the sleeping Adam - indicating an event which transcended the laws of nature.

The doctrines concerning the formation of Adam and Eve were proposed by the Catholic bishops and popes for more than 1,800 years before Leo XIII wrote that encyclical. They did this in their role as authentic teachers in the Church. Why does the Faith movement seek to overturn this teaching?

Yours faithfully,
Tim Williams
Madison Terrace,
Hayle, Cornwall


EDITORIAL COMMENT

We are extremely grateful to Mr Williams for his letter. We would wholeheartedly agree with him that God created "by his Word" but would argue that to understand properly what is meant by God's "Word" one must read the Prologue to St John's Gospel.

The Word was with God in the beginning and was God but that Word became flesh. In Faith magazine we propose a vision in which God's creation is ordered unto the Word becoming flesh.

We would note, too, that the Church has never interpreted the book of Genesis in a simplistically literal way. Long before Darwin published his Origin of Species St Augustine was interpreting the book of Genesis in a highly sophisticated way. We would refer Mr Williams to the great bishop of Hippo's De Genesi ad litteram.

Further we would draw Mr Williams' attention to the words of Pius XII in his encyclical letter Human! Generis: "For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" [italics added].

The teaching authority of the Church does not define on this issue but does grant that it is quite legitimate to enquire into the origins of the material body. Mr Williams may disagree with us on this matter, and he is free to do so, but we take issue with the implication that we are trying to overturn a settled teaching of the Church.


PRAISE FROM ACROSS THE POND

Dear Fr Editor,

Sorry to bug you, but I just wanted to say thanks for making your religion page - http://www.faith.org.uk/Links/ EducationLinks.htm

My name is Sarah Taylor and I'm a Sunday School assistant in Oklahoma. While I usually work on the music coordination, I've recently been helping out with a world religion seminar. Your site has been very helpful! Thank you!

Yours faithfully,

Sarah Taylor Oklahoma


Faith Magazine

March - April 2013