Monday, 30 November 2009

Christian Skylines

No - not a new air travel company.
Today's news reports the Swiss referendum to prohibit (they say 'ban') the building of minarets in Switzerland. Predictably we hear the chorus of outrage. It's Islamophobic! It's a breach of people's human rights! etc. etc. etc. Amnesty International laments the infringements of the human rights of Muslims to practicetheir religion. Of course the prohibition of the building of minarets in no way restricts their right to practice their religion, but matters of fact are of little interest to organisations with an axe to grind. Interestingly enough, when you go to Amnesty's website and look for the search by topic, there is no category of religion listed at all, so perhaps they can't think it that important.

No doubt some of those who voted in favour of the prohibition are racist. No doubt some of them simply do not like Muslims. But had I been Swiss, I would have voted for the prohibition. There is no human right that lets us build whatever we want wherever we want it. The skylines of the cities of Europe have traditionally been dominated by our churches. Surely we have the right to ask ourselves, do we want this to change? Openness to other cultures and other faiths, and a welcoming attitude towards them, does not mean that we have to simply say yes to everything they may want to do.

And let's face it, many Muslims do not themselves believe in this kind of freedom. A while back there was a proposal for building a Mosque in Sweden, and the Swedish authorities said that it could be done provided a church could be built in Saudi-Arabia. The Mosque was not built. None of this is a denial of human rights. Nowhere in the west would deny the rights of the Muslims or anyone else to build places for worship and to practise their faith there. But like the rest of us, they must keep within local planning restrictions - and that, really, is what this storm in a teacup is all about.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

An Irish Tragedy

I read in the Irish Independent of a priest in Derry, Fr Sean McKenna, who apparently told his congregation at the end of the Sunday Mass that he would no longer be their parish priest because he was going to go off with a married woman, separated from her husband. The people variously wept and applauded and gave him a standing ovation.

Do people really think at all about what they are doing? In effect, what the priest was saying was: I'm no longer going to respond to God through my vocation because I think I will enjoy life with this woman more. So instead of looking after you, I'm off to live in sin. Is that something to applaud? Far from showing any remorse at the situation he was leaving behind him, the priest simply spoke of how he was embarking on a 'loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship.'

How can a congregation applaud their priest when he announces his intention of living in sin? Some of the parishioners are reported as saying what a good priest he has always been, and how he has helped so many people. He may well be a good man in many ways, but a good priest? The reaction of his people perhaps shows how he had failed to teach them anything about sin, about real love, about sacrifice, about repentance.
The unfortunate Fr McKenna is the latest to fall victim to the modern idea that what matters in life is 'self-fulfilment' understood in terms of 'what feels good.' Augustine and many other sinners have discovered the emptiness of that!

But even more disturbing is the reaction of other Irish priests. The Passionist priest, Fr Brian D'Arcy, is reported as saying that this is a case of the Church losing good men through an 'outdated' celibacy rule. With respect to Fr D'Arcy, this argument is garbage. Are they men who would make good priests, if they insist upon priesthood on their own terms? Is this the example Christ gave us? His example was one of sacrifice, whereas so many today seem unwilling to make the sacrifice. Fr D'Arcy - not wishing to visibly rubbish the value of celibacy - says that it 'may have been suitable for a particular time but that time has now gone.'
What utter rubbish! Cases such as this show us the need for clerical celibacy and self discipline.
In a world where sexual activity is bizarrely seen as a human right (for most people), it is a celibate clergy who can convey the love of God to those who have to remain single because their marriages have failed, to those whose sexual orientation means that they are called to a life of sexual abstinence. Clerical celibacy is a proclamation before a sex-obsessed world that it is indeed possible to live a life which is both happy and fulfilled without sexual activity.

The same article quotes a Mayo priest as saying that in 30 years there will be almost no priests in Ireland. Indeed there won't if that is how the priests themselves are talking. We need to pray urgently for the priests of Ireland, that God may affirm them in their vocation, and that their hearts may be open to his love calling them to service, not to self-indulgence. It is in this way that the Church in Ireland will know a rebirth.
It has suffered so much in recent decades from the sexual scandals of priests who do not exercise a proper discipline but seek self-fulfilment in worldly and physical terms. Let us pray that its priests may show a return to the values of the Church.

Fr D'Arcy says that St Peter was married and that therefore priests should be married. We might use his own 'logic' against him and say that while there may have been a time where it was good to have married clergy, that time has now gone. Or we might simply point out that St Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, pointed out that celibacy was a better way, and that has been the path theChurch has sought, despite the failings of so many, to follow.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Trouble with Europe

I have long been very keen on the idea of Europe - closer co-operation between our countries reducing the tensions that lead to warfare and conflict, and a modern version of the Pax Romana; the ability to travel and do business freely etc etc etc - all good things.
The trouble is, that's not the reality of Europe. In this morning's paper I read that the European Court of Human Rights has said that crucifixes should not be displayed in publicly financed schools.
No doubt Italians, being generally sensible people, will take no notice of this but more worrying is what it shows us about Europe. Because it is bureaucracy with no constituency and no power, it will allow any loony to come along with totally off the wall opinions, and will then make decisions about what the rest of us should be doing.
Particularly bearing in mind that the status quo is the situation where crucifixes have always been there in schools exactly whose rights are being infringed? The appeal was mad eto the court by a woman claiming that her two children were disturbed by the presence of the crucifix. Any sensible court would have responded by saying 'Don't be silly.' However, it seems that these days we live in an age of tyranny by minorities and the court ordered the Italian government to pay the woman £4500. Hopefully the government will ignore this outrageous command.
It is bad enough coping with our own government in its campaign against Christianity without having another, even more insane level of unaccountable bureaucracy. But this is the reality of Europe at present, and we must reject it.
And it's not only Christians who should be worried by this kind of thing. We need to defend each others freedoms. If only certain groups have freedom to make their voices heard, then there is really no freedom at all. If victory is won against the Crucifix today, who will be the target of the same insanity tomorrow?