Opinion: Pope fears Catholic change

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the holy water… along comes the Pope to remind you why it’s great to be an atheist at Christmas. Could there be a message more loaded with hypocritical intolerance and bigotry masquerading as academic speculation, than the Pontiff’s pontificating on gender theory this Yule?

This after all is a man who has spent his life in the company of other men, wears a frock, and presides over an organisation that for decades has turned a blind eye to predatory sex abuse by employees.

Ah yes the social conservatives will say… ‘he’s not anti-gay’, ‘heck some of his best friends are homosexual’… albeit non-practicing, and he’s made statements to the effect that he does not condone anti-gay acts of discrimination… but this is to give a fig leaf of respectability to words that convey an undercurrent of corrosive hate far more insidious than the more blatant ignorance of the mostly male homophobes who choose to show the worst side of their gender through mindless violence.

The notion that homosexuality, transexuality, or heterosexuals who display atypical gender characteristics are a threat to the future of humanity ‘akin to climate change’ is such palpable nonsense that it barely merits response. However, since social conservatives have lately taken to justifying their prejudices by claiming themselves victims of hatred by those who disagree with them, let us address this with reason.

First even if we were all ‘so gay’ that all procreation revolted us, we would not die out. The implication we might shows no respect to millions of gay couples who have carried, cared for and raised children as their own, even if only one partner was the genetic donor. An ‘all gay world’ might be very different to one we live in today, and no doubt every bit as odd as an all-straight one, but it would not be a morgue.

Second, we are not all gay and human homosexuality, as with other animals is a minority pursuit; one that there increasing evidence to suggest has ‘natural’ social benefits, such as reducing male competition for females, or providing recourse to sexual release that doesn’t result in children. Not all genes are selfish.

Third, unlike climate change, the idea that there are men’s men and women’s women, and that is how we should be has no basis in science. We are instead incredibly diverse in our natures, and nurturing to condition us into ‘natural’ roles can be profoundly damaging to those who do not fit so-called ‘norm’.

Catholic priests in particular should be aware of that, struggling as they do with conditions of solitary service imposed on them for reasons no more theologically profound than the early church’s concerns that married priests would divest papal wealth through inheritances.

Fourth, even supposing there were advantages to many in ‘being’ a certain way, what business is it for the Catholic Church to prescribe what that way should be. The Pope, in his speech, proclaimed that the Church needed to defend us from our own ‘self-destructive natures’, to defend ‘the created’ alongside ‘creation’, which can only be an allusion to the genetic suicide of loving your own sex. But how dare he. Where are his children?

Fifth the inherent contradictions in the Bible on matters of love, nature and sex, from the imperative to love thy neighbour, to being put to death for cursing your parents, makes it perhaps the last book one should consult if you are so lacking in self-knowledge and self-belief that you require an external authority to tell you how to live. It does though contain many messages of tolerance and love that the Pope would do well to study a little harder when minded to prescribe his doctrinal medicine to perceived social ills.

As many liberal Christian commentators have noted, people like Pope Benedict give religion a bad name. Religion aside though, it is his absolutist conservative insistence that there is a narrow field of human experience to which we should all conform that is at the heart of the harm he does. That he believes his words are justified by an unquestionable divine imperative, rather than the accumulated prejudice and self-interest of pontiffs-past, does not help; but it his conservatism that defines his bigotry more than his general belief in faith over reason.

What is worst about this though is that following this speech there may be some misguided Catholics somewhere who decide to take his message and use it to ‘help’ someone avoid their ‘self-destructive’ nature, causing more than little destruction in the process. No doubt, at that point, the ‘wise’ old men of the Vatican will weep sadly and proclaim another tragic ‘misinterpretation’ of the word of God – just as they do when their contraceptive policies kill millions through poverty, and little boys sleep fitfully in terror of their priest.

The future of the world is not threatened by gender identity politics. It is threatened by the bigotry and hypocrisy of daft old conservative men who believe their word is law. Stopping ‘catholic change’ appears to be all that Pope Benedict stands for. It is time he got in touch with his more feminine side and came out for diversity.

* ‘Colin Lloyd’ is the pseudonym of a Liberal Democrat member. For LDV policy on pseudonymous articles, pleases click here.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “early church’s concerns that married priests would divest papal wealth through inheritances.”

    Hardly an early Church issue – the enforcement of clerical celibacy in the parish (i.e. non Monastic) clergy was a product of the eleventh century Clunic reformers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Dec '08 - 9:15pm

    Colin, I am assuming you would not have made an attack like that without actually having read the speech so can you tell me where I can find it?

    It does not appear to be on the Vatican’s page of Pope Benedict’s speeches etc:


    I always feel before commenting on something like this it’s best to go to the source rather than rely on second hand reporting from those who may have a bias.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Dec '08 - 9:26pm

    I stand corrected, after a little more resaerch, I find the speech which has led to these comments is there, under the title

    “Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia and Prelature”

    but only in Italian and German.

  • All this talk by Humanists and atheists, about how they investigate and form opinion based on reason and respect is clearly nonsense. This seems to be a reaction to what the Daily Mail said the Pope said.

    Which begs the question when did LibDemvoice become atheist voice? What has this sectarian rant got to do with Liberalism?

  • To respond to some points:

    Matthew – I had the Italian original translated before writing this piece and would stand by the points made about the speech.

    Geoffrey – As I hope is clear this is primarily an anti social-conservative piece, and the Catholic church to the extent that it is a profoundly socially conservative institution apparently afraid of change.

    Simon – I apologise for my sloppy adjective, I regard the 11th century as somewhat ‘early’ even if it is over the 50% mark of the life of the historical church.

    Huw – it depresses me that you believe liberals should never express anger at bigotry when it has a religious source. If the Pope’s views had been expressed by a political opponent in a by-election the Liberal machine would have been all over it like a rash. That they come from someone rather more influential than a parliamentary candidate does not entitle that person to special consideration, quite the reverse… Religious bigotry is just bigotry… end of.

    Huw, David – re source material – read point one in my response, then analyse the quality of your own assumptions before making angry posts… and if you’re Christians and disagree with this criticism… well forgive me…

  • Hywel Morgan 24th Dec '08 - 12:45pm

    “along comes the Pope to remind you why it’s great to be an atheist at Christmas.”

    The Pope doesn’t remind me why it’s great to be an atheist at Christmas. He reminds me why I’m not a Catholic.

    There’s no reason why the comments of one person should affect religious belief any more than the actions of the Huntingdon Life Science “protestors” remind me that it’s great to be a vivisectionist.

    There is quite a nasty streak in the anti-religion sentiments among progressive liberal-ish thinking. There are views expressed which are fundamentalist in that they take the view that there is only one correct way of viewing things. Some of the attitudes taken to “religionists” are really quite fascistic – eg expressing the idea that people with religious beliefs have mentally disabilities.

    Not all religions can be lumped in as the same. The religion I was “brought up” in took the view that same-sex relationships were of equal value to mixed sex relationships in the 1960s when homosexuality was illegal stating that it was the quality of selfless love that the important characteristic. There are also numerous examples of holding celebrations of same-sex relationships within a religious context both before and after the Civil Partnerships Act.

  • Ratzinger’s speech is a two-pronged assault. Firstly, he says that gay sex is bad because God forbids it. Secondly, he says it is bad because it could lead to the extinction of the human race.

    If it is wrong to do something because God forbids it, that does not mean that the forbidden thing is necesarily bad. All it means is God tells us we mustn’t do it. If we disobey God’s instructions, the consequence is we go to hell and burn for eternity; and that is something we wish to avoid. So we don’t do things that God forbids. This is a purely utilitarian stance, and has nothing to do with morality, however much Christians would like us to believe otherwise.

    The stuff about the extinction of the human race is a casuistic add-on. It’s purpose it to make it look as though the Church’s teachings are based on reason, when in reality they are statements of what Raztinger and his cronies consider to be the word of God. They have nothing to do with reason, or with morality, they are instructions on how to avoid brning for ever in hell.

    In Europe there has indeed been a decline in the birthrate below the level that is required to replace the existing population, and this has been accompanied by a near collapse in church attendance.

    But it would be a mistake to blame this on gays. The decline in the birthrate is a product of (1) people limiting the size of their families for economic reasons, and (2) women leaving it until too late to conceive.

    Most gays are bisexual. Many, and probably a majority, have children. The leading underpopulators in the modern world are Roman Catholic priests, which category includes Ratzinger himself.

    BTW, I thought Ratzinger was delivering his speech in Latin. Now I am told that the language was Italian.

  • Bentham wrote a defense of homosexuality, but did not publish for fear or reprisal. I suspect not all 19th century liberals would be as horrified as this thread makes out.

    Having read the speech I think the criticisms are valid, and Ratzinger is an ultra-conservative. But we all know that already.

    I am sure my liberal quaker friends and the non-conformists who make up half my local parties executive committee will be thrilled to know that the statements of a religious tradition they disown should cause them shame, however.

  • Also, what is with this “christianity brought tolerance of homosexuality” nonsense? 150 years ago we were still executing people in this country for homosexuality! Stopping chopping peoples heads off and only imprisoning them is not a + mark for 1861 christian parliamentarians!

    In the mean time eastern religious traditions and a number of other tribal societies tolerated homosexuality for a very long period of time. Indeed, it was only briefly illegal in Japan when they were importing our values wholesale.

    Of course, now their form of tolerance is behind the times. This is due to a civil rights movement we have experienced in the last 40 years which has owed nothing to christianity.

    Obviously it spread faster to areas with a shared culture and similar demographics. That doesn’t mean that those who spread that culture somehow get credit.

  • The Pope’s comments are not a reflection on Christianity, but rather they reflect on a Roman Catholic Culture that has lost control of the Church. It seeks to reaffirm it’s control by dividing the church along political lines. Obviously, Liberal and Conservative. As a born again Christian I find the Pope’s comments on homosexuality abhorrent. Christmas is a Christian festival about the birth of Jesus Christ. I myself joined the Lib Dems on the strength of the confidence that my faith in Christ gave me. On that note Merry Christmas and a happy new year and yes I am an Evangelist,

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Dec '08 - 11:05am

    I still have not seen a full English translation, but I have seen enough now to get a better feel for what was said.

    Andrew Brown’s comment on it in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free”:


    seems to me to be a reasonably accurate assessment of the speech and the thinking behind it. It’s not something which most liberals would agree with. But neither is it what many seem to be assuming based just on news reports which took one small section out of context and placed their own interpretation on it.

    As I have noted elsewhere recently, the idea that it is the Roman Catholic position that everything the Pope says is “infallible” is incorrect. There is an interview with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in this week’s edition of the Catholic Herald with regard to the encyclical Humanae Vitae (the one which came out against artificial contraception) in which he says (and we suspect it’s his view) that it could be mistaken. An encyclical has hugely more official status than a personal speech.

    If liberals are angry with what the Pope says here about homosexuality (not that he used this word – it is by implication) and the motivations he ascribed to those pushing for greater acceptance of gender blurring, we should also consider how we react in return. If our own reaction is not to see the words in context, and understand the argument for them even though it’s not an argument we agree with, but instead jump to abuse and charges of motivations which just aren’t supported by those words or by other things he has said, aren’t we acting just as bad or worse than he is?

    This speech seems to have been used as an excuse for a huge amount of egregious Catholic-bashing, with ascriptions of motivations to the Catholic Church which are as bad as the worst that comes from certain right-wing figures in that Church and in others about the motivations of liberals on sexual matters.

    I suggest listening to what each other has to say, and accepting to disagree when we disagree is the best aproach. If we wish to change people’s minds, and I think we will wish to do this with regard to the Pope and other leading Catholic figures, it would be best to start by understanding where they come from rather than just abusing them.

  • simon wilson 26th Dec '08 - 11:26am

    “..along comes the Pope to remind you why it’s great to be an atheist at Christmas.”

    As others have already pointed out, the Pope’s comments (which should be considered in the wider context of his speech) reflect conservative Roman catholicism. Instead, Colin uses it to attack all people with any sense of religious faith. It is almost like blaming Liberal Democrats for something David Cameron says!

  • Simon, by ‘others’ I assume you mean the piece itself which attacks social conservatism in the catholic church, nothing more. If you yourself are so intolerent that you cannot read any affirmation of atheism, as in the quote you cite, without accusing the author of blindly hating all religion, I fear that is your problem, not mine.

    Mattthew, I have now read Andrew Brown’s piece, thank-you for that, I find it an unconvincing defence. His argument is broadly that since the Catholic church has a consistent line that the hetrosexual family unit is the only ‘natural’ unit of society, it cannot be ‘egregious bigotry’ to defend this line.

    “You may disagree with him. But given the consistent Catholic view that a stable, heterosexual family is the foundation of society and the place where all morals and virtues are best nurtured, his remarks are not egregious bigotry.”

    This is exactly like arguing that since the Klu Klux Klan has a consistent line defending the seperation of races and mastery of the white race, it cannot be egregious bigotry for them to defend that line.

    That is surely clearly unsatisfactory as a position?

    Whether or not the Pope’s remarks are bigoted depends on whether or not you regard it as intolerent for the church to interfere in individual choices over sexuality or sexual identity. It does not depend on whether the justification for that inteference is a sincere belief that many such choices are ‘against nature’ or a divine plan and thus must be corrected, anymore than slavery was ‘o.k.’ when the slavemaster concerned had a sincere belief that blacks were like naughty children who had to be ordered to be happy.

    The bigotry lies in the intolerance of individual liberty and autonomy over something that does no harm to others, not in the sophistication of the defence of that intolerance, nor its longevity.

    I then disagree with most of your other points as I believe the criticisms of the Pope by the media have been mostly entirely reasonable, and no more Catholic-bashing than your own criticisms of my commentary are atheist-bashing.

    The one comment I do agree with is that the academic subject of papal infallibility in the Catholic church is still a matter of great debate and that those statements regarded as infalliable are relatively few, rather than being every utterance. Sadly the sophistication of that academic debate is rather lost on the Catholic Communion where the existence of the dogma can be exploited by those who agree with the Pope to suppress those who do not; indeed it is rather suspected that was a prime driver behind the 1870 Vatican Council that made infalliability a matter of law rather than practice. How that decision has influenced the reaction today to what the Pope says is a rather interesting point.

  • simon wilson 27th Dec '08 - 11:20am

    No Colin. I am agreeing with Hywel, Kurt and others.
    All that I am saying is that you do not have to be an atheist to disagree with the Popes’s comments.

  • No Simon, what you actually said was “Colin uses it (the Pope’s speech) to attack all people with any sense of religious faith.”

    That is rather different sentiment to your agreement above with the third but last paragraph of the piece that liberal Christians (amongst other people of faith) also find the Pope’s comments distasteful.

    But thank-you for clarifying the intent of your words, blessed indeed is the penitent sinner…

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Dec '08 - 4:54pm


    I have now looked at English translations of the speech, and my point remains.

    Judging from media reports and comments in various blogs of a liberal orientation, one might have supposed the Pope had made a speech of the “all homosexuals will burn in hell” variety, including explicit calls for bans on homosexual practices.

    Instead I note a wide-ranging, rather rambling, speech, in which there is one paragraph which I interpret as suggesting conventional marriage is the most natural way for human beings to live. Atheists might like to substitute “evolution” for “creator spirit” to make better sense of this. I read the point as that most societies have evolved with some form of marriage as an essential part of them, and that therefore tampering with this may be dangerous, just as tampering with what has evolved elsewhere may cause unexpected problems. It should be recalled that this fits in with Catholic theology which tends to make more of the “natural law” argument rather than the “God says” argument. This was actually the point of the Pope’s Regensburg address, which was misinterpreted as an attack on Islam.

    Of course liberals are likely to disagree with the sentiment in the speech to the Curia. A good response is to note in particular that for many people homosexuality is what comes naturally. I think in time this line will come to influence the Catholic Church and cause it to change its ways. Indeed, it already vastly has from the position it would have had on this topic a few decades ago.

    However, I think the way to tackle this is to see where the Pope is coming from, and argue against him from that position, which is easy to do. Instead, most people have taken this as an opportunity to ascribe views and motivations for him which I do not believe he has, and indeed can be disproved by looking at other speeches he has made (he has been accused of saying nothing about war or economic oppression, but if one looks at other things he has said elsewhere recently, he has a lot to say on these issues) and on top of this to add some general Catholic-bashing unrelated to this particular topic.

    While it may be satisfying to let off steam in this way, I do not think it is productive. I see it as similar to a way many right-wing Catholics will let off steam by suggesting motivations for what liberals have to say which I know are not true. For example, that we support abortion because we take some sort of delight in seeing little babies get killed. This is rubbish, of course liberals support abortion because we see it as an essential freedom of women to be in control of their own bodies. The big problem with the abortion debate is that both sides come to it with assumptions that the other side holds its views through malice, and it seems impossible to shift these assumptions.

    For myself, I would like in any political debate not to start off assuming the other side holds its views only through malice and that therefore the way to tackle the other side is to abuse it. I would like instead to have a rational debate which appreciates where the other side comes from, even if it does end up with “agree to disagree”.

    I’m afraid I find the response to the Pope’s speech – which expresses his personal viewpoint and was not intended to be a formal “this is definitive Church teaching” speech – from most liberals to be crude, and I would say illiberal. It does not suggest the fair-minded open to all argument and supportive of free exchange of ideas attitude we ought to have.

  • Kurt Morgan 29th Dec '08 - 6:40pm

    Any speech the pope makes is going to be jumped on by the media. The problem with this pope seems to his lack of media sense. You’d think somebody would have told him that linking homosexuality with green issues would have caused this kind of reaction. At least when the Archbishop of Canterbury says something it creates positive debate.

  • But Kurt, he didn’t link homosexuality with green issues in his speech, the media made that up.

  • Hywel Morgan 29th Dec '08 - 11:45pm

    “I will comment on your point 5, though. Why do those arguing an atheist position always seem to quote Leviticus and Deuteronomy while ignoring the fact that these points were addressed in the Gospels? I thought it was about assessing all the evidence fairly?”

    I find it hard to accept the idea of “implied repeal” of various bits of the Old Testament given that they are still in the book used by pretty much all christian religions. In any case Jesus pretty explicitly said that he hadn’t come to abolish the law of Moses. In any case, how do you reject Leviticus without rejecting 19:18

    It’s not just those two chapters anyway but other bits in the OT – eg Psalm 109 or Ezekiel 23 (not a chapter that was ever covered in Sunday school!) for example. I find it next to impossible to reconcile the God of the OT (vengeful, murderous, cruel, vindictive) with the teachings of Jesus (love, mercy, tolerance, understanding). Getting really theological I also find it rather strange that a God could create something as magnificently logical and rule governed as the Universe, give mankind freewill and then give us a set of rather vague rules about how we should live our lives under the penalty of some pretty cruel punishments.

    I’ve heard people speak very eloquently about how they reconcile the various “difficult” passages of the Bible with a more liberal outlook. Despite respecting those who do I’ve never found the arguments particularly compelling.

  • Colin Lloyd 30th Dec '08 - 4:33pm

    Matthew, I think when an argument is reduced to ‘I don’t like your style’, there’s little more to be said. We will have to agree to differ on whether or not it is appropriate to only talk about the Pope in a deferential fashion.

    Matt, good grief… where to start… again you seem rather more interested in expressing irritation at the way I say things than what I say. Much of what follows is then rather repetitive.

    You claim the Pope has been unfairly represented by the media. As before, I disagree, and I look forward to seeing the Vatican’s clarification or complaint to the PCC and related bodies if they feel strongly on this point.

    In relation to paragraph 5 the point is that the inconsistency of Christian writing on moral and sexual matters whether within the Bible or through the ages undermines conservative claims made by some representatives of that religion to have a divinely inspired absolute understanding of what is ‘natural’ or ‘right’.

    Since such a claim formed a part of the Pope’s speech, in respect of the right of the Catholic church to preach against ‘unnatural’ gender roles, it is rather important to highlight this.

    It is also important to reference Leviticus etc. when you consider that it is those same parts of the Bible (L18:22, 20:13) that some conservative believers choose to use to justify persecution of homosexuals.

    You also suggest the Gospels explains this all this away… however within the New Testament Romans, Corinthians and Timothy also contain passages that are used by conservatives to suggest that homosexuality is ungodly/wrong; and while I’d be delighted to agree that the Bible is simply a collection of moral stories from which you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong, that is rather back to the territory of the article’s main point of the dangers of social conservatism in religion.

    I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with that, your actual opinion about this point seems to have got somewhat lost in your general rant about atheists.

  • “You have not explained why…”

    Surely obvious? For someone who lives the life of a celibate man in the company of other men, wearing efeminate vestments, to comment on the dangers of corrupting ‘natural’ gender roles and the importance of propagation is extremely hypocritical. Particulary when the basis of that self-imposed abstinance is financial not theological or related to who we love. Arguably the very definition of an ‘unnatural’ lifestyle practice, if one chooses to care about such things, as the Pope does. To argue celibacy good… homosexuality bad… then reference human survival as a justification is really quite profoundly silly.

    “In my reply to Hywel I said that I think that such “pin the tail on the donkey” proof texting indicates ignorance whoever uses it”

    Hardly when the point being made is that of inconsistency and the book in question is referenced as a divine revelation. What is surely foolish is to only select those parts of the Bible that one agrees with and use those to proclaim evidence of a benevolent supreme being whereas the rest is just cultural referencing or human interpretation. ‘The gospels sort this all out’ is really a very thin and unconvincing statement.

    I also might suggest that branding your opponent ignorant when you have spent some time pontificating heavily on the errors of style in being aggressive or abusive to opponents is a tad hyp… wouldn’t you agree?

    “New atheists?” – If you check the thread you’ll find only you and Andy Hinton have used that expression, so that is as impenetrable a mystery to me as it is to you.

    And in your own zeal to pick holes you are still evading addressing the point of the article which was a commentary on the perils of social conservative interpretations of religion. Good thing/bad thing Matt or are you too liberal to have an opinion either way?

  • simon wilson 31st Dec '08 - 3:46pm

    “For someone who lives the life of a celibate man in the company of other men, wearing efeminate vestments”

    You let yourself down Colin with this inaccurate nonsense. Vestments are many things but not “efeminate”

  • Hywel Morgan 31st Dec '08 - 4:30pm

    “For someone who lives the life of a celibate man in the company of other men, wearing efeminate vestments, to comment on the dangers of corrupting ‘natural’ gender roles and the importance of propagation is extremely hypocritical.”

    Why does what someone wears when expressing a view make them hypocritical? Most of Desmond Tutu’s pronouncements against apartheid were made whilst wearing vestments.

    Surely liberals judge people (or at least aspire to) by what they say not how they chose to dress.

  • Colin Lloyd 31st Dec '08 - 5:16pm

    On that note it seems we largely agree, so let’s stop there, Happy New Year

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Dec '08 - 9:39pm

    Regarding quoting from Leviticus, large parts of the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Paul (particularly to the Romans) are on just this issue of how far the Old Testament rules are applicable to Christians. Anyone who quotes Leviticus without knowing those various sections of Acts and Romans which state clearly that Christians are not subject to Old Testament ritual laws is completely ignorant of the basics of the Christian faith.

  • Colin Lloyd 1st Jan '09 - 3:24pm

    Matthew H., if you are as knowledgable about Christian tradition as you appear to suggest, you will be well aware that the debate about whether the New Covenant means Mosaic Law, is not applicable to Christians, and what that means in respect of the authority of scripture, divides Christian opinion. Some conservative sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, take some aspects of the Mosaic Law very seriously, as evidentially does the Pope if contrary to the advancement of tolerance and human rights in the ‘Christian’ West he still feels it fit and proper to commentate on gender roles as ‘natural’ or otherwise.

    And to labour a now very tired point, it is social conservative absolutism, dogmatism, and authoritarian traditionalism that the article attacks. It is entirely justified in that regard to highlight the inconsistency of the Bible as a source of moral authority.

    If you don’t agree I suggest we agree to differ. The idea though that atheists and liberal christians will stop using aspects of The Pentateuch to highlight the error of scriptual dogmatism to fundamentalists and conservatives because you proclaim them ‘ignorant’ for doing so, I think is a rather sad reflection on your own ‘style’.

    I’m not even sure from that that your reason for going down that path is that you yourself are a narrow-minded dogmatist, although in some of your other comments about economics on this site, one might be forgiven for reaching that conclusion, or it’s an insecure reaction to anything that potentially challenges any aspect of your faith, even you’re actually a liberal theist. Either way I refer you to Matthew 7:3 for guidance on this point.

  • simon wilson 1st Jan '09 - 4:30pm

    “Some conservative sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses”

    This is not the best example to use. There is still no censensus (amongst Christians, sociologists or JWs themselves) as to the status of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I certainly consider them more significant than a mere conservative sect as you imply.

    I am also disappointed with the personal jibes you seem to cast at those who dare to disagree with you. It demeans what is an important dialogue (though its relevance to LDV is still slightly unclear).

  • Colin Lloyd 1st Jan '09 - 5:13pm

    Simon, I’m unclear do you have an opinion on whether or not doctrinal conservatism can be harmful?

  • simon wilson 1st Jan '09 - 6:50pm

    Doctrinal conservatism can be harmful. Doctrinal conservatism is not always harmful.

    I actually think it is absolute fundamentalism which is harmful wherever it appears-something of course, not just confined to theological or ecclesiological contexts.

  • Colin Lloyd 1st Jan '09 - 8:07pm

    Great then we agree, anything else you wish to discuss?

  • simon wilson 1st Jan '09 - 8:19pm

    where shall we start??
    Happy New Year!!!

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '09 - 1:36am


    As I have already said, the Pope’s speech which your original article commented on had just one small part which could be interpreted as criticism of homosexuality, although my reading of it was that it was more a defence of marriage. The line used there was not “because the Bible says so”, so your claim that it was is just plain wrong.

    You say “it is social conservative absolutism, dogmatism, and authoritarian traditionalism that the article attacks”, but I see an opinion put, which you may not agree with, but which is not done in a dogmatic or authoritarian way. In short, I think you are seeing in the speech what you want to see rather than what is actually there, and you are being the dogmatic one in being unable to tolerate the mere expression of an opinion with which you disagree. I myself have no problem with your disagreement with the Pope’s point here, but I do have a problem with what you claim is his motivation for making that point.

    You talk about “an insecure reaction to anything that potentially challenges any aspect of your faith”, but all I have done is suggest you perhaps misunderstand the motivation for the point made, and that your comments suggest far more emphasis on this point and that the point was made in a far more attacking and condemnatory way than the actual wording of the speech suggests.

    From what you have written, one might have supposed the Pope said “In Leviticus, gay sex is condemned, therefore I, in my role as supreme pontiff hereby condemn it and state that those who engage in it will suffer eternal damnation”. If the Pope had used that sort of language and argument, I’d agree with you, but the simple fact of the matter is, he didn’t. So why do you claim my simple point of saying that he didn’t use that sort of language or argument means I am “insecure”? Why the personal attack on me? My concern here is only for fairness – that we consider what was actually said rather than what we think might have been said from a position of thinking the person who said it is a nasty person who thinks that way.

    It all reminds me of a time, years ago now, when I used to argue with Irish Americans in a discussion group on Ireland. Because I was arguing against their simplistic support of IRA terrorism, and trying to explain the Unionist case, and because I am British, the people I was arguing against accused me of being a supporter of Ian Paisley, or of being a raving “British imperialist” who felt insecure when his British imperialism was attacked. This was, of course, stupid, given that my actual position on Northern Ireland was one of moderate nationalism, most close to that of the SDLP. The people I was arguing against heard what they wanted to hear because they had a stereotypical view of what British people thought on this issue, and furthermore they were unable to distinguish between someone explaining a case and someone actually personally holding to that case. They accused me of being a “dogmatist” because to them the mere explaining, not even agreement, of a case with which they disagreed though they did not even understand it, was “dogmatism”. I think you may feel here that actually the dogmatism was on the other side.

    You accuse me of having a log in my eye while picking at a speck in yours, so where and what is the log?

    On the role of Mosaic Law, what I am saying is that there are huge chunks of the New Testament which discuss this issue, as well as other writers at the foundation of Christianity. Most of Acts Chapters 10 and 11, for example, is on this issue. That is why I really do have to say anyone whose argument is “because it says in Leviticus this is what you can/can’t do” is ignorant of the Christian faith. I am not talking about some modern day argument between Christians, I am talking about the foundational documents and arguments out of which the Christianity was formed. If one is unaware of those documents and arguments and uses lines which directly contradict them, then surely “ignorant” is an appropriate word.

    On what the relevance of this all is to LDV, it does seem to be acceptable and common in Liberal Democrat circles these days to make comments and assumptions about Catholics and Catholicism which are both abusive and ignorant of the real position of that Church and its followers. Were similar assumptions made about Islam and Muslims, and similar abusive comments made, it would undoubtedly be condemned as “Islamophobic”, and those making them would have their very membership of the party questioned. The double standards are being noticed. I am seeing conservatives and Conservatives within Catholicism building up support by claiming that the liberal establishment in Britain is institutionally anti-Catholic, a line which it is becoming increasingly difficult for liberals like myself to argue against.

    I’ve no problem about debate on any religious issues, or with people who argue against religion. No Colin, such arguments do not make me “insecure” in the way you claim. I do have problems, however, with people who make accusations that aren’t borne out by the facts, who jump to assumptions based on their own prejudice, and whose argument against religion serves mainly to show that they actually know almost nothing about the religion they are attacking.

  • Colin Lloyd 2nd Jan '09 - 7:51am

    Sorry Matthew I don’t agree with your interpretations of either the Pope’s speech or my criticism of it.

    And your main point above remains:

    ‘you must be stupid because you don’t agree with me’

    That’s very sad. I was though somewhat touched that in response to my concerns about dogmatic use of the Bible, you chose to ask for a discourse on the meaning of the word ‘log’ in Matthew 7:3.

    Further, without any sense of irony, you’ve also added a new accusation of committing a hate crime against your religion: I refer you then the the original article

    “social conservatives have lately taken to justifying their prejudices by claiming themselves victims of hatred by those who disagree with them”

    If again though, as in your Irish example, you are simply regarding yourself as an abstract observer of your own comments, rather than the one making them, might I cordially suggest that the best response to your conservative ‘seekers of victimhood’ opponents is the obvious that criticisms of statements by a Pope or church authorities are no more anti-Catholic than attacks on the statements or policies of George Bush are anti-American.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '09 - 2:48pm


    My accusations of stupidity were aimed at those who hold the Bible to be some instruction book and Christianity to be a religion created by taking this instruction book and using it. As I have said, large parts of the Bible itself are a rejection of this idea, and those are the parts which detail the foundation of the Christian Church. I didn’t think that was particularly your position, if anything what I have in mind there are certain sort of Christian “fundamentalists” from the Protestant sola scriptura tradition, and certain sorts of aggressive atheists who assume all Christians are of that sort. I don’t think you fall into either category. The Pope, of course, being a Catholic, also does not fall into the sola scriptura tradition.

    I’m happy to agree to disagree on the interpretation of the Pope’s speech. I’ve suggested the controversial remark was just one small part of a large ranging speech, your original article gave the impression that it was all the whole speech was about. Fine, if we disagree on that, let’s leave it at that.

    I’ve suggested the Pope’s aim in that part of the speech was to defend the traditional pattern of marriage and that it was not intended to express hatred towards homosexuals, you’ve suggested that it was “hypocritical intolerance and bigotry masquerading as academic speculation”. My comment was based on having some knowledge of other writings of this Pope and others in his tradition. But, fine, again, I don’t want to be dragged into long theological discussions to explain further (particularly given the difficulty most observers have distinguishing between someone explaining someone else’s position and someone explaining their own position), so if you doubt my honesty in saying this and think what I said was due to some other motivation, we can agree to disagree.

    Regarding Matthew 7:3, it seemed to me your quoting this was an accusation that I am the one with the “log” and you the one with the “speck”, which is an aggressive accusation and not a balanced “agree to disagree”. If that was not what you intended, then fine, and I am sorry I interpreted it as that.

    Regarding committing a “hate crime”, I did not use those words. Had your criticism been differently worded, shown a bit more knowledge of the background where these comments came from, and not been over-willing to ascribe motivations which I don’t think are true, I probably would have agreed with it rather than disagreed with it and its style.

    Your position seems to be that as a liberal Catholic the only position I am permitted to take is to remain silent on any criticism of any aspects of my Church even if that criticism contains things I believe to be factually incorrect. It was James Graham, a prominent LibDem blogger from an atheist position, who noted recently that much criticism of the Catholic Church is of a Da Vinci Code level, which I think actually quite well sums up the point I was making here. Am I not permitted to point out the factual mistakes in that sort of criticism?

  • Colin Lloyd 2nd Jan '09 - 6:38pm

    Indeed you are Matthew, but given we disagree on the facts here, shall we take this opportunity to declare peace and agree to differ…

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    @ Catherine, It's all law not just some law. This is how the EU itself puts it: "The principle of the primacy (also referred to as ‘precedence’ o...
  • James Fowler
    If we make appreciable gains at this election, and it seems that we will, what are we going to do with them? At the moment not being the Tories is enough, b...
  • Martin Gray
    Simple Mick ...You as a British citizen are not allowed to vote in Greece's national elections. Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek n...
  • Mick Taylor
    EU citizens, like me, can vote in local and EU elections in an EU country where they reside, but many are also registered in the UK, where they can vote in all ...
  • David Raw
    @ Gordon. I’m afraid you are very much mistaken if you believe the British government did not confiscate German assets in WW11....