Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Equality Bill: The Vatican and The UK - Religious and Secular

As reported in this week's Catholic Herald:

Pope Benedict XVI has criticised Labour's equality legislation in a remarkably direct speech to English and Welsh bishops at the end of their ad limina visit to Rome.

He said the legislation put unjust limits on religious freedom and "in some respects actually violates the natural law".

Looking back over my blog  posts in recent months the  issue of the boundary between God's Law and Caesar's Laws has been one for  frequent reflection. Only yesterday at the day job, a welcome Employment Tribunal decision arrived  (following my pre-Christmas visit to a seaside Employment Tribunal which also featured on this blog at the time) to the effect that a minister of religion  was a servant of God  to whom the secular employment law giving the right not to be 'unfairly dismissed' was inapplicable.

Some in England appear vehemently to object to the 'intererence' by His Holiness the Pope in what they regard as the UK's internal secular politics.  This objection may have   its origins in the reformation under King Henry VIII. If so even that basis would be questionable given the Established Church dimension of the mainly unwritten British consitution that still prevails today.

More importantly however is the need for politicians of all parties to have some moral input in their deliberations about questions and decisions affecting the daily lives of UK citizens. Surely politicians should have as much regard to individual conscience in their deliberations as the rest of us? If so it follows that the  interests of Society collectively as well as individuals including MPs, are best served by our  secular lawmakers   having  consciences which are well  informed?  Clergy of all religions right up to the Pope, are like the rest of us flawed in many respects but if their views on the moral compass are not apt to be aired for consideration during the political process whose are?

 The Catholic Church is thankfully not  a dedicated follower of fashion  so that its views are often out of step with the prevailing mores of Society. Society's views change frequently so that for example sodomy or buggery as it was known,  was  under the secular law a crime  in England, punishable with death, right up to C19. Yet  by C21 there has been almost a 360degree change in that any detrimental treatment to a person by virtue of sexual orientation,  under secular civil law,  gives the victim   substantial rights including potentially very sizeable compensation claims.

Obviously the mores of C19 were extreme and wrong but the Pope imho is to be lauded for raising these moral questions today. Moral leadership and debate in the UK  is singularly lacking at present except as regards criticising others when their failings  come to the public eye such as those (inter-personal relationships) of the captain of the English football team or those (financial self enriching) of  our esteemed Members of Parliament, but very rarely are moral issues freely  debated  and more objectively, in an atmosphere not involving  personal criticims or specific misfeasance by named individuals.

The Pope's involvement is to be lauded - I hope that more such debate will be encouraged.

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