The rigidity of liberals


There was an ugly incident during the Synod on the family when Cardinal Kasper, on being challenged by African voices ove permissive views on sexual morality,  attempted to dismiss the criticism by suggesting African beliefs are somehow not relevant in the West. Homosexuality is taboo there, he opined, as if nobody in Africa can therefore hold a reasoned view on the subject.

Quite rightly he was called out for the shoddy comment leading him to later deny ever making it. The incident then descending into  farce as the original recording was posted on the internet. It has left his reputation damaged and so it should. For such patronising attitude towards the third world is not good let alone godly. It masks a very modern form of racism which needs exposing to all for what it is. Racism and not a mature contribution to adult debate.

But intriguingly Kaspar is not alone in suggesting African views on human sexuality are not relevant in the West. The Episcopalian leader Katherine Jefferts Schori herself used almost identical words a few years back when defending against criticism from African Anglicans who condemned the blessing of same sex unions in America. Like Kaspar she suggested an enlightened liberal view was beyond the grasp of supposedly primitive Africans.

Kaspar and Schori make strange bed fellows. Leaders who, in attempting to be inclusive end up excluding huge numbers of people. Why? Is it mere co-incidence or a sign of a larger problem for trendy liberals? I say the latter. For there is much to suggest Western elites have become so  sure of their own viewpoint that they have closed minds to all others.  They being so very “right” alternative viewpoints must be “wrong”. Either a result of bigotry/rigidity or caused by backward and primitive thinking.

It is something George Weigel picked up on in his comments on the Synod. He said “Many northern European bishops and theologians acted as if the blissful years when they set the agenda for the world Church at Vatican II had returned. That these same bishops and theologians have presided over the collapse of western European Catholicism in the intervening five decades seemed not to matter to them in the slightest. Happy days were here again…otherwise intelligent men…incapable of admitting that they’d gotten it wrong.

Here then is the real problem behind Kaspar’s comment and it is grave. Not that he said something stupid for which he could apologise. But that his view is authentic and actually representative of  many in global politics. So that there is no room  today for doubt or dissent in the wake of the sexual revolution. It spells disaster for those not conforming to the will of modernity, who still sincerely believe in traditional marriage as a union of one man and one woman in the clear interests of all children.

When we accept liberal minds are now closed we begin to make sense of extraordinary situations recently witnessed. Nurses disciplined for praying or -this month- pastors in Houston asked to submit sermons to be checked for “homophobic content”. (Otherwise know as conventional Christian teaching on family life)

Or consider the claim of Africans at the Extraordinary Synod who spoke of threats from the first world to withhold aid where abortion and same sex marriage are not accepted. A clear example of hubris from the wealthy elite and a bullying of those with less resources. No wonder so many countries “all at once” started waving the rainbow  flag and signed up to “gay marriage”. Economic pressure and threats have ensured it is so.

But let those who stand by the family not lose hope. For where we see crass bullying or an obvious need for manipulation in synods- there we find doubt. Think about it! If liberal attitudes were really so convincing  the British Government would not have forced  “gay marriage” through parliament- they could have consulted the electorate! And the third world would not need threats at all if reason leads to only one conclusion.

Back to Kaspar’s claim then and the weakness of the liberal argument is exposed. For the notion that Africans cannot inform the West rests on a relativistic supposition. As if  human nature, morality and revelation somehow shift according to postcode. And even worse it rests on a very racist supposition. As if the people of the third world are somehow more stupid/ less enlightened than those in the West. (In fact many are inspiring and well educated and overseeing growth not decline in the churches they lead.)

We reach a worrying conclusion. Kaspar’s comment was laughable in its stupidity- risible in its racism- but truly frightening in its scope. For it is a view held by many today whose minds are closed.  Take the Guardian which  saluted the church (wrongly) for having got with Guardian thinking. If that is not arrogance – a one sided newspaper congratulating a two thousand year old church for having caught up with its thinking- I do not know what is.

So remind me again who is rigid? And who is it on the side of the poor? Those who back the impressive leaders of Africa and Asia who are overseeing a period of growth and renewal. Or the tired leaders of the crumbling West who manage decline whilst assuring themselves of their own superior thinking?

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22 thoughts on “The rigidity of liberals

  1. So Cardinal Kasper is a big old liberal baddie now, is he? Your new church is starting to look more and more like your old one! Is the infatuation over?

  2. I dislike liberal rigidity – in the sense of liberals’ insisting on 100% compliance with ‘liberal’ positions. On the other hand, ‘liberal rigidity’ about homosexuality would seem to be preferable to some Christians (who happen to be African) actively supporting punitive legislation against homosexual behaviour – legislation which I don’t believe you, Father Ed., remotely condone in Africa or anywhere else – certainly not in the UK.

    1. I abhor cruelty to gay people being a true libertarian who believes in freedom. Hence I would not even balk at people exercising their right to dismiss Catholic faith and live by their own creed within the world. I made no song andante when civic civil partnerships were established. But I have a right to my beliefs about marriage and to argue, live and die proclaiming Catholic teaching on human sexuality to be truth.

        1. For sure. Before the innovation I could explain very simply to my children that marriage was about one man and woman coming together with procreative intent. Now I cannot do that and they will be led to imagine it is not about children but adults.

          When the divorce law was made easier people also asked how will it affect your marriage. A few decades later and so many children are raised apart from mum and dad.

          Want some more?

          1. Presumably, if any of your children turn out to be gay you would teach them that sexual intimacy is closed to them. Or if they enter a marriage where one spouse develops hatred for the other they must remain married for the sake of the children.
            I still can’t see how gay marriage effects your own family life – apart from what you happen to tell your young children.

          2. Father Ed, surely you ought to have written “with procreative intent if the bride is capable of bearing children”. So far as I am aware, neither the Roman Catholic Church nor any other Christian body teaches that a marriage where the bride is past the age of childbearing, or is otherwise unable to bear children, is not a proper marriage.

  3. So now you claim to be a libertarian! Now either you are confused about the political theory expoused by such people as Ayn Rand or you believe in a system with so much belief in the individual than the many that it cannot possibly fit in with Christian beliefs.

    1. I believe people should be free to exercise their conscience. Christianity can not be enforced in any case- that would be abuse. But it can be encouraged and upheld as the ideal. A Christian society I would vote to be part of.

  4. We need to remember that a significant part of Christian teaching is to hate the sin but love the sinner.

    I also wonder if Pope Francis called this synod in the way he did so as to clearly identify, to all of us ,the various factions he will have to deal with.


    1. Yes I have wondered that. To ensure nobody can claim we haven’t pondered worldly teaching before he shows WHY it cannot stand. Though that is a hope not a prediction…

  5. Just another thought.

    I’d opine that Christ’s statement on the nature of marriage cannot be changed, even using the ‘Power of the Keys’. But, church imposed rules on conditions for receiving the Eucharist can be changed. I have been told that the Orthodox, in certain cases, allow a return to Communion for some’ remarried’ divorcees.

    Also, let’s not get confused by ‘media-speak’. There is a vast gap between the nature of divorce and annulment.

  6. Looking at the published voting figures it would seem as if the RC church is very divided on the ‘family’ part of the debates.

    I find it refreshing to see such good disagreement…finding the right way forward without demonising people for their orientation is a struggle but it’s one worth having. I’d go further and say that it’s fundamentally incarnational and even though no official teaching has been changed, a positive message of intent to value all people has been sent out.

    I applaud Pope Francis for his brave steps in the right direction.

  7. Dear Father,
    I really like the way that you see sin.
    I wondered if you can help us with the sin of gluttony.
    It would seem that the sin of gluttony (apart from from certain medical conditions) results in a human person being overweight, or perhaps worse obese. If there is no weight loss, is
    there no repentance? Can persistently overweight bishops and priests continue to teach the faith? Can people who continue to indulge in the sin of gluttony without repentance receive holy communion? How do we view an overweight priest who never loses weights or who even gains weight and yet continues to teach repentance from other sins? Dear Father, please help us

    1. Well, leaving aside a host of reasons why weight could be gained without the presence of gluttony- I would suggest the presence of sin was not the issue- given that no man is without it- so long as it was recognised, confessed and worked at. What would by a problem would be for the priest to preach that gluttony was not a sin and lead others to think likewise.

  8. Pathological causes of obesity are comparatively uncommon. Usually it’s just food (calories) in exceeds bodily needs= weight gain= impairment of health adverse social impact, often family consequences, (fat parents tend to have fat children who may well be teased at school, and whose bulky parents may have less energy to devote to their upbringing.there is also a “liberal ” conspiracy to avoid words like “morbidly obese” and to play down the major issues of increased morbidity and mortality in a fashion that would be ridiculous when it comes to similar life choices, like smoking, drinking and promiscuity.
    However I’d be reluctant to judge whether obesity per se is any criterion of sinfulness since both Alexander VI and Saint Pope John XXIII were portly men. Perhaps the bulkier of us might enjoy Andy Hamilton’s comments as the eponymous “hero” of “Old Harry’s Game”, that he doesn’t want any more Americans in Hell, since they take up too much space in his overcrowded realm.

    1. There is much truth in what you say Mary BUT a few asides…for years people told fatties to avoid butter and cream yet pointlessly. For it is now apparent that carbs are what cause weight gain not fat. Now factor in that carbs and refined sugars are cheap and an economic issue raises its head. Buying large bags of pasta and chips from Iceland is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying fresh vegetables and red meat from Waitrose. I found a diet that really worked for me but couldn’t justify it due to the cost, given my family needs. (Though I concede I could go running and cut out the biscuits!) It must be much worse for poorer families than ours. Furthermore there are genetic dispositions etc and some evidence to suggest that once you have got fat – keeping it off thereafter is very, very difficult. In short a complex issue and not all fatties are gluttons. Whilst some fastidious eating thin people may well be….

      1. So a genetic disposition towards fatness is ok….. And there are some fastidiously thin gluttons? I wonder if you can see the irony?

        1. No that is not the point I am making. I am merely pointing out that waistlines alone do not show sin. Truly there are some people who will only eat the finest foods, the delectable moral. And they truly are gluttons in their way. For the sin is about taking on extravagence to excess. But looking at them you would never know it.

          1. I wasn’t talking about food… I was talking about genetic disposition. If someone of portly build can be excused because if their genes, what about sexuality?

          2. Well clearly a portly person is only excused if they haven’t actually committed the sin of gluttony. So regarding sexuality- the same applies. A predisposition or temptation is fine- acting on it is not.

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