Joe Hendren

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

A few eggs Benedict

The new Pope, Benedict XVI, has criticised New Zealand's civil union law. His comments were included in a written message handed to Geoff Ward, New Zealand's new envoy to the Vatican.

"Secular distortions of marriage can never overshadow the splendour of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love."

I can only hope the Pope was badly advised in this instance. The civil union act does not legalise gay marriages (even thought some would eventually like to see this too), but merely provides an alternative legal framework allowing couples to formalise their relationship.

The NZ Catholic Church says the Pope's criticism of New Zealand's civil union legislation will be heeded by Christians at election time.

The Pope also called on Aotearoa's leaders to "ensure the question of morality is given ample discussion in the public forum". I would humbly suggest the Pope exercise caution when making such comments about a country in the leadup to an election campaign. His comments may be taken as an endorsement by nutters like Destiny New Zealand.

At the launch of Destiny NZ election campaign yesterday Brian Tamaki held up a newspaper article about the Pope's comments. "When it said New Zealand leaders, I said to my wife: 'Oh, that's me'." Later, Tamaki said he was "thrilled" about the Pope's comments. "It's time for morals to be brought back into the public domain."

A particular type of 'morality' was given "ample discussion in the public forum" during the last US Presidential election and helped the reelection of George W. Bush. To his credit the last Pope made it clear he did not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq but this just demonstrates the point - by giving effective endorsements to reactionary conservatives what else are you going to get? Savage cuts to welfare?

Another key problem for "ample discussion of the question of morality" is that such calls are, more often than not, based on a very narrow conception of what 'morality' is.

I admire and are very happy to work alongside Catholics and Christians motivated by a strong sense of social justice, who see 'love thy neighbour' as a practical obligation to look after the less fortunate. Are these not 'questions of morality' also? Perhaps Michael Joseph Savage said it best - when the National party condemned the 1938 Social Security Act as 'applied lunacy', MJS responded by calling it 'applied Christianity'.

Its a pity the Pope didn't raise these wider issues of 'morality'. IMHO they are more important than narrow debates about marriage, abortion, or how many angels you can fit on the end of a pin.

For the record: In my early years I was bought up as a Catholic, but it steadily became less important in our family as I grew up. I remember one thorny question I threw at the olds when I was about 8 or 9. If women and men are equal, why does the church only talk about 'man' all the time, and why are there no women priests? Although I had no particular commitment to feminism or any other cause at this early age, I remember being more sceptical of churchy stuff from then on. Its probably no wonder I ended up here.

Update: Phantasmagoric makes similar comments.



At 5:04 am, Anonymous BerlinBear said...

Interesting thoughts. I get very worked up when I hear stuff like that from the Catholic Church - though not as worked up as I got about the Church interfering in Italian democracy by calling for people to boycott the recent referendum on IVF legislation etc. Aarrgghh!

On the gay marriage issue, the New York Times today has a long but interesting article about the anti-gay marriage movement in the US. It requires registration, but that is free.

At 5:01 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

It certainly is not the first time the Vatican have interfered with Italian democracy.

Since the 1948 election the vatican have played a key role in encouraging poor rural folk to support the right wing Christian democrats. In 1948 the anti-fascist left were very popular in the north of Italy, as they managed to kick out the nazis by themselves.

The vatican cooperated with the CIA and the US state department to stop a popular left front (including the communists) from winning the 1948 elections. There is documentary evidence to show the US intended to _invade_ if the "communists" won a democratic election.

I don't have a problem with the vatican 'having a view' about abortion, marriage and such issues - but I do not like to see these issues become dominant over more important 'moral' issues such as poverty.


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