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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Lost Road

The Bishop of Aberdeen preached at the 6pm Mass in his Cathedral yesterday. During the Liturgy of Word my mind was turning over the issue of conformity to the world. I always think it is interesting that of the four sins crying out to heaven for vengeance left-wing politicians tend to devote themselves to committing or promoting the first two (murder and sodomy) while right-wing politicians tend to devote themselves to committing or promoting the second two (oppressing the poor and defrauding the workers). However, it occurred to me yesterday one could look at it another way. Left-wingers obsesses about fulfilling the positive precept of the law (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc.) and neglect the negative precepts (fornication, murder). Right-wingers, on the other hand, obsess about the negative precepts and usually completely ignore the positive ones. Of course, the obsession of the right-wingers is selective and opportunistic and the obsession of the left wingers is usually pursued in a heavy handed, counter productive and statist manner.

For Catholics this opens two avenues for conformity to the world. You can occupy yourself with the positive precepts and fall in with the lefties. You will then be tempted to water down your opposition to their various anti-life enthusiasms or treat these issues as if they were ritual precepts - a private matter for Catholics which need not be brought up at dinner parties or over the cabinet table. On the other hand you can occupy yourself with the negative precepts and fall in with the 'conservatives'. You will then be tempted to use the lefties' statism as an excuse to dismiss poverty and exploitation as exclusively the province of private charity. Neither of these paths is very wise but a rigorous pursuit of the fullness of the Church's social teaching will, unless you are very clever about it, make you unpopular with both camps.

As I was thinking this Bishop Peter began to preach. He devoted half of his sermon to the fact that it is homelessness week. He described the various forms of homelessness. He said that it is shameful that in a wealthy country like Britain the phenomenon should exist at all. He cautioned the congregation that they should not use this fact to excuse themselves from devoting personal effort, time and money to the problem. He devoted the second half of his sermon to homosexual adoption. The tone was extremely level, reasonable and calm. He pointed out first that the needs of the child have primacy and that the Child has a right if possible to two parents of opposite sexes. That children are not 'goods or services' to whom anyone has a right. Then he pointed out that the Church holds that a homosexual inclination is 'faulty' and homosexual acts if they are not accompanied by invincible ignorance of the moral law are sinful. That this does not justify unjust discrimination but it does affect the question of the needs of the child. The teaching of the Church might be unpopular but that is to be expected as the Gospel of the day indicates. In a column in today's Times William Rees-Mogg describes the 'Roman Catholic hierarchy' as 'moderate men with a somewhat left-of-centre view of society'. This may be true but at least on this occasion the local hierach steered a true path between Scylla and Charybdis.