Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spin, Spin, Spin


The Archbishop of Canterbury's words on Sharia have caused a stir, actually I don't think it is the words, it is the idea. There is something very malevolent going on here, most of the commentators don't seem to have read what he actually said. There is an extrordinary degree of sensationalisation going on.
The Cardinal did an interview basically saying, that religious groups must be recognised by the law, but emphasising, like Williams, that none of us is above and all must obey it. I saw one headline which took that as "Cardinal's stinging attack". For those of us who know him it is pretty obvious Cormac does not "do" stinging.
What the Cardinal has increasingly said is that he is against multi-culturism, which he would define as a type of secularism which produces a religious blandness whilst imposing secular rather than religious values.
Knee jerk reactions are possibly to be expected from certain groups, mention Sharia and there is a tumult. What amazes me is that even intelligent commentators have got involved in the dog-pack.

What was Williams saying, was simply that the law and legislators must recognise that for many people in this country there is a morality and way of living which is above and beyond legislation. It seems to me he is actually calling for the law to acknowledge conscience.

For Catholics life in this country will become intollerable if we are forced to obey the Queen before conscience. Legislation has always accomodated our consciences, until the gay adoption issue, which the Archbishop cited, at least since the time we Catholics stopped being outlaws. The law has recognised our marriages, permitted us to use part of our taxation to finace our schools, it has made accomodation for other groups too. It permits Seikhs not to wear a motorcycle crash helmet, when Sunday trading was not allowed it permitted Jews to close their shops on Saturdays instead and gave authority to the Beth Din to enforce this. What the Archbishop seemed to be saying is that this type of accomodation should be extended to Muslims, the ability to govern marking products as Hallal would be one area.
There is something quite wrong when the law permits me to marry a Catholic, even to a Muslim in my Church, but does not permit the local Iman from marrying a couple in the local mosque.

Personally I think the Archbishop has foolishly played into the secularist hands by setting his comments into the context of Islam. He should have come out with it and said that Britain is increasingly intollerant of both religion and conscience. His remarks regarding Sharia of course were about the eventual triumph not necessarily of Islam but of the opinions of men and women of conscience. Religion outlasts the philosophies of the age.
On this issue we should regard Islam as an ally not a threat, the dear old C of E is hardly able to challenge the secularist on the issue of conscience, Islam can and so can the Catholic Church in Europe, if not in the UK.

17 comments:

Simon Platt said...

Dear Father,

For myself I'm not interested in what Rowan Williams says, but I am very interested in the public discussion he has started.

My sense is that you're being too sanguine on this issue. I don't see the parallels in the various examples that are given of how sharia law could be somehow incorporated into British (English?) law. Marketing halal meat, for example - why would a separate legal system be required to regulate this? The Soil Association certifies organic food; failure to meet their criteria, or using their endorsement without permission, is, presumably a matter for the courts. Cowboy builders who falsely claim membership of trade organisations can be prosecuted by trading standards officials; presumably the same applies in the case of butchers falsely claiming to sell halal meat. Why would this require a separate legal system? And motorcycling sikhs aren't policed by sikh coppers or benefit from a sikh legal system do they? And as for the issue of marriage during religious ceremonies, I think you're wrong; I think that mosques and moslem religious leaders are able to be licensed on the same basis as you are and as St Mary Magdalen's is. And, yes, as faithful catholics we are increasingly penalised by English law especially on matters to do with sexual morality, the education of our children and the right to enjoy certain uses of our own property - and we don't have recourse to church courts.

I think that any formal recognition of sharia law would be widely seen as an unnecessary capitulation to an intolerant and aggressive minority and would be a disaster for the country.

It's not often I've found myself in disagreement with you, but I am this time - strongly so. At least next time I write "you're right!" you'll know I mean it!

Simon.

pelerin said...

I had no idea that Imams were not allowed to perform marriages. This does not seem right in today's climate of equality.

Today's moslems are in a similar position in this country as catholics were in the 1960s. When my husband and I married in 1966 our vows before the priest were not recognized by the law of the land and we had to say our vows all over again in the sacristy to a local registrar in order to make our marriage official.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Simon, that is how it is presented but not what he said.
I am not sure he spoke the formal acceptance of Sharia law, but that is what was presented. What he spoke about was the recognition that people live their lives by it.

Henry said...

The way this has been handled is typical of the way public debate runs these days.

I have not read Rowan Williams' statement and know little about Sharia Law. I expect that goes for most of those who have rushed in to comment. But the way that commentators are only too keen to spout off in a knee-jerk reaction on the slightest pretext is why almost no subject receives the consideration it needs.

Fr John Boyle said...

The indignation of the secularist press and government should bring to mind Our Lord's wise maxim: render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. A secular state wants its laws to be paramount. It leads to Big Government. Instead, good government should respect the principle of subsidiarity. If members of a particular community can sort out their affairs without the intervention of the State, why shouldn't they? If the common good or the good of individuals is being threatened, those concerned will always have the State to fall back on through the civil legal system. I think Williams has brought up a very valid point (although I haven't read the lecture.)

On the side of the angels said...

Father, with the greatest respect ,
what Rowan Williams said was intentionally double-edged and obfuscatory ; naturally the way you are and the way you were educated [i.e. when theology and philosophy was transmitted with clarity and efficacy] you see benignity ; and when the potential to excuse or see the best of intentions ; you grasp at it.

These are different times, different words, different games.
I do not doubt you have read von Balthasar ; but have you read the 'explanatory' work and commentaries on his theological writing ? Aidan Nicholls and Rowan Williams write in ways which turn what was clear and precise as crystal into many layered, many veiled clouds of uncertainty and ulterior interpretations - What Rowan Williams said last week was contaminated with the 'Newspeak' of spin and incongruity - meaning all things to all men - a kaleidoscope of perspectives.

But like any fool who acts in a way too clever for his own good ; Rowan Williams has come undone ; he played with fire and got his fingers burnt - and who suffers ?
We suffer- because this has opened the floodgates of hostility and antagonism among the secular populace to any extraordinary exemptions grounded on religious reasons or sentiments.
Parliament is already laden with monsters who hate everything we stand for - look at the liberal democrat 'dr death' Evan Harris and the tyrannical secularists among the new labourites [the ex-trotskyites] - they seek to eradicate every trace of religious influence except their own 'new religion' of no religion ; and by broaching the subject in a mishandled way via Sharia ; Dr Williams has played right into their hands - screwing us up in the process....

John said...

I think that I would have to echo what On The Side of the Angels says, and, come to think of it, what Simon Platt says too.
I think that a new age of persecution is only just round the corner. Over in Germany it is forbidden to homeschool one's children and, from what I read, France is heading the same way. How much is "hate legislation" erely a pretext to stop anyone preaching CHristianity?

JARay

Sussex Catholic said...

To my mind there are clearly two very distinct issues in this debate which Rowan Williams has succeeded only in merging and thus confusing. The two issues are: 1) Whether the civil law of the State should recognise the rights of religious groups (presumably those according to the Catechism that do not threaten public order or the common good) to be exempted from certain laws by reason of conscience; and
2) Whether a particular religion's laws or customs should be incorporated into the State's civil law which by extension thereby applies to all.

It does not appear to be the case that Williams is advocating 2) but as OTSOTA says his use of language has encouraged many to think that he is. Equally in order to apply 1) nothing in 2) is actually needed. At most, beyond the recognition of the "conscience exemption", all that 1) requires is the State recognising that religious groups have the right to legislate for their own members by consent and without force of civil law which they already do. In that sense there is no difference between religious groups and a golf club, except insofar as the religious group is entitled through the conscience exemption to practise what would otherwise fall foul of anti-discrimination laws. There is nothing in the status of a Catholic Marriage Tribunal or a Rabbinical court which has any force in English Law. Thus neither is anything required to give "recognition" to Sharia courts.

I agree with several of the commentators that Williams would have been much better off focusing on the increasing and creeping power of the secular State to try and control individuals' views as well as their conduct and calling on the State to enshrine protection for the consciences of the religious to practise their faith as enshrined in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. It is this very "conscience exemption" which has been fundamentally undermined by the recent Sexual Discrimination legislation and which is clearly now under severe threat.

pelerin said...

Following the Archbishop's controversial comments on a newspaper website, I was interested to read a comment from a reader regarding current Anglican worship.

Mention was made of an 'ugly nave altar' in a cathedral. Also 'distractions from worship such as priests facing the congregation and hand shaking.'

This all sounds rather familiar doesn't it? Did the Anglican church have their own version of Vatican II or did they copy the changes in the Catholic church and if so why?

George said...

Pelerin - from what I understand there was a lot of direct Anglican/Protestant involvement in V11. Someone correct me if I'm wrong (Mea culpa - in advance)and/or fill us all in on the details.

Simon Platt said...

I'm sorry Father, but I wasn't criticising what Rowan Williams said, but what you wrote. I think that it was factually inaccurate and that your analogies are flawed.

Simon

Fr Ray Blake said...

Simon,
Inaccurate, where?
I think you fail to grasp the principle of subsidiarity and arbitration, that operates in any society before things come to "the law".

Simon Platt said...

Dear Father,

"There is something quite wrong when the law permits me to marry a Catholic, even to a Muslim in my Church, but does not permit the local Iman from marrying a couple in the local mosque."

I think that's inaccurate. I think that all the imam has to do is get himself and his mosque registered - just as a catholic church and priest must be registered. A quick look at the website of the General Registry Office seems to bear this out - see http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/marriages/where-can-i-marry. I'm prepared to stand corrected.

I have not seen or heard anything on this subject which I think presents a credible argument to the effect that moslems are unfairly discriminated against in this country.

Simon.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Simon,
I don't think that does bear you out.

Anonymous said...

Islam had got religion in general a bad name in Britain and is being used as an excuse to deny the legitimate concerns of other religions. Islam has done nothing for our country, and organised secularism little more. Perhaps we should publicise all that Christian bodies have done in education, care for the sick, care for the homeless, the dying, the handicapped and ask how the secularists would do without our efforts. Society would collapse.

Anonymous said...

Would an Iman be allowed to perform a polygamous marriage?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Anon. 14/2/08 5:42 PM
Polygamy: No