The Pope’s plans for the UK and Anglicans

Pope Benedict has been in the news lately telling the UK they have too much equality, in advance of his visit there later this year. He has also been speaking about his offer to disaffected Anglicans. He met yesterday in Rome with Catholic bishops from England and Wales.

Be stingy with equality

Washington Post

In his speech, Benedict … intervened in an issue of increasing concern to the Vatican: anti-discrimination laws, which have raised fears at the Vatican that the Catholic Church could be prosecuted for refusing, for example, to hire gays or transsexuals.

Benedict blasted proposed laws before the British Parliament that are intended to prevent employers from denying jobs to applicants on the grounds of gender, sexuality, age or race. Current legislation exempts religious organizations, but the planned new law would effectively apply to lay people employed by churches.

Benedict told the bishops that they needed to take a firm, public stand against the proposed legislation, which he said violated natural law.

“Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society,” he told them. “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.”

From The Guardian UK, Benedict uses the outdated concept of natural law and thinks it is fine for religious institutions to discriminate against employees:

…he criticised UK legislation for creating “limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs”. It is thought his comments relate to laws that came in last year preventing adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples and also Harriet Harman’s equality bill, currently going through parliament.

The pope, whose visit is expected in September, made the comments after hearing representations from English and Welsh bishops on their concerns about the place of religion in an increasingly secular society.

They told him sexual orientation legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs.

In his letter the pope said: “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

Terry Sanderson, the [National Secular Society’s] president, said: “The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – in which he has indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of reports on the equality story.

The Irish Times observes, “Oddly, the pontiff chose to intervene in the debate, even though days beforehand the House of Lords, with the backing of Church of England lords, had rejected this very section of the legislation.” So what is the pope going on about, or didn’t he check his Google news reader?

Be generous in taking in Anglicans

There are also those Anglicans who are not only gay phobic, but also women phobic. The pope addressed their concerns as well.

According to Catholic News

Pope Benedict also asked the [Catholic] bishops “to be generous in implementing the provisions” of his recent apostolic constitution, which established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage.

He asked the bishops to assist such groups in their desire for full communion, saying that if they were warmly and openly welcomed, they “would be a blessing for the entire church.”

In an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Jan. 31, Archbishop Nichols said the pope’s “brief, but effective” trip to Britain would concentrate on the role of faith in a secular, democratic society.

He said the British government and Queen Elizabeth II, the supreme governor of the Anglican Church of England, were “extremely in favor of this visit” and that church leaders were working closely with government ministers and officials to flesh out the details of the papal itinerary.

Concerning the apostolic constitution, the archbishop told the Vatican newspaper that it was still not clear how many Anglican communities around the world were going to take advantage of the new provision.

But, he said some members of the Church of England planned to make their response to the Vatican provision public on Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which symbolizes the authority and unique ministry of the pope.

A response by the C of E flying bishops on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, however, is in doubt. Nichols does not seem to know that the February General Synod is no longer scheduled to debate women bishop. The flying bishops announced last week that they have reopened their calendars and are now “not taking bookings” for after the July synod. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet also said, “”I think, however, the response to the Apostolic Constitution… should be considered on its own terms, and not in reaction to a Synodical debate.”

Zenit, a Roman Catholic news agency, has Archbishop Nichols’ address made yesterday. In it he addresses possible damage to ecumenical discussions between Anglicans and Roman Catholics:

Of particular delicacy for us is the response made by you, Holy Father, to those Anglicans who, from different parts of the world, asked for a pathway to be established by which they could come into the full communion of the Catholic Church bringing with them elements of the Anglican patrimony which fully accord with Catholic faith. Years of close cooperation and deepening friendship and communion with our brothers and sisters in the Church of England have helped us to ensure that the various interpretations of and reactions to ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’ have not seriously disrupted the relationships between our Ecclesial Communions. Indeed the commitment to commence a third round of discussions as part of the work of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission has reinforced this relationship. We remain ready to explore with those Anglicans in England and Wales who wish to take up your generous and paternal response to their requests the ways forward towards full communion. We ask for your prayers in these important and sensitive matters.

Prizes for the best translation of ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’.

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