Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Pope and "Natural Law"

It might just be the way this story is being reported but once again it seems that the Pope has come out (pun intended) with a few empirical sentences, this time against equality laws in the UK, without providing any support or explanation to his views.

These however do not stand to the meerest hint of scrutiny.

First of all, I am led to wonder what those so called "natural laws" he speaks of are. Where are they defined? And if they have been defined, by whom?

Could it be something of the Bible perhaps? His own literature then, to which most of the world only pays a limited amount of attention due to the high cultural impact it has has over the centuries?

The very same Bible that was used to justify slavery right up until the end of the 19thc century (and some claim that the Catholic Church itself did not properly condemn slavery until Gaudium et Spes, one of the four Apostolic Constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council in 1965!!!). The very same Bible that forbids all sort of things (eating pork and seafood, adultery, lying, mixing fibers) that 'good' Christians are quite happy to ignore.

But no, gay people, since the Pope's thinly veiled attack, although not explicitly naming us, is clearly directed at us, are a violation of ‘natural law’.

One could of course argue that the fact that gay people (and homosexual activities in the animal kingdom) stubbornly continue to exist rather undermine the idea of homosexuality not being natural, not being part of the 'natural law'. Indeed one could even argue that his own god is responsible for creating the likes of us, repeatedly.

Ratzinger's answer to that, as we all know, is probably that homosexuality is a choice, that people are not born this way.

Does that mean that animals choose to have same-sex relations, then? Or do they simply respond to their instincts?

From a human perspective, I shall repeat a point I have made again recently on these pages, which to wonder why people would choose to be gay considering the social consequences they have been very likely to face because of the reactions stoked up by people of Ratzinger's ilk towards that so-called choice.

Furthermore, following Ratzinger's logic, if choice is a ground on which to decide whether someone has rights or not, then perhaps religous people should not have rights at all after all.

Because religion is indeed a choice. People are not born Catholic or Muslim or Raelian. Indeed the Catholic Church has a specific ritual (one of its seven sacraments) to welcome babies to the communion: baptism (not that those babies are given any choice, mind).

The various religious exemptions and protections around discrimination are only a sign of the past influence of Christianity in the this country. A sort of compromise to sooth religious people's sensibilities.

At the moment, I think most people are quite happy to let religious organisations keep those protections. I am too, as long as they are limited to the practice of their faith and don't impinge on the rights of other groups. But if they carry on behaving so irrationally and self-servingly, this may start to change very soon.

No, Ratzinger is clearly talking through his tiara. As I have mentioned before this is about power and the Church's increasing loss of influence.

More seriously though, the Pope is meddling with the internal affairs of a foreign country. And this would normally call for a severe rebuff from the Home Office.

If anyone is in doubt about this, I will point out that the cost of the Pope's planned visit to the UK at the end of this year (that's £20 million which could be very useful in, say Haiti) will be picked up by the UK tax-payer (there is a petition organised by the National Secular Society to try and get the Vatican to pay for the visit).

This will therefore be a state visit by the head of a foreign state. As such, should Ratzinger be allowed to try and influence the policies of that country he is visiting?

Interestingly Ratzinger recognises that the UK "is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society". Something the UK should be very proud of, indeed.

But he has no qualm to immediately try and undermine that commitment and help maintain a less equal society, playing with the fears of ill-informed people who think that the new equality bill will force religious groups to appoint gay clergy (this is of course, ridiculous: the bill only forbids discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation for positions that are not linked to doctrinal work).

But in the Pope's view, clearly, some people (his people, of course) are more equal than others. How very unchristian!

Previous (short) post (with a link) on the subject of the visit here.
Previous post on the subject of religion (which will cover in more details some of what I said above) here.

For those interested, there are two facebook group to protest against the Pope's visit to the UK in 2010:
Protesting against the Pope's State Visit
PROTEST state funding of the 2010 UK visit by THE POPE


  1. Good post.

    And we all know that this isn't the first time His Heiliness has had a pop at homosexuality.

    I think, though, that there is a deeper reason for the obsession the Catholic Church has with homosexuality (and also contraception).

    And whatever Levitican quotation they spout to justify it, it has nothing to do with the Good Book - and everything to do with the Balance Sheet.

    That said, I'm no great fan of the Equality Bill either.


  2. Yes, I was wondering too about where to find a codification of "Natural Law" - perhaps I should google it. I suspect though it means whatever 'naturally' floats to the top of Ratzinger's mind at any given moment, regardless of logic or common sense.

    We should be grateful, at least, that he didn't choose to reiterate at this juncture his ideas about teh gheyz and the rainforests - maybe he's saving that for September . . .

  3. Nice post. On the meaning of natural law, however, see:


    It is, unless I misunderstood, the Equality Bill, and not gay people, that the Pope said violates natural law. In other words, on the Pope's view, the Equality Bill would be an immoral law if passed.

  4. I am pretty sure the natural law comment was about the gays. In any case, we all know that it's the sexual orientation bits of the bill that niggle him... (thanks for the link, will have a look)

  5. This "pope" is discriminating LGBT people? Better quit his organization methodically (help is available here: www.apostasie.org ) or he will still count you (LGBT) as part of it!


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