Nae Popery

Bloody Pope. In a major speech reported all over the UK and probably around the world, the Pope whinged about religion being silenced [1]. Quite why he can’t see the obvious problem in that is a mystery. Maybe self-awareness isn’t his strong point. For extra fun, Ian Paisley denounces the Pope is worth a watch (really you want “The old Orange flute” in the Clancy / Makem version, but I can’t find that). I must be getting old if I think that Ian Paisley makes sense.

Actually, despite the badge, I’ve no objection to him coming here, or even preaching. Nowt wrong with either. I just wish he wouldn’t talk twaddle, and that he would know his and his religions place in the world, which is a minor one.

Though El Papa does know the real answer, because he said: There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. Yes, indeed there are such people who would like the second half (properly interpreted), like me, and nominally like the US constitution. So you’re welcome to believe but you’re not welcome to have an official place in our democracy.

The Beeb spins his speech as His essential message was that democracy relies on the use of reason… reason needed to be judged against the unchanging teaching offered by religion – based as it was on “natural law”, the fundamental nature of people. This is std.trash. For one thing, the idea that religious teaching is unchanging is obvious twaddle. Just try stoning someone to death in the UK these days and see if they’ll let you, or burning a witch. They’re even trying to stop their priests fiddling with kiddies, in a clear breach of long-hallowed tradition (or maybe not. The Torygraph says he said that “politicians must not interfere with the running of Roman Catholic institutions” so perhaps they do want to keep it up). But for another, the idea that relgion will help you reason better, or is the only source of morality, is just silly. No-one believes that stuff any more.

Meanwhile, *after* reading the speech

Well, I did have fun writing that. But I really should have known better than to trust the meeja – I only did so cos I couldn’t find the full text easily. But my uneasy consience lead me to search and here it is – seek, and ye shall find, as someone once said. So:

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation.

This is interesting, because it uses a word I don’t know, viz “prescinding”. Apparently it means To separate or divide in thought; consider individually [3]. Soooooo… Right Action can be discerned *without* revelation – I presume that means, without the Bible. Supporting that, he continues:

According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers… but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.

So that is weird: it looks, in fact, like a nearly complete retreat from the moral sphere, rather in the way the Churches have retreated from the scientific one. So religion *isn’t* to be the basis for morality at all. Religion, in some rather ill-defined way, is to “shed light upon the application of reason”, whatever that means. Ah, but then later on it all falls apart again – Reason is what gave us slavery, and we need religion to correct Reason – so the atheists are doomed after all. Well, I call that rather confused.

[Updates: I’m please to say that this blog is now the #1 google hit for “nae popery” even without quotes. More seriously, from the comments: the Pope isn’t a native-speaker, so maybe he didn’t mean “prescinds”? I don’t think that is plausible: (1) people will have carefully checked over every word of the speech (2) especially for a non-native speaker “prescinds” isn’t a word you use without being sure what it means. OTOH it could have been chosen carefully to be deliberately obscure to most listeners.]