Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some WYD stuff in the Aussie press ...

First, via the Siena Blog, this great article by Paul Kelly in The Australian Age: Test of Spirit
THE visit to Sydney of Pope Benedict XVI is a deeply ambiguous event - it is a test of the standing and spirit of the Catholic Church in Australia while offering a certain judgment on the tolerance of a secular Australian nation towards religion.
It's worth reading in full. Australia is a far more secular country than the United States, and WYD is one of the most public displays of religiosity the country has seen in ages.
Does former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, have anything to offer Australia? He comes, above all, for an event that enshrines the role of religion in the public square. Australia is about 65 per cent Christian. But it is a long time since Australian society saw Christianity celebrated in so spectacular a moment, with the city's landmarks for recreation and commerce given over to worship of God.

This is an affirmation of the true and mature secular state. Yet it is resisted by many who seek a radical change in the status quo. They represent an aggressive "new secularism", a philosophy much discussed by Benedict, that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair. In terms of governance, such advocates want not a traditional secular state to enshrine religious freedom, but the creation of atheism as the de facto established religion to drive real religion from the public domain.

This constitutes one of the most radical and intolerant projects in Australian political history.
And Catholic blogger John Heard has this piece in the Sunday Telegraph: Decisive Benedict the Pope the world needs.
But even non-Catholics have something to learn from him.

Benedict regularly describes, for instance, how the secular West can overcome some of the more alienating aspects of modern living, and he is not afraid to engage the Church's critics.

In his papal writings, then, Benedict has quoted atheist thinkers such as Nietzsche and Marx, and used their criticisms of false belief and an unjust society to show how Christian love and hope can transform contemporary lives.
Catholic coverage at NCR(egister)'s Pope 2008 blog. And this post by Amy ought to be bookmarked: her collection of sites covering WYD.


Sean said...

The problem with the argument cited is it confuses the mechanisms and the power of the state with the "public square". Like I said before, its not that religion is being driven out of public view, but rather that it no longer enjoys seeing eye to eye with state authorities on controversial issues. The state no longer holds the traditional views on society that the Church, or other religious groups espouse. Like I said, it has generally recuse itself from the issue.

I mean, can the Pope, of all people, seriously suggest that the Church has not been intimately involved with the use of state power to drive its own political aspirations? I don't think anyone can suggest that he, or other religious groups in other countries, haven't bound themselves up intimately with the state.

And thats why I can hardly take the protestations of the Pope as anything more than sour grapes. Hundreds of years, if not millenia, of enjoying the privileged position in Western society, Churches are, rightly, being denied what they obviously feel is their entitlement on moral and social questions, even though obviously, on a political level, they've lost.

Sean said...

A perfect example, actually, of whether there is an attempt to force religion out of public view, or whether the government is trying to fight legitimate discrimination. is in the conduct of Scott Bloch, the Catholic head of the US Office of Special Counsel, ostensibly the government agency that is set up to protect Federal Whistleblowers. In 2004 he stripped the OSC of its powers to prosecute cases of anti-gay discrimination and bias in the federal workforce, and has consistently hired lawyers from the Ave Maria Law School, including appointing a deputy in command who declared that he was determined to root out the "homosexual agenda", even though laws pertaining to the civil service consistently uphold that sexual orientation is protected under civil service workforce laws.

Obviously such laws would criminalize statements from Bloch, or his subordinates, or infact the whole civil service, that could be interpreted as discriminatory towards gays, as long as they were done in the confines of the workplace or while on the clock. This would separate out his faith from his life as a civil servant and confine it to a more private venue.

Is that pushing religion out of the public square, or merely good practice for a civil service that has an increasingly diverse increasingly diverse group of people in it? I would say the latter, but I guess someone could construe it as the former.

Gashwin said...

Yo Sean: first of all, I appreciate your toning down the rhetoric and making some reasonable arguments and putting forward illustrations. I do want to try and engage this on the blog ... I'm just really swamped right now. I hope in the remaining life of the blog (which shuts down in a few weeks as I start at a seminary that doesn't allow blogs) some decent discussion can ensue. So, hang around if you will.