Let's elect a British pope

nextpope.JPGThe Economist holds forth on the “future of the church” in its latest issue and decides that the new pope should be an Anglican.

In the leader (a.k.a. “editorial”), the editors argue that religious faith — at least of the “uncompromising form which John Paul professed” — has contributed to a “new rancour” and a “spirit of mutual demonisation” when it comes to issues of euthanasia, gay marriage, and abortion being hammered out in Western democracies.

The editorial finishes on the issue of the Catholic Church in the developing world, where the church offers charitable assistance, but where “it seems obvious that the rigid application of the church’s teaching on contraception has contributed to many deaths.”

The editors opine, “everyone who cares about humanity, whether in God’s name or in the name of reason, will rejoice if, under a new pope, the church seeks new ways to affirm the sanctity of life” (by saying that condoms are A-OK).

In the issue’s “Special report,” the analysts sharpen this criticism. Very few reasonable people, we are told, take Catholic teaching seriously. Granted,

Thanks in part to the pope, and the appeal to some of his intense form of mysticism and piety, there are minorities in many western countries who freely choose to live by rules that are stricter than most citizens can accept.

But those people don’t read The Economist, so never mind them.

That isn’t snarky exaggeration on my part. Later in the piece, the anonymous essayist argues that the persuasive power of the church is such that it can easily sway the “decisions of third-world governments” in re: abortion. Cue the harrumphs:

As a direct result of this, critics say, the number of women who die as a result of botched, amateur terminations goes up.

No evidence or anything, just “critics say.”

The essayist even imports an imaginary everyman poor Catholic cleric to make the case that the church is living in a fairy-tale world:

To many a Catholic priest working in third-world slums, certain things are obvious: it is morally impossible to tell a Brazilian mother who already has a family of six that she must go on bearing children indefinitely — and it is plain wrong to tell a couple when one or both partners have AIDS that they must avoid condoms.

Look, you can argue that it’s ineffective and retrograde and all that, but if you are going to do an article damning the Catholic position on contraception, at least mention natural family planning.

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  • http://concordblog.blogspot.com Maurice Frontz

    I was listening to “Fresh Air” on NPR the other night. The piece was a rerun of an interview with a writer for “The Daily show.” He said, “Anything that makes fun of someone’s religious beliefs is probably not appropriate,” minutes after we heard a clip slamming pharmacists who refuse to dole out birth control. Why is this acceptable? “Because it’s hypocritical – birth control PREVENTS abortions!” The ignorance of the teaching of the Catholic Church, not to mention how chemical birth control works, was breathtaking, not to mention the willingness to suspend the rule of toleration once your prejudice has decided that someone else is a hypocrite.

    Thanks to my Catholic wife, this Lutheran pastor knows all about NFP.

  • http://www.ecben.net Gillimer

    It seems that nowadays “hypocritical” means “disagrees with Me”, on the rationalization that “We KNOW that nobody REALLY believes that.” What is breathtaking is the arrogance of “openminded liberals” who assume that their own beliefs are not just the only right ones, but the only possible ones.

  • Hisownfool

    Forgive me for stating the obvious but remind me again why the Catholic Church should give two you-know-whats about what a secular ENGLISH magazine has to say about its future? Not only is the Church’s future not to be found “in many western countries” but its present isn’t even located there. And that goes triply for Britain who, to paraphrase Richard Dreyfus’ character in “Close Encounters” is even a nominally Catholic country.

  • Winston7000

    Of course we know that all 116 Cardinals are seriously considering the issues raised in “The Economist” as they prepare for the conclave. Perhaps, “The Economist” could have suggested a more realistic approach, such as mass suicide by the Cardinals. This would be far less traumatic than the institutional suicide the Church would commit by following the trendy approach of these British know-nothings.
    The Church is thriving in the Third World and its orthodoxy is growing in the West precisely because it is the voice of holiness and sanity in the world. Of course, Britain is but a few decades off from being the new Atlantis.

  • http://www.urbanangel.net andy chamberlain


    The reason the piece in the economist is anonymous is because, apart from the occasional guest editorial, it’s their policy for journalists not to add their name to a piece. I don’t think there is any ‘dark’ reason for this, and as someone who has read the Economist in the past I haven’t had a problem with it.

    The Economist is not so much a liberal (in the political sense) magazine, as humanist by instinct, a bit like the BBC really. I’d defend it as a magazine worth reading because it very often says things I disagree with, but in a very intelligent way. Of course, we can say we don’t give two “you-know-what’s” what these people say (to quote the correspondent above) but surely it’s better to engage and win, the debate, rather than ignore it.

  • http://jeremiads.blogspot.com Jeremy Lott


    No ‘dark’ reason implied. The Economist doesn’t use bylines except for the “By Invitation” column, the frequent surveys, or book reviews when the book in review was written by someone who is or was associated with the magazine. I simply wanted to clue readers in that this wasn’t one of those exceptions.

    Jeremy Lott

  • ECJ

    For all the comments about JP II the “reactionary” there has been precious little comment about how he has doctrinally fixed the Roman Catholic church into an almost Unitarian position. Grabnted this is in keeping with Vatican II, but JPII said things that in effect repudiated the Council of Trent. I know conservative Catholics who thought of JP II as almost an apostate – and strictly speaking they were correct.

    But it doesn’t fit the story-line of JP II holding the line against modernity.


  • Stephen A.

    ECJ – I’m sure you meant “universalist” and not “unitarian,” since junking the trinity would be rather controversial, and I don’t remember reading about that discussion.

    Having said that, I’m surprised the media have ALSO not been reporting the rather incredible statements JPII made about other faiths – though they’ve talked about this superficially in the last week, not knowing that his brand of ecumenicalism was unheard of in past generations.

    Guess they just don’t “get religion.” (had to do it!)

  • http://httP://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    What’s ironic about this post is that nice picture of Rowan Cantuar, who has been put in the position of “guiding” the Anglicans into singling out the American and Canadian churches for expulsion if they don’t get in line on sexuality.

    An Anglican pope might also prefer to contest the “natural” in NFP, but that’s another argument altogether.

    All that said, there’s a decidedly antique feel to the Economist’s positions.

  • ECJ

    “I’m sure you meant “universalist” and not “unitarian,” since junking the trinity would be rather controversial, and I don’t remember reading about that discussion.”

    You are correct. I did mean “universalist.” I really have said ‘functional universalist’ to be completely precise.

    Thanks for the assist. :)