Should we adopt Pope's message on family life?
Russell Brand's been mouthing off again. "We need to give hope to young people, help the aged and open ourselves toward the future and spread love." Nothing new here from an ex-druggie Hari Krishna devotee well known for his bleeding-heart leftie take on societal compassion, cherishing youth, stretching minds and 'spreading love.'
Except oops... hang on. My mistake. These aren't the words of Russell Brand. They came from another revolutionary upstart. The Pope.
Writing as an unbaptised, unaligned agnostic, I'm finding the increasingly radical positing of Pope Francis heartening. Just last month he spoke of his frustration regarding the inferior role of women in the Church, with rumours he wanted to appoint a female cardinal so rife the Vatican issued an emergency missive urging members to "stay calm".
It's clear he's ruffling feathers in the conclaves and saunas of Rome but Papa Francis seems to thrive on his trouble-making reputation. It seems when he was on his knees this year washing the feet of young offenders, including women and Muslims, he had more on his mind than how he'd look on the cover of The Catholic Herald.
I've always believed if Christianity was to have a practical benefit in the world it would be by using its influence to encourage social and political change. Regardless of whether you believe in God, whether you regard religion as the illusory opium of the masses or the key to the kingdom of Heaven, if religious leaders can improve the lives of the afflicted, disadvantaged and discarded, you have to agree it's worth having them around.
There have been times when such a notion has sounded naive and borderline crazy. In Northern Ireland we are regularly reminded of how quickly religious power-brokers dump the ideas of Jesus (who was clearly a bleeding heart leftie himself, nagging on about tolerance, forgiveness and the redistribution of wealth) and use their position to attack others, spread hatred and encourage the social rejection of unapproved groups.
But Francis isn't having it. He's already stated it's not up to him to disparagingly judge gay people. Now he's attacked the Church's fixation with "abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods" and launched a global survey to test Catholics' views on all aspects of family life. He's invited bishops to Rome to discuss possible reform, favouring a progressive light that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable. No wonder The BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey called his international survey "something of a revolution".
As the Pope turns his thoughts to family life and ponders the quandary of the woman in an Aids-riddled African township discouraged from using condoms, or the painful situation of becoming pregnant to the man who raped you, or how it feels to be publicly chastised for divorcing a partner who was beating you, I wonder what he would make of Northern Ireland's adoption laws. You know, the ones described by the British Association for Adopting and Fostering last week as 30 years out of date and "not fit for purpose".
Only here can the birth parents specify what religion the baby they're giving up should be raised in. Which might explain why adoptions rates are half of the rest of the UK's, with more than 250 children having been in care for more than 10 years. Not enough is being done to ease the passage of adoption, and too many kids are going into adulthood without ever knowing the care of a real family.
It's time to shake up the backward ideas holding back compassionate progression. As that wild-eyed radical Pope Francis might say.
'It's clear that Pope Francis is ruffling feathers in the conclaves and saunas of Rome'