Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

No dissenting voices as media prays for liberal Pope

With Pope Benedict gone, the hope of some people is that his successor will be more 'liberal'. It is hoped he will permit married priests and women priests.

It is hoped he will permit intercommunion with Protestant denominations. It is hoped he will 'modernise' the Church's attitude to divorce, sex and contraception.

In fact, the Pope – no matter who he is – will do none of these things unilaterally. He would instead act in concert with the bishops and even then would and could only go as far as permitting, say, married priests, or intercommunion.

Neither he nor the bishops have the authority to introduce the other desired reforms. But this doesn't mean the pressure on the Church to conform to modern, liberal secular norms will abate.

Liberal societies take the view that no one should be allowed to impose their morality on anyone else, but then turn around and do precisely this to people who don't go along with their norms.

Once we have it into our heads that something is a right, then we rule that everyone is obliged to give people those rights.

Therefore, nurses in Scotland, for example, should think themselves lucky they aren't obliged to help perform abortions. Thus pharmacists are obliged to be 'pro-choice' and dispense the morning-after-pill to whoever wants it.

This is what Pope Benedict called the "dictatorship of relativism". It simply won't tolerate anyone who doesn't go along with it. Another term for this is "illiberal liberalism"; yet another is "intolerant tolerance". All dominant opinions become like this. They become aggressive and they use a combination of social pressure and the law to make everyone toe the line.

Of course, liberalism wasn't supposed to be like this. Liberalism is meant to be pluralistic and to make space for all points of view. But that is emphatically not how it is working out in practice.

The single biggest institution resisting the pressure to conform to modern, liberal, secular norms is the Catholic Church.

It won't accept that morality is a matter of opinion. This makes liberal societies intensely uncomfortable. It makes modern people intensely uncomfortable, because they feel insulted by the suggestion that their actions in the end must be judged according to objective moral norms.

This is why the Catholic Church is in the line of fire.

This is why our media champions dissidents within the Church, but only a certain type. For example, there are ultra-traditionalist dissidents who reject the Second Vatican Council. It's okay for the Pope to crack down on them. But it's not okay for the Pope to crack down on liberal dissidents.

They are to be left alone, because they are the ones our media hope will one day bring the Church into line with Western norms.

Therefore, liberals hope for a Pope who will end the Church's dissent; who will bring it into line and make it go along with their values. If he does not do that – and he won't – he can expect the relentless attacks to continue.

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