Archive for December, 2010

Of course women can have it all – they just don’t want it

Friday, December 24th, 2010

A highly provocative view from a leading female academic

By Rachel Porter

There would be a gasp of horror from the small but vocal minority of women who are still fighting tooth and nail for their ­version of gender equality.

But if it were possible to switch off the pressure that women feel to smash the glass ceiling and become high-flying, have-it-all executive superwomen, I suspect the majority in Britain would heave a collective sigh of relief.

Somehow, over the decades, unhelpful, unrealistic and inaccurate myths about ­gender equality have been hung around our necks like lead weights by the feminists and politicians who have dominated the debate.

Feminists and politicians who have headed the debate for decades have created an unrealistic expectations of gender equality

Myths: Feminists and politicians who have headed the debate for decades have created an unrealistic expectations of gender equality

They have encouraged us to strive for a world in which women and men occupy exactly the same positions in the home and the workplace. And they would have us believe that until there are as many househusbands as housewives, and as many female CEOs as male, we will not have attained gender equality of any kind.

But this notion is false and hopelessly out of touch with the ­aspirations of the majority of women.

Try telling these ‘experts’ that real ­equality is not about shoe-horning more women into the boardroom or more men into ­primary school teaching, but about opportunity and choice instead. Try telling them that a stay-at-home mother is exercising the same right to choose her own path as any dedicated career woman, and that those personal choices and preferences are the real reason why men and women tend to order their lives differently.

They will tell you that you that you’re a product of an inherently sexist world and that heavy-handed social engineering — like the kind of ‘positive discrimination’ introduced in Norway to boost the ­numbers of women in high level professional ­positions — is the only cure for it.

I am a sociologist and a feminist of sorts, and I have watched with growing horror as the political classes have cultivated around a dozen key myths about gender equality to prop up their leaky arguments about the need for drastic action.

And with these arguments gaining ground in some parts of the world, it feels high time someone tackled the myths behind them.

The first of these is the idea that our equal opportunities policies have failed. That ­simply isn’t true.

The big success of British equal ­opportunities legislation has been to narrow the pay gap between men and women, from around 29 per cent in 1975 to as little as ­- 10 per cent today. And in fact, more detailed studies of pay today show that the gap doesn’t exist at all for the generation who are just entering the workforce.

Most of this change took place quickly in the Seventies, when the Equal Pay Act came into force after high-profile protests for equal pay of the ­previous ­decade — the Dagenham Ford strike, on which the recent film Made In Dagenham was based, is the most famous.

Choice: Equality isn't about shoe-horning women into the boardroom but giving them the opportunity to decide themselves (posed by models)

Choice: Equality isn’t about shoe-horning women into the boardroom but giving them the opportunity to decide themselves (posed by models)

Since the mid-Nineties, the pay gap has remained more or less stable in the UK and across Europe. In that time, household income and disposable income has almost doubled, women have been having fewer children, and the number of them in higher education has risen from a third to over half.

In every meaningful way, our opportunities are equal to men’s, but still we hear cries of disappointment that women are not taking an equal number of top jobs.

In reality, although opportunities are now equal, women’s attitudes and aspirations regarding work haven’t changed much at all.

In 1975, six out of ten women of working age had a job. Today that number has risen to just seven out of 10. In the workplace, men are more likely to ask for pay rises, while women are more likely to ask for a reduction in their hours, to achieve a better work/life balance.

Does that mean that sexism is still rife? Or does it simply mean that women and men have ­different attitudes to work, despite ­having equal opportunities? And if so, why should they be made to feel bad about that?

Women are the subject of several other myths favoured by those intent on pushing more of them up the career ladder: There’s one about their distinctively ‘soft’ managerial style, which it is often argued is an asset to any male-dominated business.

It seems that those feminists who would baulk at sweeping generalisations in any other context are more than happy to suggest that all women (and presumably, no men) bring this quality to the workplace.

Then there’s the idea that women prefer to earn their own money, instead of being financially dependent upon a man. Yet, women’s aspirations to marry up to a man who is better-educated and higher-earning persists in most European countries.

It may make the radical feminists wince, but it’s true. For it is only a small number of women who really hanker after ‘having it all’.

In the UK, roughly half of women in senior professional roles don’t have children by the time they’re 40, and probably never will. Of those who do, the majority have a ‘nominal’ family — an only child, cared for by someone else.

It ticks a box, satisfying their ambition to be a parent, while minimising the cost and ­inconvenience of childcare, inevitable once she returns to work.

Are these the women who have it all? If so, is it any wonder so many prefer to make a choice between career and family?

But still, we’re fed more myths about how we can, and should, eradicate the differences between the sexes to benefit women, ­business, and society as a whole.

So-called experts may suggest that more men should become primary school teachers (posed by models)

Out of touch: So-called experts may suggest that more men should become primary school teachers (posed by models)

We’ve been told untruths about the ­success of policies implemented in Scandinavia, from ­Norway’s ­quotas for the percentage of women on every company board, to ­Sweden’s famous family-friendly legislation entitling every working parent to 16 months paid leave per child (two of which are compulsory). They never ­mention that in ­Norway, companies ­have to fulfil their government-decreed boardroom quotas with female executives from Britain and America (where more women make it to the top without the help of any such social engineering).

And while we hear so much about the possibility of equal parental leave in Sweden, the fact that only five to 10 per cent of men chose to take any parental leave until they were forced to by law remains a quiet little secret.

In those same countries, the pay gap is no smaller than ­average, and job segregation — where men and women are ­unevenly spread across all jobs and ­paygrades — is actually worse than in Egypt, and substantially higher than in Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and India.

Only in the predominantly Islamic Middle East and North Africa, and in certain developing countries, were there similar ­levels of job segregation.

But undeterred, Harriet Harman and her colleagues continue ­fighting to force similar policies into the British statute books.

They claim to speak for all women, but denigrate the efforts of those who choose not to pursue their career to the top, and consistently portray women as the pathetic victims of society; unable to look after our own ­interests in a genuine meritocracy.

They insist the only way to ‘level the playing field’ is to skew the game in women’s favour with the introduction of more legislation.

They wilfully ignore evidence that those women who want high-flying careers can get there under their own steam, under current laws.

Instead they believe in a ridiculous fantasy in which women are body-blocked in the corridors of power by men intent on protecting their boardroom majority.

The fact is that we have everything in place to give women every choice they could want, and that’s the only kind of equality that ­matters. ‘Having it all’ is just one option.

But isn’t it time we accepted that, for most women, it’s not the most desirable one?

n Dr Catherine Hakim is a sociologist at the London School of Economics and author of Feminist Myths And Magic Medicine, which will be published by the Centre for Policy Studies on Tuesday.

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SCREWTAPE Proposes an Episcopal Toast (15)

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

With apologies to C.S. Lewis

A Satirical Essay

By David W. Virtue

My dear Wormwood,

What a thoroughly splendid year it has been for us. The Council of Hades met last week. Your name came up as one who has singularly honored us with your ability to undermine, prevaricate, destroy, deceive and provide the necessary waffle and fudge that has kept the Anglican Communion going.

You should take pride in your achievements, Wormwood. A goblet of Pike’s blood was passed around the council table in remembrance of you.

You have brought clarity where there was only guessing and wonderment. You have made The Episcopal Church the Queerest Church on earth (as it won’t be in heaven). This achievement by itself will probably guarantee you a place at the council table within a decade or so. Like earthly law firms, you must first do the time before the elevation comes, but I can assure you that unless there is an outbreak of orthodoxy or one of those horrible spiritual revivals that occurs every so often when vulgar displays of public repentance and humility take place, then your place is assured at the council table. Well done.

The Glasspool election this past year was truly the icing on the fruit cake. Once again, The Episcopal Church stuck it in the face of Rowan Williams. He could only whimper that this would further strain relations within the communion. He wants The Episcopal Church to take a lesser role in the Anglican Communion. That will only happen when Hell freezes over and you know that won’t happen. Of course, they just keep laughing at him, or conversely get angry with him for not casting his lot totally with the church’s sodomites. Keep Colin Coward, Susan Russell and Louie Crew raging against the light. Their dark hearts are ours, all ours.

Our Father dragged up Hegel to dinner just to thank him. His whole thesis, antitheses, synthesis thing has worked well for us. Being neither hot nor cold, but straddling the fence has worked well for us. Make sure the fence gets new more comfortable saddles for the spring, Wormwood.

Also keep liberal bishops and archbishops preaching tolerance and beating up on Christians over so-called moderate Islamic mullahs and Imams. Nothing is sweeter music to our ears than watching Christians being persecuted and killed by Imams and their mob followers while watching liberal Anglican archbishops blast Christians for their alleged Islamophobia.

The one fly in the ointment that has our Father worried is the distancing of the Global South Primates from the more liberal and enlightened Primates.

That 11 archbishops will be no shows in Dublin is not something we relish at all. It will void Williams’ ability to negotiate the nonnegotiable. We loved it when he ran from room to room muttering “a pox on both your houses”, but he loved the whole game. That is all it was. The poor fool and those on his left flank who believe that G-d has changed his mind about sexual behavior have pushed millions into our camp. It has been a stunning reversal of 2,000 years of church teaching.

We especially love all the eulogies to those who have died of HIV/AIDS, this year, especially the one in Vancouver, BC, Canada, recently that likened the death of Peter Jepson to John the Baptist by an Anglican archdeacon. That one had our Father in stitches…the howls could be heard all over Hades.

Make sure that public scorn is continually poured out on those who believe in reparative therapies. Have the cries of homophobia shouted from the roof tops. Under no circumstances must those who believe that same-sex attractions can be corrected be allowed any place in post-Christian North America and especially in a post-Christian Episcopal Church.

Keep the “Listening Process” alive as pushed by the liberals, revisionists and the ABC. We want the orthodox to have it shoved in their faces till they fall over over in boredom or acceptance…(the latter is to our liking). You must remember that this is about desensitizing the orthodox so they just roll over. Listening is not about listening, but is about acquiescing to our side, Wormwood. Keep the pressure and the checks rolling in. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to give any ground to the other side. They must be force fed and destroyed if necessary.

That Duncan fellow dropped a bomb shell at that horrible Lausanne Congress on Evangelism in Cape Town, South Africa, recently, when he said that Jefferts Schori and her ilk were out to exterminate the orthodox in TEC. He was right, of course, but what a horrible revelation. We can’t touch him. Unfortunately, a great cloud of witnesses and angels surrounds him. Our Father grinds his teeth every time his name is mentioned.

The trip switch for 2011, Wormwood, will be the destruction of the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop, Mark Lawrence. With the new canons giving more power to the national church than the sovereign rights of local dioceses, see that David Booth Beers is geared up to wreck havoc on this diocese.

Keep the pansexual mill alive in 2011, Wormwood. We noted with interest that the road to legalizing same-sex marriage has lead to the floodgates opening. Any and all forms of sexuality are now fair game for legalization and promotion.

Homosexual marriage was simply the thin edge of the wedge. Our full-frontal assault on the institutions of marriage and family means there is no logical reason to prevent other deviant types of sexuality from being recognized and legitimized.

So it was absolutely wonderful news to read recently that there is now a push to legalize incest.

The slippery slope, which was ridiculed and mocked by some on our side claiming no one is arguing for polyamory or incest, is now coming to pass. There are people all over the world pushing for these very things. They are happy to ride on the success of the same-sex marriage movement, much to our delight.

We noted with gladness that the the upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalizing sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government. There have been only three cases of incest since 1984. No matter, Wormwood, once it is legislated in, there will be no holding back the floodgates.

The final sexual barriers are coming down across the world, Wormwood. We must make sure that churches, especially the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, which once followed the culture, will now be in the vanguard for total change. It is a triumph that only our Father could have dreamed of. Now it will be yours to implement.

I remain your affectionate uncle,


The Crusade against Christians

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010


Those who have declared war on the West are telling us who they hate.

Somali-born U.S. citizen Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was just nabbed by the FBI for trying to murder thousands of people at a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony the weekend after Thanksgiving in Portland’s central square. “I want whoever is attending that event,” the would-be mass murderer said, “to leave either dead or injured.” His choice of a Christmas-related event was no quirk.

Last year, Nigerian citizen Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, attempted to detonate plastic explosives stashed in his underwear during Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. The date of the foiled attack? December 25. A video by al-Qaeda in Yemen last year shows Abdulmutallab justifying his attack against “the Jews and the Christians and their agents.”

Are you starting to sense a pattern?

Then there’s Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist who murdered 13 people and wounded 30 more at the Fort Hood Army base on November 5, 2009. Hasan earlier had told an associate that “you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

Next we come to Osama bin Laden, who characterized U.S. troops in Lebanon as “crusader forces.” Crusaders, of course, were the fighters of Christendom during the Middle Ages who ignored the teachings of Christ and attempted to forcibly regain control of the Holy Lands from Muslims—often brutally. Whether out of ignorance or malice, bin Laden frequently conflates that ancient mob with the highly trained armed forces of the United States, many members of which would not claim to be Christians.

Concerning a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, bin Laden stated, “The crusader army became dust when we detonated al-Khobar with courageous youth of Islam fearing no danger.”

After the deadly 1998 attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the leader of al Qaeda told Al Jazeera, “Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates American[s], hates Jews, and hates Christians. This is a part of our belief and our religion.”

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and President Bush’s unfortunate characterization of the American response to the terrorists as a “crusade,” bin Laden broadcasted a statement that further clarified his motives. Christians were again on his mind.

“This war is fundamentally religious,” bin Laden said. “The people of the East are Muslims. They sympathized with Muslims against the people of the West, who are the crusaders.”

Further, the terrorist leader seems to also label Jews and Christians as infidels: “We must be loyal to the believers and those who believe that there is no God but Allah. We should also renounce the atheists and infidels. … God says: ‘Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion.’ It is a question of faith, not a war against terrorism, as Bush and Blair try to depict it.”

So as much as our leaders try to stress that this is a generic “war on terror” or a challenge against “man-caused disasters,” the Islamists trying to kill us see the conflict as religious in nature. It’s not a question of us turning it into a religious war. They have already announced a religious war—a new crusade—on all of us, whether we have agreed to their terms or not. And they particularly have placed Christians and Jews in their crosshairs.

What does that mean for the West? First, it means that many Americans who are not very religious have unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of a religious war. Whether we believe in God, or karma, or human reason alone, we are all at risk. After all, a bomb does not distinguish between Christian, Jew, atheist, or Muslim before it maims or kills. The bin Ladens of this world see us all as crusaders or infidels—in other words, as legitimate targets. It matters not whether our faith is vibrant, lukewarm, or nonexistent.

Second, it means that Christians, Jews, and indeed all peace-loving people must unite against a common foe, much as we did against the Third Reich. Our survival may depend on it.

What special message does this new crusade send to those of us who take our stand on Jesus Christ as the foundation of our lives? Since we are now official targets of the Muslim terrorists, doesn’t it make sense to live what we say we believe? It is senseless to die for the name of Christ if you’re not willing to live for him.

Persecution, of course, has been a persistent reality for believers, Christian and Jew, across the ages. Why should we be surprised by the hatred of the Islamists? As the Apostle Paul said, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That all includes us, even in the formerly comfortable West.

For whatever reason in God’s sovereign plan, persecution is finally coming around to Western Christians. As this war will likely last for generations (since it was generations in the making), we may face the unholy wrath of the Islamists for a long, long time. While this is a scary prospect, at a minimum it may help us to better understand and respond to the unjust suffering that our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing right now.

For example, on the evening of October 31, armed Muslim extremists in Baghdad took over the Our Lady of Salvation church. When Iraqi police stormed the building, a suicide bomb was detonated, killing 58 people and wounding another 78. After the attack, al Qaeda in Iraq warned, “All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the mujahedeen wherever they can reach them.” It also threatened to carry out more attacks against Christians in other countries. The Obama administration called the attack “senseless.” Unfortunately, such carnage makes perfect sense to the new crusaders.

Meanwhile, Asia Bibi, charged with insulting Muhammad under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law, has just become the first woman there to receive a death sentence under it. The 45-year-old mother of five, already imprisoned for over a year, allegedly is guilty of “wounding the religious feelings” of some Muslim neighbors.

Outrageous? Of course. But get ready for more of it. A new crusade is upon us.

History’s greatest male role model and a humbling lesson for feckless fathers today

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

By Iain Duncan Smith

Over the last ­fortnight, many of us will have been enjoying the ­familiar ­delights of the school ­Nativity play, sharing the excitement that a new generation of children ­always brings to it.

Their costumes may be fashioned from blankets, tea-­towels and old dressing-gown cords but you can see from their rapt expressions that the Christmas Story has lost none of its power and magic.

With Mother and the Christ Child holding centre stage, the final tableau, helped perhaps by a bit of prompting from ­parents and teachers, slowly assembles. On come the shepherds, ­earnestly clutching their crooks and toy lambs, closely followed by the three Wise Men, a riot of colour and gold gift-wrap.

Forgotten hero: Joseph's loyalty to Mary was admirable

Forgotten hero: Joseph’s loyalty to Mary was admirable

It’s such a familiar and enduring image that most of us can conjure it from memory in a moment. But it’s an image that I believe runs the real risk of overlooking the most important character of all, an ­individual whose vital role in shaping the Christian message is downplayed and yet whose story couldn’t be more important, or more significant, in today’s society.

You’ll normally find him in the second row, slightly hidden by Mary or a particularly large King, maybe fiddling with his false beard or tugging nervously with his head-dress. His name, of course, is Joseph, a vital character of any Nativity story you would think. But ask yourself one thing. In all ­honesty, whoever remembers who played Joseph?

Joseph’s extraordinary contribution to the Nativity story and to Christianity itself has been underplayed for centuries but it is my hope that it will be overlooked no longer, for his importance hinges on the critical decision he took, which holds such a powerful message for our own time.

Joseph’s mind must have been in turmoil. The initial sense of shock would have been palpable, followed, surely, by an overwhelming sense of betrayal

To understand this, consider how Joseph responds to news that Mary was with child, an extraordinary event that Matthew’s Gospel rather rushes through, almost dismissively.

‘When as his Mother was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with the child of the Holy Ghost.’

Think about what that actually means. Mary and Joseph may have become engaged but she has let him know that not only is she pregnant but he is not the father.

And there’s worse — or certainly more improbable — news to come for Joseph, with Mary insisting that she is still a virgin and that her unborn child is the Son of God. Even today that would be nigh-on impossible to swallow but back then, for Mary and Joseph, living in a traditional Jewish society, announcing you were pregnant with the Son of God would have been the most serious blasphemy. Mary could have been stoned to death.

Joseph’s mind must have been in turmoil. The initial sense of shock would have been palpable, followed, surely, by an overwhelming sense of betrayal. The woman he loved was pregnant and yet he was not the father. Matthew’s ­Gospel touches on what his ­initial reaction must have been.

Miracle birth: Oscar Isaac as Joseph and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary appear in a scene from The Nativity Story

Miracle birth: Oscar Isaac as Joseph and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary appear in a scene from The Nativity Story

‘Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not ­willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.’

In other words, he would have cancelled the betrothal and in such a way that Mary might hide from her shame. And who could have blamed him — the woman he loved, having betrayed him, had also taken leave of her senses. I’m quite sure that many of us today, if confronted with a similar story, wouldn’t have believed a word of it.

Strangely, the Bible solves this problem in a rather ­matter-of-fact manner, with the Angel of the Lord conveniently appearing to Joseph in a dream and telling him that Mary was telling the truth. ‘Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost.’ In other words, according to the Bible, Joseph woke up and promptly married her.

But even if Joseph believed the dream entirely, I don’t think this does justice to the enormity of the decision confronting Joseph when he awoke that morning. It conveniently forgets that notwithstanding the vision, he still had his free will, one that had been forged from the social and religious norms of the day.

Despite the huge social pressure he was facing and despite the potentially dangerous consequences, Joseph took the decision to stand by Mary, to marry her, protect her and raise the child as his own

Running through his head must have been some enormous concerns: there was still the problem of her pregnancy out of wedlock, the social stigma — for him as well as her — and the anger of friends and neighbours about her blasphemy.

No, it must have been a truly daunting prospect, one he could easily have chosen to walk away from, and left her to her fate. After all, he was a respected man in his community, descended as he was from King David — he had much to lose.

And yet he didn’t disown her.

Despite the huge social pressure he was facing and despite the potentially dangerous consequences, Joseph took the decision to stand by Mary, to marry her, protect her and raise the child as his own. I like to think he took this decision not just because of a vision in some night-time dream but because he loved her and wanted to keep her safe.

Certainly, if he hadn’t, the consequences for her could have been dire. A pregnancy out of wedlock would have made her an outcast, a pariah; but giving birth to a baby she called the Son of God could have got her killed. That’s why Joseph’s role is so important; without his support, neither Mary nor Jesus might have survived at all.

Supportive: Joseph's love of Mary and Jesus was vital to the story of Christ

Supportive: Joseph’s love of Mary and Jesus was vital to the story of Christ

Thanks to Joseph, however, they did survive. This quiet and skilled man bravely stepped out into the unknown — deliberately choosing to protect, provide for and raise Jesus as his own. He mentored him and taught him and even gave him the trade — carpentry — that Jesus would use until the time came for him to embark on his ministry. Joseph must have given Jesus so much as a father and Jesus must, in turn, have learned so much about life from Joseph.

Later, during his ministry, when Jesus spoke of God as being like a loving father, surely he must have been drawing from his own upbringing, drawing on his intimate knowledge of this extraordinarily good man, Joseph.

I am not a churchman and I am not given to commenting on Christian theology — rather I raise all this partly because I have long wondered why Joseph seems to have been so forgotten and partly because it has a very clear message for our own time.

Joseph was not an absent father; he was there, with Mary and with Jesus; and the Christian Church, by underplaying the importance of this in the story of Christ, has missed a real example of selfless dedication and commitment which should resound today

In parts of our society, too many young men and women grow up without the experience of a loving father. And we seem to have forgotten what an important role a father plays. It’s about far more than earning enough money to provide shelter and place food on the table; it’s about nurturing, support and loyalty, it’s about providing the best male role model that a man can.

But we seem to have forgotten that or wrongly come to the conclusion that we can somehow get by without it. The result is that in too many communities, there are deep-rooted problems now shared by ­generations of young people that stem — directly or indirectly — from the absence of fathers in the vital early years.

I have seen how family breakdown, which often begins with fatherlessness, can lead to high levels of truancy, anti-social behaviour, youth crime, street gangs and teenage pregnancy.

But Joseph was not an absent father; he was there, with Mary and with Jesus; and the Christian Church, by underplaying the importance of this in the story of Christ, has missed a real example of selfless dedication and commitment which should resound today.

Extraordinary: Joseph is a superb example of a loving father

Extraordinary: Joseph is a superb example of a loving father

Whether it was battling for accommodation for his pregnant and exhausted wife in a crowded town or protecting his family as they fled from ­Herod’s soldiers, this simple man of courage and honour was always there when his wife and son needed him. For some children, we might reasonably ask: where are the men of such courage and ­honour today?

So this Christmas, when you encounter that familiar Nativity tableau, try to look past Mary, the crib and even the Baby Jesus. Seek out that ordinary-looking face in the second row, almost lost behind the shepherds and wise men, and look into the eyes of the forgotten hero in the story of Christ; then smile and give thanks for Joseph.

Pope: sex abuse scandal ‘humiliating’ but society must share the blame

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The Catholic Church must examine the failures in its teaching that allowed the “unimaginable” sexual abuse of children by priests to continue unchallenged for so long, the Pope said yesterday.

Pope Benedict XVI: Pope: Church must reflect on what is wrong with its message that allowed abuse scandal

Benedict has previously acknowledged that the scandal was the result of sin within the church and that the church as a result must repent for it and make amends with victims Photo: REUTERS

The worldwide “humiliation” that the church has experienced as a result of the scandal must serve as a spur to reform, Benedict XVI told his cardinals gathered in Rome.

However, the pontiff argued that the abuse crisis must be seen in its social “context”, suggesting that part of the blame lay with permissive attitudes in western society dating from the 1970s.

Survivors of clerical sex abuse condemned the Pope’s statement as another attempt by Church authorities to evade responsibility for the scandal.

The Pope was speaking in his annual Christmas address to bishops and cardinals, assembled in the frescoed Sala Regia of the Vatican’s apostolic palace. It was seen as evidence of the seriousness with which the Pope views the issue that he chose tackling child sex abuse as the major theme for one of his highest profile set-piece speeches of the year.

While stressing that most priests were honourable, Pope Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 had reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

“We know of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” he said. “We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, that allowed such a thing to occur.”

However, Benedict said the fault lay not only with the Church but also with the “context of our times”, in which child pornography, drug use, sexual trafficking were to some degree considered permissible.

“There exists a market of pornography regarding children that seems to be increasingly accepted as normal by society,” he said.

“The psychological devastation of children, in which human beings are reduced to a marketplace article, is a terrifying sign of the times.”

The underlying ideology of such excesses stemmed from the 1970s, when “paedophilia was theorized as something that was in keeping with man and even the child”, he said. “The effects of such theories are evident today.”

Representatives of abuse victims dismissed the Pope’s comments as “absolute nonsense”.

Margaret Kennedy, from the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group, said: “He is trying to say that the modern world is corrupt and sexually rampant. It is blaming society for what is actually their responsibility,” she said. “No-one in any age has ever thought that adults having sex with children is right.”

The scandal first came to public consciousness in the US in 2002, and spread across the world earlier this year, with thousands of victims emerging in Europe and beyond.

Details were disclosed of bishops who covered up for paedophile priests and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the crimes for decades.

Benedict himself faced questions over his handling of the crisis, in his former roles as archbishop in Munich and as head of the Vatican office that was responsible for dealing with abuse cases.

There’s Something About Mary

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
Beliefs about Jesus’ virgin mother vary between Christians of the early church, Roman Catholics, and modern-day Protestants, but this model of total trustful devotion has lessons to teach all Christians.

Protestants pay a lot of attention to Jesus’ mother at Christmas but she is largely forgotten the rest of the year. How has the church historically viewed her? And has that changed?

Christianity Today assistant online editor Todd Hertz sat down with CT executive editors and theologians J.I. Packer and Tom Oden to discuss the role of Mary throughout history and why she remains important to all Christians today.

J.I. Packer is Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia. Tom Oden is Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey and general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.


What were early church impressions of Mary?

Oden: It is very speculative, but my own view is that the mother of Jesus was quite important to the earliest church—the church during the writing of the gospel of Luke. It was probably written in Ephesus during the middle part of the first century, and there is a very good chance that Mary was living there at that time.

Now if you take that as a premise, which is uncertain historically, you then have a very important figure in the whole world church who is still alive. She has stored these memories in her heart. She is highly revered. After she died, [the church] was facing much persecution, and there was a great emphasis on the memory of holy lives. She was certainly at the center of that.

From the outset she was remembered as a virgin in whom the Holy Spirit conceived the incarnate Lord. In my view, the incarnation was an early recognition of the church. There’s good textual evidence [to support that] in the earliest documents we have. Luke supported this view, as did other documents such as Paul’s writings.

How did official church thinking about Mary change?

Oden: In 431 A.D., there was the ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which raised the question as to whether the liturgy is right or wrong in calling Mary, theotokos. That Greek word means “Bearer of God.” There was a certain party that said, “We should not say theotokos, we should say only christotokos.” They were saying, “No, Mary didn’t bear God, she just bore Jesus Christ.”

The council affirmed that the liturgy is right—not that Mary is the source of God but rather that Mary is the bearer of the Incarnation. She is the one through whom the fleshly incarnate Lord becomes living history for us. That was a key point of doctrine that Protestants later took. Both Calvin and Luther affirmed the term theotokos.

As Catholic piety began to develop, you see Mary viewed as an intercessor. It is hard to say when that begins to develop, but it is evident in the early second century. So then Marian piety becomes increasingly important. In almost every decade of the church’s life in the first four or five centuries it seems to accelerate.

How did the Reformation change Protestant impressions of Mary?

Packer: At the time of the Reformation, Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer produced a prayer book to be used in evening prayer. It included Mary’s song, the Magnificat, from Luke chapter one. The effect of its use was to celebrate Mary as the model, the pioneer, and the archetype of the saved sinner. The shift [this represented] was from Mary as a focus of devotion to Mary as the first beneficiary from the incarnation. So straightaway you have a changed perspective on Mary.

What has happened in recent decades is that since evening prayer has ceased to be a reality in nearly all Anglican churches everywhere in the last 50 years, Anglicans simply do not think of Mary, and many don’t know the Magnificat by heart.

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Responding to bad news

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

There has been great ‘celebration’ in gay world recently.  Yesterday was a significant day both in the US and the UK in terms of the active, aggressive promotion and embedding of LGBT rights in the public sphere.

This news strikes people differently.  Many are still caught up in the past, where gay-as-victim was the dominant narrative, and dreadful things happened to homosexual people. We deplore this, and support the right of all to get on living their lives peacefully.

However, what is presently occurring is taking the LGBT — and related — cause to a different and far more ominous place.  It is not a ‘live and let live’ approach, but an insistence now that all will promote LGBT rights in public or tacitly collude by keeping quiet.

My readers are perhaps aware of how other previously taboo behaviour/minorities are now out.   Of course they clamour for the same legitimacy as the LGBT, and why not?   They note the basis upon which the LGBT succeeded, believe theirs is the same, and respond with ‘me too!’

So, right now, we have the polyamorists and the polygamists up in Canada pushing for the right to engage in plural marriage, and those who engage in adult familial relationships (incest) are saying much the same both in the US and in Switzerland. See here and here.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as I have said countless times.

But how can one respond to the whole host of challenges mentioned above?   May I encourage you on two fronts?First is that of  prayer, and praying with like minds.  Asking God to show whom to pray with and what to pray for is becoming increasingly important; this is a supernatural issue as well, as we need the learn that ‘the battle is the Lord’s’. One of my favourite prayers is that God will bring good out of evil, that things will be seen for what they are, and that it will not be too late. In particular, prayers for the media are needed, that the truth will not remain hidden or be distorted, and that Christian leaders, groups and news sources will know how best to equip people to respond to today’s alarming challenges.

Secondly (and related to the first issue), may I suggest that one of the primay reasons the LGBT political agenda has done so well is because we refuse to discuss what is actually occurring in these lifestyles according to those who represent them publically and to thus evaluate in a more objective way the potential physical and psychological risks? See here and here for material from Terrence Higgins Trust, (the leading gay ‘health’ agency in the UK and beyond) [warning, graphic];  see here here here and here for information on how these sexual activites damage, both as part of a minority lifestyle or as experimented with by open-minded ‘straight’ kids and young adults.  If those of us who have concerns about the official promotion of gay and other alternative lifestyles do not discuss how it harms those involved, those on the other side of the ideological fence who have no such  scruples determine how the ordinary person views and understands these lifestyles.

Disturbing and difficult as it may be, these issues are not going away and we must confront them.