Interference by meddling cardinals


Politics and piety are becoming increasingly entangled as the human fertilisation and embryology bill passes through parliament…Brown put the interests of the Christian few over the rights of the many. Most people obviously disagree with a Catholic morality that puts the rights of the non-extant over those of the living…Brown’s about-turn has led many to conclude that the government’s front benches are becoming increasingly religion-led…The vice-like grip of Catholicism holds fast across large parts of the continent. Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland are just some of the countries in Europe that have been subjected to interference by meddling cardinals. Abortion is still outlawed in Ireland and was only recently legalised in Portugal. Anti-abortion campaigns have, almost without exception, been led from the pulpit. Catholicism has never taken a back seat; it has always actively interfered in democratic politics.

And there’s an oddly deferential tone to at least some of the press coverage of this fact, as I mentioned a couple of days ago. It’s treated as normal and uncontroversial and unexceptionable that ‘the Roman Catholic Church’ should be telling the UK government what to do. This is a very bad mistake. When the Catholic church interferes it does it in aid of a nasty reactionary agenda. It shouldn’t be politely curtsied to as if it were some benign foster parent.

Ruth Kelly’s contention, supported by other religious politicians, that she can separate her private morals from public policy does not stand up to scrutiny. During the passage of the legislation to ban discrimination in the provision of goods and services in 2007, she is reputed to have fought hard for Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of the requirement to place children with same sex couples. When it came to the crunch, her Catholic faith won the day. Should devout Catholics such as Kelly, Browne and Murphy be allowed on the government front bench in the light of their predilection to favour the Pope’s word above the government’s?

In a word: no.

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