Watching, Thinking & Praying

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Five Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children

I found a link to this article on The Anglican Mainstream blog which took me to Dr. Hansen's blog page.(here)

Love Isn't Enough; Five reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children

By Trayce Hansen, Ph.D.

Proponents of same-sex marriage believe the only thing children really need is love. Based on that supposition, they conclude it’s just as good for children to be raised by loving parents of the same sex, as it is to be raised by loving parents of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, that basic assumption—and all that flows from it—is false. Because love isn’t enough!

All else being equal, children do best when raised by a married mother and father. It’s within this environment that children are most likely to be exposed to the emotional and psychological experiences they need in order to thrive.

Men and women bring diversity to parenting; each makes unique contributions to the rearing of children that can’t be replicated by the other. Mothers and fathers simply are not interchangeable. Two women can both be good mothers, but neither can be a good father.

So here are five reasons why it’s in the best interest of children to be raised by both a mother and a father:

First, mother-love and father-love—though equally important—are qualitatively different and produce distinct parent-child attachments. Specifically, it’s the combination of the unconditional-leaning love of a mother and the conditional-leaning love of a father that’s essential to a child’s development. Either of these forms of love without the other can be problematic. Because what a child needs is the complementary balance the two types of parental love and attachment provide.

Only heterosexual parents offer children the opportunity to develop relationships with a parent of the same, as well as the opposite sex. Relationships with both sexes early in life make it easier for a child to relate to both sexes later in life. For a girl, that means she’ll better understand and appropriately interact with the world of men and be more comfortable in the world of women. And for a boy, the converse will hold true. Having a relationship with “the other”—an opposite sexed parent—also increases the likelihood that a child will be more empathetic and less narcissistic.

Secondly, children progress through predictable and necessary developmental stages. Some stages require more from a mother, while others require more from a father. For example, during infancy, babies of both sexes tend to do better in the care of their mother. Mothers are more attuned to the subtle needs of their infants and thus are more appropriately responsive. However, at some point, if a young boy is to become a competent man, he must detach from his mother and instead identify with his father. A fatherless boy doesn’t have a man with whom to identify and is more likely to have trouble forming a healthy masculine identity.

A father teaches a boy how to properly channel his aggressive and sexual drives. A mother can’t show a son how to control his impulses because she’s not a man and doesn’t have the same urges as one. A father also commands a form of respect from a boy that a mother doesn’t––a respect more likely to keep the boy in line. And those are the two primary reasons why boys without fathers are more likely to become delinquent and end up incarcerated.

Father-need is also built into the psyche of girls. There are times in a girl’s life when only a father will do. For instance, a father offers a daughter a safe, non-sexual place to experience her first male-female relationship and have her femininity affirmed. When a girl doesn’t have a father to fill that role she’s more likely to become promiscuous in a misguided attempt to satisfy her inborn hunger for male attention and validation.

Overall, fathers play a restraining role in the lives of their children. They restrain sons from acting out antisocially, and daughters from acting out sexually. When there’s no father to perform this function, dire consequences often result both for the fatherless children and for the society in which these children act out their losses.

Third, boys and girls need an opposite-sexed parent to help them moderate their own gender-linked inclinations. As example, boys generally embrace reason over emotion, rules over relationships, risk-taking over caution, and standards over compassion, while girls generally embrace the reverse. An opposite-sexed parent helps a child keep his or her own natural proclivities in check by teaching—verbally and nonverbally—the worth of the opposing tendencies. That teaching not only facilitates moderation, but it also expands the child’s world—helping the child see beyond his or her own limited vantage point.

Fourth, same-sex marriage will increase sexual confusion and sexual experimentation by young people. The implicit and explicit message of same-sex marriage is that all choices are equally acceptable and desirable. So, even children from traditional homes—influenced by the all-sexual-options-are-equal message—will grow up thinking it doesn’t matter whom one relates to sexually or marries. Holding such a belief will lead some—if not many—impressionable young people to consider sexual and marital arrangements they never would have contemplated previously. And children from homosexual families, who are already more likely to experiment sexually, would do so to an even greater extent, because not only was non-traditional sexuality role-modeled by their parents, it was also approved by their society.

There is no question that human sexuality is pliant. Think of ancient Greece or Rome—among many other early civilizations—where male homosexuality and bisexuality were nearly ubiquitous. This was not so because most of those men were born with a “gay gene,” rather it was because homosexuality was condoned by those societies. That which a society sanctions, it gets more of.

And fifth, if society permits same-sex marriage, it also will have to allow other types of marriage. The legal logic is simple: If prohibiting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, then disallowing polygamous marriage, polyamorous marriage, or any other marital grouping will also be deemed discriminatory. The emotional and psychological ramifications of these assorted arrangements on the developing psyches and sexuality of children would be disastrous. And what happens to the children of these alternative marriages if the union dissolves and each parent then “remarries”? Those children could end up with four fathers, or two fathers and four mothers, or, you fill in the blank.

Certainly homosexual couples can be just as loving as heterosexual couples, but children require more than love. They need the distinctive qualities and the complementary natures of a male and female parent.

The accumulated wisdom of over 5,000 years has concluded that the ideal marital and parental configuration is composed of one man and one woman. Arrogantly disregarding such time-tested wisdom, and using children as guinea pigs in a radical experiment, is risky at best, and cataclysmic at worst.

Same-sex marriage definitely isn’t in the best interest of children. And although we empathize with those homosexuals who long to be married and parent children, we mustn’t allow our compassion for them to trump our compassion for children. In a contest between the desires of some homosexuals and the needs of all children, we can’t allow the children to lose.

Dr. Trayce L. Hansen is a licensed psychologist with a clinical and forensic practice. She received her Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, in 1997. Dr. Hansen’s professional experience is varied and includes work in multiple clinical as well as forensic settings. She is particularly interested in issues related to marriage, parenting, male / female differences, and homosexuality. Dr. Hansen has extensively reviewed the research literature in these areas and occasionally writes commentaries based on her findings that have been published worldwide. She has been heard on local and national radio and interviewed by the web and print media. Dr. Hansen also consults on legal cases and has testified in both deposition and court hearings related to her professional expertise.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Integrity and Politics

The Dangers of a Hung Parliament

As I write this (May 11, 2010) Liberal Democrat MP's are meeting with Labour representatives to discuss a possible "Lib-Lab Pact" or, as it has been named by others, a "Progressive Party". Some people (myself included) are a little worried about this possibility, but much more alarming is the possible collapse of political integrity.

The Present Situation

Some partisan commentators and party members have suggested that the people voted for a hung parliament. This is bad logic. To begin with, we cannot get inside every one's head to see what his/her intentions were. Secondly, the outcome itself does not prove that voters wanted this outcome. What we do know is that many people voted for either Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs, and that the majority voted either Labour or Tory. The majority did not vote for a hung parliament or (and even this has been suggested) for some change in the voting system. There is absolutely no evidence for any such conclusion. One Labour MP went so far as to suggest that because voters have created a hung parliament situation and have NOT voted for a majority Tory government, anything is possible, and whatever emerged would be more or less what the people wanted. That some Liberal Democrats are apparently insisting that there be more movement towards a form of Proportional Representation suggests that some of them are not really concerned with what the Electorate wants. The only fair and logical position regarding that proposition is the one already suggested by the Conservatives i.e. a referendum.

Another thing that is clear is that the Electorate has not voted for a Liberal Democrat government, which means that the majority have NOT voted for Liberal Democrat policies. The negotiations now taking place are at least partially taken up with what the Lib-Dem's can wring out of either of the other two main parties. This is dishonourable. They need to be reminded that their negotiating position does not mean that they at liberty to insist on their own policies being adopted. If they insist on some further guarantees regarding PR they will have to explain - perhaps in a future election - why they were apparently ready to push this idea irrespective of the views of the Electorate.

Political Ideology

Presumably those who belong to a particular party accept and support its philosophical outlook. How far will Labour members go in the attempt to remain in power? Some Labour spokesmen and women seem to be saying that there is not much difference between Labour and the Lib-Dem's. Is this really true? If it is, then why have they not joined before? Why have Labour politicians fought elections against them? At the same time, how far will Conservatives go to please the Lib-Dem's? Clearly, as has been said, there are more serious differences between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, but when we listen to Labour MPs there now seems to be almost nothing separating them. Where has the Labour Party gone?

Another Matter

If the Liberal Democrats form an alliance or create a coalition with Labour, the government will have to rely on the support of other parties. In the General Election, English and Welsh voters did NOT have the opportunity to vote for Scottish Nationalists, so how can they now become involved in governing Britain to the extent of shoring up an unstable coalition? How could Welsh or Northern Ireland MPs - who have not been returned through any involvement of the English Electorate - have such a stake in government? This is surely dishonourable. We see how shaky democracy has become. The party with the greatest votes may well be pushed back into opposition and, on top of that, we may have another unelected PM.

A Travesty

The most unbelievable part of all of this - to me, at least - is that we had presidential-style debates involving the three main party leaders where the personalities were clearly important. Mr. Clegg impressed everyone to begin with (though this fell off somewhat later on). it became clear through the opinion polls and the interviews with people on the street that some were drawn towards the Liberal Democrats because of his performance. Add to that the overdone reputation of Vince Cable ("Honest Vince") and we had some formerly undecided voters going over to them. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, began to appear tired and repetitive, and one of the reasons for his resignation is precisely that many Labourites saw him - and his "personality" - as their chief liability (fair or not). His behaviour towards those who disagree with or challenge him has long been a subject of concern for party workers and journalists. His famous Lancashire gaffe into a lapel mike only served to highlight this problem. Some commentators said it was fortunate that he did not use four-letter words (as he has been known to do on some occasions). With all this in the background how is it possible that Labour could make a moral case for another unelected Prime Minister? In my view this is also dishonourable, and a travesty.

We can only hope - and pray, that the call for a "new politics" which we hear from time to time will result in a politics that pays more than lip-service to integrity and honour.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Why the Ordination of Women is a Tragic Mistake

Some Background.

When I was a seminarian, and well on in my studies, I decided that I could see no objection to the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more reasonable and acceptable it seemed, and I fully expected to see it in my lifetime. I can't remember what I thought about it as I prepared for ordination, and as a newly-ordained priest I had too much to think about as I began life as the curate to a rather difficult parish priest. At some point, I began to think again, and I found the idea uncomfortable. I had no personal objection to women priests, and I could see arguments in favour of them, so why was I now reluctant? The answer lies not in any newly-discovered prejudices but in my Catholic faith. I knew that the Vatican was against the ordination of women, and when the document Inter Insigniores was issued in 1976 (a year or so after my ordination) I knew that I had to rethink the matter. If asked at the time (and I cannot remember being asked) I suppose I would have said that the Vatican has issued a statement and that the "Church" is against it - meaning, by that, the Magisterium. I later read Fr. Manfred Hauke's book (against) but, to be honest, I was disappointed. I suppose I was looking for a clinching argument and, unfortunately, he doesn't provide one. At this point - and I really felt this - the really big argument against the ordination of women was that it was simply not allowed. As a loyal, obedient Catholic priest, that was enough for me. However, I still kept looking for that clinching argument. For some, the fact that Our Lord only chose men is enough, but that argument has been challenged, and keeps being challenged, which means that those in favour of women priests simply do not accept it. Leaving aside their suggestion or belief that Jesus was limited by His cultural background etc (an argument that does not stand in my opinion), there is a reluctance to accept the usual anti arguments, and, in any case, they are often simply dismissed as the arguments of "men".

A Breakthrough?

I was reading St. Matthew's Gospel 20:20-28. Beginning at verse 24 we read;

"When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' " (Jerusalem Bible)

I was struck by the phrase; "the rulers lord it over them" I remembered reading a very similar phrase in Genesis. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God tells Eve,

"I will multiply your pains in childbearing, you shall give birth to your children in pain. Your yearning will be for your husband, yet he will lord it over you" (3: 16)

Thinking about these two texts and realising that the sometimes scandalous inequality of the sexes is a consequence of original sin, I then looked again at the words of Christ and began to think about the priesthood. Other texts came to mind, especially Ephesians 5:21-33 where St. Paul wrote;

"Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy"

The headship of the husband is compared to the headship of Christ, but as Jesus says in the Gospel, he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life. The ministry of the Apostles is a ministry of service. Its model is not the old Adam, but the new Adam. Since Christ's priesthood cannot be separated from any other aspect of his humanity, what we are talking about is the Priesthood of the New Adam. Whereas the old Adam "lorded it over" Eve, the New Adam lays down his life. The Church is seen in Ephesians as the "Bride of Christ". The Christian priest is called to follow Christ in laying down his life for the Church. To maintain this understanding, the Christian priest must be male.

I will try to make it clearer. The renewal of the relationship between men and women, husbands and wives, requires a male priesthood, otherwise an important aspect of the economy of salvation is distorted. In Christ the consequences of the Fall are reversed. In Christ men and women are made equal, but the cost of that is the sacrifice of the New Adam. Sexual identity is key to all this. The male is no longer "lord" over the female. Although Christ is Lord, He lays aside his glory and becomes "like sin" so that we might become "the righteousness of God". St. Paul's theology of the New Adam requires that the ministerial priest be male. In the daily living out of the faith and the exercise of the priesthood of all believers there is need of a sign of this sacrifice of the New Adam. The bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ must be truly identified as the Body and Blood of the New Adam who gave his life for the Church (the "Bride"). To make this clear, the ministerial priest MUST be male.

I cannot see how anyone can put up a convincing argument against this without dismissing the traditional interpretation of the Bible. In fact, one of the consequences of the ordination of women is precisely the reworking of Holy Scripture, even, in some cases, to the point of regarding much of Scripture as optional or quaint, so that its authority is lessened.

Further Points.

Catholics are encouraged to develop a devotion to the Mother of Christ. We need her to help us in our understanding of the priesthood. To begin with, we should note that as in Genesis the order of creation of humanity is man first and woman second, in the order of the Redemption it is the woman who is called first. In fact, as St. Bernard famously noted, so much hangs on Mary's "yes". Where Eve effectively said, "No" to God, the New Eve said "Yes!". This was the beginning. She then became pregnant with the Saviour of the world. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception takes its place in all this. As Eve was the first to sin, so in the human order, the Mother of Jesus was without original sin at her conception. In the order of the Redemption it is woman first and man second. As it is expressed in an old Marian hymn, the Stella Maris, the Archangel's "Ave" is the reversal of "Eva" (Eve). The restoration of humanity in Christ does not come about just through words. The very Word of God himself becomes flesh, and this flesh - male flesh - is given, sacrificed, offered, poured out. The rejection of the sinful lordship is a total rejection. The new Adam is "servant". The ministerial priesthood which is a sign of this, is therefore necessary for the equality of the sexes, and, properly understood and lived, is NOT in any sense a denial of women's rights, but a guarantee of them. For this to work, the ministerial priest MUST be male.

There are other things to say and there are other texts that can be quoted in support of this case, but the basic argument is given above. Enough has been said, I think, to make the case clear. Ultimately the only argument against this is an argument against the analogy of Holy Scripture and a re-reading or rewriting of the Word of God. However we may discuss Genesis, it is either the Word of God or it is not. This is not a fundamentalist position; the case against women's ordination outlined above does not depend on a literalistic interpretation. Genesis, like all Scripture, is inspired by The Holy Spirit. Some may want to write out references to the consequences of original sin; it cannot be done. We are not dealing here with historical accuracy, but with the work of The Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin. Genesis was written partly from the common experience of humanity and, given the inequalities of the Ancient Middle East, and the inequalities we can still see in the "unredeemed" Arab culture, it would surely be almost unbelievable that Genesis 3 could have been written without divine help.

Arguments referring to ancient Palestinian culture have been used to promote the possibility of women priests. If cultural arguments are to be accepted, then the one I am presenting here is surely worthy of consideration.

Postscript: The Basic Cultural (from Scripture) Argument in Favour of Women Priests

I want to finish with a few remarks about one of the arguments most often advanced by proponents of the ordination of women, namely that Christ would have been unable to choose women at that time because of the cultural background etc. This argument does not stand. St. Paul makes absolutely clear, in 1 Corinthians, that it is the Cross, above all, which is a "stumbling block". This word is scandalon. A scandalon was deadly. It is not just a piece of wood or a stone in your path; it is not like a speed bump or even a fallen tree or a mound of earth that you have to climb over. A scandalon was the kind of obstacle that could kill. It was like the rock that would send you over a cliff or the sharp stick in an animal trap that would very likely cause the death of the victim. This is not just something you step over or walk around. A scandalon is a grave offence, just as the drinking of blood mentioned by Jesus in Chapter 6 of St. John's Gospel caused many to walk away. The idea that the choosing of women to be Apostles would have been seen in this light is a nonsense. As Bouyer pointed out years ago, Palestine was not a totally isolated area without contact with other cultures. Galilee itself had been influenced by the Greeks. The existence of women serving in pagan ttemples was known to some in Israel, and certainly beyond the confines of the borders of Israel there would have been no major problems with women Apostles. No, it is an argument that does not stand. But this is not the only reason for rejecting it. We need to revisit the doctrine of the Incarnation and the fact that Jesus truly was and is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made flesh. Is it really to be considered a serious argument that in matters relating to the establishment of His Church He would have allowed Himself to be limited by cultural concerns? Jesus broke with many customs and cultural taboos. He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden. She effectively became the first one to announce the Resurrection -BUT - she was not one of the twelve. Christ's meeting with the Samaritan woman is another example. . It is really time that the argument about His supposed cultural limitation with respect the choice of male Apostles was placed where it belongs - in the bin!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Henry V111, The Divine Right of Kings and The Church of England

A Window in Bristol Cathedral


When did the Church of England begin? Some people claim that the Church of England, extending to the Anglican Communion, is part of the world-wide Catholic and Apostolic Church. Some will say that it is a continuation or development of the ancient Celtic Church (at least up to the Synod of Whitby), and some say that it is the Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury. There are still those in the Anglican Communion who see their Church as part of an ecclesiastical trinity: The Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. There are many questions here, but I want to discuss what most historians, secular and ecclesiastical, will agree was the actual beginning of the Church of England; Henry VIII's break with Rome and the declaration of his Royal Supremacy in matters spiritual.

One of the best recent books on Henry is, "1536", subtitled, "The Year that Changed Henry VIII", by Suzannah Lipscomb (Lion 2009). Historians have long puzzled over the changes in Henry's character that occurred in that year. But the aggressive and moody behaviour that became more obvious had a long history, and the two years before 1536 saw events which had a profound effect not only on Henry's emotional stability but on the whole country. Lipscomb writes that it was when Sir Thomas More and Archbishop John Fisher were beheaded that the break with Rome was complete. In a particular way their deaths signalled the final rejection of Papal authority in England.

Henry's rejection of the Pope was tied in with his need to divorce Queen Katherine, but it would be a mistake to simplify by saying; "It was all about the divorce". Lipscomb makes clear that Henry was a scholar and something of a theologian. Although it is clear that he sought advice from others, he also meditated, read and annotated the Bible and thought through his ideas in great detail. He is known to have sent for theological opinions from some of the best places of learning in Europe. He became utterly convinced of his position as the divinely appointed King of England, and he saw this kingship embracing the spiritual well-being of his people. However he began this enquiry, there seems little doubt that he became convinced (or convinced himself?) of the rightness of his position. He was heavily influenced by Tyndale's "The Obedience of A Christian Man" (a gift from Ann Boleyn) which argued that a Christian prince ought not submit to the Pope or any church authority, since he was "ordained" by God and was answerable to Him alone. Henry said that all kings ought to read this book.

In exalting his position Head of the Church, Henry was going against the book he had written (with help) against Luther, Assertio Septum Sacramentorum. This book was also a defence of Papal authority. The Pope gave him the title "Defender of the Faith" which was strangely kept by the English crown after the break with Rome. Henry turned about face. He so exalted his own position that he was soon to correct the Bishops' catechism, and the front piece of the Great Bible of 1539 shows Henry sitting immediately below the glorified Christ, handing out the Word of God which then, as from his hands, descends from both ecclesiastical and secular authorities to the people at the bottom. It is an hierarchical order with Henry clearly taking the place of the Pope, but no Roman etching had quite exalted the Papacy in such fashion. In that front piece, Henry, like a giant on his throne, is more prominent than the Pope ever was in England. This fits in with Henry's need to enlarge almost everything about himself (including his codpiece in the famous Whitehall Mural and subsequent copies). There could be no opposition to Henry's rule over the English Church. Everyone had to be told - it had to be preached in every church - that he was the divinely appointed Head of the Church in England.

Where did the theory of the "Divine Right of Kings" come from? Is it truly scriptural? Is it truly Christian? It seems to me that these are important questions when thinking not only about the Anglican Church, but the the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and the position of the Tsar.


The doctrine of the divine right of kings has a long history. It is impossible to focus on one date or event as a beginning. It is tempting to go back as far as the Emperor Constantine who called the Council of Nicaea. There seems to have been an understanding, taken from Holy Scripture, that Christians were expected to honour and obey the emperor or the ruling authority (1Peter 2: 13-17). The Lord Jesus Himself told Pilate that his authority had been given by God (John 19:11). However it is also clear from Scripture that no earthly ruler has absolute authority in all things. Whatever side of the Reformation fence people choose, Christ's own authority was passed to the Apostles and through them to the whole Church. The order in which authority was given by Christ is important. Although in Chapter 10 of St. Matthew's Gospel Jesus gives the authority to cast out demons and to heal to "his disciples" the "power of the keys" is given first to Peter (Chapter 16: 13-19). It is clear that teaching authority (including overseeing the local Church) was passed on from one to another, and it is also clear that this involved the "laying on of hands", so there was a physical expression of this. Not wanting to digress, the physical expression of what came to be called Apostolic Succession is important. The Word became flesh, and the full implications of the Incarnation for the life and organisation of the Church include the physicality of the transmission of the Gospel, from the use of the voice, to the actual active ministration whether that means baptising, healing or the laying on of hands in the sense of ordaining someone.

A search for the roots of the doctrine of the Divine right brings us to the Papal Bull, "Unam Sanctam" of Pope Boniface VIII. This was issued in 1302. It is considered, by some, to be an extreme statement of papal authority. The so-called doctrine of the "two swords" is especially connected with this document. Boniface insisted that the secular powers must submit to the spiritual authorities and that this submission went beyond matters spiritual. He seems to have taken much of his theory from the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux, Hugh St. Victor and Thomas Aquinas. We could go farther back and look at St. Augustine's "City of God" which speaks of the "Two Cities", the spiritual being the most important.

Whilst the Pope and the King shared authority, the king or emperor being anointed and therefore authenticated by the Bishop, there was some sort of balance. Admittedly there was always a tension between authority given from above and authority accepted, or even granted, from below. This was resolved to some extent by the idea that a Christian monarch would be considered genuine only in so far as he was virtuous. This point was made by Erasmus in his, "The Education of a Christian Prince" (1516). The implications of this were to be historically far-reaching and opened up a wider debate about just how far a king (or queen) could go in asserting royal authority. The post-Reformation development of the divine right theory led to an imbalance. The monarch had to claim rights over both secular and spiritual matters, and given the widely-recognised accent on royal virtue this could only cause further problems. It might be argued that the extremes of Louis XVI (aided by Bossuet) have nothing to do with the Reformation, but they are rooted in a dispute between king and Pope and so, by way of reaction, there was an imbalance that led to further tragedy.

My main point in this essay is to focus on the beginnings of the Church of England in relation to the divine right theory as developed and expressed by Henry VIII. To lay the groundwork of my argument I want to ask whether we can agree that the theory is actually Christian. Henry deliberately identified himself with King David but, cutting the first part of my argument short, the Davidic kingship was fulfilled in Christ, and the Lord did not give His authority to a secular ruler - He gave it to His Apostles and to His Church. From that Christians are right to assume that the Church can, and should, recognise the legitimacy of secular authority. Problems may have arisen when the Pope or bishops, by virtue of a coronation rite, ritually and publicly recognised one ruler over against another. Fallen human nature being what it is, mistakes were made, and Popes and bishops were often manipulated, threatened or even bought. As long as a given ruler had the Pope on his side, he might be able to wave his sceptre over others when it came to disputed territories. The political corruption inevitably led to other forms. A strong Pope or bishop might well resist the threats and bribery, but it took a strong will and stomach, and some paid for non-compliance with their lives (as in the case of Becket) or through enforced exile and even captivity.

Leaving aside the dangers of political and spiritual corruption - because of human weakness and not necessarily because of the doctrine - we still need to ask how far Henry's idea of divine right can be squared with Scripture. If Davidic kingship is fulfilled in Christ, and Christ did not appoint a secular ruler, how can Henry's claim of spiritual headship be justified? To appeal to the Old Testament in this matter is as wrong as appealing to Holy Scripture to justify revenge. The old order changed. The new order is different. There is a strong argument to be put against Henry's exaltation of his own spiritual authority, and therefore an argument to be put against the legitimacy of the Church of England. In the end we can ask by what right, exactly, did Henry usurp the position of the Pope? By right of interpretation? I think this is the answer, and it reveals the Protestant root of the problem. The interpretation of Holy Scripture and the presentation of this as Scriptural truth is precisely at the heart of the problem. Henry's seeking of theological opinion regarding the divorce and the influence of people like Tyndale on his own understanding of royal authority are part of what became a national tragedy which still has far-reaching implications. In Europe we associate the Reformation with "The Diet of Worms"; in England especially, with Henry VIII we are still struggling with a "can of worms".

One of the problems now being faced by some Anglo-Catholics who are tempted to look to Rome is how to deal with long-held opinions and beliefs regarding "Popery" and the necessity of the Reformation in England. We know from our own recent experience that political spin causes more problems than it is meant to solve. Propaganda is not a new invention. I often think about Shakespeare's "Richard III" which is partly based on Thomas More's treatment, in support of the Tudor claim. Recent research has brought more balance to the Richard III debate, and it now looks as though More's portrait was not many miles from the truth. Still, it is a piece of propaganda, and Henry himself was heavily involved in embellishing his own image and acheivements. As the Tudor period advances we go deeper into this kind of illusion and trickery, especially with Elizabeth's re-invention as the "Virgin Queen". We are constantly in search of the truth in all these things, but if we are committed to Christ we must be committed to Truth, whatever the cost. Newman is one of the heroes of the Truth. When we discover it, it really does mean "buying the field" and giving all that we have. Those who truly commit tmemselves to the Truth know what interior peace is. In spite of persecutions, apparent doubts, lost friends and a thousand difficulties, there is always a still centre, and it is like standing on the Rock of Peter's faith.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Global Warming Fears and Why Catholics Should be Sceptical

I am writing this as a Catholic priest and therefore from a Catholic perspective. The presentation of the so-called "mainstream" assessment of Global Warming has caused serious concerns in the minds of many scientists and non-scientists, and these concerns include certain ethical questions about the nature of the presentation itself as well as questions relating to scientific methodology and the necessity of maintaining a rigorous commitment to the truth.

In recent weeks we have heard a British Government spokesman say that the scientific objection to the usual presentation of Global Warming comes from a "tiny minority" of scientists. Elsewhere it has become common to hear some scientists and politicians, as well as expert commentators, suggest that most of those academics who object to the so-called "consensus" opinion are not real scientists at all, or have no expertise in climate related disciplines. Both of these statements are unfair and misleading, and one of them is completely untrue.

The Wikipedia website, List of Scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming, tells us that those who oppose the usually accepted presentation fall into three groups; those who believe global warming is not occurring or that it has ceased, those who oppose it on the grounds that the accuracy of IPCC (The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) climate projections is questionable, and those who believe that global warming is caused by natural processes. Whilst it is true that many scientists the world over accept that some kind of global warming is taking place, there are many who do not believe that human activity is a major factor. There is a petition on the internet (Global Warming Petition Project) which, to date, has been signed by 31, 486 American scientists. The petition itself reads;

"We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth"

On the website of the Petition the qualifications of the signers are listed. The broad categories are; "Atmosphere, Earth and Environment" (3,804),
"Computers and Math" (An important category given the reliance on computer models) (935), "Physics and Aerospace" (5,812), "Chemistry" (4, 821), "Biochemistry, Biology and Agriculture" (Another very important category given the measurements related to these disciplines), "Medicine" (3, 046), and "General Engineering & General Science" (10, 103), of which the larger number (9,834) includes the disciplines, Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Metallurgy.

Some will argue that the larger group has nothing to do with climate change and may be dismissed, but part of the problem many people have with the usual presentation of global warming is with the quality or reliability of the scientific methodology. At the same time, as we will see, the credentials of some of those most prominently involved in the IPCC are questionable.

One of the common accusations against scientists who are classed as "Global Warming Sceptics" is that they are in the pay of big business. This has been shown to be unfair and, in some cases, entirely untrue. To take one example, William M. Gray is the Professor Emeritus and head of the Tropical Meteorology Project, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University. He has been quoted as saying;

"This small warming is likely a result of the natural alterations in global ocean currents which are driven by ocean salinity variations. Ocean circulation variations are as yet little understood. Humankind has little or nothing to do with the recent temperature changes. We are not that influential" "I am of the opinion that [global warming] is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people" "So many people have a vested interest in this global-warming thing-all these big labs and research and stuff. The idea is to frighten the public, to get money and study it more"

Whatever one thinks about this last comment, it is clear that some highly qualified people are not at all convinced by the data presented and are, in some cases, even concerned about the reliability of some of those presenting it. Added to this is the often unfair and even scandalous treatment meted out to some of those who dare to question the apparently prevailing view. Little of this is reported in the major newspapers or on the TV News Networks. Some sceptical scientists are now quiet - not because they have changed their views, but because they have been threatened with job loss or have been sidelined. Where sections of the Media have signed up to support the prevailing view, it is difficult for opposing voices to be heard at all. Government Spokesmen and women are allowed to use unscientific terms like "overwhelming evidence" and make unscientific statements like, "The science is indisputable", "The science is there", "The science is in" etc, without any fear of contradiction. For the most part TV News presenters ask no challenging questions, and in referring to sceptics even suggest, by their attitude, the unspoken view that, "of course, no one really takes this seriously, do they?"

Youtube is a good source of information about pro and anti global warming commentators. I discovered a story which will be unknown to most people in the United Kingdom. It concerns a scientist called Dr. Alan Carlin who was a senior research analyst for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which is now an arm of the American Government. He was asked to draw up a report based on a study of data related to Global Warming. To begin with, the report was not forwarded to others in the EPA, but was held back. A leaked email to Dr. Carlin from his superior leaves us in no doubt that the report was deliberately suppressed because its findings were inconvenient. The Youtube url for the most startling report on this situation is;

This is a report on Fox News which is one of the few News Networks to allow sceptical scientists and commentators a voice.

Since Catholics are, or should be, devoted to truth and justice, it is important to look back at the beginning and early development of the IPCC. As the name suggests, this was not intended to be simply a panel of climate scientists. The IPCC is not only scientific, it is also heavily political. We can see this by looking at its origins.

Shardul Agrawala is a senior economist at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), environment directorate, where he leads the work programme on climate change and development. He is the author of a chapter in the Fourth Assessment report of the IPCC. He has done important work on adaptation to climate change (for example with relation to glacial retreat in Nepal). He is not a climate sceptic but seems to have some concerns about the political aspects of the presentation of climate change. According to him, the IPCC has its roots in a workshop held in 1985 in Villach which was organised by The United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP], The World Meteorological Organisation [WMO] and the non-governmental International Council for Science (ICSU). At that workshop, some scientists, speaking in a personal capacity (not representing their own governments etc), announced a consensus that, "in the first half of the next century a rise of global mean temperature would occur which is greater than any in man's history". It was the United States Government which took this up and promoted it. The US wanted an inter-governmental mechanism. There was some concern in the US that this "consensus" would encourage costly policies, and so, there was a need to "buy time". This formal recognition of scientific expertise was of great importance since it allowed wider publication of this information and invited other governments to become involved and enter into negotiation with each other.

The conference statement mentioned other factors thought to be connected with climate change: sea level rises, greenhouse gases, acid deposition, and threats to the ozone shield. It was suggested that use of coal and oil should be reduced and energy conservation should be encouraged to help reduce acid deposition. This, it was thought, would also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Concern about the ozone layer led to the suggestion that the release of chloro-flurocarbons (CFCs) should be discouraged (it was also thought that the reduction of CFCs would slow the rate of climate change).

There had been previous conferences on climate related matters, but the conclusions of the 1985 meeting went further than anything that had been said before. In 1983 a US National Research Council report had advocated "caution not panic". There had been a previous conference at Villach in 1980. The conclusions of that meeting were also far more cautious. What happened in five years to cause such a radical response? The world situation had not worsened to any great extent, so why the change of pace?

In a paper published in 1997, Wendy Franz (then at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University) suggested the answer lies in the fact that the United Nations agencies invited the eighty-nine scientists to attend in a personal capacity, without domestic governmental restraints. These agencies, acting together, were able to encourage policy recommendations under the name of the United Nations, freeing those scientists from the need to seek approval elsewhere. This was an expression of a supranational body answerable only to itself. It is an example of the move towards international policy making which we have seen elsewhere (for example in the European Parliament). This brings in another question which we need to consider, that of "World Government".

Mention of World Government brings to mind the phrase conspiracy theories. Another well-known phrase also comes to mind; "Just because I am paranoid, it doesn't mean that they are not out to get me!" In other words, we may need to look at fears and theories we have dismissed as "off the wall" to see if there is any truth in them. Before I became involved in researching climate change I never took suggestions of people promoting "world government" very seriously. I would have been tempted to consign such fears to the "lunatic fringe". Didn't somebody once say that the lunatics are often right?

One of the most important people in the story of the climate change controversy is Maurice Strong. He was asked, by UN Secretary General, U Thant, to Chair the first 'UN Conference on the Human Environment' (Stockholm 1972). Strong had risen to these heights from his post on the security staff at the United Nations in New York. Christopher Booker ("The Real Global Warming Disaster". Continuum 2009) tells us that Strong was born in Canada 1929. He experienced the hardships of the Great Depression and became a socialist. Inspired by Roosevelt and Churchill and the beginning of the United Nations after the war, he became a believer in world government. Through his experience in the energy industry and his contacts with senior politicians, he found himself in charge of Canada's overseas development agency under the Prime Minister, Lester Pearson. This was in the 1960's when the environmentalist movement was becoming popular. Strong saw it as a cause that could bring about his dream of world government. By 1976 he had retired and became a wealthy business man. He became a member of the Club of Rome which had been set up to call world leaders together to discuss the question of over-population, a concern fired by Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb". In 1972, the Club of Rome published a book called, "Limits to Growth". It sold thirty million copies and became the biggest selling book in the history of the environmentalist movement. In 1983, Strong was picked by the Secretary General Kofi Annan to join the 'World Commission on Environment and Development' This was chaired by the Norwegian prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland. Strong was convinced that man-made global warming should be one of the Commission's main concerns. He had been impressed by the 1985 Villach meeting. One of the UN bodies involved, the UNEP, was his creation.

It should be no surprise that the question of over-population has been raised again at Copenhagen (December 2009). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for a reduction in world population in the interest of the environment. An article in the Daily Telegraph of Friday, December 11th, 2009 suggested that the topic was in the air but had not yet been openly acknowledged. Now it has, and as many Catholic watchers of these events will have predicted, it will now move centre stage. It is clear from the UNFPA report (see that the focus will be on encouraging both contraception and (when deemed necessary of course) abortion. Many of us saw this coming. Once again it will be the people of the developing countries who will fall under the weight of the propaganda. I suspect some of their leaders already know this. Not only are the developing countries at risk with regard to their economic development, but their moral and social environment will soon be under attack by those who may have set out to seek to alleviate poverty but have ended up controling the poor. Some may wonder how I can say this. The control of the poor is already under way in the major countries of the West. Studies on this include Star Parker's book, "Uncle Sam's Plantation". In any case we have already witnessed insidious attempts to control the population of the poor in Africa. The policies of the Chinese Government, especially with regard to Tibet, have hardly raised an eyebrow in Western corridors of power, and those atrocities have rarely been reported in the Western Media which, in many areas, is controlled by liberal pro-contraceptive "progressives" who are not only "anti-life" but, increasingly, anti-Catholic.

Having said all that, and knowing that some will argue with my interpretation of the facts, there is still the problem of justice and the need for truth in the widespread scientific community. We do not need to deny that something like global warming is taking place, but there is still room - and time - for further discussion about the causes and the seriousness of the situation. Name-calling is no way to deal with dissenters. Earlier this year (2009) a special report was submitted to the United States Congress. It was not widely reported although the whole text was available on the internet. The report was signed by over 400 scientists who disagree with some aspect of the prevailing presentation of global warming. Many of them are at the top of their profession in climate-related science. This number has increased over the last five years, and increased by 100%. The fact that this is not widely known should make us think. What else is being kept off our news bulletins?

Unless we watch and read up on these things we are liable to find ourselves in very difficult situations when it comes to dealing with the Press. If Catholics too readily accept the common view of climate change and global warming, they may find themselves struggling to defend the right to life and the right to bear children against anti-natalism and the misuse of the propaganda they have already accepted as the truth. The present situation calls for careful discernment. Those who are concerned about these things are not all "global warming deniers", and many of them are certainly not ignorant of most of the facts. Unlike some of the media-supported climate change scientists and politicians, they do not make definitive statements, but try to ask questions and point to uncomfortable inconsistencies. They are not "flat-earthers" as Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called them, and they just might be the voice of sanity in the mad house.

Fr. John Abberton


About Me

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I was born in Sheffield and brought up in Halifax, Yorkshire.I was trained at Ushaw College, attended Durham University and was ordained in 1975. I am a member of the Marian Movement of Priests and a Secular Carmelite(ocds). I am also a reader of "True Life in God"