A Papal Lecture At Oxford?

Wouldn’t that be one for the books! According this this TIME article, Austen Ivereigh said:

“The Pope’s mission when he comes to Britain will be to confront the rise of aggressive secularism and atheism on its own turf. And that turf is reason,” says Ivereigh. “The Pope will challenge secularism by appealing to an English tradition of pluralism which he sees as being eclipsed by these laws.” Although details of the itinerary won’t be known for months, there has been talk of a possible papal lecture at Oxford University.

Newman would have been astounded. But wouldn’t this be a perfect completion to the trilogy that began with Regensburg, and was followed with the Sorbonne?

The TIME article (“Pope Talks Tough on Vacation”) is actually fairly sensible (except for the title) and deals with the reason why Pope Benedict is concentrating his efforts on Europe. The article concludes with this:

Before his English autumn trip, however, Benedict will have some lecturing to do this spring in Portugal. This traditionally observant Catholic nation has rapidly moved to the forefront of progressive social causes with the initial approval by its Parliament last month of a bill legalizing gay marriage. Final approval could coincide with the May arrival of Benedict, who has already referred to the bill as an “attack” on creation, which “strikes at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes.” After last month’s vote, Prime Minister José Sócrates declared…: “This is a step that will seem completely natural in the near future, in the same way that gender equality, abortion rights and unmarried couples living together are normal now.” That is just what Benedict fears.

Mmm.

Meanwhile, an AFP report is saying that Fr Lombardi has commented on the British press reaction to the Holy Father’s comments. I can’t find the verifyng statements in any recent VIS reports, but here is the AFP:

Vatican denies pope comments on Britain an ‘interference’

VATICAN CITY — The pope’s condemnation of Britain’s equality legislation seen as friendly to gays does not constitute an “interference” as alleged by his critics, his spokesman said Saturday.

“Serious people will understand immediately that it does not in any way constitute an interference on the part of the church in the social and political dynamics but a brave manifestation of his position to serve the common good,” Federico Lombardi said in an editorial on Radio Vatican.

The 82-year-old pontiff Benedict XVI ruffled feathers Monday by saying that although Britain is known for its commitment to “equality of opportunity” the effect “has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs”.

“In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

Observers said the pontiff was referring to legislation that took effect on January 1, 2009 preventing adoption agencies — including Catholic ones — from discriminating against gay couples.

Gay activists in Britain have called for protests during the pontiff’s visit in September.

British human rights campaigner and gay activist Peter Tatchell said the pope’s remarks were an attack on the legal rights granted to gay people and women.

The date of the papal trip has not been confirmed but Britain’s Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy was quoted last year as saying ministers had drawn up a programme for a papal visit from September 16 to 19.

A “brave manifestation of his position to serve the common good” is what I believe we will hear at the Oxford Lecture. A pity, really, that the Regensburg professor couldn’t have a “dialogue” with the Oxford don Dawkins… I guess that would be asking for too much.

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