Page 5, 3rd January 2003

3rd January 2003
Page 5
Page 5, 3rd January 2003 — Taking leave of a strange and confusing year

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Taking leave of a strange and confusing year

2002 has not been a happy year, says Richard Mullen, and 2003 threatens to be worse. Nevertheless, Catholics have every reason to turn with hope to the new year

The new Western racist imperialism: imposing secularism on the natives

Personal view

riorella Sultana de Maria Iam fairly used to receiving odd emails. From adverts offering me everything from a cut-price PhD to pornography or letters accusing me of heresy, I have probably seen the full range of strange email subject headings. However, I was still a little surprised last week when I found an email in my INBOX entitled. "let's talk about sex".

Let's not, I thought, but it turned out to be a forward from a group calling itself Sexpression, advertising their annual conference... during which a group of "sexperts" (and yes, they really did use that expression) were down to — well, talk about the obvious, I suppose.

I will have to add another subject to my list of things I still do not understand about England; AGAs, Marmite and grown-ups going to conferences to chat about their bedroom activities. Where I come from, people do not need intensive tuition, they just get on with it. But that was the whole problem. The advert would not have annoyed me particularly, had it not been for one line which read, "How the hell do yon teach sex ed in a Catholic country like Malta?"

I would quite like to have told this infantile organisation that the little island upon which they seemed so desperate to impose their ideas. could probably teach them a thing or two.

For starters, the standard and accessibility of Catholic Malta's healthcare is ranked among the highest in the world. we do not abort our disabled children, campaign to kill off our elderly relatives or hand under-age girls the Morning After Pill.

In this uneducated Mediterranean country, I feel considerably safer walking alone at night than I do even in the relative safety of Cambridge and I meet more beggars in half an hour travelling through Cambridge City Centre than I have ever met in Malta.

Perhaps Maltese pressure groups should come to England to tell people how to bring up their children and care for the underprivileged.

I am not pretending that Malta does not have its own growing set of moral and social problems, but I resented the assumption the conference organisers were making, that there is only one way to approach sexuality and that every other approach is inferior or ignorant. Secular humanism believes in its own version of absolute truth and it forms part of a carefully disguised but inherently racist ideology.

Western society has very few taboos left, but one of the worst. second only to paedophilia, is racism. To be accused of being "racist" or "imperialist" is to lose credi bility and respect immediately, but very few seem to comprehend that the aggressive propagation of western secularist agendas — such as coercive aid projects which include "reproductive services" as a compulsory part of the package is nothing more than colonialism re-marketed. It looks more humane because the tactics used now are more subtle but it is rooted in the same sense of moral superiority.

It is particularly depressing that the people who make a virtue out of dictating to Bangladeshi women how many children they should have or telling Maltese teachers what they should teach their pupils. fail to realise that they are trapped in the very mindset they claim to despise.

The received wisdom that "we're all the same really" does not marry particularly well with the attitude that we have to teach poor misguided Catholic natives the correct way to live their lives, and eating houmous or waxing lyrical about backpacking in Nepal will not conceal the fact that, deep down, the supposition remains that certain people are by nature primitive. backward and need to be civilised/secularised for their own good,

lf there really was such a thing as multiculturalism in the genuine sense of the word. it would not even be necessary to answer, "how the hell do you teach sex ed in a Catholic country like Malta?" with "it is really none of your business".

The question would simply never be asked.

The Year that has just passed into history has been a strange one, especially for a year at the beginning not only of a new century, but of a new millennium. It has been a year where most of the events, happy or sad, looked back to an earlier time. It has been a year poised between the 2001 terrorist outrages in America and what seems to be the coming war with Iraq. It has been, in short, a year waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For us in Britain this has also been a year dominated by two royal events. The death of the Queen Mother on 31 March brought a truly remarkable Christian life to a triumphant completion at Eastertime. The nation went into a period of mourning, but a mourning elevated by the splendour of the funeral's ceremonial and the realisation of all that she had meant and done in her many decades of devotion to duty.

A few months later, we had a prolonged and glorious party to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June. Millions revelled not only in spectacular public events but with private parties and church services throughout the land. An added boom of the Jubilee was the way in which dyspeptic cynics and perpetual critics were confounded and. all too briefly, silenced.

A year with two sublime events has also seen several ridiculous ones as well. We had the spectacle of "Did the Butler Do It?" which ultimately featured two different royal butlers. No sooner had that pantomime closed than we were treated to the farce of "Cherie and the Con Man".

For Catholics, 2002 began fiill of hope and joy as Cardinal MurphyO'Connor became the first Catholic in centuries to preach before the Sovereign. This sermon at Sandringham last January was yet another sign that Catholicism was now at the very centre of British life.

yet this gracious mark of acceptance perhaps should have carried a warning. The privilege of being admitted into the Establishment also brings with it a vulnerability to the assaults of a scandal-hungry media. "Paedophile priests" are now as fair game for headlines as "dirty vicars'"or "greedy royals."

This was seen in the biggest and longest running ecclesiastical story of 2002: "clerical abuse." Here again, we see the year's consistent trend to look backward for almost all the cases of alleged abuse of young people by priests in Britain and America have been cases that are said to have occurred some time ago. Bishops and cardinals were attacked throughout 2002 for what they had not done in the 1980s and 1990s.

Much of the focus has been on Boston's Cardinal Law, whose state saw a virtual repeat of its notorious "Salem Witch Trials."

Rome tried to calm matters by summoning all the American Cardi nals to the Vatican. but that only increased the speculation. Finally Cardinal Law was allowed to resign, but that will not end this festering sore for far too many people have vested interests in picking at it. Here in England a similar press campaign has been got up against our own Cardinal on far flimsier grounds.

We would have to go back to 1848, when the Pope fled in disguise from Rome. or to the horrors of the French Revolution to find a worse year than 2002 for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Not since those days has there been such an orchestrated campaign of vilification and hatred against the Church and her priests. Nine Catholic bishops (five in the United States alone) were forced to resign this year because of accusations of sexual misconduct against them personally or because they were accused of 'covering up' similar activities by their clergy. It is a worrying sign at this year's end that a boy in Baltimore, who claims to be a 'victim' has just been declared innocent by a jury even though he admitted shooting the priest whom he accused of 'abusing' him some years ago.

Saints proved as controversial as sinners last year. Two canonisations attracted much attention especially from the secular press who made their customary hash-up of religious stories. Canonisations, by their very nature, look towards the past. The canonisation of the founder of Opus Dei in the autumn delighted many conservative Catholics and equally appalled many liberal Catholics. The Pope's trip to Mexico in July centred on the canonisation of the Mexican peasant who witnessed the apparition Our Lady of Guadalupe. This papal action shows the Vatican's increasing concern to reach out to the poor of Latin America.

Many of our fears throughout 2002 have been centred on the Middle East and the terrorism that springs from its seemingly unending warfare. Christians were particularly horrified when that war was waged at the very doors of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Nuns and Franciscan friars were caught up in the battles between Israelis and Palestinians. This autumn the brutal terrorism of Muslim fanatics struck yet again, this time in the Pacific.

At home, we seem to be in an endless trough with an increasingly purposeless government, scarcely confronted by an ineffective opposition, a government who were further distracted by absurd speculation as to whether its leader was or was not a real "Roman Catholic".

It is too early to say whether 2002 will prove an important date in English Church history with the elevation of Rowan Williams to the Archbishopric of Canterbury. His supporters, including many influential Catholics, think he will, but others think the new Archbishop from Wales shows increasing signs of becoming an ecclesiastical version of Neil Kinnock.

In August the Pope made his 98th foreign trip since his election. It really was not "foreign" as it was an emotional return to Poland. He obviously drew strength from the love poured out to him from the massive crowds as he visited places that had played a central role in his life. By the end of the year he could rejoice in seeing Poland on its way to becoming a full member of the European Union.

Throughout this difficult year, the Pope has astounded (and no doubt annoyed) all those who expected him to retire or to die. Frail though he is physically, his spirit and his mind remain vigorous enough for him to carry on. his work into another year, one which will mark the Silver Jubilee of his historic pontificate.

Although press coverage centres upon his continual foreign trips or his efforts to deal with "clerical abuse", his most important mission remains his fervent desire to call the world to a spiritual renewal, especially its young people. This year he has done it through such acts as establishing a new set of Mysteries for the Rosary.

In spite of some joyous and a few glorious moments, 2002 has not been a happy year and 2003 threatens to be worse, with war and terrorism swirling about us. Yet we should remember a few words from Cardinal Murphy-O'Cannor's sermon before the Queen. He recalled that when he was young boy he had heard Winston Churchill's famous speech in the darkest hours of the war, when he quoted from Arthur dough's Victorian poem, "Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth": For while the tired waves vainly Seem here no painful inch to gain. Far back, through creeks and Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

The Cardinal saw that the "creeks and inlets in our own time are Christians coming together but the silent flood is the gifts of the Holy Spirit This is God's work and this is His will, not merely our own efforts.' With these thoughts, perhaps we can take leave of 2002 and turn hopefully towards a new year.

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