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Anthony Hofler

Attentive observers should be able to recognise interesting comparisons between political and religious circumstances. A particularly interesting case-study is the aftermath of the UK’s 2015 General Election, which provided enough ‘food for thought’ to increase such observers’ ‘weight’. Before analysing the ‘food’ specific to that Election, it is appropriate to make a preliminary comment, and to connect it with a Catholic M.P. who in disillusionment abandoned Parliament just over a century ago. If these early stages seem rather general and dull, resist a temptation to assume that the remainder of the essay is not worth reading.

     Commonly it is said that people are disillusioned with politics/politicians, and worrying (to the politicians) evidence of that is mentioned, being primarily opinion-polls and (especially in local elections) voting-levels. (The same allegation is applied to religion, the evidence in that context being primarily diminishing attendance at liturgical and other devotional events; the ten-yearly national general census contains its own evidence of irreligious attitude.)

     Broadcast comments made by ‘ordinary’ members of the public are often heard to include opinions that ‘politicians are all the same’ / ‘they’re in it for themselves, they just want our votes’ / ‘it doesn’t matter who gets in, because nothing changes’. Alternating periods of government by one of two Parties contributed to such indifference, but it goes back a long way. In February 1911, Hilaire Belloc (a Catholic) and Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s brother, Cecil (who in 1913 became a Catholic) published “The Party System.”[1] Belloc had been an MP, but gave it up because he thought that “the Parliamentary system had decayed too far for him to be able to work inside it any

Hilaire Belloc
               Hilaire Belloc

longer.”[2] In a letter written a few weeks before the book appeared, he wrote that “one must be inside the House to see how utterly futile is any attempt at representative action. It is all very well as advertisement, but it is without any practical consequence whatever…”[3] A few days after that, in “a rather empty House”[4] containing “not more than twenty or thirty members,”[5] he explained his conclusion that “even the most modest pen in the humblest newspaper is as good as a vote in what has ceased to be a free deliberative assembly.”[6] That can be comforting to anyone limited to the use of such a pen, but has not deterred the many experienced MPs who have repeatedly sought re-election, one of whom is now the leader of the Labour Party and of whom more will be written later in this essay (cf. above request to “resist a temptation to assume that the remainder of the essay is not worth reading”).

     Robert Speaight summarised as follows the main points in “The Party System”: “that England is not, in fact, governed by one Party, or alliance of Parties, having a majority in Parliament, but by a series of understandings between the two Front Benches, ensuring that, turn and turn about, they may enjoy the fruits of office; and secondly, that the Party in power, instead of being able to ensure that the Cabinet carried out the policy for which it had been elected, had in fact no influence on policy at all. The Members of Parliament represented, or were expected to represent, no one but the Party chiefs who had proposed them to their constituencies.”[7] “The Party System was the protest of a back-bencher… Every one of Belloc’s complaints – the wearisome Parliamentary procedure, the severe rationing of private members’ time, the stifling of personal initiative – all of these might be echoed by any M.P. who has sat through the post-war Parliaments and whose independence of mind has excluded him from the inner circle of government. In a world dominated by large concentrations of power, the individual counts for less and less…”[8]

     So disillusionment with our political system is not a recently-developed phenomenon, although it may be felt now by many more people than in 1911.    

     Despite, however, the public’s alleged low interest in politics and low regard for politicians, the mass-media persist with extensive publicity of political events and comment, and very large (even if diminishing) numbers of people vote in General Elections. If anywhere near the same degree of attention began to be given by radio, television, and newspapers to religious news and discussion, the editors (or whoever else decides the subjects to be covered) would be ‘carpeted’ for ‘losing touch’ with what the public are (probably rationally) believed to want.

     The credible reason for continued, if grudging, public interest in national-level politics is that disillusionment and disregard do not, and cannot, prevent realisation that politicians’ decisions have direct, practical consequences for people’s present and foreseeably-future circumstances. ‘In a nutshell,’ politics, unlike religion, is recognisably ‘relevant’. It is, furthermore, undeniable that politicians make laws which must be obeyed unless undesirable consequences are (even though unwelcome) preferred.

     This is the juncture at which connections between politics and religion begin to be more recognisable. Most of the likely readers of this essay have lived long enough to be able to notice one great difference between politics and religion in the UK. In politics, as in many spheres of life, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. During, however, the time beginning with the Abortion Act 1967, when the House of Commons has voted on a proposal which constituted a clear contradiction of a specifically-focused Catholic moral principle, Catholicism has almost always been the loser. If that statement is defective because it is too ‘sweeping,’ it surely is correct if applied to the subjects with which FLI is concerned. In regard to such subjects, “almost” has to precede “always been the loser” because the Commons’ rejection, on 11th September 2015, of proposed legal assisted suicide was a great and rare victory for right (if you can recall any other occasion since 1967 when Parliament refused to permit a blatantly-contra-Catholic practice, let us know). It does not prove that the weakness of resistance to secular liberalism is a figment of pessimistic imagination. ‘One swallow doesn’t make a Summer.’ The 330-to-118 result was indeed wonderfully surprising as well as a great relief, but complacency is the ‘Achilles heel’ of the likely subsidence of attention to the subject.

   

Fr Paul Marx OSB
     FR Paul Marx OSB

  Other than that exceptional event, a record of almost invariable defeat seems likely to discourage anyone who would wish to fight back. On that point, the U.K. 2015 General Election is an interesting subject for salutary thought (to be explained soon below). How do you tend to react when hearing that another FLI-relevant matter has gone further in the wrong direction? This essay is not considering the broad question of whether we should be joyful despite adversity (interesting though that subject is), but before focusing on political events in the UK and on lessons which may plausibly be drawn from them, consider the example of the late Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., who founded Human Life International. Probably no-one has done more than he did to fight the contraception-rooted culture of death. The measure of his success is evident in the obvious bleakness of the scene, world-wide. In the context of summarising his 1972 tour of South America, from which he returned “with heavy heart,”[9] he wrote of feeling “deep satisfaction in my worst days…that I did all I could to awaken leaders and ordinary citizens of all kinds.”[10] Without analysing his feeling, let us be pleased that he was able to avoid being completely crushed by defeat.

     Such crushing is made visible by television broadcasts after every General Election. Understandably-straight-faced workers for defeated Parties are shown standing around in their Party HQs; some seated sorrowful souls stare at litter-strewn floors; some summon sufficient fortitude to reply to journalists’ standard question of ‘what went wrong?’; and others are too exhausted (emotionally and physically) to say anything. ‘Across town’ at the winners’ HQ is the exact opposite situation.

     2014 and 2015 produced remarkable reversals of the normal effects of defeat, with sobering comparisons for Catholics who prioritise the faith above politics instead of vice versa. We need firstly to note the political events.

     In September 2014, there was a referendum in Scotland to decide whether Scotland should be governed in full independence from the other constituent parts of the UK. The ‘yes’ campaign was defeated by a clear 10.6 per cent margin (55.3 per cent to 44.7 per cent). The ‘yes’ campaigners had seemed to be much the more assertive and optimistic of the two sides, and so common sense would have caused expectation that they would be, in the now-automatic cliché for misfortune, “devastated.” The contrary occurred. There was a huge surge in support for the Scottish National Party and the talk seemed to be not of ‘where do we go from here?’ but of ‘when can the referendum be repeated?’ and at the UK General Election in May 2015 the SNP won almost every constituency in Scotland. Therefore defeat by a significant margin in September caused a paradoxical boost of morale and attraction of greater support.

     Similar counter-intuitive effects occurred in the Liberal Democrat Party and in the Labour Party after the General Election.

     The Liberal Democrats retained only eight of the fifty-six seats which they had held in the 2010-2015 Parliament, and (unsurprisingly) their Leader resigned. His replacement, interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s “The World at One” on 13th May, said that 11,000 new members had joined the Party in the six days since the General Election.

     Labour won 99 seats fewer than the Conservatives, and the Labour Leader resigned. His temporary replacement, interviewed on “The World At One” on 18th May, said that 30,000 people had joined the Party in the ten days since the Election. Radio 4’s “The World This Week-end” and “The Westminster Hour” reported, on 26th July, that that number had risen to 50,000. On 10th August “The World at One” reported that the figure had become 70,000, and Radio 4’s Midnight News eleven hours later added that since the General Election 145,000 people had joined Labour as “affiliated members.” Added to those were people who had become “registered supporters” by paying £3 in return for being eligible to vote in the election of the next Labour Leader; on 19th August (“The World at One” again) there were 120,000 of them. That such numbers had, to various degrees, attached themselves to a political Party in the fifteen weeks following its Electoral defeat was astonishing.

     They elected as Leader someone who, apparently, had difficulty in obtaining nomination of his candidature by the necessary minimum number of eligible people, and who nearly missed the deadline for registering his nomination papers. He was said to be a ‘no-hoper’ who was entered simply for the sake of widening the debate about the Party’s future. Some of the people who nominated him were reported to have admitted that they did not want him to win. He had been an MP for 32 years, always as a ‘back-bencher,’ often opposing the official policies of his own Party (he had voted against them more than 500 times). 83 per cent of the £3-paying “registered supporters” voted for him,[11] and only one count of votes (in a potentially-multi-stage electoral process) was needed to prove his victory.

     All of that constitutes a very remarkable turn of events.               

     A comparison with what has happened in recent decades to campaigns arising from religious, as distinct from secular political, principles is (as described above) ‘sobering’. Looking back from September 2015, it is noticeable that each time an attempt to disrupt the onward march and widening scope of secularism (particularly regarding sexual morals and matters such as embryology and abortion) failed, the specific target of the particular campaign dropped from sight and did not re-appear. Defeat did not bring new supporters flocking to the cause.

     The clearest example is the campaign against same-sex ‘marriage’ in England and Wales. Like the one in Scotland against removing the ‘section 28’ ban on local Councils promoting homosexuality, the publicity and support for that campaign was enough to evoke memory of the early-1970s’ Nationwide Festival of Light and the widespread hostility at that time to the commercialisation of sex. Well over 600,000 people put their names to a petition against same-sex ‘marriage’. Disappointingly, that was a far smaller percentage of the English and Welsh population than the percentage of Scots who had put their names to a ‘keep section 28’ petition. It should be recognised also that the Westminster Parliament would have disregarded it (as did the Scottish Parliament) even if more than a million had signed. Nevertheless, it must have been the largest one since five million signed the manifestly-unsuccessful Clean Up Television petition in the 1960s,[12] 1.5 million signed the debatably-successful Nationwide Petition for Public Decency in the 1970s,[13] and in the 1980s a million (in only three months) signed a petition against behind-parents’-backs contraception and abortion for under-16s.[14] The media reported that David Cameron’s promotion of same-sex ‘marriage’ was causing considerable unhappiness in Conservative Party Associations and that it could cause Conservative M.P.s to lose their seats in the 2015 General Election.

     Everyone knows that all the controversy came to nothing. After same-sex ‘marriage’ received a huge majority in Parliament, it disappeared from the political scene and is now a non-issue, except to the extent that occasionally there will be attempts to relax restrictions and further inculturate equivalence between normal and abnormal sexual relationships, and there will be court cases resulting from objectors making a stand against coerced collaboration.

     This phenomenon of ‘dropping off the political map’ is well established. Peter Kellner, President of the opinion-poll research company YouGov, wrote about this in an excellent article on YouGov’s web-site.[15] It was based on a YouGov poll for “The Sunday Times,” and assessed the subject by reference to (a) the current wider political context and (b) relevant historical precedents.

     The respondents to the YouGov poll were 2,030 adults in Great Britain, apparently chosen indiscriminately from the general public. The resulting evidence which is especially relevant to this essay was as follows. People were asked to indicate subjects which would be important to them when deciding how to vote in the 2015 General Election; in a list comprising fifteen subjects, same-sex ‘marriage’ came twelfth. 

     Although opinion opposing same-sex ‘marriage’ was most common among Conservatives, the YouGov poll showed that only four per cent of such Conservatives regarded it as a “vote-determining issue.” Peter Kellner suggested that four per cent was inaccurately high, because it included people who attached importance also to subjects other than same-sex ‘marriage.’ He pointed out that whereas questions focused on a single subject will often produce misleading indications of that subject’s influence on future voting-decisions, its influence falls dramatically when people take into account other subjects.

     He predicted that the 2015 General Election would be decided by reference to issues such as Europe, immigration, and the economy, not same-sex ‘marriage’. Few people, he wrote, would vote by reference to that topic alone, and (as his poll-findings indicated) it was debatable whether even those few people would reward or punish a Party which supported legalisation.

     Another factor which he mentioned was that, like fox-hunting, same-sex ‘marriage’ was a controversy “where the number and intensity of letter-writers bears no relation to the views of the wider public.”

     ‘All-in-all,’ therefore, his conclusion was that M.P.s not only would be “doing the right thing” if they voted according to their own principles, but also could “take heart” and “do so safe in the knowledge that the risk of punishment at the next [E]lection is vanishingly small.”

     Let us pause at that juncture and consider briefly a point of comparison. The YouGov poll-findings, and Peter Kellner’s incisive comments on them, related to a sample of the general public. Would they have been significantly less true, or more true, if the sample had been of Catholics?

     Perhaps, before suggesting an answer to that question, it is worth noting the demonstrable unreliability of that precious adjective. That is a subject in its own right, but people who take notice of surrounding circumstances and are even moderately alert should realise that ‘Catholic’ is nowhere near to being a reliable guide to the beliefs of people to whom it is applied. Often-sceptical and -quizzical journalists seem strangely to take at face value anyone’s claim to be a ‘Catholic,’ and to portray as ‘Catholics’ people whose declared beliefs are plainly un-Catholic and/or contra-Catholic. The same nonsense is found even in the Church.

     This is not an exclusively modern malaise. For example, the question of how much reliance can be put on the word ‘Catholic’ was raised during debate in the House of Commons regarding the euphemistically-named “Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill” in July 1966. The proposer of the Bill said (evidently from misunderstanding the nature of doctrine, the significance of alleged ‘public opinion,’ and perhaps also of the purely-advisory Commission set up by Pope John XXIII ) that “the doctrine of the Church is not necessarily permanent. We are seeing now the possibility of a great change in the attitude of the Catholic Church to the whole question of contraception which would have been unthinkable twenty or thirty years ago. … I would also point out to the Catholic objectors that public opinion in the Catholic Church is not necessarily behind the doctrine of their own Church and that the surveys carried out show that among Catholics some 57 to 60 per cent., depending on which survey we take, believe that the law should be reformed. Indeed, the most recent survey…shows that of those women who had had abortions, the percentage who were Catholics was very comparable with the percentage of all those interviewed.”[16] It was suggested to him that “it would be extremely rash to draw any conclusion from such surveys unless one had a very close definition of what constituted a polled Catholic in these circumstances,” and he replied that “The definition of ‘Catholic’ is, of course, open to the person answering the interview. I would not vouch for any greater accuracy than that. I would not even stand by the complete accuracy of these figures, although I have read the surveys repeatedly and believe them to be as accurate as any can be. All I am suggesting to those who… belong to the Roman Catholic Church is that they do not necessarily speak for the entire membership of that Church, although they speak for its doctrine.”[17]  

     Surely the YouGov poll-findings would have been little different (thereby illustrating the long-established nonsense of regarding as Catholics people whose judgments contradict those of the Magisterium) if the respondents had been typical ‘average Catholics’. Consider that speculation by reflecting on your own experience of Catholics. Is it your experience that controversial subjects are even mentioned? If so, is it your experience that people who outwardly seem to be Catholics are of one mind on points of Catholic morality which are challenged and defied by law and practice in this country? If so, is their “one mind” the Magisterially-declared mind of the Church? Have you an impression that typical ‘average’ Catholics prioritise distinctively-Catholic principles and subjects over the secular ones which dominate media-coverage of politics? Surely, the truth is that Catholics take just as broad a view of political matters as do other sections of the public. Therefore, there was never the slightest possibility that Catholic voters would punish politicians who had voted to give same-sex relationships a legal status equivalent to real marriages. The bishops of England and Wales have advised, indeed, that a broad view is the right one to take. Their letter circulated shortly before the 2015 General Election opined that “Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue. Elections involve a whole range of issues… In this letter, we highlight some important issues – but not the only ones.”

Bishops of England and Wales

     This ‘take-your-pick-from-a-whole-range-of-issues’ policy produces what could be called, truly, ‘soluble Catholicism,’ meaning that Catholic participation in political elections is equivalent to watching a type of powder disappear in water. It helps, furthermore, to justify Peter Kellner’s highlighting of the transience of controversy arising from each stage in the process of inculturating homosexuality (and, it should be added, various other grave forms of immorality, such as the contraception-rooted attacks on pre-birth human life).

     He mentioned the following examples, adding a comment to each.

  1. De-criminalisation [in defined circumstances] of sodomy (although he did not use that word). “Afterwards…there was never the remotest chance of turning back the clock.”
  2. The lowering of the relevant age of consent from 21 to 18, and then to 16.  “[O]pponents…folded their tents after the law was changed.” 
  3. The introduction of ‘civil partnerships’. “Controversial then, almost universally accepted now.”

     His prediction of same-sex ‘marriage’ becoming a dead issue once legalised is, on the basic principle, vindicated already. With the exception of the Coalition for Marriage, opponents have accepted defeat, folded their tents and left the battlefield. The victors will continue their advance, ‘tidying’ the ground and ‘re-designing’ it, largely inconspicuously, and conducting ‘mopping-up’ operations against any brave individuals who try to protect their small patch and refuse to obey or stand aside. If matters come before the courts, precedents show that the resistant should not be optimistic of success.

     Defeats on the religious/moral front in Britain from the ‘swinging Sixties’ until the early 21st century have shown consistently the opposite of what happened on the political front in the aftermath of the 2015 General Election. Things started badly. One of the rebels (at that time, but now actively-repentant) has described it as having been surprisingly easy to overthrow the old order, because the resistance from ‘authority’ was so slight.[18] In line with Peter Kellner’s observation, none of the subsequent defeats resulted in the degree of rallying to the fallen flag which occurred after the 2015 Election. The difference of response between the religious/moral and the political contexts is a matter for speculation, and in such speculation the latter context would be very likely to receive vastly greater attention than the former. Here is a suggestion of why events have moved in opposite directions.

     The first statement may seem trite, but has to be stated nevertheless. Far more people are interested enough to stir themselves for a political cause than for a distinctively-Catholic one. Numerical support is not necessarily decisive, but certainly is a significant factor. The post-2015 Election increase in Liberal Democrat Party membership was, in straight numerical terms, slight by comparison with what occurred in the Scottish National and Labour Parties, so (without intended disrespect to the Liberal Democrats) attention should be focused more on the SNP and Labour.

     The SNP and Labour are ideologically-similar. The SNP is distinctive in its objective of full independence for Scotland, but seems rooted in socialism just as much as is Labour. Socialism has an oddly-strong motivational power. Its adherents think, no doubt, that the power is not at all odd, but entirely rational. Whether odd or rational, it exists. Allegedly, many former supporters of Labour became disenchanted with the socialistic attitudes which held sway in the Party in the 1980s, and drifted away. A ‘milder’ form of socialism, ‘marketed’ as ‘New Labour,’ gained control of the Party, and then the 1980s-style militants were the ones to ‘drift off’ or to be removed from their positions. They remained ‘around,’ however. Their ideas were out of ‘fashion,’ but unchanged. The SNP’s rise to almost-total dominance in Scotland was gradual, as people became slowly more attracted to the message being advocated. The change in Labour was more sudden. The ‘old-style’ socialists recognised the opportunity presented to them by new, ‘relaxed’ rules on electing the Party’s leader, and flocked to ‘sign up’ to elect the ‘old-style’ socialist candidate. His victory was not caused solely by the influx of the ‘pay £3 and you can vote’ people, but the fact (mentioned above) that more than four-fifths of them voted for him shows their ‘brand’ of socialism. Evidently they were, as a “senior figure” in the Labour Party was reported to have said, “sick of soggy drab centralism. [sic.]” and a “lack of strident opposition” to contra-socialist governance.[19] Whether the effects are those for which they hoped still remains to be seen (since mid-2016, ‘Brexit’ has dominated and distorted the previously-‘normal’ political situation), but the lesson is this: despite any discouragement from Labour’s defeat in the 2015 General Election, adherents of a recognisably-similar socialist attitude did not fold their tents but acted energetically in sufficient numbers to take decisive action, and seem likely to remain active in pursuing their objectives. In the two weeks immediately following Mr. Corbyn’s election, at least a further 50,000 new members joined Labour.[20] There was another influx when his position as Leader was challenged a year later, and when the ballot was held he received 62 per cent of the aggregate number of votes (two per cent more than he received when first elected). His critics described his supporters as ‘extremists,’ and intense active commitment has long been a hallmark of socialist ideologues, but the interesting factor is the sudden huge addition to their hitherto-relatively-small number since the electoral defeat of their preferred Party. This will be a great help to the characteristically-resilient pursuit of their objectives.

     The comparatively-small-but-nevertheless-noteworthy increase of Liberal Democrat Party members suggests that they, too, rallied to ‘the cause’ despite Electoral disaster. That interpretation gained credibility when they elected as their new leader someone who had said, at a ‘hustings’ meeting in Bristol, that “centrism [sic.] is uninspiring” and “I am not a centrist.”[21]  

     Contrasting with those like-minded reactions to political defeat, adherents of recognisably-similar religious/moral attitudes have not reacted to any of their long line of defeats by flocking to reverse them. Stirring such people in that way is even more difficult now than previously, one reason being that sustained defeat tends to foster a feeling that it is irreversible. Another reason seems likely to be that “that our old morality was sustained only by custom and inertia, not by any deep attachment or understanding.”[22] (Sometimes the outcomes of battles and of entire wars are caused more by weakness of one side than strength of the other. Weakness of will is enough. For example, erosion and ultimate collapse of will handed South Vietnam to communism in 1975.) Whereas, however, attachment to “old morality” may have been shallow, attachment to ‘old Labour’ seems to have remained strong in the minds of the people who have swept their candidate into the top job in the Party. To them, he offers prospects of replacing New Labour by new hope. They like his message.

     What sort of message do the largely-disorganised and invisible supporters of orthodox Catholic moral principles usually receive from their leaders? It is too often the counterpart of the “soggy drab centralism” and “lack of strident opposition” which many socialists found exasperating. When occasions arise (same-sex ‘marriage’ and assisted suicide were examples), the basic message may be orthodox, but it emerges from norms of silence, banality, sometimes equivocation, and often opacity. The soporific effects of such a combination during successive generations are extremely difficult to counteract, not least because gaining access to parishes (where the still-practising are to be found) is a pre-requisite for trying even to begin rectification. Comatose troops are not energised quickly, but need to be built up gradually until ready for combat. Generals who seem to regard combat as intrinsically unacceptable are not going to defeat the enemy. They are even less likely to do so when seemingly averse, by default, to accepting that “enemy” is a proper description. “[W]e still have enemies in a country that has a long history of anti-Catholicism,” wrote now-retired Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue,[23] and, quoting a very good book by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, now Archbishop of Philadelphia, he suggested that the

Archbishop Chaput
      Archbishop Chaput

following comment may apply even more to this country than to America: “Catholics have ignored an unpleasant truth: that there are active, motivated groups…that bitterly resent the Catholic Church and the Christian Gospel, and would like to silence both.”[24] Public, or even private, acknowledgement of that seems very rare in England, where a preference for exasperating restraint and under-statement reigns supreme.[25] Consequently, it has been reported,[26] Pope Francis “prefers to work with English bishops because of their conciliatory temperament. There is something about the English temperament that appeals to Pope Francis. It is a temperament that wants to find solutions.”

     The now-standard word for the solutions-finding process is ‘dialogue’. Apparently this is recommended by the Congregation for Catholic Education with regard to facing the “educational crisis” of “gender theory” (or ‘gender ideology’), a “disorientation [leading] to educational programmes and legislative enactments [by which] human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.”[27] Invoking Pope Francis in “Amoris Laetitia,” the Congregation disapproves of attitudes which “seek to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised,” and which thus preclude dialogue.[28] It is startling to see a Vatican document appearing to state that it is intrinsically wrong to assert principles as absolute and unquestionable and to insist on how children should be raised. Furthermore, the prioritisation of “dialogue” seems mistaken. The Congregation advocates “listening, reasoning and proposing the Christian vision.”[29] The Church’s enemies are not interested in “dialogue” except to the extent that it serves their strategy of ‘muddying the water’ and, having thereby sown confusion, established relativism as the foundation of education. Bearing in mind that consideration, ecclesiastical appeals for “dialogue” appear gullible, and are likely to be construed as such. Conversion of people in error is always to be desired and sought, and is the best ‘long-term’ solution, but meanwhile more effort should be devoted to thwarting the implementation of ‘genderism’ than to ‘dialoguing’ with its advocates. The same applies to well-established other symptoms of deified ‘choice’.

     In both the ‘short’- and the ‘long’-term, the odds against Catholics being able to reverse the contra-Catholic direction of movement are enormous, but when Our Lord commissioned His disciples to teach all nations “to observe all that I have commanded you”[30] He did not add anything like ‘unless the chances of success seem too small to make the task worth attempting.’

     Many great enterprises, the greatest of which is Christianity, have begun from ‘scratch’. We are in a far better position than that. Thanks to “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” potential recruits are available. If they can be reached, something positive might be organised. Another comparison with politics is appropriate. Look at the growth of the U. K. Independence Party (before it ‘nose-dived’ when the result of the 2016 referendum caused supporters believed that its objective had been achieved), whose aggregated votes at the 2015 General Election were 3,881,099 (12.6 per cent of all votes cast). According to a former leader, Roger Knapman, there was a time when an audience of six in a church hall for a UKIP meeting was marvellous.[31] Churches are where our potential recruits are most likely to be found. Opportunities for individual ‘one-to-one’ approaches are difficult to recognise and slow to develop. ‘Collective targeting’ seems more efficient. It is dependent on permission from parish priests. Will you ask any, summarising the types of subject on which parishioners’ attention is intended to be focused? If a priest says ‘Yes,’ and you want a speaker for your “audience of six [or more] in [the] church hall,” please tell Family Life International.          

            

 

 

[1] Published by Stephen Swift.

[2] “The Life of Hilaire Belloc,” Robert Speaight; Hollis and Carter Ltd., 1957, p.305.

[3] ibid., p.293.

[4] ibid., p.294.

[5] ibid., p.297.

[6] ibid., p.295.

[7] ibid., p.301.

[8] ibid., p.305.

[9] “Faithful for Life,” Human Life International, 1997, p.78.

[10] ibid., p.77.

[11] Radio 4 News, 12th September.

[12] Joan Bakewell, “Those Were The Days My Friend,” “Daily Mail,” 30th December 2005, p.41.

[13] “The Viewer and Listener,” Spring 1973.

[14] “A Mother’s Tale,” Victoria Gillick; Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1989, p.236: “Not surprisingly, it didn’t change the minds of [Government] ministers.” Rhetorical questions: when, if ever, was a petition opposing a contravention of the “Catechism” followed by the desired result, and how many names were on the petition?

[15] 4th February 2013, the eve of the House of Commons’ first main vote on the same-sex ‘marriage’ Bill.

[16] “Hansard,” 22n July 1966, col. 1077.

[17] ibid., col. 1078.

[18] Peter Hitchens, “The Rage Against God,” Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010, p.16-17.

[19] BBC News web-site, 30th July 2015.

[20] BBC Radio 4, “The World at One,” 28th September 2015, although the 17th February 2016 edition of the programme cited the same number for the entire period since he became the Party leader.

[21] BBC Radio 4, “The World This Week-End,” 20th September 2015.

 

[22] Peter Hitchens, op. cit., p.25.

[23] “Fit for Mission? Church,” CTS, 2008, p.119.

[24] “Render Unto Caesar – Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life;” Charles J. Chaput; Doubleday, 2008, p.187.

[25] For example: “the Catholic Church is not a dominant minority or not even a hugely strong influence in the culture.

We, from our earliest days, learn how to live in a situation that doesn’t naturally give support to all the desires that we have.” (Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; “The Catholic Universe,” November 2014.)

[26] ibid.

[27] “Male and Female He Created Them – Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education,” Congregation for Catholic Education, 2nd February 2019, paragraphs 1 and 2.

[28] ibid., paragraph 6.

[29] ibid., paragraphs 5 and 54.

[30] Matt. 28:20.

[31] BBC Radio 4, “P.M.,” 14th May 2015.