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Too Much Tolerance? St. Therese Pushes the Limits in the UK. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 05 October 2009 07:24
Check out this worthy blogging effort from across the pond:

Anna Arco is a writer for the British Catholic Herald and her blog is called Anna Arco's Diary. I first became aware of her yesterday because she linked to my recent post on the Alpha course and its impact in the Catholic world. (Since Alpha originated in London and 2.5 million Britons have gone through it - it is certainly newsworthy for British Catholics).

Today she has a fascinating piece on the 10,000 British pilgrims who stood in line in the middle of the night to venerate St. Therese' relics which laid in glorious, soaring York Minster for 18 hours this weekend.

Since the English Reformation, York Minster, the great jewel of the late medieval English church, has been Anglican. (What a truly fitting setting. The local Catholic cathedral in York, built in the 19th century, would be far too small.) I didn't realize that the St. Therese tour has an ecumenical side. How the times have changed since Margaret Clitheroe, who lived nearby in the Shambles, was pressed to death for harboring Mass in her home!.

But there was a small anti-idolatry demonstration yesterday outside the Minster. Half a dozen people with placards while 2,000 prayed inside. So all echoes of the past are not gone. Anna links to this essay in the Times where the author,Minette Marrin, (who calls herself a "peaceable agnostic") wonders if there is such a thing as "too much tolerance".

"To the agnostic all this seems pre-scientific mumbo jumbo, on a level with voodoo fetishes or the Buddha’s tooth in Sri Lanka. In primitive thought, objects do indeed have mana, as anthropologists call it — supernatural powers. One might say that it hardly matters; we all have our follies and if people here choose to believe that a statue in Southall of the Hindu elephant god really did suck up milk from votive saucers in 1995, they are and ought to be free to do so. It wasn’t so long ago that Europe was almost awash with gallons of the milk of the Virgin Mary, treasured by the faithful. And fellow citizens ought usually to be polite enough to keep their critical thoughts to themselves, in the name of courtesy and mutual tolerance.

However, there is a difference in this case. The Catholic Church is actively encouraging people to hope for miracles of healing. These reliquary jamborees can only inflame irrational expectations in people who are suffering and suggestible. Surely it cannot be right to do so. Any face cream promising much lesser miracles — merely the disappearance of wrinkles — would soon fall foul of trading standards officers and have to be withdrawn, to protect the innocent public from being deluded by the false claims of charlatans. Why, then, have the media been so uncritical about this mass deception?

Years ago I spent many months in the BBC trying to make television documentaries about supernatural healing, including Christian healing. After a great deal of research and countless visits, conversations and false trails, I had to accept that I could not find one single example of Christian healing (or any other supernatural healing). There were plenty of claims, but very little evidence, and certainly no evidence that would stand up in a documentary. What I did find was something that shocked me — the bamboozling of frightened, suffering, suggestible people by Christians who offered them the hope of a miraculous cure, if their faith were strong enough. Religious tolerance is difficult in such cases.

The intolerant, triumphalist atheists have never appealed to me. I cannot see why it is so important to them to denounce other people’s religious beliefs so aggressively. I don’t know why people who pride themselves on their rationality can be so irrationally sure that they are right; absolute certainty is not a rational position. Besides, Catholics and Christians generally are very often a force for good; most of what’s best in our society is built upon Christian foundations.

All the same, there comes a time when even a peaceable agnostic feels roused to indignation. For me it was last week, at the news that the Home Office has seen fit to let the bones of the Little Flower into Wormwood Scrubs prison. This almost defies belief. For, in allowing this, with all the due process and deliberation of bureaucracy, the government is conferring respectability on such relics. And in so doing, it opens wide the gates of reason to let into any public place any and every fetish or juju that any religious group claims is part of its spiritual life. The laws on equality and religious respect will require it."

I am honestly astonished that Minnette couldn't find any hard evidence of Christian healing in several months effort - especially considering John Henry Newman is about to be declared Blessed. I wonder where she was looking?

Anna Arco also has a very interesting post on Janne Haaland Matlary, professor of international politics at the department of political sciences of the University of Oslo.

"Matlary was the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs for Norway and a member of the Christian Democrat Party between 1997 and 2000. She is a convert to Catholicism and already serves on the Pontical Council for Justice and Peace and is a consultor on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Readers will remember the fuss, last year, over Cherie Blair giving a talk at the Angelicum in December. The event was a conference on Women and Human Rights, in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs Blair’s high profile and controversial talk, garnered all the media/blogging attention. Dr Matlary’s talk was very good but went largely unnoticed."

For a smart and well-written glimpse of Catholic life from a British perspective, we would do well to bookmark Anna Arco's Diary and stay tuned.

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