Pope Benedict's Westminster Speech

Continuing to follow the Holy Father’s teaching ministry in Britain, here is an excerpt from his speech yesterday in Westminster Hall:

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy…

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Pope Benedict's Westminster Speech

  1. Tom says:

    Good to see that 8 centuries later Aquinas is very much alive and well :)

    • PM says:

      Yes: ‘objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers’

      Benedict at his magnificent best – and not at all inclined to do Aquinas down. I hope this message will get through to his detractors.

      Providentially, I have been luxuriating today in Britain at its best, the last night of the proms on Classic FM – glorious, but the fruits of a cultural legacy which won’t be replenished by Fry, Dawkins and Pullman. And, as with WYD, the atmosphere of the visit is improving as people get to see the real Benedict

  2. adam says:

    Some observations from london:
    ** The pope was seen near the famous fig tree at lambeth palace friday which was planted by the last Catholic Arch of Canterbury – amazing its still producing fruit after 400 years and has not been cut down.
    ** During the peasants revolt before, the arch of canterbury was bundled out of lambeth palace and executed. Not done these days
    ** The pope’s presence in westminster hall, scene of Thomas More’s trial, was just mindboggling. So much history considering. 4 past PMs there including current dep PM who is ‘atheist’ but whose wife is Catholic. Today, he too two of his sons to meet pope at Arch residence.
    ** One of two of the pope’s personal security still push priests aside as they try to touch the pope. Looks bad. One of them did the same on TV in NY a couple of years back as some Missionaries of Charity tried to touch the pope.
    One wonders what would happen if Jesus came back today and people wanted to touch Him.
    ** Crowds in London have been just amazing. The turn out of the youth has been stunning. But now the secularists are complaining they are getting biased airtime (themselves that is). How it all turns. The 1000s out for pope shows that the people speak loudly. Many biased in the tv and print media here have their atheist friends and give them rein.
    ** After the pope spoke moveingly on the abuse scandal and his great sorrow and pain, the channels are not stopped making a big story of it. It goes on and on and on. The pope did say other things but the media will not let this issue rest. Which makes good Catholics wonder about the damage scandal so many abusive priests have wrought on the fabric of the Church by their actions on children.
    ** The media as a whole have been stunned by turnout in non-catholic england. But it needs to be seen that London, amongst it 9 millions, has loads of south americans, spanish, poles, italians and philippinos….devout Catholics. The crowds now flocking to Hyde park for prayer vigil with pope show that. Amazing scenes.
    ** But besides the great music at todays’s cathedral mass (amazing singing and all that) was the speech to the pope in the piazza after, when the young black guy from Hackney spoke to the pope – dynamic, strong, faithful, exciting and powerful. The cardinals watching seemed to have their eyes pop out. Many youth were kneeling down by pope. It was a great speech by the pharmacy student and since he spoke the news channels have not stopped chasing him for interviews. One of the most powerful speeches to a pope ive ever seen – great example of youth for Christ. he couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. Just great example.

    that’s it from London.
    Big prayer vigil with 80000 tonight in Hyde park.

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks for the first person update, Adam! Keep it coming!

      • adam says:

        Sunday – update from London
        Well Saturday was an amazing day here in london. Some observations:
        **The Cathedral mass was really moving, especially the revamped entry music of MacMillan (who is composing much of the visit’s music). It was of Tu Es Petrus and was set to organ, drums, violins with the Cathedral ceiling almost flying off as the Holy Father made his procession in to the sanctuary. It was very moving in so many ways.
        **The high altar is now being used and no temporary altar since +V Nichols became arch. It looked great with the Holy Father at the grand cathedra.
        ** But possibly a great highpoint was at the end when the pope went out the great west door into the piazza where a huge crowd of mainly young people were there to greet him and 100s across the road. Then paschal Uchye a young black student spoke to the pope – he was just amazing and if you can find a clip of this, just do. Cardinals nearby look in astonishment at this man’s speech, strong, vibrant, enthusiastic, positive and joyous. It was just amazing and confirmed us all in our faith. The Holy Father looked very moved and after every news channel wanted to speak to this young guy. He spoke of the inspiration of the pope and of Christ. It was just incredible.
        ** The evening vigil in Hyde park. Now this was a sight to behold. Scene of rock concerts galore and this evening around 60000 there to sing and pray, since 1pm!!!! But the sight of the pope in his popemobile along The Mall was incredible. The mall was thronged with 1000s of people flocking to see the pope as he went past the palace. +Nichols inside the vehicle looked amazed and the crowds got bigger as he entered the park.
        The exposition of the Blessed sacrament in the park with the pope was very moving. So many young people and their witness to this. So be encouraged by their witness and their love for the Lord.

        Final comment. The anti-pope demo in London drew about 8000 and shows the continued vitriol against the pope personally with caricatures of him and extremely anti-Catholic. The media have toned down somewhat, and I believe this is because the people of Britain have turned out in massive numbers for the pope. Many comments on the ‘shy, reserved man’ which actually has been positive. media still on about the ‘rottweiller’ but this only shows that they do not know the man at all.
        We are fed by a very sceptical media who know little of the pope.

        Big memories of him along Horseguards parade and The Mall and to see young people running to see him and take pics was just heart warming. The sceptics have had their doubts questioned and the ‘meek have put down the mighty from their thrones’. A great day for the Church in a land that is very much a secular society but has believers all around. The figure of the pope continues to amaze and inspire.

  3. Matthias says:

    Ironic is it not,in the heart of Anglicanism ,it is a young catholic proclaiming the Christian faith ‘the never changing Gospel to an ever changing world” ,whilst the Anglican church tears itself up over whether to be culturally relevant or not.
    As adam says “great example of youth for Christ. he couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. Just great example.” .

    • adam says:

      sorry to repeat myself in the sunday update about the young black student. He was just an inspiration to all who saw and heard him. try to find it maybe on You Tube.

  4. adam says:

    Sunday lunchtime: London
    The pope has just completed Mass for beatification of Blessed JH Newman.
    Must have been about 50000 there in open air. It poured down last night but as pope arrived by helicopter the sun came out. One blogger described it as ‘poptastic’ !!

    But there were so many young people there that it needs to be mentioned. There was a huge choir and great number of bishops.
    Many commentators are struck on pope’s ‘beatific smile’ even the sceptics, of whom there are many. So many have been bowled over by the man they hardly know. They only see photos or little in media. So to see him in the flesh paints a different persective. Many on Tv say they drove 6 hours in the morning to get to the Mass to see the pope.

    Let is not forget the man is 83 and has had a gruelling schedule in Britain. But it has been a fascinating pastoral visit. People have flocked to see him and in this somewhat anti-religious culture it is great to see the old and young turn out to see the Vicar of Christ.

    Britain is not Italy or Malta or the Philippines where catholics are almost 100% of pop. That the pope has confounded so many only shows his simplicity, holiness and dynamic faith at 83. Like John XXIII this man has confounded the critics.

    One final observation. The QC Geoffery Robertson has taken every opportunity to blast the pope and heat loads of dirt on the person of the pope in scurrilous manner. So many of his points lack rigorous intellectual accuracy and I wish more bishops would come out and defend the pope from this lawyer’s unwarranted attacks.

    The pope will meet with the english bishops later today before flying back to Rome.


    • Schütz says:

      We’ve all seen bits of the visit on the excellent live web coverage, but it is great to hear your personal experiences, Adam! Thank you!

      • adam says:

        Sunday evening: london

        Damian Thompson has an excellent piece in The Telegraph summing up the papal visit. One of the key things is that the British people (and others) saw BXVI in a new light. The pilgrim from Rome was seen as a very gentle, shy and warm man. A priest with manners Thompson calls him.

        I think this was so noticeable in his great speech in Westminster Hall. At the end, the pope sat down to huge applause, and he sat there, gently gazing out at the huge crowd gathered there at the place Thomas More was charged with treason. The pope gave a very beautiful smile and looked so fragile – that is his great power. He looks vulnerable, gentle and comes across as warm and shy to people.

        I would like to make an observation re yesterday after he walked out of the Sisters of the poor home for the elderley in Vauxhall, S London. The pope came out and then instead of getting into the car, walked to the main gate and out into the street with all the police and a huge crowd which was here and yelling for the pope. They were white, black, young (many) and old. Mums with babies. The pope walked along the row and touched the people there and kept walkign so the car had to follow him The Vatican security looked panicky ( as they often do) but the pope stopped and waved high his arms then got in the car. This walkabout was wonderful and so many young took photos on their phones. It was a great sight.

        Also on this visit was the newly promoted cardinal from Ghana, Peter Turkson. He was at all events and looked gentle and calm and smiled a lot as he walked behind the pope. This is a man who is often spoken of as papabile for the next conclave. He would have learnt much from this first apostolic visit he has been on since moving to Rome.

        The protestors in London have been drowned out. Indeed they seemed to have crawled back into their shells. But it has shown that the likes of Dawkins, Robertson and now Stephen Fry have much to learn from the public of Great Britain. They do not speak for the british public. indeed they speak for a minority and here they thought they could even arrest the pope. At Birmingham today the pope posed for a photo with the police. They did not arrest him.


  5. adam says:


    A frail voice, but a resounding message

    By Daily Mail Comment
    Last updated at 11:16 PM on 19th September 2010

    They said Benedict XVI would be unwelcome in Britain. They claimed he would find little sympathy in our modern, liberal society for moral teachings that have changed little over 2,000 years.

    How wrong they were.

    In Scotland, London and Birmingham, the Pope has drawn large and joyful crowds, while most non-believers and followers of other faiths have shown him nothing but tolerance and goodwill.
    Strong message: Pope Benedict XVI has been shown goodwill as he has spoken to Britain

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1313518/Pope-Benedict-XVI-frail-voice-resounding-message.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz101Kd60iJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *