Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why is the Church of England Silent (Again)?

The Catholic Church has made all the running on the opposition to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. I may have missed it, but so far I have heard barely a squeak from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Church of England on it. Do they not have a strong and trenchant view on one of the great moral dilemmas of our age?

The Archbishop is all too keen to share with us his bizarrely favourable views on Sharia Law, which most people regard as at best an irrelevance and at worst as (fill in the blank), yet he chooses to keep his own counsel on the rights and wrongs of embryo research. A Google search shows that the last time Rowan Williams said anything meaningful on the issue was two months ago, and that was a four paragraph statement. Perhaps he has said more and it hasn't been reported, but if that's the case, doesn't it tell you all you need to know about the Church of England in that it has ceded this issue to the Catholics and let them run with it?

The Church of England, like Sharia Law, is becoming an irrelevance to many people in this country.


Anonymous said...

You know the answer. The hierarchy of the CoE has been increasingly occupied by Guardianistas since the 70s and 80s. Although there are other social factors involved, the result of offering moral guidance out of step with with the majority of Britain is evidenced each Sunday through the empty pews in our churches. Tom, Cambridge

Scary Biscuits said...

The position of most CoE members on this bill is that we should do what is best for humans in general, follow scientific reasoning and use our judgement. There is not a screaming issue of morality or principle. It is a practical issue. In this Christian's remember the teaching of Jesus, to the effect that man is lord of the rules, not the other way round (e.g. Mark 2:27-28).

Thus, for once, the silence of the bishops on this issue is justified.

I only wish they made more noise when this Labour govenment attacks important Christian values, such as Sundays and the importance of marriage and large families.

@molesworth_1 said...

The C of E knows its place. If we could just get all the other delusional fantasists to shut up & go away, the world would be a far,far better place.

Chris Paul said...

What would you like the Archbishop to say on this? And what are your reasons for this?

You are offering no argument and no clarity on your own position.

Scary biscuits is pretty much on the money on this though "large families" is not a new testament teaching that I find familiar.

Perhaps they don't teach that one in Catholic institutions?

Why is it that yourself and Fawkes are not expounding your positions? I don't agree with Red Maria (comments at mine and their own blog Dophinarium) but at least there are some arguments.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Oh come on Iain: bashing capitalists and sucking up to Islamists is far more fun that messing about with complicated things like medical research. Being right-on and socialist is far more important then actual religion of Christianity.

Anonymous said...

"Do they not have a strong and trenchant view on one of the great moral dilemmas of our age?"

Like most of the general population they don't see it as a great moral dilemma. It is simply an area of medical research that needs to be controlled closely but is likely to produce great benefits in the future.

Scary Biscuits said...

Chris Paul, Thanks for your support. I didn't say that large families are a New Testament teaching. Neither are Sundays.

Whilst Jesus may have said we have the right to change the rules with respect to new facts or discoveries (e.g. gene therapy) that doesn't follow that there was no reason for the rules in the first place. A day of rest and human reproduction, for example, are important elements in the survival of our society, as it was for our forefathers. For these practical reasons, the church maintains the principles behind the Old Testament traditions as well as the added insight from the New.

As an aside, the financial regulation of the City owes a lot to Anglican values. It is 'principles based' rather than tick-box based,as in Sarbanes-Oxley. This is also the principle difference between Anglicanism and more proscriptive religions such as Judaism and, to a lesser extent Roman Cathocism. This is Anglicanism greatest strength and in large part why Britian has been so successful over the centuries since its adoption. It is also our greatest weakness as God's giving of free choice so that we can grow also gives us the chance to mess it up, as is happening in the City now.

strapworld said...


Please ignore the anti christians wanting to spout their misleading 'science'.
The Church of England miss Enoch Powell who led the fight against these attempts to play with 'embryonic research'.

We need real leaders to take Christianity and its excellent message back to the streets. Back to schools where the socialists have had their way for far too long.

May I digress and suggest that anyone wishing to hear a dynamic. powerful. thought provoking sermon delivered quite elequently to visit the site below.

You can then listen to the full sermon given by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Far from being, as many observers have suggested, an attack on White America it is a real lesson to us all.

I was asked this week to listen to it by a dear American friend of mine, who supports Obama, and wanted my view, as a white person, to the sermon.

I know what I thought. It certainly found it thought provoking but its message was what any true Christian would want to hear.

I do not think Obama had the opportunity to listen to the full sermon. He would not have disowned him if he had.

Anonymous said...

This is asinine nonsense. If Rowan Williams were preaching from a true Biblical perspective on homosexuality you would be the first to castigate him.

If he chooses to support a more tolerant and balanced view on stem cell research, you give him a good kicking. He can't win with you.

Religion isn't a kind of 'pick and mix' menu, where you select the bits you like and reject the bits you don't, despite many attendees at the Church of England pretending it is.

strapworld said...

anonymous 1.10pm.

Jesus loves you too!

Anonymous said...

Maybe he didnt say much because there wasnt much to say. The Catholic church's hysterical misrepresentation of the embryo research to be allowed must make any modern church man cringe. A case of crying "chimera" when one doesnt exist.

Allow me to explain:

The hybrids in question consist of human nuclear DNA placed inside animal eggs (whose own nuclear DNA has been removed). The genetic contribution of the animal donor is only via mitochondrial DNA or mDNA. This is a tiny amount of extra-nuclear genetic material (37 genes out of tens of thousands) and is used in processes that relate to energy production by mitochondria in cells. It certainly isnt involved in morphology. The reason that it is possible to do this procedure at all is that most animals inherit much the same mDNA with the same function. Mitochondria are believed to have resulted from the absorption of bacteria by our common eukyorotic ancestor many hundreds of millions of years ago.

The irony of course is that animals, including humans, are already hybrids of several bacterial, animal and possibly even plant ancestors.

Anonymous said...

It is the media who are presenting this as 'Catholics v. the rest of the world'. Fair enough the ArchBish should have said something, defended the 'old-fashioned' concepts of morality and respect, but one doesn't have to be Christian (or even religious) to find aspects of the bill distasteful and unncecessary.

I was astonished to learn on This Week that Diane Abbott & Charles Kennedy truly believe this has 'absolutely nothing to do with money and everything to do with alleviating suffering'. Which is just as nonsensical as the argument that says it has nothing to with alleviating suffering and everything to do with making money.

Though the government would apparently like us to believe otherwise, there will always be death and sickness - and if I'm wrong on that one then we really are in trouble! And for those of us unlucky enough to live to old age there is almost inevitably going to be some deterioration involved along the way, e.g. dementia, parkinsons, weak heart. That's life!

Anonymous said...

scary biscuits said

"...a day of rest and human reproduction..."

For second there I thought you meant a nice lie in with the wife on a sunday. Not sure we could last the whole day though.

Anonymous said...

"The Church of England ... is becoming an irrelevance to many people in this country"


Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1.19pm is right on the money. What are you actually wanting him to comment on? You haven't stated your own position - which gives you a clear line of sight to criticise whatever to ABofC says (or doesn't)

The CofE takes a pragmatic view of these things, and has done for many years, to the tone of, we provide spiritual guidance, but you make the rules.

You can't criticise the ABofC or the CofE without making your own position 100% clear - it just don't make no sense!

Anonymous said...

anon 1:19pm. It is said in "The Wisdom of Crowds" that if you ask a large number of people their opinion on something that even if the range of opinions is wide the average opinion will be very close to the truth. That is the problem with proscriptive religions and moral issues - they demand that all their followers keep the same opinion as determined by an extremely small cabal of the powerful. So instead of lots of diverse opinions we get one. It not only defies common sense and is antidemocratic but may in fact be the worst way possible to find the truth or the best solution to a complex problem. Witness the E.U.

If you say that this is the whole point of religion then I pity those who abrogate their moral responsibility to someone else in the vain hope of a pleasant afterlife.

And I dont believe that everyone should support this bill just because I do but if they disagree then it should at least be disagreement based on the facts and not the gross distortion of them presented by the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Humph, I'm not a Catholic - and usually I am suspicious of the motives for their pronouncements. However this time I agree with them.

I find the casual playing about with life by these scientists a slippery slope ending up where life is not valued at all.

People can go on all they like about the (hypothesized) 'benefits' of the proposed work; but really their argument is that the 'end justifies the means'. I, for one, do not accept this dismal view of existence.

Perhaps they could put some effort in to finding an alternative that is not so insideous.

Anonymous said...

The Archbishop has spoken on this. To quote from his website: "Dr Williams attacked proposals in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which could open the door to research into hybrid embryos and which would remove the reference to the need for a father when under going fertility treatment." Further details at:

The bishops of Durham, Lichfield and S. Alban's (and probably others) have spoken out too.

The media, however, have ignored their contributions, preferring to turn this into a (Roman) Catholics vs Government story.

Unsworth said...

"What would you like the Archbishop to say on this? And what are your reasons for this?

You are offering no argument and no clarity on your own position."

Holy cow! Why should the Archbish bother with what anyone 'wants' him to say? He never has until now - except when public outcry has forced him to partially retract his crackpot nonsense.

And why is it necessary at all to offer argument or expound one's position?

As I see it Iain is complaining that the Archbishop is offering no guidances at all. That is, after all, his job. More important perhaps is the Archbishop's apparent consuming interest in matters to do with other religions rather than those to do with his own espoused faith. At least the Roman Catholic 'management' took a view and made that view clear to all. The Archbishop seems completely out of touch. Where is his moral leadership?

The question is simple enough "Why is the Church of England Silent (again)?" It's nothing to do with Iain's position - or mine for that matter.

Archbishop Cranmer said...

To be fair, Dr Williams did, as you observe, speak disapprovingly of some privisions within this Bill two months ago, and the speech was completely ignored by the media.

It may be more interesting to ask why the media only chose to report this as a Church v State story when the Roman Catholic Church entered the fray and spoke vociferously against it over Easter - when the political Whip was supplanted by the religious Whip.

It is also worth noting that Lord Winston accused the RC Church of 'lying' over the matter, and David Cameron accused its leaders of 'misrepresenting' the Bill.

Perhaps it was because Dr Williams did neither that the issue could not be portrayed in the puerile black-and-white terms which tend to please the MSM tabloid mentality, and his early intervention was thereby deemed un-newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

Tom 11:41 AM. According to your arguments the only people occupying the pews on a Sunday are middle class Guardian readers. And I thought they were just trying to get their kids into a decent CoE faith school.

Anonymous said...


You are four days too late. Many of us Anglicans ARE making a huge fuss about this.

Anonymous said...

if anyone is interested there is a comprehensive article here

on the proposed UK embryo research, so called "cytoplasmic embryos" (what StBob posted about earlier) and the differences with other kinds that are not allowed under the bill.

Anonymous said...

Thank you St Bob for making an informed and sensible contribution. I hope that some of the more superstitios readers of this blog pause for a second to actuallyt find out what is going on and form their own opinion, rather than regurgitating spoonfed lines from The Mail or the church. Same goes for the Treaty of Lisbon. Same goes for the early release scheme. Just think for yourselves!!!

Anonymous said...

Talking of Sharia Law - has anyone seen the Geert Wilders - Fitna video yet?

Anonymous said...

This bill covers two sorts of issues. Three main clause relate to the social issues of IVF and the role of parents. They are about how we use the science that we have within society. If the CoE has no views on this then one questions why the CoE exists.

The other part of the bill is about what science are we willing to do for the future. This debate needs to be informed with some serious facts about

exactly which procedures are being permitted,

what chance do they have of delivering anything useful,

how urgently do we need the results if they can be achieved, and

what social controls will we need to put in place to use the outcomes to deliver good rather than harm.

Religious doctrine has little to add to the first three, although centuries of experience could illuminate the question of how we use the results.

Unfortunately information on these critical issues is almost non-existence. We are being forced to rush decisions when there is not obvious need to do so and without the evidence to consider. How unscientific!!!

Anonymous said...

Why on earth should we seek to know the view of the Church of England (or any other church, for that matter) on moral questions? It is a fallacy that the churches are uniquely well qualified to comment on morality. In fact the Church of England, as a religious sect which preaches discrimination against gay people and debars women from senior posts in its organisation, is singularly ill qualified to comment on moral issues. I'd be much more interested to learn what our leading scientists and philosophers have to say on such matters. Their arguments, at least, would have the benefit of not being based on the book of Leviticus and a literal belief in the tooth fairy.

M. Hristov said...

A newspaper accuses a Bishop of having an affair with his female chaplain. There is no evidence of this except tittle tattle but this doesn’t bother the newspaper. They then go on to show pictures of his daughters dressed as tarts and imply that they are proud to be described as prostitutes.

When do you suppose this happened and what was the newspaper?

“Pravda” in 1920s Moscow busy discrediting enemies of the people? “Der Sturmer” in 1930s Nazi Germany busy attacking Jewish Christianity? No.

The answer is much more shocking. The Daily Mail in 2008, in stories about the Bishop of St. Davids.

So, it is hardly surprising that Bishops of the Church of England and Church in Wales keep their mouths shut.

So lets start by cutting through the hypocrisy. If you constantly belittle and attack people, if you ban them from the airwaves because they are not modern, if you treat them as a joke if they try to appear modern (“trendy vicars”),then you can hardly ask them to give you a moral lead.

No wonder the only person who dares put his head above the parapet is The Archbishop of York, John Setanamu. He took on Idi Amin, gave up a position as a High Court Judge to do this and started from the bottom in the C of E. Dealing with the press must be ‘small beer’ compared to this.

You’ll miss the Church of England when its gone, Iain. You will miss it a lot.

Prior to the 1820’s the Church of England could be a lucrative profession but changes in the interests of fairness meant that it became an average middle class profession, with average middle class pay.

However, the twentieth century led to a drop in status and income for all clergy of the Church of England. They do have free housing but their current salaries are far inferior to those of ordinary Police Constables and Bishops salaries are considerably less than that of the most humble G.P.

The other profession that is impoverished is teaching.

It is n surprise that both teaching and the C of E do not attract rabid capitalists and tend to attract left wingers. Although those who believe that the Church of England is exclusively left wing would have benefited from listening to one of the Royal Family’s favourite clerics, Rev. Michael Mann, when he was Dean of Windsor. He was in no way left wing.

People who are paid very little are not always the best, although there are some very dedicated and good teachers and Church of England clergy.

Surprisingly, the next profession lined up for impoverishment is the solicitors profession. The Legal Services Act, which comes into force in 2012, will hand over all the remaining profitable elements of high street solicitors practise to the big institutions, who are likely to use unqualified people to do the work. Unfortunately, people still imagine that the solicitors profession will always be the road to riches, so far too many are being churned out by various colleges. Lord Falconer rammed through the Legal Services Act, in the supposed interests of competition. He did it by including huge bribes to the current partners of city solicitors firms, in the form of the right to obtain capitalisation from outside the profession. It is notable that he is the only former Blair cabinet minister who has not obtained a company directorship. I wonder what he thinks of competition now?

However, the impoverishment and humiliation of the Church of England has left a vacuum which has is avidly being filled by the Catholic Church. This is an absolutely remarkable event.

In the late 17th and early 18th Century, the Catholic Church fulfilled both the role that the Soviet bloc filled before the end of The Cold War and the role extreme Islam fulfils now. The Catholic Church was both a foreign ideology, which was perceived as wanting to colonise Great Britain and was also seen as the enemy within. The Catholics were suppressed by penal measures.

These were removed in 1829, after the French Revolution had shown there were worse horrors than Catholicism. The removal was a controversial move because Ultramontanism was seen as a Catholic doctrine. Ultramontanism is the belief that the Pope seeks to control the policies of individual states.

The Catholic Episcopal hierarchy was re-established in Great Britain in 1850. The Irish immigration into England being its mainstay. Cardinal Manning, who became Archbishop of Westminster in 1865, successfully brokered a deal in a docks strike.

The Catholic Church was starting to discard its previous pariah status. The First World War helped in this regard, as Catholic Chaplains were seen to be more effective than Anglican Chaplains.

History is littered with those who dismissed the Catholic Church as irrelevant but who later he to eat their words or were posthumously proved wrong. Joseph Stalin was a notable example “How many divisions has the Pope?” he asked an acolyte, who sought to get him to take the Catholic Church seriously but the Church eventually contributed to the collapse of Stalin’s system in Poland and thereby sparked general collapse.

One of the results of this collapse was the Polish immigration into this country.

It is a matter of huge irony that the Churches of the Soviet bloc seem to have survived better than the Churches of Western Europe, particularly the Church of England. Consumer society seems to have stifled religion more than communism. It is difficult to explain this phenomenon. I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Catholic Church in Poland was the only opposition and the Stalin used the Orthodox Churches to prop up his regime during the war. Persecution was intense in Orthodox countries in the 1950s but in Bulgaria, for example, there were a lot of secret baptisms of the children of senior Communist officials in that country, at that time. Matters relaxed again in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, to the extent that some senior Communist officials were quietly celebrating Easter. It is obvious that the Soviets used the Orthodox Church for gaining information but the Tsars did the same thing.

The Polish Communist leadership were unable to destroy the Catholic Church in the 1950s, because it was so deeply rooted and eventually, had to reluctantly accept it. The Catholic Church in Poland was notably more independent then the Orthodox Churches elsewhere. The fact that they became the main opposition to communism gave them enormous power and prestige amongst modern Poles.

So, the Poles who have recently come to this country are more religious than their western counterparts and found a Catholic Church ready to receive them. Thus, the number of practising Catholics exceeded the number of practising Anglicans for the first time ever in this country.

At the same time, the Catholic Church benefited from the primacy of Cardinal Basil Hume. This extraordinarily successful man managed to convert parts of the Royal Family, an unheard of event. Catholics were now socially acceptable.

Then along comes Gordon Brown. Forgetting the maxim that one of the golden rules of politics is one that you do not upset the Catholic Church and also failing to realise that Ultramontanism was back in his cabinet, blundering Brown denied a free vote to the Ultramontanes. He was eventually forced to do so by the Catholic Episcopal hierarchy.

The Catholic Church is Great Britain is stronger than it has been for centuries. The Church of England is weaker than it has been for centuries and is getting weaker.

The reason you will regret the demise of the Church of England, Iain, is that the Catholic Church does not compromise on morality and all homosexuals are abhorrent to the Catholic Church.

A friend of mine designed and built a beautiful building for the Catholic Church. It was absolutely stunning and Pope John Paul II stayed in the building. The Catholic Church made arrangements to make my friend a Papal Knight. Then they found out he was divorced and cancelled the knighthood. Morality comes above all things for the Catholic Church.

Someone I know very well is clearly on the road to premature death, because of an illness for which the embryos bill could help. I cannot view this bill dispassionately and I am so conflicted over it that I cannot even comment on it. But I will tell you one thing, Troymolloy. It will not just be “one of those things” for me when that person dies.

J.McCosh said...

This business is no more than a storm in a petrie dish. The Catholic handwringing over this would make a cat laugh, is this not the same institution which burned hundreds of thousands of human beings at the stake? The litany of martyrs for the church recited at the last popes funeral seemed to last for hours, if it had been balanced by a list of those lives taken by the Catholic church the funeral would have lasted days. The furore in England every time a C of E bishop opens his mouth is viewed with some incredulity this side of the border we got rid of bishops in the C of S centuries ago. What are they for?

J.McCosh said...

The handwringing of the catholic heirarchy in this issue would make a cat laugh, is this not the same institution which burned alive countless thousands of human beings when Catholicism had the whip hand? and and as for the furore every time a C of E bishop opens his mouth we abolished them in the Scottish church centuries ago and frankly they,ve never been missed. This country embarked on an illegal war which has killed God knows how many yet the media is obsessed by this storm in a petrie dish.

Twig said...

He got such a kicking last time he open his gob that he's decided to keep schtum.
What these establishment types don't seem to consider is that it could be that some or even most of the diseases thay are trying to cure are themselves created by man made pollutants (created by scientists) in our diet and environment.
Why not try to eliminate the causes first? It might be quicker and cheaper!

Oh! but then again, there'd be no money in it for the lads. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

What I find amusing is the apparent hypocrisy of Cardinal Keith O'Brien. He has just had a heart pacemaker fitted. Isn't that exactly the sort of thing that the Catholic hierarchy were opposed to a few years ago. As in the case of condoms it is interfering with the natural processes of the body.

Twig said...

st.bob 29/3/08 2:44 PM

"That is the problem with proscriptive religions and moral issues - they demand that all their followers keep the same opinion as determined by an extremely small cabal of the powerful."

You mean a bit like a three line whip ?

Anonymous said...

I don't remember hearing anything from the Catholic church when the polio vaccine was introduced in the 1950s. It was produced using tissue from monkey kidneys.

Red Maria said...

Thanks for the mention, Chris Paul.

Stbob plays the anti-Catholic card. It's not attractive. For his information, the bill would not merely permit the injection of human DNA inoto an animal egg cell from which animal DNA has been removed.

According to Professor David Albert Jones:

"The Bill will also allow the mixing of human and animal gametes to make half-half 'true hybrids'. True hybrids have no proposed benefit for medical research that anyone has been able to point to, but the bill explicitly allows them to be created under licence. It should also be noted that the government recently admitted that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has only ever turned down one research licence - and this was granted on appeal. Clearly a test that everyone passes is not a real safeguard."

Anonymous said...

M. Hristov said...

"The other profession that is impoverished is teaching."

Possibly by your standards, Milord.

"The Catholic Church was both a foreign ideology,"

It is.

"which was perceived as wanting to colonise Great Britain and was also seen as the enemy within."

Which it was, and still is.

"Ultramontanism was seen as a Catholic doctrine."

It is.

"Ultramontanism is the belief that the Pope seeks to control the policies of individual states."


"The Catholic Episcopal hierarchy was re-established in Great Britain in 1850. The Irish immigration into England being its mainstay."

Just another example of the Vatican trying to subdue northern and western Europe.

"Joseph Stalin was a notable example “How many divisions has the Pope?” he asked"

Attributed to Stalin. Could just as well, or better, be credited to Hitler.

"Church eventually contributed to the collapse of Stalin’s system"

Or, it happened to be a convenient front organisation for the workers who actually destroyed the system.

"One of the results of this collapse was the Polish immigration into this country."

Nonsense. This is entirely a consequence ou our disastrous membership of the EU.

"It is a matter of huge irony that blah blah blah. It is difficult to explain this phenomenon."

No it isn't.

"the Catholic Church in Poland was the only opposition"

Apart from the working class.

"The fact that they became the main opposition to communism"

No. The Church was merely the tolerated voice of the working class.

"the Poles who have recently come to this country are more religious than their western counterparts"

Lucky us. Not.

"found a Catholic Church ready to receive them."

Another triumph for the Vatican against the north west.

"the number of practising Catholics exceeded the number of practising Anglicans for the first time ever in this country."

Yet another blow against England.

"Catholics were now socially acceptable."

To you, Milord.

"The Catholic Church is Great Britain is stronger than it has been for centuries."

As are many foreign threats against the English, Monsieur.

"Morality comes above all things for the Catholic Church."

Good for them. So long as they stay away from us.

"It will not just be “one of those things” for me when that person dies."

Any chance it might stun you into silence?

Anonymous said...

Red Maria

no it doesnt - in fact such an experiment would be illegal under the current and proposed legislation.

But think about the science fiction idea of a trying to create a true human/animal hybrid. It is well beyond the ken of any scientist at the moment even assuming they did want to create one. Such an embryo would almost certainly fail to differentiate into more cells. To create a true (based on nuclear DNA) hybrid would require a major national research initiative, not a single evil scientist in a lab with a petri dish. Nobody is proposing such a thing. It doesnt even make sense - it would be like trying to combine a washing machine with a coffee maker.

The only reason the proposed cytoplasmic embryos are at all viable is because the genetic material inherited from their cow/rabbit egg case donors is mDNA and not nuclear DNA. mDNA has no morphological effects whatsover. It doesnt create wings/antannae/bunny ears.

My view is not antiCatholic. Catholics can believe what they want. It is anti-bullshit.