Monday, February 05, 2007

Cost of Conscience

Recently I read the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement concerning the issue of conscience in relation to the law. It arose from the plea of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster for the RC Church to have their adoption agencies excluded from The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations - SOR - which would 'outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation' on the grounds that the SORs would "oblige our agencies in law to consider adoption applications from homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents would require them to act against the principles of Catholic teaching."

Archbishop Rowna has stated that he "would like to see some more serious debate now about that particular question – what are the limits, if there are limits, to the State’s power to control and determine the actions of voluntary bodies within it, in pursuit of what are quite proper goals of non-discrimination."

Quite apart from the fact that it has been pointed out that the RC adoption agencies already place children in homes that hardly reflect 'the principles of Catholic teaching' I am intrigued that our own Archbishop (of Canterbury) has chosen to step in to support the Cardinal. Whilst not a devotee of The Thirtynine Arctiles (often quoted by traditionalists to attack others), I note that Article XXXVII Of the Civil Magistrates unambiguously states that 'The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.'

Now, whilst Archbishop Rowan has nailed his comments to the issue of 'conscience' ("The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning." - initial letter to the Prime Minister), it has been pointed out that the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster is, ultimately, under the authority of Rome. His hands, in a sense, are tied. However, we had a Reformation to deal with just this matter and I find it intriguing that this smallpiece of our history, which has shaoped the development of England, seems to have been forgotten. As Article XXXVII states in its opening lines:

'The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.'

Can conscience be above the Law unless those laws are unjust? I guess this is the argument - whether equality for all under the Law can be superceded by justice for those who wish to - or have to - uphold discrimination.

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