As I wrote a few days ago, I have no desire to be the world's greatest moral theologian, nor do I believe I'm really under any duty to be. I do not need to be an aeronautical engineer in order to take a flight on an aeroplane, as I know that someone who's been examined to a high standard has done this work for me. Similarly, I don't need to be able to write computer programs in order to use 'Blogger', as I know that some smart person has already done the heavy lifting for me.
It is for this reason that I feel no real need to study moral theology in my own time, as I know that the clergy who lead and guide me in matters of faith and morals have been trained in this subject to their bishops' satisfaction.
However, the recent nature of the Pope's pronouncements on condom use have caused a number of disturbing questions to bubble to the top of my brain, and I expect I might not be alone in being disturbed. We have been told that, despite what the Pope has said about the use of the condom by an HIV infected male prostitute in order to prevent his clients from infection perhaps being the first step towards moral responsibility, the absolute prohibition in the use of condoms by married couples remains unaltered. These married couples will no doubt include some, perhaps many, where one spouse has a higher degree of religious faith than the other. In such marriages, the question of contraception can produce tensions. Now, there's something about what's happened about this week that affects marriages in this situation which, to my mind, should be addressed by those in charge of Holy Church as a matter of urgency; the question that needs to be answered is whether, given that couples in this situation cannot use the condom in order to maintain the peace of their homes, our Church might consider it to be preferable for marriages to break down and for a divorce to be sought rather than for condoms to be used.
I don't imagine it would be, and sincerely hope it isn't, but the problem is that my profoundly defective catechesis doesn't provide me with an immediate and credible answer. Which is more important, the preservation of a sacramental state, or the preservation of the rules applying to what should happen after it's been conferred? It is very sad for a person who wishes to be orthodox to have to ask these questions on the Internet. However, the bishops of Scotland have been silent on the issue. I would hope they don't consider it to be too trivial for discussion.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church in Scotland did score a significant victory in the final days of last week, the dismissal of Hugh Dallas and a number of other officials from the Scottish Football Association. If 'The Guardian' is to be believed, a confidentiality agreement, that most pernicious of legal confections invented for no purpose other than to enable evil to conduct business as usual, is in place. This is most unfortunate, for this is one of those situations where the public could do with a good lack of confidentiality on the part of all parties.
The email that Mr. Dallas is alleged to have sent was in poor taste. If he sent it, he has displayed a lack of judgment, a quality essential in a referee. Sadly, the lack of judgment displayed by a fellow referee who has admitted to lying about a contested penalty decision has been the root cause of this weekend's referees' strike. A while back, Matt Taibbi drew some flak for describing Goldman Sachs as 'a giant vampire squid wrapped round the face of humanity'. Mr. Taibbi was presumably speaking without much knowledge of society in the west of Scotland; if he has even heard of us, he would know that we've got two of them already, one called Celtic, the other Rangers. It was quite disgusting to hear the sound coming from Celtic Park yesterday, and to realise that all the good wee Celtic fans whose public narrative is that they're descendants of poor Irish Catholic migrants were enjoying an entertainment that could only be provided with the help of scab labour. This became even more disgusting when I recalled that Dr. John Reid, Celtic's chairman, was once a prominent Labour politician.
I have no idea whether Mr. Dallas bears any personal animus towards either Catholicism in general or the Catholic Church in particular. If that is the case, one can only imagine just how that opinion might have been shaped by having been struck on the head by a coin thrown at him by a Celtic supporter, albeit one from Coventry, at Celtic Park 11 years ago. Perhaps some of the 'sturm und drang' directed at Mr. Dallas by Peter Kearney of the Scottish Catholic Media Office might have been leavened if he had remembered that Mr. Dallas had been physically injured by a supporter of a football team, albeit one operated by a very slick public limited company, which at times seems to be more closely identified with Catholicism in the west of Scotland than is the Catholic Church itself.
Prior to playing Tommy Lee Jones to Hugh Dallas's Harrison Ford, Mr. Kearney's most high profile public pronouncement had been what in my opinion was a buffoonish outburst on the subject of the 'Hokey Cokey'. This was an example of media mismanagement as crass as the handling of the Pope's announcement last weekend, its only saving grace being that its subject matter was far less serious. It raised grave questions in my mind over his fitness for office, if only because he achieved nothing from it apart from holding Holy Church up to ridicule.
Mr. Kearney has published what is, in my opinion, a very self-serving editorial in today's Scottish edition of 'The Sunday Times' ('It's time to cut out the poison of sectarianism'). He writes of how he complained to the chief executive of the SFA, asking for 'urgency and transparency to be brought to bear' on its investigation of The Crimes Of Hugh Raskolnikov Dallas. I'm sure that he'll be as disappointed as I am to learn that a confidentiality agreement might be in effect, if only because if it's true, then any hope of transparency has just gone down the toilet. Worthily, he then goes on to complain about sectarianism.
Yet a terrible thought worthy of the most fraught conspiracy theorist occurred to me while reading it. If someone were faced with two options, one involving the hard work of explaining just what the Pope meant when he seemed to turn 40 years of Catholic teaching on its head, the other involving trying to deflect attention away from that by shouting 'Sectarianism!' about an already old story in the sure and certain knowledge that complaints about sectarianism from the Catholic Church and its officials in the west of Scotland will always be reported, which would they choose?
That, of course, is a question fit for a moral theologian. I'm not suggesting for a moment that Mr. Kearney and his superiors mounted this offensive as a means of deflecting public attention away from the previous remarks of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I have no evidence for that. I find it impossible to believe that any responsible Catholic of good character would seek to direct the enquiring faithful's attention away from serious questions of faith and morals with a base appeal to historic grievance and ersatz communal victimhood. However, I have to confess that I find the timing of this development puzzling.
If Mr. Dallas has signed a confidentiality agreement, then I would have to think it unlikely that he would seek to bring the matter of his dismissal before an employment tribunal. This means, of course, that Mr. Kearney might be spared the ordeal of being cross-examined by Mr. Dallas's lawyers on why he, a person who has no public role in the administration of football in Scotland, took it upon himself to complain to Mr. Dallas's employers about a matter unrelated to football refereeing. That that encounter might not take place is, in itself, probably not a bad thing.
We could all do with a rest from sectarianism, proven, alleged or perhaps even non-existent, for a while. And after all, aren't we the ones who've been enjoined to turn the other cheek?