Posted by: rosa alba | June 17, 2014

Roma locuta est (Rome has spoken)?

The keyboards (or devices) are hot with the news of the Chinese Premier championing if not democracy (!) then at least the cause of the Unionists.   He has, if the press froth is to be believed, spoken for a “strong, propsperous and united UK.   But concluded his statement of “future…growth…development..stability..peace” with the words, “We certainly respect the choice you make”.   Like Hillary said, and Obama, it is, indeed for “the folks” to decide.

I have read the piece, in Spainish, in which the Bishop of Rome, Prelate of the Catholic Church was more circumspect….not dismissing the complications, bitterness and strife of a “break-up”.  He did not seem to mention Scotland’s ecclesiastical status as an independent entity before and even after both the Reformation and the Union of the Parliaments. Obviously during the penal years the clergy – trained in Rome, Spain and at one point Paris – had no visible head, but when the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland was reinstated in Rome, in the 19th C, it was with their own dioceses (as before the reformation and the demise of Cardinal Beaton in Paris in the early 1600s), Archbishops and Sees, one (Glasgow) directly under Rome. Scotland was her own country in the eyes of the Church.  However, nowhere in the interview does the Pope mention this, even so, it is important to note that the (Spanish Language, Madrid-owned) paper asked about Spain and Catalonia, and Catalonia does not share this same “independent” ecclesiastical status.

What he does speak of in the same piece is “the gap between rich and poor”:

En el centro de todo sistema económico debe estar el hombre, el hombre y la mujer, y todo lo demás debe estar al servicio de este hombre. Pero nosotros hemos puesto al dinero en el centro, al dios dinero. Hemos caído en un pecado de idolatría, la idolatría del dinero. La economía se mueve por el afán de tener más y, paradójicamente, se alimenta una cultura del descarte.

At the centre of every economic system should stand mankind, man and woman, and everything else should be put to the service of man(kind).  But we have put money at the centre, Mammon (God of Money). We have fallen into the sin of idolatry – the idolatry of money.   The economy is driven by the desire to own more, and paradoxically, it feeds a culture of rejection.

From the start of the debate – and increasingly as the lies and mistrust, the dissimulation, scapegoating, and  empty promises of  definitely more Devolved Concerns, maybe, sort of, in some form, eventually, possibly have been broadcast as loud appeasement there is a clear, poignant, melody (a Pibroch maybe, echoing, unmissable) calling us to mourn the demise of the welfare state, of humanity in politics and Politics.   The amendments, taxes, cuts in spending, benefit changes are too many and too creepingly insidious to recall fully by name; many (including the bill about which the National Autistic Society is raising concerns – capping the Independent Living Fund) are passed unnoticed.  But the tragedy left behind is crystal clear:   increasing child poverty,  food banks, lack of provision for society’s most needy, homelessness, despair, exhausted carers on the bread-line and a culture of part-time, minimum wage employment.  No one needs figures – they only have to walk through the centres of our towns to see.  Bankers, hedge-funders and entrepreneurs may sup with Tory Politicians but however lively and resounding the reel, we are not invited to dance at the ill-gotten marriage.   Sadly the screech of the fiddles and the rhythm of the bodrahn at the feast seems louder than the pibroch: it is fun to dance, you see, and easy to turn up the volume on an amp.

We are called – Jews and all Christians alike – to many commandments in terms of charity (mitzvot or tzadikot in Hebrew); Catholics speak of Corporal Works of Mercy. We can chose to avoid living these commandments (perhaps summed up in “love thy neighbour as thyself”) but  we face the consequences: they are not optional add-ons to Redemption and Salvation, and sola fides or not, our Corporal Acts or Works of Mercy are testament to and evidence of our faith.  They alone may not redeem us, but without them, our professed faith is empty, our redemption banked on a house of cards with no rafters or joists.

But we live in a society in which our tithe is our taxes, our National Insurance, as well as our donations to Charity.   We live in a world, in Modern Europe where the ministrations of the religious or other establishments are patchy and supplementary to the Welfare State. Their funding by public subscription insufficient to meet the manifold and specialist needs of those who call on them.   The Third Sector (including  housing associations not run for profit) may grow apace, however, most of the funding for their organsations  and a good tranche of funding for charities, comes from government. And it is an ever-diminishing pot with increasing numbers of hands dipping into it.

In any case, the needs of the disenfranchised of today – the seriously mentally ill, the elderly, those with dementia, children with complex and severe Additional Support Needs, the poor, the homeless, the alcoholic and the drug addicts: those for whom Christ came, those with whom he dined and about whose needs he preached throughout the Gospel of Luke, their requirements are too complex, too deep-rooted, too manifold, and too enduring to be resolved via the ad hoc nature of charity donations, whose service can be good, but variable.  The Third Sector does a good job, but has its limitations, with each organisation predicated on particular aims and service users,  beyond which fact, it is starved of funding and resources.

If we profess a faith that follows the teachings of Judasim or Christianity, we are almost obliged to stop this stem of putting money and personal gain at the centre of  our society.  We have to stand op the passage of laws that persist in disenfranchising the already dispossessed and vulnerable, just as Jesus stood up and healed the lame, on a Sunday, or cast out  Devils.   This does not necessarily mean a vote for an Independent Scotland but we must ask ourselves, in our heart, what we value: national values, a fuzzy notion of Team GB or humanity and the teachngs of Christ.

And, if we answer the latter, we need, all of us, to search and research deep and wide to assure ourselves of which result  and political landscape, after the Referendum, is more likely to enact policy which will meet the needs of those whose voices are lost under viaducts and down disused vennels.

There are aspects of the proposed Constitution I disagree with, but largely, it guarantees service provision for the needy.



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