The cancelling of Fr Pullicino should mark the beginning of the fightback
The cancelling of Fr Pullicino should mark the beginning of the fightback[photo1]
Christians are at last beginning to stir from their post-linguistically-mugged lethargy, and fighting back.
When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, he was inviting us not to retaliate for the sake of our personal pride. But the struggle against evil is one that we are supposed to involve ourselves in by prayer and intelligent spiritual strategy.
The first step may simply be seeking justice as Fr Pullicino did when he was cancelled by an NHS hospital trust as a Catholic priest.
Fr Pullicino is the rare combination of being not only a priest but at the same time a medical doctor with a distinguished career as a consultant neurologist. He was an ideal hospital chaplain.
So when he was asked to take a walk with a patient in a psychiatric ward and give his advice about the Church's teaching (as detailed in the report here on 31st March) he might have expected to be able to speak both as a doctor and a priest protected by the law under the Equality Act and the working practices of the hospital.
And since, after he was sacked, the Trust settled with him, he would have been right to. But, the fact that the working practices on the ground or in the institution seem to continually find against chaplains at first instance, we have to ask why the popular understanding of the law and the culture the law is supposed to embody is so misunderstood.
Why is there such a popular reflex prejudice against the Christin faith and against the clergy who act as chaplains in secular institutions?
The Trust responded: "We remain absolutely committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for our patients, staff and communities.
"We respect and celebrate all protected characteristics equally, including religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, sex, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.
"We take seriously our responsibility to ensure patients' spiritual needs are met and we oppose any form of discrimination. We seek to protect all patients and members of staff in line with the Equality Act 2010."
This is of course incoherent and self-contradictory. It is self-contradictory, because the managers of institutions do not oppose discrimination. They discriminate against Christians. Fr Pullicino's case is the third case to show the discrimination of the establishment. Dr Bernard Randall and Derek Timms, a school and hospital chaplain respectively were also discriminated against and sacked both for acting modestly and moderately as ministers of the Christian faith.
It is incoherent because it twists the intentions of the Equality Act out of shape and it fails to recognise that in popular speech at any rate, each of the three mantras, 'diversity, inclusion and equality,' have more than one expression of meaning.
It is difficult to know if the time has arrived which Rod Dreher foresaw in his book, The Benedict Option, where Christians recognise that the secular and woke indoctrinated society is so unreasonably hostile to the faith, that we waste our energy and our witness by engaging with them. But it is not enough simply to allow secular bigotry to pick off one Christian worker after another.
Forestalling the Dreher strategy, the second step from justice to fightback, may emerge from a timely frustration developing among Christians who have finally begun to notice that the animus aimed at the Church is not just reflective of different preferences, but a strategy of anti-Christian marginalisation that is being deliberately pursued. A willingness to take the cultural struggle to the enemy is finally stirring. It is becoming clearer that the forces we are encountering, both cultural and spiritual, are implacably hostile to Christ and his Church.
The conflict centres on a fight to own words. The progressive strategy has been based on borrowing words with an ethical pedigree and weaponising them for their own purposes.
All three of the Diversity/Inclusion/Equality shibboleths have their roots in the Christian ethical vision. All three have been the subject of a hostile takeover and have been used to mug the unsuspecting, slightly morally gullible public in order to produce a political utopia as a more accessible alternative to the Kingdom of Heaven.
This politicisation of the faith has very deep roots, and goes back in fact to Judas Iscariot. His betrayal of Jesus looks as though it had some of its origins in his frustration that the Kingdom Jesus was inviting people into was more spiritual than political; more eschatological than contemporary.
In much the same way as a successful messianic putsch that kicked the Romans out of Jerusalem, fleeing an army headed up by a Jesus inflicting miraculous defeat on the invaders, restoring Israel to God's Covenant people at the edge of the sword, would have suited Judas better than the martyrdom most of the Apostles were called to undergo.
Each word needs reclaiming by Christians and given its original meaning back. They need stripping from the hands and mouths of progressive activists and being offered their primary meaning back.
Each of the three mantra words with which the progressive culture is punishing the Church has a political usage overlaying its theological or spiritual origin. Each of them needs reclaiming in the public square.
Diversity as a spiritual value is wholly different from its political application. It reflects the abundant variety of God's creation. It describes the exquisite complementarity of men and women, the gifts of the Spirit in the Church, the endless redemptive ingenuity of God in the face of human failure and pain. Uniformity is dull and unimaginative, but diversity is the fingerprint of the generous and creative.
But it also can be used to bait the hook for the unsuspecting ethically under-informed.
In political terms, diversity insinuates a creative generosity but is used instead as a restrictive weapon against particular targets - whiteness, straightness, Church-ness, conservative-ness, masculinity, experience, competence.
The political lexicon follows Orwellian rules of promising one thing, but delivering something very different. Spiritual diversity reflects the generosity of creation. Political diversity represents the exclusion of Christian ethics and culture and its replacement with alternatives.
Inclusivity, in spiritual terms, represents the promise that the loneliness of being excluded, cast out, alienated and rejected, can be overcome. The coming of Jesus is the greatest act of inclusion. It makes possible the reconciliation of an unholy people to their holy God by an act of supreme sacrifice. The price is repentance and trust, but inclusion into the healing forgiveness of God's love is the promise of the Gospel. It traces the contours of a smile on the face of an evangelistic Church.
But political inclusion is the darkest of tools. Political inclusion is achieved by banning discrimination. This pseudo-universalist ethic paralyses one of the most important theological tasks humanity has been given: 'the discrimination of good from evil', the capacity to discern truth from what is false, and the authentic from the bogus.
The banning of such discrimination in our social discourse, outlawing one of the most important exercises we ever undertake, turns us into gullible patsies for whatever ethical second-hand car salesman comes our way - in the latest case, wokery. Inclusion is of course a clumsy trick that is intended to include everyone but the representatives of Christendom in the West.
Equality as a spiritual concept describes the equal value of each member of the human race in the eyes and heart of God the Father. But it ends there. To each he gives different gifts, and different responsibilities. To the more gifted, more responsibility and accountability. The parable of the talents reminds us that equality of vocation is replaced by a personal accountability.
But political equality is another deeply dangerous tool of social manipulation. The forced equality of outcomes that define the utopianism of the political Left leads increasingly to authoritarian government that imposes its will on the population to produce artificial, inefficient and incompetent outcomes. It leads to 'tall poppy syndrome' in which the outstanding are culled and the rest of society is reduced to the lowest common denominator.
Political equality is the driver that leads to totalitarianism, and the extinguishing of the uniqueness of each individual.
The great con trick of our age is the way in which progressive utopianism has taken the exquisite ethics of the spirituality of Christianity and by politicising them and hollowing out their meanings, has exchanged their power to effect inner transformation with a social pressure to create a culture inimical to Christian faith, vision and value.
It is long past time since the Church should have woken up to wokery, and spotting this great act of verbal and ethical mugging, should reclaim the words from their politicisation, and contest their usage. The Church is a sleeping giant in our culture. It is time she woke up.
Gavin Ashenden is Associate Editor of the The Catholic Herald and a former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.