The canonisation of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta will be hailed far and wide by those within and without the Church. She was the most famous, and most admired, Christian of the 20th century, even including the popes, whose office gives them a certain ubiquity. Her name became shorthand for sacrificial charity. Perhaps most remarkable of all, she remained virtually unique in achieving universal acclaim despite refusing to bow before the regnant culture.
There has been a deal on the table for several decades now for religious leaders. If they are willing to make their peace with the sexual revolution – divorce, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, artificial reproduction, same-sex marriage – then they will be celebrated, all the more so if they are simultaneously willing to adopt a progressive cause or two, the environment being the favoured one.
Making peace doesn’t mean explicit approval of any of the aspects of the sexual revolution; it is sufficient simply not to speak about those contentious matters too often, or to indicate that doing so is a rather pro forma exercise. That’s the path to a quiet life. Actually, better than that, for it is a life that can be celebrated by the Establishment: favourable press coverage, prestigious lecture invitations, knighthoods and peerages, honorary doctorates, corporate governance sinecures, the reflected glow of celebrity associations.
Those who have taken the deal are many. There are those who appear to
have little other choice if they want to keep their beleaguered people in the public consciousness. The Patriarch of Constantinople is one such, who is just as apt to talk about environmental issues as he is life or the family. Another would be the Dalai Lama, who often sounds like an eastern self-esteem guru as he attracts Hollywood celebrities to take up the Tibetan cause.
There are those who take the deal but don’t have to, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is more inclined today to speak about oil production than he is to discuss theology. Whether sincerely embraced or not, progressive politics given priority over traditional doctrine ensures laudations from our cultural custodians.
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