What was interesting about the Holy Father’s meeting with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall was that it was so uncontroversial. BBC television news bulletins didn’t even bother to carry a report of it on the 10pm main news of the day.
Those of us keen to see what Camilla was wearing at the Vatican had to console ourselves with the thought that at least Hello! magazine will cover the story.
As it turns out, she was wearing just what Diana wore several decades earlier: a black mantilla.
It was said that the Prince of Wales – not the Pontiff – “pontificated” on the occasion; and the sermon was on a theme close to his heart: green issues and the environment.
Pope Benedict does not seem to have objected: Germans have always been concerned, even obsessed, with the environment. Love of the environment is regarded by some historians as a form of German romanticism, like the pastorals of Beethoven or the Alpine and afforested landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich. And indeed Pope Benedict is enthusiastic about matters green and the Vatican has taken the lead in promulgating a “low emissions policy” policy. The Holy See has invested €500 millions in solar panels to harness the sun’s energy on the roof of Santa Maria Galleria, and planted forests in Hungary to offset carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast to the rest of Italy – which doesn’t seem to give a fig about green politics – the Vatican promotes the view that man is “a servant of the earth”, not its master.
So Charles and Benedict are, up to a point, allies. But one controversial subject will loom at the Copenhagen Climate Control pow-wow later in May which is likely to divide such an alliance: population. Charles is a disciple of Jonathan Porritt, who wants strong controls on population, which the Holy See is very unlikely indeed to endorse.
Asenior teacher in a north London school has been suspended because he objected to a training day session which posed the question: “What makes you think it’s natural to be a heterosex ual?” The teacher, Mr Kwabena Peat of Park View Academy, who is a committed Christian, could have answered: “Charles Darwin.” Darwin’s theory of evolution is insistent that all species advance through birth and regeneration. And in all mammals, this is effected through heterosexual congress.
Arguing from objective biological science, therefore, it follows that heterosexuality is “natural” – ie, it pertains to the patterns of nature.
However, some people are born with a homosexual orientation, and this orientation is therefore “natural” to their innate nature: or, as we might put it, this is as God made them. This should be a matter of respect – and perhaps Tony Blair had a point when he suggested that reexamining the question theologically might be relevant, espe cially in the light of genetic research and the possibility of a “gay gene”.
But that heterosexuality is the mainstream sexual orientation is evidenced by its role in the procreation of all mammal species. On that, both Catholic moral theology and Darwinism concur. As a universal ceremony, marriage is fundamentally a fertility rite. Orange blossom, rice and confetti are symbols of fertility. That is the basis for affirming that marriage has been ordained between male and female.
Tolerance and understanding are Christian virtues, and they should be practised on all sides of this debate. But the facts of biological science are not irrelevant to the case.
Speaking of marriage, according to reports from the United States Bill and Hillary Clinton have been seen together in New York holding hands and are spending more time together than they did five years ago.
It was assumed by some that when Mr Clinton left office the couple would divorce, as there had been some very tense marital times, of which we hardly need reminding.
Americans have generally been quicker to divorce than Europeans. They have been more inclined to practise that “triumph of hope over experience”, as serial marriage has been wryly called. American women – who pioneered alimony – have been less tolerant of adultery than Europeans. It was American women who dubbed marital straying “cheating”. For all these reasons, it was expected that the Clintons might take the road to divorce. But no: it’s all hugs and kisses once again.
Cynics suspect that this is just another political “ploy” to support Hillary’s political ambitions. But let’s not always believe the cynics.
Let’s believe the sunnier hypothesis: that marriages go through bad patches, individuals err and stray – but couples can be reconciled and marriages saved.
With maturity comes mellowness, and a realisation that you have a lot in common with someone to whom you have pledged your troth in youth: why throw away all your good memories because of human frailty?