|Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor|
It is customary, as the sun sets on one year to look back and review the big stories that dominated the headlines during the period. Unfortunately, the sun has already set on 2011 and 2012 is now with us.
So, instead, let's review yesteryear and cast our minds back to the year 2006. For, it was in this year that a controversial headline concerning the Catholic Church in England and Wales ran across pages of The Daily Mail.
The headline in question was 'Archbishop sacked aide for being gay'. You can read the full article here. According to the said article...
'The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales was last night drawn into a furious row over a senior aide sacked because of his homosexuality.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, was personally involved in the dismissal of his personal Press secretary, who is also a devout Catholic.
Stephen Noon, who has held a series of senior appointments in the Commons, was told that being gay was 'incompatible' with his position in the Church.
Close friends accused the Cardinal of being 'unchristian' in forcing Mr Noon to go through a 'painful' sacking because of his sexuality.
The article goes on...
Mr Noon, 35, joined the Archbishop's staff in 2003 as his £35,000-a-year Press secretary, with a wide-ranging brief to improve the public image of the Church. He was also charged with advising Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor on public statements on ethical issues of the day.
However, Mr Noon remained in the post for less than a year.
IInsiders say relations with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor started well, but deteriorated after Mr Noon's long-term partner visited him at the office. A source told The Mail on Sunday: "His partner came into the office to meet him at the end of the day and was introduced to the Cardinal.
"Shortly after the Church made clear his sexuality was incompatible with the job he had to do. Since he was the spokesperson for the Cardinal, Murphy-O'Connor clearly felt he had to act because homosexual acts are regarded by the Church as a sin."
Mr Noon asked the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Jeremy Dear, to help negotiate a settlement.
Mr Noon was reluctant to take the issue to an employment tribunal because, according to a friend: "He wanted to fight to change the Church's attitude to homosexuality from the inside."
The Mail on Sunday has learned that there were a series of meetings with senior priests and lay officials with the final summit attended by Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor.
A source close to the negotiations said: "The Cardinal said he was sorry matters had ended up like they had. But he had not changed his mind about having an openly gay man as his spokesman."
It is understood Mr Noon received a pay-off worth around £20,000 and in return agreed not to speak in public about the reasons for his departure.
However last night a close friend told The Mail on Sunday: "What was terrible was the unchristian way Stephen was treated. That was the saddest part of the outcome of events. The process he had to go through was extraordinarily painful.'
Gosh. What a minefield. How do we navigate this one? Well, for my thoughts on this I'll draw upon the 2003 Instruction from the CDF, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition Between Homosexual Persons, which quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
'...According to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.'
That's my thoughts on the subject and unless His Eminence had concrete proof that his 'devout Catholic' press officer was mortally sinning with his 'partner' then I don't think sacking him was particularly charitable, or fatherly, and even then, isn't the Church the Hospital for sinners? But there we go. What's done is done. I don't think the idea of a pay-off to keep his press man schtum is particularly good press for the Church either, but, again, there we go. Hopefully, Mr Noon didn't go home, weep into a bottle of sherry and decide never to darken the door of a Catholic Church ever again. I'm sure there must be some Catholics in various positions of influence in the Church in the Westminster Diocese whose open homosexuality has not led to their downfall. Well, it hasn't done the organisers of the Soho Masses any harm has it?
Anyway, the justice or injustice we should attribute to the sudden departure of Mr Noon from his role as press secretary for a Westminster Cardinal isn't the main point of this blogpost. There may indeed be more to the story than simply His Eminence being worried about his image in the media, or with others, or a sense in which His Eminence was, at heart, a Catholic traditionalist.
The main point of this blogpost is that back in the day when Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Cormac was at the helm of the See of Westminster, it seems there was a different line on homosexuality and 'same sex partnerships' to that of his successor, the Archbishop Vincent Nichols and, if I'm not very much mistaken, it looks to me as if the current line taken on homosexuality, civil partnerships, same sex unions and the rest, runs contrary not just to the CDF document of 2003 on same sex unions, but, indeed, the rather, ahem, harder line taken by His Grace's predecessor, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. I don't know. Maybe its just different rules for different people, but then that isn't really meant to be the Catholic way, is it?
Now, where did I put that application form? You know, I can't stand those Equality boxes where they want you to tick your sexual orientation. I find it so embarrassing! Don't you just want to write on the form, 'None of Your S*dding Business'.
Stephen Noon, by the way, apparently ended up working as a press officer for the SNP who headhunted him in a fashion rather different to the Catholic establishment in England and Wales and now he blogs on Scottish politics. You can find his blog here. Go and say hello, why not?