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Geoffrey is right to say that Rome’s position has created problems, and that there is a tension between political power and our faith. Jesus gave us wise advice about rendering certain things to Caesar, but, by the nature of these things, Caesar’s demands tend towards the insatiable. It was for this very reason that successive Popes created a Papal State which would give them some protection; we can see from other examples what the alternatives were. With the Church of the East it turned into something close to extermination; with Constantinople it turned into something like a theocracy, but with the Emperor in the driving seat; and in Rome it turned into a Renaissance State needing to defend its own – with all the things that brought with it.  Different people will have different opinions as to which of these was most desirable; few will think any of them a model; but in the real world a fourth and better one has not evolved. Indeed, as the State in the Wet begins to withdraw from supporting Christianity, it may be that even the one most criticised by Protestants will come to look desirable.

In the world in which the Christian has to exist, polities will make demands on him or her, and the nature of the modern state tends towards totalitarianism in as far as it enshrines into its law those standards it wishes to support.  Because it has been a long and difficult fight for the British State to get agreement to ‘gay marriage’, it will proceed more cautiously on other matters; but in the end it will insist that all citizens signs up to those laws the State enacts; no exceptions. Yes, for now there are, but for now we live in the afterglow of a time when the Church of England was really the State Church and really had some countervailing influence to secular values. That time is passing, and a generation or so from now, the Catholic Church, and any other Church which does not ‘recognise’ ‘gay marriage’ will have been sued into accepting it in some way. But even that will not satisfy the legal zealots; my advice to the young is that if they wish to get rich, get into this area of the law: a bonanza is coming.

The ways of God are not of this world, and His message to mankind not one it wishes to hear: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is nigh’.  Man tends to reject this, and to resent the messenger. Whatever the culture is, we are counter-cultural.  But the State will exact a price. If it is Christian, that price is that the Church approves some of what it does; if it is not, it is higher. There are always those who think that we should not compromise; fewer when the time for real martyrdom comes.

Rome has provided, and continues to provide, a non-national, supra-national authority to which Catholics can appeal.  It is not perfect, it is not ideal, it is a Church full of sinners. But I am unsure the other options on offer are more desirable.