A government proposal in the United Kingdom to set up an anti-extremism commission could unjustly affect faithful Christians, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has warned.
The present is “a time when our own country faces uncertainty about its calling and struggles to define arbitrary values which might preserve society now confronted by aggressive ideologies and homicidal terror,” Bishop Davies said during his homily at a July 31 Mass.
He was speaking to English pilgrims at Lourdes, and addressed the proposal by Prime Minister Theresa May's Consverative minority government to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism. This commission, meant to counter Islamist extremism, is to “stamp out extremist ideology in all its forms” and identify extremisms which undermine British values. May has said that “there is clearly a role for government in tackling extremism where it involves behaviour that is or ought to be criminal. But there is also a role for government to help people and build up organisations in society to promote and defend Britain’s pluralistic values.”
A similar effort by David Cameron's Conservative government to promote “British values” in schools was received by Catholic Voices UK as a potential harm to sincere religious believers and to Catholic schools. Bishop Davies at that time warned, “our values cannot be arbitrarily formulated by any passing generation of politicians even if they have the best intentions.”
In his homily at Lourdes, the bishop noted that there is confusion in the UK over what constitutes extremism, citing a recent poll that found “1 in 3 Britons now regard the claims of Christianity and even the person of Jesus Christ as representing extremism.” “It is even possible that the very faith in Christ on which our nation was built, might become a focus of the Government’s counter-extremism agenda,” he lamented.
In the face of this, Christians are called to acknowledge that “we know of no moderation … in our following of Christ and in all that contributes to the good of society, recognising how we are all called to the extremes of charity; of virtue; of grace; of unswerving adherence to goodness and truth, to the high goal of holiness in which lies our ultimate happiness.”
This, he said, is the heart of the Second Vatican Council's teaching:”an utterly inclusive message, that we are all called to holiness which is the perfection of love, the complete happiness of becoming a saint.” “This was the first calling of the English people and it is the divine vocation which can now shape our lives, our families and the whole future of our society.”
The bishop did warn against a “destructive extremism” which seeks to de-construct marriage, family, and human identity, and which “calls for medical experimentation with no reference to ethical boundaries; that decrees the unborn may live only to terms fixed by man, demands legal protections be removed from the sick and the aged.” “It is such extremism which surely threatens the foundations of society.”
The “extreme agenda” of Christ and the Church is “the call to the perfection of charity and the fullness of the Christian life which today we share,” he concluded.