Thursday, 26 March 2015




The Roman Catholic Church's negative and derogatory attitude to women goes right back to the beginning of the Church's history.

Below is a short list of what some of the most famous Church Fathers and influential figures of the Church said about women:


"Woman is the gate to hell and her gaping genitals the yawning mouth of hell"

"Woman, you are the devil's doorway. You are the gate of Hell. You are the temptress of the forbidden tree. You are the first deserter of the divine law.


 "Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman".


"Among all the savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman".


"Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders".


In the years in Lyons, France 63 bishops held a debate on the topic: "ARE WOMEN HUMAN"? The result was: 32 YES - 31 NO.


"Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active  force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence".


"Woman is a tool of Satan and a pathway to Hell".


"Woman is a temple built on a sewer".


"To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure".


"When you look upon a woman consider that you do not face a human being but the Devil himself, the voice of a woman is the hiss of a snake".

When you realise that this kind of thinking has informed the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds and thousands of years its hardly surprising that right up until today the Church forbids women to be ordained or indeed have any meaningful say in the running of the Church.

Even though modern Church leaders would not dream of saying such things out loud (even though they may think like that) things have not changed at all in the Church when it comes to women.

Women cannot be popes, cardinals, bishops priests or deacons.

Women cannot hold positions of influence on any Church body whether at the local, national or international levels.

The men in the Church give the very lamest of excuses that "Jesus did not appoint women apostles".

That is absolute rubbish.

Jesus never had - or indeed envisaged - such offices as pope, cardinal, bishop, priest or deacon. These are man made offices.

And Jesus had plenty of women co-operators and disciples:

- There was Mary he mother of Jesus - who travelled with him and was directly responsible for his first miracle - turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

- There was Mary of Magdala - whom Jesus chose to be the FIRST witness of his resurrection.

- There were the women who travelled with him who "provided for their needs out of their own resources".

- There was Mary and Martha who ministered to Jesus at Bethany.

And in the New Testament we see women as being the leaders of early Christian communities.

The principle role of the priest today is the celebration of the Eucharist - what we believe to be the Body and Blood. 

It was Mary - Jesus mother - who first gave us the body and blood of Christ - LITERALLY by giving birth to him.

If a woman can give the world the Body of Christ LITERALLY - then why can she not do it SACRAMENTALLY? Its nonsense to say that she cannot.

There is no decent biblical, theological or rational reason for the subjugation of women in Roman Catholicism.

It is pure SEXISM and PATRIARCHALISM  that is behind keeping women as second class members of Roman Catholicism.

And yet women make up the biggest attending membership of the Church.

In this sense are not women contributing to and co-operating in their own subjugation?

                                                   (Francis Croake)

Among the animals in the cold dank dark of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the birthing;
Mary looked down at the baby lying across her legs

In the shadows of the bleak Calvary hill,
After the pain and the bleeding and the dying;

Mary looked down at the broken frame across her legs

Its just as well that she said it to Him then.
For now, dry old men,

In brocaded robes belying barrenness,
Ordain that she cannot say it to Him now. 

+Pat Buckley

Wednesday, 25 March 2015






Peeping from a window

Catherine Deveney 2013.

March 13, 2013. The world is waiting. Television screens show days-old footage of cardinals in red and white, processing past Vatican guards into the magnificence of the Sistine Chapel for the papal conclave. Every image, from the polished marble floors and gold ceilings to the priceless frescoes on the walls, tells a story of wealth, pageantry and power. Outside, in St Peter's Square, the crowds are cheering for a man whose name they do not yet know. But there is another soundtrack. The day before, Pat McEwan, a 62-year-old from Scotland, had described to me how he was raped at the age of eight by a priest. His voice drowns out crowds and choirs. "I ran home shaking like a dog. I had wee short trousers on and the shite was running down my leg. My mum and my auntie had to wipe me down."

The juxtaposition of those two images: the powerful institution that represents 1.2 billion Catholics and the abused child, tells the story of a church with two faces: one public and one private. Last month, the church was plunged into crisis when the Observer revealed that three priests and one ex-priest had complained to the Papal Nuncio about Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The cardinal, who publicly decried homosexuals as degenerate, had, they said, privately been making advances to his own priests for years. But the story was never about one man. It wasn't about personal weakness. Keith O'Brien was merely a symptom of a wider sickness: an institution that chooses cover-up as its default position to conceal moral, sexual and financial scandal.

This was not paedophilia but it was an abuse of power – a man in authority acting inappropriately to young seminarians and priests under his control. It was made clear that a full sexual relationship had been involved. Yet there were attempts to cloud his behaviour in moral ambiguity. First, there was denial. The cardinal "contested" the allegations. A day after publication, he resigned. The next week, he issued a statement admitting his sexual conduct "as a priest, a bishop and a cardinal" had fallen short. Many ignored what that confirmed about the extent and duration of his behaviour: he was made cardinal in 2003.

Next, came obfuscation, with the church claiming it did not know the substance of the allegations, despite being given written notice before publication. Then, anger and the minimising of wrongdoing – the cardinal had been destroyed for mere "drunken fumblings" from 30 years ago. Why, he had probably been to confession and received absolution. But most revealing of all was the attempt to turn the spotlight on the complainants' motivation, to blame the accusers rather than the accused. It has been a familiar pattern in Catholic abuse cases over the years.

The stories you are about to read will take you from the late-1950s to the present day, a sweep of more than 50 years. Society has changed radically in those years, from the black-and-white morality of the 1950s, tenement slums and rag-and-bone men, to the fast-living, flat-screen, iPhone generation of 2013. And yet, through all those decades, all those changes, the behaviour of the Catholic church towards abuse victims has changed remarkably little.

Two concepts are critical to understanding church behaviour. The first is "scandalising the faithful". Traditionally, the hierarchy believed the greatest sin was shaking the faith of Catholic congregations. Protecting them meant concealing scandal. Adopting that as your moral standpoint means anything goes. You can cover up sexual misconduct from those you demand sexual morality from. You can conceal financial corruption from those who put their pounds in the collection plate. You can silence the abused and protect the abuser. Guilt about sacrificing individuals is soothed by protecting something bigger and more significant – the institution.

The second concept is "clericalism", a word used to describe priests' sense of entitlement, their demand for deference and their apparent conformity to rules and regulations in public, while privately behaving in a way that suggests the rules don't apply to them personally. (O'Brien was, in that sense, a classic example.) The Vatican is an independent state; the Holy See a sovereign entity recognised in international law and governed by the Pope. The Nunciature operates like government embassies in different countries worldwide. It is even governed by its own rules: Canon Law. All this contributes to the notion that the church can conduct its own affairs without interference or outside scrutiny. It demands a voice in society without being fully accountable to it.

In the weeks following O'Brien's departure, several priests' meetings were held in his diocese. One was chaired by his temporary replacement, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, and O'Brien's auxiliary bishop, Stephen Robson. Some priests wanted messages of support sent to the cardinal, encouraging him to return to Scotland for his retirement. Compassion for a sinner? Or clerical cover-up? Some not only knew of the cardinal's behaviour, they may have been subject to it.

Richard Sipe

"The clerical power structure not only protects clergy who are sexually active but sets them up to live double lives," says Richard Sipe, an American psychotherapist and ex-priest who has spent many years researching celibacy and abuse. "Corruption comes from the top down. Superiors, rectors and bishops do have sexually active lives and protect each other – a kind of holy blackmail."

Professor Tom Devine

Is this the biggest crisis for the Catholic church since the Reformation, asked Professor Tom Devine, one of Scotland's leading historians? But one cardinal is not the crisis. Thousands of abused children around the world, and an institution that silences them: that is the real crisis. The church claims child-protection policies have been in place in Scotland since 1999. Judge them for yourself in the following stories. Events come right up to the last few weeks, with Keith O'Brien's resignation as backdrop. The American civil-rights activist, Martin Luther King, once said, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." In the Catholic church, that moment has long since passed.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Pat McEwan says he fell prey to a paedophile ring of priests. His main abuser, his parish priest, encouraged Pat to visit him, then appeared to slip into a trance. Pat shook him. "I've just been talking to Jesus and he says would you like to go to heaven?" said the priest. Then he asked, "Do you love your mummy?" Yes Father. "Do you love your daddy?" Yes Father. "Do you love me? Because this is our little secret and you mustn't tell your mummy or daddy or you will go to the burny fire."

Pat McEwan at the age of his abuse

This was the 1950s. Parish priests were honoured guests in Catholic homes. The priest arranged for Pat's devout mother to visit Carfin Grotto, leaving Pat with a priest friend of his. Pat remembers watching through the window while his mother disappeared into the grotto. As soon as she did, the priest turned to him. "I want you to do for me what you have done for your parish priest," he said. Then he raped him. Afterwards, he tried to quieten the child's tears before his mother returned. "God doesn't like boys who cry. Be a soldier of Christ."

The Grotto

Child abuse is rarely contained within childhood. The events bleed into every aspect of adult choices, relationships, employment and health. Victims suffer from alcoholism, mental-health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is not uncommon for male victims to end up in prison. Cameron Fyfe is a Scottish lawyer who has dealt with more than 1,000 Scottish cases of abuse by the Catholic church. "Not one person has come out unharmed," he says. "Every one has had their life smashed." Pat is no different. He became an alcoholic, though he has now been sober for 18 months.

Lawyer Cameron Fyfe

Pat approached the church in the late-90s. He never once asked for money. Instead, he sought counselling, a spiritual retreat – and acknowledgement. "This has always been about justice." He enlisted the support of Alan Draper, a child-protection expert who had worked for the church in the mid-90s. Draper had left, unhappy with the bishops' persistent refusal to take appropriate action. Now, he accompanied Pat to a meeting with Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell. In their accounts both Pat and Draper say that the bishop's solution to the horrifying tale was simple. "Pat, he's an old man," he said. "Please let him away with it."

Bishop Devine outside his retirement mansion

Pat produces a file of letters, not just from the bishop but from his safeguarding team. The tone is frequently hostile, as if "safeguarding" in the diocese is not so much about protecting victims as protecting the church from victims. In one, Pat is berated for telephoning the office. "Could I please ask," writes diocesan safeguarding adviser Tina Campbell, "that if you wish to make contact with any member of the diocesan safeguarding team, this is done by letter and not on the phone?"

In 2010, Pat approached O'Brien. Despite being the most senior Catholic in Britain, O'Brien said he could not interfere in Bishop Devine's area. Draper subsequently wrote to Devine on Pat's behalf in February 2011, asking him to meet them both. He refused. Pat, he insisted, should meet him alone. "If he were to be accompanied by yourself or anyone else, the meeting would be cancelled," he wrote. "I take it that I have made myself clear to you on this matter." At the meeting, Devine rounded on Pat. "You are nothing but an alcoholic," he said.

"All Pat wanted," says Draper, "was for the bishop to say, 'Sorry, we believe you.'" In November last year, Pat finally received a letter from Tina Campbell saying that in "an attempt to bring some sort of closure" they were referring the case to Motherwell police, who are currently investigating. Pat's main abuser is now dead, but one remains alive. It has been a long journey.

The reality of "safeguarding" in the Catholic church is that each bishop presides over an independent fiefdom. Draper has asked for evidence of annual reviews that the church agreed to back in 1996. So far, they have not been forthcoming. In response to questions regarding church procedures in abuse cases, the Catholic church's director of communications, Peter Kearney, told the Observer, "'The church' as referenced in your question doesn't actually have a locus in this issue, in that in Scotland, 'the church' consists of eight separate and autonomous diocese, each with its own bishop and each responsible for the issue of safeguarding in their own area. The way a complaint is handled in one diocese should be the same as in every other, but… that hasn't always been the case."

It confirms, says Alan Draper, what he has been saying for years. "The bishops exercise tight control and do nothing for victims. The so-called national co-ordinator is effectively sidelined into training the laity and is toothless to do anything that really matters. It is a sham."

Ann Matthews also lives in Bishop Devine's diocese. In the 1980s, she was regularly abused from the age of 11 to 17 by her priest. She has never told her parents. They were extremely devout and the priest frequently said prayers in their house. After visiting Ann's dying grandmother, he came downstairs and tried to have sex with her on the sofa.

After accepting the abuse had happened, Devine quietly sent the priest away for counselling, telling the parish he was retiring due to ill health. That, says Ann, denied other parents the opportunity to assess whether their children had also been affected. Some studies suggest abuser priests may have around 50 victims.

Ann says her life has been broken. She suffers from eating disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. She is frequently suicidal. She has no job. She has a partner, but will never have children as she doesn't want to inflict her insecurities on a child. "Sometimes, it feels like I died a long time ago, that there's this body that walks around the earth and doesn't know it should lie down."

In a meeting that included priests of the diocese, she was asked why she allowed the abuse to continue. But Ann was a child. She tried to convince herself abuse was love. "I said to them, I am sitting here as a grown woman, but when this happened I had knee-high socks and bobbles in my hair." "Oh come on!" retorted one of the priests, before adding, "Give her money and let her run."

She never received money, but she did get counselling, which she was grateful for. In the next 12 years, the church never once asked for a report. Last year, they wrote out of the blue, telling Ann her funding was being withdrawn. Her final session would be May 2013. Her counsellor wrote to the church saying Ann has been suicidal for substantial periods and still needs support. "It's as if they calculated that I was abused for seven years," says Ann, "but had counselling for 12 – so time up. I'm just someone who has had a vast claim on their resources."

On 11 February, the day Pope Benedict resigned, Ann attended a meeting with safeguarding officer Tina Campbell regarding the termination of her counselling. She was accompanied by her psychotherapist and an advocacy worker. But the behaviour towards her was so hostile that she quickly fled in tears. The advocacy worker confirms she had to intervene because the church's behaviour was so unacceptable. An appeal was lodged and they were informed it would be held in Edinburgh. Ann has since received a letter saying that, "due to the complex situation in the Diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh", no appeal can go ahead. Now, she waits.

The church has no policy regarding counselling. Again, individual bishops decide. Helen Holland was a victim of serious physical and sexual abuse in the 1960s and 70s in Kilmarnock's Nazareth House. As a child she was hooded, held down by a nun and raped by a priest. She went on to become a nun herself, but eventually left her order. Now vice-chair of the Scottish survivors' group, Incas, she has spoken on behalf of victims in the Scottish parliament.

Helen Holland, who was sexually assaulted during childhood by a nun at Nazareth House in Kilmarnock. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer Murdo Macleod/Observer

The legacy of her abuse is still with her and Helen has paid for counselling at different periods in her life. But in recent years, she started experiencing "night terrors", regularly sleepwalking outside her home. "It's like being a child all over again. My counsellor said I was trying to reach the child within and I said that little girl Helen died. She doesn't exist any more. But it's not as simple as that. I can't put the lid back on it."

Now on disability allowance because of ill health, Helen could no longer afford counselling. She wrote to the church last June, asking for help. She never received a reply. The nun who abused her was Irish so she made an application to the Irish government. It now funds her treatment rather than the church.

Charles Simpson, an Edinburgh man who says he was abused and raped by his parish priest in the 1990s, also ran into a church wall of silence. Charles had alcohol and drug problems following the abuse, and ended up in prison for continually breaking into the parish house where it had happened. "I was hitting back at the church. It was an angry time in my life." He is still on antidepressants and methadone. "I want to be able to function, to be a member of society, but it's hard. He had me so wrapped up in fear and loneliness, telling me my family was poor because they were unemployed. The things he said made me feel I had no strength."

Charles sought the help of a priest who approached O'Brien on his behalf. "The priest was told to keep quiet," says Charles, who subsequently asked the church for counselling. He, too, got no reply. The silence prompted him to take legal action: he is now suing the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh for £100,000. His lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, says the church's official defences in the action have been surprising. For the sake of a legal defence, they have denied that one of their objectives is to "spread the word of God". And they have claimed they had no power to move or remove the priest, or to control – or even direct – his activities.

The time bar rule in Scottish law means civil action should be taken within three years of either the abuse, or the victim's 16th birthday. Most civil cases against the church have failed for that reason. Fyfe hopes the court will use its discretion to allow this case to proceed, but the process could take years. "Money…" says Charles wearily. "It doesn't change what happened. I feel like I'm up against it. To me, they are just legal gangsters."

In the wake of the O'Brien scandal, Archbishop Tartaglia, said – as if it were a rare accusation – that the most "stinging charge" against the church was hypocrisy. Yet the hierarchy knows further scandal is only a whisper away. The four complainants against the cardinal were accused of being part of a gay cabal. They were not. But priests and church insiders say a gay culture does exist in the Scottish church. This is about cronyism, secrecy and an all-male culture. The Scottish church still bears the scars from Roddy Wright, bishop of Argyll and the Isles, who ran off with a woman in 1996. Until O'Brien's behaviour was revealed, it was perhaps tempting for the hierarchy to believe gay priests were "safer". Homosexual affairs – especially with other clergy – are easier to hide than those involving women and children.

Homosexuality is only an issue because of the church's public stance on it. It should go without saying that there is no link with abuse. But Richard Sipe believes there may be a link between abuse and celibacy. In 1990, he published a 25-year American study showing that at any one time, 50% of priests will have been sexually active in the past three years. That figure has been replicated in other places: Spain, Holland, Switzerland and South Africa. "O'Brien and Scotland are not alone or exceptions," says Sipe.

The Catholic church has created a hierarchy of sexual morality with celibacy at the pinnacle. But that can create distortions. Sipe's studies suggest around 70% of priests display psychosexual immaturity. Celibacy, he argues, is not something most people can achieve. When legitimate sexual outlets are forbidden, some turn to illegitimate ones. "The majority of clergy are unable to deal with sexual deprivation in healthy ways," he argues. Around 6% of priests will have sex with minors. In Australia, abuse by Catholic priests is six times higher than other churches combined.

David has direct experience of Australia and New Zealand. He rebuffed the sexual advances of a 65-year-old Jesuit in New Zealand when he was 14. He later joined the religious life himself and was sexually approached both in a Cistercian order and a seminary. In Australia, he was approached by a senior priest in a Dominican priory. Many priests have similar stories, but keep quiet because they are still part of the institution. David, however, left the religious life.

Afterwards, he had an affair with a man he calls Peter, who had left a seminary in Rome. Peter took David to his old haunts, calling in on a convent he had visited for weekly confession. His confession was always heard last, after the nuns, by a priest who later became a bishop. "At the top of the convent," says David, "there was a comfortable room set aside for confession. But what started as confession turned into a weekly lover's tryst. Peter, who was somewhat bitter about having quit Rome, was eager during that holiday to tell me the exact nature of their lovemaking. It involved anal intercourse." The priest – whom David names – was operating at the highest levels of the Vatican.

There were those who tried to make O'Brien into a victim. Perhaps he was a victim of a dysfunctional system. But the real victims are the powerless and voiceless. Many live lives they feel are tainted and will never wash clean. Michael is an ex-seminarian who went to the police when O'Brien refused to take appropriate action against his abusers in seminary. Known in the Scottish press as "Michael X", he eventually received £42,000 compensation from the Catholic church, which Sipe estimates has paid out £3bn worldwide.

Michael has previously described how he told his spiritual director about the abuse. The man assured him he was not to blame – then made sexual advances, too. What Michael hasn't revealed before is his guilt at what happened next. He had to serve on the altar for the spiritual director at a private mass. "At the prayer, 'Lord have Mercy'," Michael recalls, "he dropped to his knees and grabbed my legs. He was shaking from head to toe, saying, 'Lord have mercy, Michael have mercy.' It was horrendous. He disintegrated in front of me." The priest died of a brain haemorrhage not long after. When it was suggested the cause was stress, Michael felt devastated.

Many shoulder the guilt and shame that belongs to their abusers. Ann cannot let go of that question, "Why didn't you do something?" In an email after we talk, she writes: "I am not sure how much longer I can go on. The sad thing is that even if I ended my life, I would simply become another statistic."

Crisis always provokes choice: to go on in the same direction or to change course. When Martin Luther King talked of the betrayal of silence, he said decisions had to be made. "If we but make the right choice," he continued, "we will speed up the day… all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty water fall.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Can religion and science bury the hatchet?


Caroline Wyatt  Religious affairs correspondent BBC - 20 March 2015

Religion has an uneasy relationship with science
A new project bringing together science and religion is unlikely to end the long and sometimes bitter debate over the relationship between the two.
However, it will offer trainee priests and Christians who are scientists the chance to engage with contemporary science.

The project - backed by the Church of England - is to receive more than £700,000 to promote greater engagement between science and Christians, as part of a three-year Durham University programme.
Trainee priests and others will be offered access to resources on contemporary science, and the scheme will research attitudes towards science among Church leaders.
Funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, the project will invite proposals for grants of up to £10,000 for "scientists in congregations" to promote greater understanding of the relationship between science and faith.

Too often Christian leaders have felt that science is a threat The Rev Prof David Wilkinson, University of Durham

While some contemporary scientists who are atheists - such as Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion - have termed faith not credible, and even delusional, others within science do not see the two as being mutually exclusive.

Prof Wilkinson

One of those leading the programme is the Rev Prof David Wilkinson, an astrophysicist in the department of theology and religion at Durham University.
"Too often Christian leaders have felt that science is a threat or have felt a lack of confidence in engaging with it," he says.
Battle of ideas
Prof Wilkinson became a Methodist minister after training and working in theoretical astrophysics on the origin of the universe.
"Many of the questions that faith and science posed to each other were fruitful," he says.
Galileo's ideas were condemned by the Church


"For many different folk both inside and outside the church, science and religion don't have a simplistic relationship - and the model that says science has to be pitted against religion doesn't explain the history of a very interesting interaction.
"Today, many cosmologists are finding that some questions go beyond science - for example, where does the sense of awe in the universe come from?"

The idea of a battle between the two dates back to the medieval Church's condemnation of Galileo for his discovery that the Earth moves around the Sun rather than vice versa.
It took hundreds of years for the Church to admit that Galileo had a point.
But the real narrative of a conflict between science and religion was developed in the late 19th Century, and has proved remarkably persistent - not least because it makes for lively debates on TV, radio and the internet.
Many have said that science deals with facts, while religion deals with faith, though many others today say the two have overlapping interests - arguing that both share a desire to find out what is behind the Universe.
However, more recently, arguments over creationism and intelligent design have sometimes pitted one against the other.
'Simplistic' distinctions
"The old distinction that science is about facts and religious belief is about faith is far too simplistic," says Prof Wilkinson.
"Science involves evidence, but it also involves skills of judgement, and skills of assessing evidence.
"After all, you only have a limited amount of evidence to base your theory, and you have to trust your evidence - which isn't far from being Christian.
"It doesn't involve blind faith - and indeed religion is not good religion if it is simply based on blind faith.
"Christianity has to be open to interpretation about its claims about the world and experience."
For Prof Wilkinson, the two are absolutely not mutually exclusive.

Living scientists with religious beliefsline
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, Unitarian Universalism
Sir Colin John Humphreys, physicist, president of Christians in Science
Ahmed Zewail, 1999 Nobel Prize for chemistry, Muslim
Simon Conway Morris, palaeontologist, Christian
Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, astrophysicist and former chairman of the Royal Society, churchgoer who doesn't believe in God
He cites The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies and his idea that, like the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, the universe seems to be "just right' for life" in many intriguing ways.
"I've had moments of 'Wow,' like that - where you are struck by the beauty and elegance not just of the Universe but the beautiful, simple laws of physics that underlie the Universe," Prof Wilkinson says.
That sense of wonder is echoed by Catholic priest and particle physicist Father Andrew Pinsent, who worked at the Cern laboratory.
Renewed conflict
Now research director at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, he believes it is "an extremely promising" time for research on science and religion.
However, he fears that the old "conflict metaphor" has been revived, and is shaping the way many think - especially if they have little actual knowledge of either science or religion.
Prof Richard Dawkins is scathing about religion
Fr Pinsent welcomes the idea of training priests to have scientific knowledge, saying knowledge is an intrinsic good.
"Many priests already have considerable scientific training," he says.
"For example, when I trained as a Catholic priest in Rome, 10% of the seminarians in my college had higher degrees in science and medicine, whereas the average of the UK population is estimated to be under 1.5%.
"Moreover, two of the most important theories of modern science, genetics and the big bang, were both invented by priests."
He says that as a particle physicist, he was always impressed by the discovery of "beautiful patterns and symmetries in nature, mathematics at a deep level, and the extraordinary properties of light".
"These discoveries cannot, in themselves, be used to construct a formal proof of the existence of God, but they do evoke a sense of wonder to which a religious response is natural," he says.
Other scientists agree that the long-standing idea of a war between science and religion is a misconception - though they would not necessarily see the two as natural partners.
Increased understanding
James D Williams, lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex, says: "Where we have issues, they generally revolve around people trying to reconcile science and religion or using religion to refute science.

James D Williams

Darwin's theory of evolution has caused acrimonious debate between clerics and scientists


"This misunderstands the nature of science.
"Science deals in the natural, religion the 'supernatural'.
"Science seeks explanations for natural phenomena, whereas religion seeks to understand meaning in life."

"In my view, science and religion cannot be integrated, that is, science cannot answer many of the questions religion poses and, likewise, religion cannot answer scientific questions."