Catholics debate: what Rees-Mogg got right and wrong

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s valiant public defence of Catholic principles on the early morning TV show, despite the relentless bullying tactics of the interviewers, has given rise to an unprecedented reaction from the general public. Leaving aside the many angry, negative responses from the self-righteous PC crowd, the Staff Reporter at the CATHOLIC HERALD has given a summary of some of the positive but nuanced opinions from Catholic clergy and authors.

Jacob Rees-Mogg outside Parliament (Getty)

Catholics praised the MP’s witness – but some wondered if his reasoning could have been better

Since Jacob Rees-Mogg’s interview on Good Morning Britain two days ago, many Catholics have acclaimed his courage in standing up for the unborn and refusing to endorse same-sex marriage. But there have been some criticisms of his performance too. Here are a few highlights from the discussion.

Bishop Philip Egan praised Rees-Mogg’s “wonderful witness”, while Bishop Mark Davies admired Rees-Mogg for “fearlessly” standing by “those Christian convictions on which our society was built.”

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson recalled in his Telegraph column that when he was younger, “I’d be told about various Catholics in high places – as if their example showed that young Catholics can aim high. It never occurred to me that we couldn’t: this kind of discrimination died out a long time ago. But I’m not sure what a young Christian (or Muslim) listening to the Rees-Mogg furore would think about their prospects now. Might religion seriously damage your career or social standing?”

Blogger Mark Lambert argued that the Conservative MP had shown Catholics how to engage with society. “Rees-Mogg is unapologetic and shows great strength and intelligence in defending his beliefs. This is surely what we want to see in our politicians? He brilliantly explains the dichotomy between the law of the land and the teaching of the Church. He is taking the ideological battle out into the culture, not appeasing or accommodating, as so many try – and fail – to do.”

The interview, said Fr Ed Tomlinson, “was embarrassing; it was men against boys in terms of intellectual understanding.” Rees-Mogg’s careful reasoning put the interviewers’ “groupthink” to shame. Nevertheless, “The demonisation of Christianity we witness should alarm us all. For history teaches dehumanisation of any minority is a step on the road to persecution. So thank God for the courage of Jacob Rees-Mogg who, unlike [Tim] Farron, refuses to apologise for his faith.”

At the Catholic Herald, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith wondered if Rees-Mogg’s interview might actually help him politically. “Jacob Rees-Mogg can with conviction present himself as an alternative to the socially liberal Toryism of people like [Justine] Greening. In this he has one huge advantage: he is intelligent, sincere and coherent.”

But some Catholics were concerned by the way Rees-Mogg expressed himself. Joseph Shaw, while giving Rees-Mogg his support, was concerned that Rees-Mogg implied opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage were purely matters of faith, rather than reasonable positions even non-Christians should hold. The MP’s appeal to his religion “plays right into the hands” of those who claim Catholic teaching is unreasoning bigotry which should be driven from the public square.

Moreover, said Shaw, Rees-Mogg implied that abortion and marriage were different issues, because marriage is a more private matter. Shaw objected: “The implication that we can let homosexual couples who wish to ‘marry’ get on with it, whereas we can’t let abortionists and their clients get on with abortion, suggests that marriage is not a public institution with implications for other married couples, children, and society as a whole.” In a follow-up post, Shaw offered some suggestions about how to answer the difficult questions.

At Premier Christianity, the Catholic writer Peter D Williams shared some of Shaw’s concerns. While praising Rees-Mogg’s “firm confidence and gentle compassion”, Williams pointed out that some of his answers could have been improved. On gay sex, for instance, Rees-Mogg would only say “that Catholic teaching says we should not judge anyone. This isn’t a good interpretation of the pericope adulterae – which is not about not judging people and actions, but not doing so in hypocrisy – let alone a defence of the Christian doctrine.”

The canon lawyer Ed Condon observed that Rees-Mogg could have added nuance to his answer about marriage. Although non-Christian marriages aren’t sacramental, Condon told the Catholic Herald, they are “no less indissoluble, no less real, no less truly and wholly marriage.”

Indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman is not a uniquely Catholic institution, Condon said, but something common to all mankind: it comes under what Roman jurists called the “ius gentium”, or “law of all peoples”. This is traditionally held to be “the law which natural reason establishes in all people.”

Nevertheless, Rees-Mogg’s interview was “heartening”, said Condon. “As he was shamelessly badgered by the presenters, who clearly wanted a soundbite of him “opposing” or “condemning” gay people, he refused to concede them a negative verb.” Perhaps the best thing Rees-Mogg did “was to demonstrate that it is possible to have one’s beliefs held up to incredulous scrutiny and yet remain unfailingly polite, positive, and uncompromising. In that, he’s an example to all sides.”

See also the article at That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill

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13 Responses to Catholics debate: what Rees-Mogg got right and wrong

  1. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t! Hah, how easy it is to criticise and nit-pick from an armchair!

  2. toadspittle says:

    “Perhaps the best thing Rees-Mogg did “was to demonstrate that it is possible to have one’s beliefs held up to incredulous scrutiny and yet remain unfailingly polite, positive, and uncompromising. In that, he’s an example to all sides.”
    “But I’m not sure what a young Christian (or Muslim) listening to the Rees-Mogg furore would think about their prospects now. Might religion seriously damage your career or social standing?”
    If you put God before politics, it can hardly do anything else.
    A Muslim politician, advocating Sharia law, wouldn’t get my vote.

  3. Roger says:

    “If you put God before politics, it can hardly do anything else. A Muslim politician, advocating Sharia law, wouldn’t get my vote.”
    Islam denies the Incarnation and has no sacraments. Its Laws are in effect the Power of the scimitar.

    God before Politics?
    In English Law its Authority and its politics is under the Crown. The Crown? It is the Church that Enthrones the monarch. Henry VIII made himself head of the Anglican Church. In England/Britian the Politics was until Maastricht under a Christian Church.

    The EU is a Republic loosely based on USA with a Federal and State structure, which itself is a maosnic Chruch Sate separation BUT like pagan Rome the State superior to Religion. I fact the President is all but deified as we see with USA.

    Brexit is a vote for the Church against an Atheist Republic.

    2000 years ago in Jerusalem the Incarnate God-Man was Crucified although He was the KING of The Jews. The Incarnation and King was killed and the Robber released as chosen by the people. In AD 64 that Nation was destroyed and Jerusalem and its Temple ploughed into the ground by pagan Rome.

  4. toadspittle says:

    “I fact the AMerican) President is all but deified as we see with USA.”
    By some on CP&S, Not by me.

  5. kathleen says:

    Neville Whitely @ 04:09

    So true. I can’t help wondering whether those who “nit-pick” Jacob Rees-Mogg’s defence of Catholic teaching at that emotionally-aggressive attack on Breakfast TV would have done a better job themselves. He remained cool, serene and charitable… something I would have found very hard to be in the face of those two bullies!

    OTOH, I am not saying that good Jo Shaw (who I have met on the Chartres pilgrimage), ‘The Bones’ and the other critics are not raising some valid points in their arguments of the true meaning of Marriage and why homosexual unions (esp. the evil of so-called ‘gay marriage’) are unnatural, gravely sinful and totally unacceptable; they undoubtedly are. But in the heat of the moment JRM did a great job of affirming that our Catholic (Judeo-Christian) duty is towards God and His unshakable commandments… not towards the world, the flesh and the devil.

  6. Roger says:

    I am frankly disgusted with cowardly Catholics tacit approval of state-sponsored Abortion (mass murder).

    MOSCOW, October 3, 2016— After nearly a century of Communist state-sponsored, unrestricted abortion, a powerful and growing pro-life conscience is being resurrected in Russia.
    More than 300,000 Russian citizens, including Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and President Putin’s newly appointed Children’s Rights ombudsman, have signed a petition calling for “the end of legal murder of children before birth,” a complete ban on abortion throughout the country.
    Patriarch Kirill, leader of the nation’s 150,000,000 Orthodox Christians, signed the petition, and thanked and gave an archpastoral blessing to the petition organizers. His Holiness has called abortion “a national catastrophe” that kills “more than one million of our fellow citizens every year.”
    Petitioners also argue that state-sponsored abortion in Russia’s universal healthcare system violates the rights of pro-life citizens whose taxes pay for it.

  7. toadspittle says:

    “,,, homosexual unions (esp. the evil of so-called ‘gay marriage’) “
    You seem to be suggesting, with your “esp,” that it’s worse for gays to get married than to just live in sin, Kathleen. Bit of a moot point, I’d have thought – it all being sin, anyway.
    I think gays get married for tax, rather than sex. Shocking idea, to be sure.

  8. John says:


    Where does he argue for a theocracy based on canon law? I missed that bit. If he was just saying he had Muslim beliefs and he was bullied by two thugs how would you feel?

  9. John says:

    Agreed Kathleen

    Their technicalities are correct but with that attitude they could drive their faith into extinction in a country.

    If they want to defend the faith a more practical approach would be to donate to his campaign not back up the bullies from the flanks.

  10. toadspittle says:

    I Don’t follow you, John. By “he,” do you mean Mogg?

    “If he was just saying he had Muslim beliefs and he was bullied by two thugs how would you feel?”
    I’d feel very puzzled, indeed – he’s a professed Catholic. Morgan and co. bully everybody. It’s their metier. True, it’s too often ill-mannered and regettable. But it’s what the rabble seem to enjoy. And I imagine Morgan has bullied a few Muslims before.

    My point is that we are entitled to be told what a politician’s core beliefs are.
    In general principle, I’d have no trouble voting for Mogg – whatever his stance on gays and abortion, He seems a civilised enough man. But he won’t get my vote, because he’s in favour of Brexit. Or so I gathered from the interview. And he now might not get the gay, or pro-abortion votes from interested parties.
    Well, he must expect that. Maybe he can manage wwithout it.

  11. Roger says:

    That’s not how Democracy works.
    The voter can only vote for one candidate. Invariable that candidate is put forward by a political party after having being selected in private.
    What the voter is presented with is not private opinions but a Party’s Policies.
    In a Christian Country (Cameron said England was a Christian Country) you wouldn’t expect anti christian laws to be passed especially those against Gods Commandments.

  12. Roger says:

    As for Europa there were only three members anyway that controlled and took the lions share Britain, Germany and France.
    The Troika and Europe? The European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund.
    He who controls Credit runs the economy’s. Haven’t you notice?
    Debit runs the economies and the policies and global Debt exceeds three times over the worth of the plant. The Only time we see Our Lord angry is when He took the Whip to the Money Changers in the Temple. That is a lesson that hasn’t been learned.
    Slow step by step with boom and bust insecurity has been created with mammon demanding more and more of time and attention. This is just the World and the Flesh and the Devil and the illusion of Peace dangled like a carrot always just out of reach.
    The spiritual view has been replaced by material so instead of seeking the Kingdom of Heaven Man has been following a material Heaven on Earth. The road to Hell as observed in St Boscos dream is broad and lined with roses and slopes gently downwards (that is away from Heaven). But the road to Heaven is through the Cross!

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