Friday, May 08, 2015

The morning after

Politics are always fascinating, the morning after an election the ups and downs, loss and gain show in exultation or desolation and today the resignation of three party leaders. I voted late, I suspect like many, only after a great deal of deliberation and I voted not so much for anyone but against what I know to be evil.

I know the catechism tells me I have a duty to vote and their Lordships have raised areas where we should express concern but frankly whenever I vote I feel I am co-operating with evil. Politicians might be honourable but they are concerned with power and an agenda that is increasingly distant from the Gospels. As a priest I am concerned with the one who stands before the Jerusalem politicians as a dumb lamb, before Pilate he says, 'My Kingdom is not of this world'.

My inclination is to 'flee from the world', to be 'uncontaminated by the world', like St Benedict wanting to preserve 'civilisation' in the 'closed garden' of the monastery. My inclination is to separate the Church from all that is corrupt, to draw back, to let the world go its ruinous way. There has always been that strand in Christianity, to stand in opposition to the world by creating something else, to be the beacon, the salt, the leaven, the city on the hilltop, the voice crying in the wilderness.

The alternative of course is to 'dialogue with the world', some Catholics ask  where dialogue is to found in scripture or Tradition, it is of course one translation of logos (In the beginning was the dialogue Jn 1:1). Jesus himself tells the disciples to go ad gentes, to the nations, we have a duty to bring Christian teaching into the world, sometimes directly but more often indirectly by introducing Christian values. As Christianity is pushed to the edges of society it is obvious that we so often fail in this endeavour.

The Synod on the family has highlighted the situation of the German Church, which in many ways is the epitome of 'dialogue`. What has become so apparent is that dialogue is about influence but it is also about being influenced. A weak and ill defined Church is more likely to be influenced by the world if its leaders are themselves worldly.The Catholic Herald looks briefly at the pre-war situation of the German Church, in Why did the German bishops fail to raise their voice against the Nazis? Bismark introduced Church Tax as way of ensuring the Church operated with the German state, in the same way 19th century Ireland was pacified by the British government subsidizing the Irish bishops. It was a way of smothering the Church in a suffocating embrace, rather like the Blair government's embrace of the Catholic Education Service.

I can't help reflecting that Church in this country, insofar as it so often has been seen to cosy up to government loses it its vigour, because it serves no-one least of all its members. A healthy church is surely a church in constant and vigorous opposition to "political certainties", we simply can't afford to be bland, to constantly smile benignly, to be seen as a friend to the powerful and the wealthy. It might be Nick Clegg is right in his analysis of the demise of liberalism. "One thing seems to me is clear: liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear. Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led for people to reach to new certainties: the politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise." How we would interpret these "new certainties" would differ from Clegg, but they still need opposing, even the social certainties, he and the coalition partners took for granted, one of which is the monster of 'Equalities' that will tend to swallow all our rights to family and privacy, and ultimately conscience, opening us up to an Orwellian future.

Even Justin Welby recently said, "We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which we the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace – and much good would it do you – all desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could possibly be that we end up acknowledging our differences."

It is 'difference' that we need to take up, rather like John the Baptist in his prison discussions with Herod, as he speaks truth to power.


Leo Flanagan said...

It's the getting of one's head on a plate that seems to be the problem.
Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's is easier said than done

philipjohnson said...

God Bless you Father-a fine analysis indeed. Philip Johnson.

Pelerin said...

There was a time when our laws were based on Judaeo-Christian ethics and morality. 'Thou shalt not kill' immediately comes to mind.

This is no longer the case and that is why choosing a party to vote for in Britain is so difficult today. On the last occasion I abstained from voting completely not knowing that the catechism told us we have a duty to vote. Mea culpa!

This time I did vote for a candidate but for the first time ever I did not want his/her party to win as their leader filled me with dread.

Jacobi said...


Fleeing the world as St Benedict wanted is not the answer for present day Catholics, although it is easy and conscious-saving. And compromising with the world, also an easy way out, is certainly not an option.

Declaring the Faith and its doctrines objectively, particularly at present the doctrine of the Fall of Man, somewhat out of fashion, can get you into trouble, even amongst Catholics who like to divide Humanity into the Good and the Bad. The National Socialists and the Marxist Socialists Bad and us Good .

The second session on the Synod of the Family will be crucial. The Church's role is to Teach. Dialogue is an admission of defeat.

Coming closer to home, we have suffered a retreat back into tribalism, both Scottish and frankly, English. That is not Catholic.

As Catholics we must find the courage to go out again and Teach the Catholic Faith, at home, parish, region, country and then Europe. After that we can go further afield.

But it will take some time!

JARay said...

Here in Australia we have what must be the silliest law imaginable and that is that it is against the law NOT to vote. When it is discovered that you have not voted you are issued with a summons and fined $10.
However, there is one aspect of our voting system which I certainly do prefer and that is preferential voting. One does not put a cross against the name of one's choice of candidate, one puts a number against each candidate's name so that if one has say 8 candidates then one must number each of them with the numbers 1 to 8 in the order that one prefers. Then, in the count, the scrutineers drop out the candidate with the least votes of the number 1 against their name but those votes are not thrown away but are added to the piles of the second choice of each elector. This is repeated and repeated until there are only two piles left. This is referred to as "The Two Parties preferred count". The winner is of course the pile with the most votes in it.
Now, I see that the SNP in Scotland elected 56 new members with a total of around 3 million votes whereas the UKIP with around the same number of votes only managed 1 elected candidate. Can anyone explain to me how those results are a fair outcome?

Robert Kearney said...

The reason that things like nationalism and regionalism, as well as religious traditionalist are on the rise across Europe and the world is exactly because of the suffocating embrace of liberalism, internationalism, and socialism have enveloped us for decades now. People are fed up and they want to take a few steps back from it all and seek to preserve the traditions of their individual societies from absorption and destruction. I'm all for it and the Church should be too. It's the right that wants to preserve and protect classical morality as well as National identity from globalization. Religion is a part of that.

viterbo said...

"What has become so apparent is that dialogue is about influence but it is also about being influenced." It seems to me that modernist dialogue aims at 'bland statements' that end up doing little more than reducing truth to some sort of cohort of error.

RE German Catholicism: 8000 German Catholics were polled (made up of 48% of priests, 22% of “expert parish-collaborators”, 18% of “pastoral assistants” and 12% of deacons): 60% of faithful say they don’t believe in life after death, and only a third believe in the Resurrection of Christ. One German in four, however, thinks that if a black cat crosses their path, it brings bad luck.

Kirt Higdon said...

The Catechism says we have a duty to vote, but not in every single contest. It also does not state that we must vote for someone on the ballot. I don't know about England, but in the US a ballot can run for many pages and include multiple candidates for various petty judicial and school board positions, not to mention multiple "propositions" (legislative proposals) from the municipal to state level. It would be more than a full time job just to study enough to be able to cast an intelligent vote in every contest on the ballot.

I usually just vote in two or three contests where I think I know enough and write in a candidate if all on the ballot appear unsatisfactory. I've done my duty, but even being this careful, I've cast some votes which I've come to regret - in some cases rather quickly.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

JARay, the 'fairness' of the Scottish outcome (or indeed or wider outcomes) depends on whether one looks at the election from above or from below. There is a tendency to aggregate results from across the country and see how many votes party x or party y got - however, this is not how the system is supposed to work. Rather there are 650 separate elections producing the 650 M.P.s. In each case, the person most able to garner the support of his fellow constituents was elected to represent them in Parliament - it is that point in which the locus of fairness is to be found.

When I went to vote I was presented with a list of people and asked which of them I would like to be my M.P.; that most of these candidates are members of political parties is incidental to the electoral (though not political) process. Of course, this sort of personal account of elections is possible with a preferential system - indeed this was presented to the British people in the recent A.V. referendum (it was rejected 68%-32%).

My problem with the Australian system is that you are, in effect, required to vote for each candidate (albeit as a less preferred option). When I consider whom I will support the first step is usually to find a number of the candidates entirely unacceptable; even to rank such a person as 5th or 6th preference strikes me as a genuine issue of co-operation with evil (as mentioned by Fr Blake in the main article).

John Nolan said...

On a PR system the results would have been as follows: Con 240, Lab 198, UKIP 83, LD 51, SNP 31, Greens 25. So the Tories in an alliance with UKIP would have been able to command a majority (323 against 305). But if the Conservative share of the vote had been even slightly lower, than a centre-left coalition (Lab, Lib, SNP, Green) could have formed a government. The largest party, which most people had voted for, would be excluded from office. Is this fair?

In fact the SNP made it clear that their intention was to 'lock Cameron out of Downing Street' despite what English voters might have wanted. Fortunately they are not in a position to do so.

If, as a Catholic, you are undecided as to whom to vote for, forget the platitudes emanating from Eccleston Square and look at the division lists in Hansard on all moral issues.

The Conservative party is the only party which upholds traditional values. Cameron's 'gay marriage' gimmick was unfortunate. But the best speech against it was from Sir Edward Leigh, Tory MP for Gainsborough and an old friend of mine from university days. He actually quoted from the CCC on the floor of the House.

Woody said...

Good comment, Father. I don't remember the last election I voted in where I had a choice of good v. bad candidate. It seems the last decades the choice has been the lesser of evils. Who wants to cast a vote in that situation?

Pelerin said...

Whether we are disappointed or pleased with Thursday's result we should heed the advice found in this moving poem which was sent to the Daily Mail a few years ago.

It's a funny old world that we live in
Where its children are sat in the dirt
And the flies from the skies
Drink the tears in their eyes
The tears of their hunger and hurt.

It's a funny old world that we live in
When relief sent in thousand of tons
Goes in dribbles to those
Near to death's last repose
And the rest to the men with the guns.

It's a funny old world that we live in
When the most powerful nations by far
Send men to the moon
Yet can't fill the spoons
That will keep those in need where they are.

So how to resolve the position
What cure can our leaders all seek?
One thing's for sure
They'd soon find a cure
If they went without food for a week.

Nothing to eat for a fortnight
A cup of stale water a day
If they went without food
Without being rude
They'd bloody well soon find a way.

But it's not only down to our leaders
It's no use just making a fuss,
Their hands they may wring
But they won't do a thing
Unless they they are made to, by us.

Thomas said...

We don't uphold just "traditional" values, we uphold Catholic teaching. Pure capitalism is not compatible with Catholic social teaching any more than pure socialism is. There used to be versions of mixed economy right- and left-of-centre political philosophies that were more or less compatible with a Catholic outlook. So there was legitimate political choice for Catholics. But not only has the Labour Party become a humanist party (some individuals within it notwithstanding), so also the Conservative party, despite the views of individual members (effectively marginalised), is now as secular, anti-life, anti-marriage in its public policy as any of the other parties. And they are all (except the SNP!) pro nuclear weapons which are incompatible with just war teaching. So as far as Catholic morality goes, it is a zero sum game between them all now.

Chloe said...

I don't know sufficient about ukip but it seemed to me that aside from (possibly) them, the choices in most constituencies was which mass murderer to vote for. Make no mistake about it, anyone who is willing to vote for abortion in any way shape or form is morally a mass murderer.

Nicolas Bellord said...

A deliberate decision not to vote is a vote indicating to the parties that none of them are up to scratch - this should be distinguished from a careless decision not to vote because one cannot be bothered to vote.

Pelerin said...

There was an on-line petition before the election calling for a 'None of the above ' to be added to the list of candidates.

I think this is an excellent idea as then one can fulfil ones duty to vote even if there is no candidate with which one agrees.

However I have found that the down side to voting for a petition on-line is the arrival of 'porn spam' which I had never before encountered until I signed my first on-line petition. I do not of course click on to them but take pleasure in letting them accumulate then giving a strong click to make then all vanish! As a 71 year old granny I was shocked at first but I now look upon them with amusement as many obviously think I am a man!

Fred Brown said...

I think the bishops of England and Wales would argue that “being cosy” with the politically powerful, of whatever particular flavour, helps them to influence them and so bring into play Christian values, or at least allow the powerful to see that they are not threatening.

Pelerin said...

Fred Brown - but has this worked? How many of our MPs have Christian values?

RJ said...

I wrote 'none' on my ballot paper as my Conservative candidate was in favour of gay marriage and abortion as 'safe, legal and rare'. Labour MP has an appalling voting record. Don't like LibDems - a threat to religious liberty in education? Not for UKIP as I am mildly pro-European.