Wednesday, July 08, 2015
One of things some people find surprising in Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's An English Spring is his continued support of Tony Blair, members of the Labour Party now shuffle embarrassedly when his name is mentioned, the harder left might talk about indicting him for war crimes, and the rest of us are just perplexed by the vast fortune the man has amassed since he was Prime Minister - but Cormac can only see good in him.
That says a great deal deal about my former Bishop and the retired Archbishop of Westminster, he is loyal, though this is his great fault, his inability to judge character, despite the evidence. Friendship once given is only grudgingly withdrawn, it is a virtue but like all virtues it also a vice. It can cloud judgement. Many of us asked why when His Eminence received the former Prime Minister into the Catholic Church there was no public statement of repentance or conversion, no repudiation of Blair's voting record on abortion or on the introduction of same-sex partnerships, to say nothing of his part in what in Catholic terms was an unjust war in Iraq in which tens of thousands died and was one the chief contributors to the present situation in the Middle East. Blair's reception for many Catholics was a grave scandal for many reasons but went ahead because of the Cardinal's personal and private pastoral judgement, presumably based on Blair's personal piety, his attendance at Mass, his support of his children's Catholic education, and his own personal desire to be in Communion with the Catholic Church.
A public pastoral judgement might have been more concerned for the effect of Blair's 'conversion' on the Church in England and Wales, what seemed to be said was that whatever Blair believed previously, however he acted, was alright, despite the fact that so many of his action were in direct contradiction of Catholic teaching.
Today the government to which Ian Duncan Smith belongs will introduced a budget with swinging reforms to social welfare, amongst other things it is expected to remove benefits for children after the second child, both natural children, step children and adopted children, this is a policy put forward by IDS himself. In effect families which are 'open' to children will be penalised and destined to lives of poverty. This seems to be a profoundly anti-family policy, if one places this alongside other measures Mr Duncan Smith's party have introduced in the past, same-sex 'marriage' is one example, and the proposed demineralisation of Sunday trading will affect tens of thousands of poor mothers who work in retail. Again and again IDS's party attack those things which are at the heart of Catholicism.
As with Blair, so with Duncan Smith, no action will taken against him. it as if the Church simply doesn't take its message seriously. A friend tried to take a 'selfie' with a senior bishop at a party, actually he was more interested in those in the background Stourton, Dowd, Walsh, Radcliffe, Pepinster a number of other members of the Catholic establishment, despite suggesting he had one or two with the Pope, he was refused.
Some people suggest there are conspiracies; lizards or Masons, I have never believed that, it is too complicated, human beings just can't keep secrets that well. I do believe there are a few influential people in London, the 'Islington chattering classes', perhaps from a few dozen or more families who are if not related are at least friends or acquaintances, who went to the same schools, studied at the same universities, who write for the same magazines or newspapers, who tend to inhabit the same social circles and therefore tend to influence one another. As with wider society, so too, maybe even more so with the Catholic Church. It is a group that protects its own above and beyond the Catholic faith, and within this group has its own version of Catholicism which perhaps might have had its roots in the Ampleforth or Stoneyhurst of the 1970s, or the soon to be defunct Heythrop of the 80s and 90s.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake