Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Catholic Establishment

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 Friendship once given is only grudgingly withdrawn, it is a virtue but like all virtues it also a vice.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.


Recusant said...

Father, easy on '70's Amplefordians: I'm one! But your point is well made, even if the recipients of the membership of the Catholic Establishment are usually blind to their advantages.

I was in that valley in N.Yorkshire from the age of 8-18 and can honestly say that I learnt more about the faith through my own practice in the last ten years than I did through ten years of a monastic, Catholic boarding school education. The monastery and Basil Hume - Abbot at the time - bought heavily into VII and the new model church that didn't 'impose' on people, but let them learn by what they hoped was a form of osmosis. The results can be demonstrated by the fact that, coming from a position where almost all the monks were ex-boys of the school, by 1980 none of the diminished ranks of novices were, and the situation remains the same.

For some reason - maybe that he was good on the rugby pitch - Edward Stourton was given an enormous amount of support: Head Monitor, Captain of Rugby, the favour of the monastery and allowed to add another year to his education - he left at the age of 19. He angered them mightily by sending his own children to Eton.

Francis said...

Father -- it's not tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq since the US-UK intervention. Many credible analyses put the number in the hundreds of thousands.

Mummymayhem said...

It's very simple really. Sin makes one stupid and clouds the mind. Being wealthy does not help as it generally means that you do not share or understand the poor. This is why Catholics should go to confession regularly. I am a Mother of 7. Humanae vitae predicted these things would happen.The devil seeks to destroy families. Stopping Child tax credit for more than two children is another arrow in this war.We try to live simply, pray and God will provide.
Will society benefit from my 3rd/4th/5th etc children's labours.Yes. Will they have to work harder to support the elderly,the NHS, the aging contracepting masses.Yes.

Pastor in Monte said...

For some strange reason, the Church has always gone more easily on those in power. Think of the French kings with their official mistresses. And it has always considered that, as kings will fornicate, so they will make war.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Janr Booth,
No, but there is something fundamentally wrong in popularising a closedness to ife.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I am delighted to hear that Heythrop is closing. This really IS the springtime of the post-Vatican II Church.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Just because the Church hasn't officially condemned Duncan Smith and McLoughlin doesn't mean that they've not been quietly taken aside by their parish priest and told to refrain from Holy Communion. One thinks of Lady Antonia Fraser who was rather politely told by her PP to refrain from the Blessed Sacrament whilst she was living in adultery.

Don't get me wrong, the likes of Pelosi and Biden who publicly advocate for anti-catholic policies and try and wriggle out of them by twisting St Thomas should be condemned with Bell, Book and candle.

Now for those who will say with regard to my 1st paragraph that I am being 'optimistic' or 'in denial'let me say this, the world may construe according to its wits, in the absence of facts we must construe according to charity. I trust that Father's readers get the reference.

Jacobi said...

Father, some thoughts.

Not strictly my business, but I don't think much of Murphy O'Connor. Blair is another matter, He was PM of the UK, not just E & W. But, the secrets of the Confessional are no concern of mine ( I have long-since given up listening eagerly at the door, First Confession, and discussing with my pals).

Democracy is consensual. All parties in the UK have items of policy we as Catholics should object to. Duncan Smith, and others, no doubt raised such matters this during various meetings. Catholics have to go along. The alternative is to withdraw from life like some of those daft, so-called “Christian” fundamentalists are advocating. The Tory government, (which I did not vote for, but keep that quiet ), has a thought-out strategy. No one is going to starve under it.

Retrospective politics, like retrospective science is the least unreliable way to look at things. Saddam Hussein and Gadaffi had their faults but as we now see were infinitely preferable to the complete and utter mess our intervention has brought about . The same is true of Syria. Western policy is now reluctantly coming round to that.

Let's all just openly declare our Catholicism, and that is all we can do.

Gillineau said...

Most of the nastiest people in history have been lapsed (actively or functionally) Catholics. Sad but true.

And almost all the nastiest people in Britain went to Oxbridge. Either they attract that type, or more likely, hone inherent nastiness into high-functioning sociopathy. Either way, were I king for a day, I'd close them.

Dominic said...


My problem with IDS is that he appears to be personally opposed to large families. When he comes out with:" All I would say is this: people out there who are working, they make decisions about the size of their house, about how many children they have in accordance with what they can afford, we all do that, that's how we work", and then is instrumental in limiting benefits to the first two children in a family, I don't see how his approach to being open to children as gifts from God can be viewed as Catholic. He's not just following the party line; he's drawing it. And, of course, he voted in favour of SSM. I find it hurtful that the Catholic Herald is prepared to present IDS as a Catholic we should be glad to see in government. Although I have no time for the politics of Labour or the Lib Dems, I had more time for Sarah Tether and Ruth Kelly.

Nilus said...

Dear Father Blake,

The weaknesses of Stonyhurst alumni (sic) are enormous but they are not quite as you describe them--or so it seems to me as a 1960s alumnus. First the school's commitment to Catholicism these days seems open to question. There are no sanctuary lamps burning in either chapel or Church or at least were not when I went there. And how many of the pupils are still Catholic, either in name or in adherence to teaching and the Sacraments? Can anyone else answer? If today's alumni are lacking in fervour what will those of 2050 be like?

Many of the older generation are still strong Catholics. The Jesuits have dwindled and faded and their legacy seems to be mostly a form of fairly naive social radicalism. This has been inherited by their abler pupils -- but without necessarily any deeply Catholic subtext. Below that there are the lawyers, accounts, and middle class professionals who are perhaps as you describe, loyal to their alma but hardly a Catholic freemasonry or not a very significant one. And where they are Catholic, they tend (as far as I can see) to be more disposed to doing good than they would be if they were not.

However most of the younger generation seem to have lapsed (am I right?) and are either only nominally Catholic or even anti-religious. There is only one priest at Stonyhurst now. How committed -- and how well informed-- can the pupils of such an institution be.

My impression is that the school and the Order took a very bad wrong turning in the 1960s. My hope is that the Holy Spirit will help them turn again in the future and revive what they have lost. But I don't see much sign of it. No sanctuary lights burning in the churches.

John Simlett said...

With the greatest of respect, I think it is too simple a picture that you paint. It isn't simply the poor on one side and the rich on the other, it is far more complex. As a pensioner I pay quite a lot of income tax and in theory this could go towards paying the rent of someone on a £30,000 salary living in social housing.

I think that the greatest sin Blair's government brought about was the way he changed the Social Democratic Welfare State to more of a Marxist system. Whereas Beveridge had Christian ideals and put the family as the, 'Corner Stone of Society' [comprising the able bodied and employed male, his wife and children]...Blair introduced systems of credit that supported the breakdown of families. Employers were encouraged to keep wages low and the taxpayer made up the difference. The state took more control of our lives by making people benefit dependant to a point that the modern generation sees benefits as part of normal life.

Beveridge declared in his autobiography that he had found himself, '...half way to Moscow' in introducing the Social Democratic Welfare. I think Blair travelled to the very gates of Moscow. Like all retreats from Moscow, the current one is going to be very messy with many casualties.

nickbris said...

There is a difference between the Tory party and the NSDAP;one lot encouraged large families for the future of society and the other lot want to "take care" of the poor & misfortunate unemployables.

Charles Dodgson couldn't have even dreamt it up.

Bunyip Bluegum said...

My late father used to wonder what he had to do to become a "leading Catholic layman".

He also wondered how many sons of carpenters went to Ampleforth, Downside and the rest.

Gungarius said...

I notice that Landowner benefits (EU farm subsidies) are not being cut and won't get means tested either.

As the Guardian in 2013 reported "Iain Duncan Smith, lives on an estate owned by his wife's family. During the last 10 years it has received €1.5m in income support from taxpayers"

Independent said...

NickBris. I suppose the differences between the NSDAP and the Labour Party is that although both claimed to be socialist parties (the NSDAP included the word in its title) the Labour Party dropped the idea of a planned economy but retained the leadership principle.

Independent said...

It seems that the class war, the cornerstone of marxist theory, is alive and well in the Catholic Church.

Gungarius said...

Independent. You don't need to favour a class war to find the concentration of landholdings in the hands of a few wealthy families and passed from generation to generation of them, and maintained with subsidies from the landless taxpayer, who the landholders extort by rent seeking, highly objectionable.

Land is a common resource, however it is recognised that allocating it to an individual may have certain benefits to the common good. However doing so deprives other people of the benefits of that land, which is a social injustice and a person owning huge amounts of land to the extent that they can be very wealthy by rent extortion is immoral.

Therefore it is right and proper that the owners of land should pay a substantial annual tax to compensate the rest of the population for being deprived of access and use of that, land with the more land held the higher the tax paid.

Radical, yes; social justice, yes ; class war, no.

What Mugabe did - seize the land without compensation - is class war (although, as it had been obtained by appropriation from the native population three generations previously he did actually have a point - his good fortune was that the feudal oppressors looked very different from the oppressed. Our bad fortune is that our fedual oppressors - the Normans, did not, and consequently got away with it to this day).

The new Conservative government has actually just taken the first step along this road by depriving higher rate taxpaying landlords full tax relief on interest, abolishing the landlord expenses 10% wear and tear fiddle and making them provide receipts, and increasing the minimum wage to £9.

Independent said...

My comment was and except for a few on here not concerned with land and I deprecate any subsidies to any industrial and agricultural enterprise.

Unfortunately class war is still a fact evinced by the growing popularity of that unreconstructed marxist Mr Corbyn among the Labour faithful. Social justice , a nicely nebulous concept, often serves as a suitable cover for what is indeed class war.