Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pope says what Cardinal won't

Prime Minister's "Catholic" wife gleefully showing condoms at a Party Conference

Tony Blair's eagerly awaited meeting with the Pope resulted in discomfort for the Prime Minister when he found himself on the receiving end of a stern lecture over his record in office.
During a 25-minute face-to-face audience in the Pontiff's private apartments, Pope Benedict XVI tackled Mr Blair on the continuing crisis in Iraq and the Middle East.
Italian news agency reports said Pope Benedict also made direct criticism of New Labour laws allowing greater stem cell research on human embryos, easy access to abortion, same-sex marriages, and adoption by gay couples.

Downing Street officials said the issue of gay adoption arose between Mr Blair and senior Vatican figures, not the Pope. But it was nevertheless an unexpected turn of events for Mr Blair, whose visit to the Vatican - his final foreign engagement as Premier - had been widely believed to presage his conversion to Catholicism.
Friction even seemed to emerge as the Pope and Prime Minister appeared in public for the cameras. Mr Blair, joined by his wife Cherie, presented Benedict with a framed set of three antique pictures of Cardinal Newman, who converted in 1845 after more than 20 years in the Church of England clergy and is now a candidate for sainthood.
Mrs Blair said: "I believe you are very familiar with him and he is on the journey to sainthood."
To which the Pope responded: "Yes, yes, although it is taking some time - miracles are hard to come by in Britain."
The gift was seen as a highly significant indication of Mr Blair's wish to convert to the Catholic faith.
After the meeting, the Pope's office issued a strongly worded statement, saying the two men had a 'frank discussion on the international situation, in particular the delicate question of the Middle East conflict'.
The actual wording of the communique contained the Italian phrase 'franco confronto', literally translated as 'frank confrontation' - inflammatory language seen as highly unusual in Rome.
The statement continued: "At the end, after an exchange of opinions on several laws recently passed by Parliament in Britain, he wished the Honourable Anthony Blair best wishes with regard to the fact he is leaving his position as Prime Minister."
It then commended Mr Blair's 'vivid desire to involve himself in particular for peace in the Middle East and for inter-religious dialogue'.
But the statement was seen as indicating the Vatican's continuing unease with the Iraq conflict, and also recent domestic legislation in Britain. In the language of diplomatic communiques, 'frank discussion' is customarily seen as code for an argument.
The statement was all the more surprising because the Vatican always uses carefully controlled language.
Previously, meetings with world leaders including President Bush have been described as 'warm and cordial', despite the Vatican's opposition to many of his policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Downing Street later talked in terms of a 'successful meeting'. A spokesman confirmed: "Private discussions included the Middle East."


Four years ago when Mr Blair met Pope John Paul II just before the outbreak of the war in Iraq, he was given a stern ticking-off by the late Polish pontiff.


Anonymous said...

Very apt caption, Father.
Miracles do happen in Rome!

Anonymous said...

Why is it I trust the Pope more than the Cardinal?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

This is a very neat counterpoint to the pictures published on Fr. Tim Finigan’s blog showing a tanned and relaxed Tony Blair beaming in the company of some of his ideological confreres in the English hierarchy – precisely the people who should have been grilling him for his appalling record in overseeing a swathe of immoral legislation in the UK. But Blair’s “justice and peace” mentality seemingly absolves him of such trifles.

Of course, for a large proportion of the British episcopate, Catholicism only seems to be about “justice and peace,” diversity, inclusiveness and the other relativistic warm-and-fuzzies beloved of New Labour. So what do they care about Blair's legislative record?

Again, faithful Catholics are left with no recourse except to the highest levels in the Vatican. Fortunately, Pope Benedict is not dazzled by Blair’s charisma nor is he a sufferer of fools. I wonder if we can expect papal intervention to block Blair’s reception into the Catholic Church (assuming this is the end-game) given his manifest lack of the required disposition.

Paulinus said...

Prime Minister's "Catholic" wife gleefully showing condoms at a Party Conference

She's usually destribed as a "devout Catholic"


Fr Ray Blake said...

Justice and Peace, and Social Concerns are fundamental to being a Catholic, in this I agree wholeheartedly with all the Bishop's who make it a high priority. Yet there can be no Justice or Peace if the fundamental rights such as the right to Life is denied, for that springs all other rights. From that fundamental Right also comes our Catholic Anthropolgy, our understanding of the nature of Man and therefore of the Family and therefore of society, and therefore of Polital Leaders and of those who form laws for our society, and for our relations with other States.
Because we are on the side of "Life", therefore we are Justice within society, and therefore we are able to live in Peace.

Anonymous said...

Could this be the same man who, on behalf of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, issued a memorandum in July 2004 stating that "if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion."

Perhaps the Holy Father's staff would have done better to advise him that the issue of the war in Iraq should have been postponed to a separate appointment, given that Chemical Ali was convicted today of genocide and sentenced to hang.

And perhaps it is higher time for a 'franco confronto' worthy of Pope Urban II with the Islamist extremists on account of the genocide they themselves are waging against the Assyrian Christian community as we speak. For the record, this is what Pope Urban said at Clermont in 1095:

"I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends."

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

Thanks for your observations on my comment, with which I wholeheartedly concur, by the way.

I deliberately put the term “justice and peace” in inverted commas as my shorthand for a tendency in Catholicism which makes social concern the be-all and end-all, to the exclusion of important moral considerations.

CAFOD’s toleration of the use of condoms as a means of stopping the spread of Aids is a case in point. The charity scores high marks for being concerned in a general sense about the poor and needy, but low marks for failing to integrate such concern with the teachings of the Church. This is the “justice and peace” mentality in operation.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Doctrine developes.

Anonymous said...

True, Father, doctrine develops, but Pope Urban's remarks were connected rather to the contingent exigencies of war.

Surely the present Holy Father hasn't forgotten what he himself said about Mohammed in Regensburg last year!

Fr Ray Blake said...


I think HH made a point of saying he was quoting Emperor Emmanuel

The Bones said...

I just watched A Man for All Seasons. What a film!

Anonymous said...

Emperor Manuel II Palaeologos.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Cherie Blair formally excommunicated for that photograph alone? Has anyone shown this to the Holy Father?

Anonymous said...

Some info:

"Miracles are hard to come by in Britain"

The source of this impression may be a comment made by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor to Pope JPII, over 5 years ago.

Cardinal MO'C recounted that, "I joked to him that the English aren't very good at miracles – not like the Italians".

It occured in relation to challenges posed by the progress of Cardinal Newman's cause.


Andrew said...

About time someone ticked him off. It's sad that His Holiness has to do everything by himself. Good help is so hard to come by these days...

Anonymous said...


I am no fan of Mr and Mrs Blair. I have always voted Conservative and dislike the Labour Government and much of what it has done (Iraq, anti-life legislation etc). And I shall certainly be opening a bottle of champagne on Weds evening to celebrate the fact that Tony Blair is no longer Prime Minister.

But I am uneasy about the way some of your readers seem to think it necessary to be quite so self-righteous and critical about the Blairs personally? Personal abuse, detraction and lack of charity are sins just as much as anything else and should have no place in any Christian apologetics. Is it too much to ask that people bear in mind the words of today's gospel before making any further comment:-

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye"

Anonymous said...

Why be unkind to the Blairs: betrayal, lies, spin, deceit, graft, loss of civil liberties, further decay of society, voting record on abortion, arrogance, Iraq.
And I am actually a Labour Party member.

Anonymous said...

Long live Pope Benedict !

Anonymous said...

Because the Blairs, like you and me, were created in the image and likeness of God and are destined for the Beatific Vision. It may be necessary - it is, I think - to be critical of the record of the Blair Government. It may also be necessary on occasion to point out personal deficiencies and to challenge individuals to conform their lives with the Gospel, although I doubt very much whether a blog is the best medium for doing so. But we must never forget that "Salus animarum suprema est lex" and that in such a context, kindness - which we all expect in relation to our own failings - is more effective than condemnation.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the same anonymous who suggests that one should be charitable to the Blairs, I am sure that there is a political motive behind that. Nevertheless, that must be right in private sphere. However as they make their religious and ethical views widely known in the public sphere, with a great deal of political machinery behind them and as they have also been responsible for the formation of our nation for the last 10 years, then in order not to lead others astray, it is right and i would consider a priestly duty, Father, to express intolerance of their attitudes.
I am glad that you have illustrated this article by the of Cherie Blair, Ms Booth with, picture of her selling condoms at the Conference, it is very easy to forget it.
"Salus animarum suprema est lex", yes and how much danger there is if even one of the little ones should assume that one is indeed a "devout Catholic", or even one in good standing, if one follows her example.
"Salus animarum suprema est lex"!

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous, some of these neo-con catholics can be very self-righteous.

Their 'conservatism' is often rehashed liberalism in a Latin wrapping, anti-intellectual, inconsistent, vulgar, truly judgemental and intolerant as (s)he rightly points out.

I wanted to become a priest but the thought of spending 5 years in their company would be too much for me - I couldn't cope.

Thanks for the break Lord.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is "the same anonymous who suggested we should be charitable to the Blairs". No, I don't apologise for making the suggestion. And No, you have got it wrong when you say you are "sure that there is a political motive behind it".

Thank you for so very eloquently proving my point!

Anonymous said...

anonymous - which anonymous are you then?

yours anonymously ...

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