Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tony Blair’s Conversion

This time it’s not a prison convert, though Tony Blair may have felt that way about his time in office towards the end.

Mr. Blair has converted to Roman Catholicism. Given his station in life, he was welcomed into the Church by the head of the Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

Blair’s explains his previous silence on the subject this way:

The former prime minister, who during his time in government was heavily involved in seeking a settlement to the conflict between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, said earlier this year he avoided talking about religion while in office because he didn’t want to be labeled “a nutter,” the BBC said.

That’s the sad slide our culture has taken: anyone who professes their Christian faith is considered “a nutter.” Actually, St. Paul encountered the same problem and decided that he’d rather be a “fool for Christ” than a sage. But this move won’t win Blair any friends, though I doubt he’s worried about that.

The UK’s Channel Four News said there had long been speculation about Blair’s possible conversion once he left office.

The Guardian published an opinion piece on Mr. Blair’s move. At least I hope they consider it an editorial since you couldn’t term this article as straightforward news, especially given the headline — “After 30 years as a closet Catholic, Blair finally puts faith before politics”. Here’s a snip:
- - - - - - - - -
So why has it taken so long? Almost certainly because of Mr Blair’s sensitivity about the place of Catholicism in British public — and particularly its constitutional — life. The only positions specifically barred to Catholics are marriage to the sovereign or heir to the throne, or becoming sovereign themselves, a legacy of the Act of Settlement that followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the deposition of the last Catholic monarch, James II; there has never been a Catholic prime minister.


He has kept his personal religious views largely out of his political life. Ostentatious religiosity does not go down well in Britain. He dropped his wish to end a prime ministerial broadcast on the eve of the Iraq invasion with the words: “God bless” on the advice of Alastair Campbell, who famously told him “We don’t do God”.

Lots of closet Christians don’t “do God.” Who wants to be called a nutter, for heaven’s sake?


blogagog said...

I question the timing. Everyone knows Catholics give and receive the best Christmas presents.

Pretty sneaky, Mr. Blair.

Merry Christmas, Gates people!

Paul said...

I applaud Tony's courage to act on his Christian conviction. What is Tony's alternative, to follow the teaching and leadership of the Anglican church? Well, there are alternatives, but this is one Tony has chosen to follow. I say, good for Tony. There are plenty of devoted 'for real' Christians in the Catholic church, in spite of what differences there may be in non-essential doctrines between denominations.

Rowan Williams, the so-called Archbishop of Canterbury, arrogantly uses his position this Christmas to belittle Christ by publicly debunking various details of the yuletide "legend." Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing.

At least Tony's got some guts and integrity. More than can be said for a lot of us.

Morgenholz said...

So he did not proclaim his faith until now for political reasons.

Res ipso loquitor.

Charles Martel said...

Hope he received his wife's approval. Sheri seems to wear the pants in that family.

Dymphna said...

Morgenholz-- He's had years of spiritual direction and it may have been suggested to him that he wait until leaving office so as to make less contention.

We can't know another's motives, but you do sound like the Guardian here...


Charles Martel:

I don't know who is wearing trousers in their marriage...who can really know the mystery of others' relationships. Heaven knows I don't even understand my own...

...but his wife was a Catholic when he married her and the children were raised as Catholics and went to Catholic schools.

Athos said...

As Damien Thompson points out, Blair consistently voted for abortion rights in Britain. One wonders whether he made a complete confession by the standards of the Magisterium of the Church -- I mean, come on: if one wants to be a "Cafeteria Catholic," why bother with the designation? -- or not.

I can't cast the first stone, but those who wield great power bear the greater responsibility to proclaim PUBLICALLY their error, contrition, and firm resolve to avoid sin in the future. A shrug and a grin just won't do, IMO.

Morgenholz said...

We can't know another's motives, but you do sound like the Guardian here...

I think that left a mark.....;-)

Anonymous said...

Actually the Grauniad is spot on. Mr Blair is giving up the C of E because he's giving up on this country. His next stop after "the Middle East" will Europe, almost certainly in a nice presidential palace, with big fat pay-cheque and tea and crumpets with President Hillary any time he fancies.

Britain's first Catholic PM since St Thomas Moore?

Jungle Jim said...

The former prime minister, who during his time in government was heavily involved in seeking a settlement to the conflict between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, said earlier this year he avoided talking about religion while in office because he didn’t want to be labeled “a nutter,” the BBC said.

But Blair never hesitated to hand the farm over to Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, showing where his true allegiance lay.

Dr.D said...

May I remind Paul that Tony Blair foisted Rowan Williams off on the C of E and world Anglicanism. That was a political decision, and Tony was the one in control of that decision. It really looks like he was doing what he could to bring down Anglicanism before he deserted, really a pretty rotten thing to do but certainly not out of character for Blair.

Mizard said...

I too think it would be proper for Blair to publicly repudiate abortion, same-sex "marriage", and the culture of death, as it is his public station that garnered him reception into the church by an Archbishop, and it is through his public station that he should complete it.

We've hit the fourth Sunday of Advent. Merry Christmas everyone!

Paul said...

Dr. D:

Thank you for the reminder. It is a good thing to react slowly with the keyboard in these conversations. Especially since the context is generally more complex than obvious appearances.

Still, I've got a lot of respect for Tony. Who knows, maybe he's changed his heart on abortion and other similar social issues. I agree it would speak volumes if he would speak out on these matters.

Being an American, watching Tony Blair on C-Span responding in Parliament to MPs during those regular responsive dialogues was a wonder to behold. Watching the UK's parliament and their Prime Minister going back and forth was far better than any broadcast entertainment. And Tony could sure handle himself on his feet. Nice green upholstery in those parliament benches.

Hearing a mob of MPs grumbling in deep tones after Tony spoke, or chiming in 'here-here' must be what gave Jonathan Swift the term 'Yahoo' in his famous 'Gulliver's Travels. Yahoos!

Unknown said...

It is highly improper for a British ex-premier to convert to the Catholic faith, and a very great shame for this proudly Protestant nation, although Mr. Blair has not sunk to the level of the archbishop of Canterbury... That said, in the absence of British leadership, Mr. Ratzinger stands out as the only European leader (unfortunately not a political one) with a spine.

Nilk said...

Coming late into the conversation, and a catholic convert to boot, but ultimately, Tony Blair's relationship with God is his and his alone, so I'm not overly excited by his conversion.

I just don't see why everyone else doesn't see the same way! (/jk)

As for Rowan Williams, well, that's a different kettle of fish.

I read about his debunking of yuletide traditions, and he's actually spot on regarding the " wise men" and the age of Jesus when they found him.

A study of the Gospels shows that, and that has to be about the only time I've ever agreed with anything that man has had to say.

I try not to be judgemental (and fail miserably), but I find Dr Williams an embarrassment to christians in general and anglicans in particular.