Monday, October 12, 2009

The Tablet: Roman Catholic Church needs to influence ‘the right Tories’

The cover cartoon says it all really. It shows ‘Tory toff’ David Cameron strutting over-confidently but inexorably along to electoral victory, hotly pursued by a prancing prelate eager to bend Mr Cameron’s ear over the depravities of homosexual adoption, the demonic influence of embryology or the evils of civil partnerships. This magazine is lost in its own misguided prejudice, and quite ignorant in its assessment of both the social make-up of the Conservative Party and the inadequate influence of its own Church.

While the Church of England has attended party conferences and held numerous meetings with Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice to contribute to its agenda to restore ‘Broken Britain’, the Roman Catholic Church has ‘stayed behind’ and ‘been slow to develop a dialogue with the party’.

Essentially, The Tablet criticises the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales for sucking up to the likes of Edward Leigh who has ‘little influence in the party’, instead of ‘developing a relationship with its most influential figures’.

This is a curious criticism from a Christian magazine. Did not the Lord exhort believers to invite the last and fellowship with the lowliest?

It is, in any case, ill-considered nonsense to assert that the highly-respected Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee wields ‘little influence’. Indeed, Edward Leigh is one of the most respected MPs in the House. Archbishop Vincent Nichols is also unjustly criticised for contributing to a book by Edward Leigh because Mr Leigh is ‘right wing’ and perceived to be critical of David Cameron’s leadership, and ‘such friendships could be a hostage to fortune’.

And so Richard Kornicki has been appointed parliamentary co-ordinator at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and it is his task to develop ‘a relationship with its most influential figures’. The Tablet writes: ‘Kornicki’s role is to communicate between Catholic parliamentarians and the bishops on issues of mutual concern. With a background in the senior civil service he is also making contributions to policy work. The presence of such an experienced figure is a coup for the bishops, but the key question is how best to use his insights into parliamentary legislation and policy implementation in a way that can improve the Church’s influence. Before his appointment, the activities of the bishops’ tiny staff were largely limited to opposing Labour legislation that allowed gay couples to adopt, liberalised the law on embryology and sought to extend equalities. No wonder the Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, complained that “the Church seems obsessed by sex and lacks a helpful view, or understanding, of the difficult judgements politicians have to make”.’

And then The Tablet continues to talk about sexuality.

The Anglican obsession appears to be spreading.

Damian Green’s view is not shared by all of his colleagues. Mark Hoban is Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury and he believes that his Church’s relationship with the party is improving. He refers to regular cross-party meetings with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and now with Archbishop Nichols. But The Tablet notes that Mr Hoban ‘sets limits on the areas in which the Church should intervene’: ‘For instance he feels it would be prudent to avoid involvement in cases where the government of the day is debating whether to bale out particular firms that have got into financial trouble.’

He says: “The key thing is for the Church to speak on matters where it is clearly credible – like inner cities and the family – but not on matters where it is has no practical engagement. It has to be clear what its priorities are, not least in determining what it wants to secure in the coming parliament.”

No, Mr Hoban. The key thing for the Church is to preach the gospel, in season and out. And this is not limited to ‘inner cities and the family’, but to ‘practical engagement’ with the whole of life and social existence. It is a task hopelessly beyond credibility, for it seeks to be transformative of society by bringing redemption to the individual. One may impose change from without, or nurture it from within. One can bend ears or change hearts. This is not about strategies, practicalities or political priorities, but prayer, reflection and inspiration. It is about knowing right from wrong, distinguishing between good and evil, and having the courage of one's conviction to defend one's creed against the spirit of the age.

Would to God that all Conservative MPs were prophets.


Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

How elegantly and yet firmly you put the Church’s mission in your penultimate paragraph in particular. Wonderful use of opposities and contrasts:

‘No, Mr Hoban. The key thing for the Church is to preach the gospel, in season and out. And this is not limited to ‘inner cities and the family’, but to ‘practical engagement’ with the whole of life and social existence. It is a task hopelessly beyond credibility, for it seeks to be transformative of society by bringing redemption to the individual. One may impose change from without, or nurture it from within. One can bend ears or change hearts. This is not about strategies, practicalities or political priorities, but prayer, reflection and inspiration. It is about knowing right from wrong, distinguishing between good and evil, and having the courage of one's conviction to defend one's creed against the spirit of the age.’

As for Conservative prophets? Let me think about that.

12 October 2009 at 09:58  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

This is all quite odd. I have been thinking about how to reply to your post – but the below comes to me with ‘gentle force’ from a book entitled the Journal of the Unknown Prophet.

‘Then the Lord showed me a large lion – and He said – “This lion represents the nation of Great Britain” – And it was a shocking sight – for where the lion should have been filled out and sleek and gleaming – it was almost a skeleton – and its mane was barely visible – and its coat was covered in mange – and its roar which should have shaken the nations in its power and in its ferocity was strangled and barely audible. And the Lord said “This represents both the glory of this nation at present and the state of My church as a whole in Great Britain. And I saw in great letters – the words – “THE GLORY HAS DEPARTED FROM THE LION – BUT THE GLORY OF THE LORD OF HOSTS SHALL RETURN AND THE LION SHALL ROAR AGAIN.”

‘And the Lord said – “Bring back My glory – Bring back My glory that your nation may once more walk in the glory of its destiny – and the Church may show forth My glory” – And the Lord showed me huge a green flourishing green tree that was planted in the European mainland – its huge trunk seemed to be planted in Brussels and the foliage had grown so dense that the trees branches and foliage had grown over the English channel and covered Britain in a great dark shadow and thousands of smaller offshoots and branches had taken deep root in Great Britain – and I saw the roots tangled and grown into London and then through the British Isles up all the way to Scotland.

‘The Lord said – “These are the deep roots of secularism and humanism that have taken deep root in this nation – these are the roots that are eroding this nation’s faith! – And I saw thousands upon thousands of people bowing in obedience to this tree and the roots were tightly twisted around their ankles – but they seemed totally unaware of this – that they were bound – and so they rejected the faith of their fathers – and I saw a great scoffing and a great decline in the traditions and the foundations of the past – and this mass of people was divided into two camps – the first huge mass of people whose ankles were bound by the gnarling roots of the green tree from Europe were younger and seemed more modern in their approach – and I saw written over their head – ‘UNBELIEF’ – ‘CYNICISM’ – ‘HUMANISM’ – and the foliage and green leaves seemed to shadow their heads – and I sensed that they were being attacked at a cerebral level.

‘But the second group seemed to be those whose roots and foundations were from the established traditional denominations of Britain – yet they were just as affected as this first group – but I saw written over their head – ‘PRIDE’ – ‘SKEPTICISM’ – ‘CLOSED MINDEDNESS’ and I sensed that the roots around their ankles had bound them in a different manner – that even if they heard the call of the Spirit in these days that the spiritual forces had them so bound that they could not move with the tide and the times of God – and I saw

12 October 2009 at 10:43  
Blogger D. Singh said...

the green foliage literally cover and shadow their foreheads and eyes and I saw the word blinding.

‘And I said to the Lord, “Father – what does this mean?” And He said – “The spirits that led Europe into post Christian decline – have invaded Great Britain over these past decades – and have infiltrated and overshadowed the nation with the same humanism and paganism and secularism – and yet Britain is still so blinded by her roots and her foundations that she is still declaring herself a Christian nation” – but the Lord says – “That she has been shackled by the enemy.” And I said “Lord what can break the shackles?”

‘And the Lord spoke and said “The prayers and fervent supplications of my saints in Great Britain – the repentance for the sins of commission and omission on behalf of the governments of Great Britain – on behalf of the people of Great Britain.” Then I asked the Lord about the Church – and He showed me thousands of people all belonging to different denominations with divisions and literally multitudes of OPINION – and somehow it seemed that the people’s opinion was all more important in their eyes than Gods opinion and I heard Him say: “Until their opinions become My opinion the Church will continue to be divided among itself and be weak and underfed and lack the true POWER of GOD – Oh yes,” says the lord – “There are many meetings – there are many committees – there are many opinions – opinions – but it is not the opinion and the thoughts of men’s hearts that will change the destiny of Great Britain – but the opinion and the thoughts and intents of the word of the Living God – Humble yourselves – Humble yourselves and put aside your opinions and press into me the Living God for a living Word” – And the Lord said – “A humble and penitent heart I will not despise” – and I saw the words written – ‘DIVISIONS AND FACTIONS’.

‘Then as people dropped to their knees all over Britain from every walk of life and denomination – the lion started to change – and He grew strong and sleek and his roar grew stronger. And I saw written in the spirit – “Create in me a clean heart O God – and renew a right spirit within me”. And as the people started to seek the face of the Lord I saw the word ‘COURAGE’ – and I knew that in the spirit realm that Great Britain had been endowed from the beginning of time with the mantle ‘COURAGE’ – and the Lord said ‘LIONHEART’

‘And God said Britain has yet to move into her end time destiny in the nations - And I saw again in great letters – the words – “THE GLORY HAS DEPARTED FROM THE LION – BUT THE GLORY OF THE LORD OF HOSTS SHALL RETURN”. And the lion’s roar by now had gained strength. …

‘“Oh Great Britain, Great Britain – Isle of walls and of fortresses – I tell you that even as the glory of the Lord has departed from the Lion – so the glory of the Lion of Judah shall return – and My glory shall rest upon the Lion and the Lion once again shall open its mouth and its roar shall be heard again among the nations of this earth.

12 October 2009 at 10:43  
Blogger D. Singh said...

‘“For even as in times past, the Lion whelped many, many cubs and sent its missionaries even to the uttermost parts of the earth, so I tell you that the glory of these latter days shall be greater than that of the former – and even though in centuries past – so I sent missionaries out from this nation even to Africa, to India, to China and beyond – so I tell you, beloved, that in the decades to come, a great mobilising of My called out ones shall occur - of men and women and boys and girls from these shores – those who even slumber at this time shall start to arise,” says the Lord.


‘“For even as many of My children – even as much of My Church in Great Britain slumbers even this day – so I declare that I am about to blow the trumpet,” says the Lord, “Yes – I the Lord God of Hosts am about to blow the trumpet in Zion – and it shall resound with a mighty roar from the heavens – and My glory shall start to fall – and My Church and My called out ones shall rouse themselves from their stupor and from their slumber,” says the Lord.

‘“For even now – I have heard the prayers of My people – Even now – although it be but a remnant – I have heard the prayers of the watchmen on the walls of Great Britain – the watchmen who neither slumber nor sleep – and even as they have cried out to me in the midnight hour for Britain to heed My voice and to seek My face – so I tell you My children – that the day of the Lord is appearing –
And they shall rise from the East and from the West of this Isle – they shall rise from the Southernmost tip to the North – and Scotland – yes Scotland,” says the Lord.

‘“Yes – My burning fire shall be ignited in the furthermost parts of the North – and My glory shall light a flame,” says the Lord, “that shall sweep across divides and denominations – and the Pentecostals and the Evangelicals and the Anglicans, the Methodists, the Catholics and all who revere My Name and the sacrifice of My Son shall unite with one heart and as one body – and that flame shall be seen across this land – and the cities and the villages of this nation shall start to burn with the fervency and the hunger of the Living God. For even as My Church has been bound by the shackles of compromise and passivity – I tell you that in this coming day and in this coming hour – My firebrands shall start to rise.”


‘“And like Wilberforce – My apostolic voices shall rise in the Houses of Parliament – they shall arise in London – they shall arise in Edinburgh – they shall arise in the North of England – and even as the unions had a voice in past years that was strident and rose above the crowds and became the voice of the masses – so in like manner shall My Church’s voice start to be heard in a manner far above and beyond this present days.

12 October 2009 at 10:44  
Blogger D. Singh said...

‘“And so I shall raise My apostles – and they shall stand at the city gates and the gates of trading – and they shall stand in the government – and they shall stand in the media – and in the banking institutions and in businesses – and they shall stand in the clergy of this nation. And I shall raise up My prophets – and they shall rise – and their faces will be as flint – and even as John Knox voice rang out above Scotland – I tell you that My prophet’s voices shall start to rise in this nation – and I call My intercessors – I call My intercessors – Pray, Pray – do not desist from your prayers – for even that which you have perceived in your spirits and that which you have yearned for – it is almost upon you. ‘

12 October 2009 at 10:44  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

You wrote:

And then The Tablet continues to talk about sexuality.

The Anglican obsesssion appears to be spreading.

Your Grace I can assure you that it is not an ‘obsession’. We march to wherever we here the sound of gunfire. As Martin Luther said:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.’ (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.).

12 October 2009 at 11:58  
Blogger Preacher said...

Your Grace.
I wish that I could put my trust in the union between the state & the mainstream Church authorities, but in most cases both seem to have lost their direction & seem to be wobbling blindly towards a ditch. Perhaps the Church could save both parties by heeding the Lords advice to the Church of Laodicea in Rev:3.18 & buying salve for their blind eyes, upon reflection the whole of the message to this Church could be instrumental in avoiding the potential disaster that we are currently facing if read & acted upon.
The Church must have the courage to preach the uncompromised gospel, even if it is scorned & ridiculed. The eternal fate of the unsaved is more important than politics or pleasing men.

12 October 2009 at 12:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From David Lonsdale

Your Grace,
Would that Rowan Williams were able to express himself so clearly about our Christian purpose as you have in your final paragraph.
If we preach the good news of the gospel to a hungry nation we shall not need laws on abortion. Women would be revolted by the whole idea.
Men whose hearts had been renewed by faith in Jesus would be less inclined to behave dishonourably to their women folk and there would be fewer babies born out of wedlock.
Impossible some may say. Well, as Ezekiel said, "Can these bones live?" By the grace of God they can.

12 October 2009 at 14:04  
Blogger Nick Gulliford said...

I have been wondering if both churchmen and politicians are inclined to neglect the story of the beggar at the pool of Bethesda:

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

The beggar clearly did not wish to be healed or his lucrative trade would be aborted. Nevertheless, he tries to take it up again in the temple. Jesus will have none of it. He tells him to get on with his life. He makes him 'whole' in the sense that the man is forced to face up to his own egocentricity.

Alongside 'compassionate Conservatism' we need 'realistic Conservatism'.

12 October 2009 at 14:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's like Sunday School in here today. Anyway, Enoch Powell, he even has a traditional prophet's name.

12 October 2009 at 15:00  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

Here is a snippet of history:

A Mr John Trevor used to publish a monthly magazine, The Labour Prophet in January, 1892. The motto on the cover was "God is our King" but later it changed to "Let labour be the basis of civil society'. This resulted in complaints as the word God was not included and eventually Trevor reverted to the original motto. The Labour Prophet continued until 1898 when it was replaced by the smaller, quarterly, Labour Church Record.

By the 1906 General Election, I believe, the magazine had collapsed.

Today, New Labour has severed its roots in Methodism. It may, then, after the 2010 General Election follow the same trajectory of decline as did, The Labour Prophet.

12 October 2009 at 15:14  
Anonymous Morus said...

Two observations your Grace - interesting to compare your take on the Tablet to that of many Catholic bloggers. For the webmonkeys on our side of the Tiber, the Tablet is the Guardian religious section, and I'd expect a hatchet job on Cameron for being too right wing. That the Tablet is inclined to see itself to Cameron's right on certain social issues and to want to pull him that well is interesting to me.

Edward Leigh MP will, of course, have to relinquish the PAC chairmanship as soon as the Conservatives win power - it is held by an Opposition member, which is why it is the only seriously functioning Committee in Parliament.

I don't think there is a problem in having a part of the Church lobbying - the Church wants to remake society in line with its beliefs, and government has the tools to make it so. If the Church had nothing to say to Gvernment, I would criticise it. It being commonly accepted that they should lobby, the question becomes "on which issues" and "how effectively".

I think the Catholic Church manages to do badly by both yardsticks - so, plus ca change...

12 October 2009 at 17:32  
Anonymous len said...

" The key thing is for the church (and every christian) to preach the gospel, in season and out"

Very encouraging to hear individual Christians speaking out perhaps leading where the established church is reticent.

12 October 2009 at 18:44  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

And what is our Church, the Church of England, doing? At least Rome came out against the federal treaty, Lisbon, when the Irish were asked to vote the correct way (EU way).

But our church, the Church of England?

First it still has not turned away from its 1970s’ position on the Book of Daniel’s empire of the feet of iron and clay – the EU.

Earlier this year the Archbishop of York condemned hedge funds as immoral. Now late in the year the EU has plans for hedge funds the Archbishop realises that they, the hedge funds, provide money for the Church of England.

Hence, the ‘U-turn’: EU needs reforming and hedge funds good.

Result? We’re the laughing-stock of Christians. Atheists, and Skeptics around the world.

13 October 2009 at 08:02  

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