Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bishop Richard Williamson - Will no one rid us of this turbulent priest?

This is a guest post by Mr Christopher Gillibrand, presently residing in Brussels, whom His Grace commissioned (de gratia) to share his insights and thoughts on the troublesome SSPX bishop who seems to be as careless with his lawyers as Lady Bracknell finds Jack Worthing to be with his parents:

It was with no little surprise that I received the entreaty of Your Grace to communicate on the vexatious episcopate of Richard Nelson Williamson, formerly of his jurisdiction but now fallen in a strange and unhappy manner under that of the Bishop of Rome, where he has no rivals, yeah, not even Your Grace in his attacks on the office of ye Pope. To which he doth add, attacks most grievously personal.

Much information on the sad history of the decline and fall of Bishop Williamson can be found on my website Catholic Church Conservation, so what I say now is in the form of commentary on the latest developments.

Williamson is forgetful what it really means to be a Bishop as he has busily, indeed very busily constructed his own reality at the margins of the Catholic Church. And like anyone who wishes to do this, he has not been wanting for those who he wishes to suck into his world. While as a Catholic, I would be slightly more extensive on the meaning of episcopacy, a good reference point serves as the service for the consecration of Bishops in the Church of England.

What is the point of holding episcopal office if you elevate private and indeed eccentric opinions on the Holocaust to a neo-dogma and a touchstone for religious life? If your whole dialogue as a bishop does not directly concern the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour, such a life in a profound sense is a waste of time and effort.

I heard the Bishop once preach in the glorious Church of St Joseph in Brussels. Ironic indeed, that he dwelt on the Last Judgement and implied that the faithful who have given so much for this church could have been wasting their time, if that dread day was coming as soon as the Bishop thought it was. All too often indeed, those that despair of the Papal office in the Catholic Church become obsessed with prophecies of the end of the world. Williamson’s only rival as a prophet of doom is Al Gore, he who has had the whole world wasting time worrying about global warming.

He scares the faithful with talk of the Last Judgement and is not himself able to accept the judgement of a secular court which has convicted him of inciting racial hatred. He is so keen to appeal not just against the level of the fine but also the judgement itself that he has gone to the extreme of retaining a neo-Nazi lawyer. This lawyer comes from a whole family of neo-Nazis- father and grandfather before him. He is the “in-house” lawyer of the extreme right in Germany and rushes to the legal defence of every odious character who ever perpetrates some vile crime on behalf of this movement. Williamson’s first lawyer was a member of the Green Party, the most anti-church party in Germany. According to his religious order, Williamson is in the process of selecting a third lawyer and will inform the Regensburg court of his decision "as soon as possible." The damage has, however, already been done. Williamson’s change of lawyer has probably saved him, at least pro-temp, from being degraded as a bishop and ultimately stripped of the right to practice as a priest.

Indeed, he took with him when he converted to the Catholic Church, anti-Catholic Church beliefs. His respect for the person and office of the Pope if anything diminished. The Pope was accurate when he said that Williamson never had the experience of living in the wider church and was not a Catholic in the proper sense. A truly Catholic theology lives in the Golden Mean, not at the extremes of heresy or politics.

It was very good to hear the Pope saying that the excommunication ban on Williamson should never have been lifted. It is a pity that this was not clear at the time but the management of the crisis probably demanded it.

One of the problems for the Curia however was that three of the Society of Saint Pius X’s bishops are in good faith. Indeed, it is possible that Williamson’s speculations on the Holocaust were a deliberate attempt to destroy the growing rapprochement between the main traditionalist body and the Papacy. Jewish organisations especially tended to make no differentiation between Williamson and other traditionalists. There are undoubtedly anti-semites in the traditionalist movement - they generally are laity, who do not understand the nuances of theology, and who should be avoided like the plague because they pollute everything that they touch, not least of course, the preaching of the Gospel.

Williamson would do well to listen to the teaching of St Ignatius of Antioch on the silence of bishops.

For Ignatius, God is the true bishop of all (Letter to the Magnesians 3.1). Ignatius pays homage to the Bishop of Philadelphia who “accomplished more through silence than others do by talking” (Letter to the Philippians 1.1). Ignatius insisted “the more anyone observes that the bishop is silent, the more one should fear him. For everyone whom the Master of the house sends to manage his own house we must welcome as we would the one who sent him” (Letter to the Ephesians 6.1).

The dissonant noises, ultimately signifying nothing, of Williamson on matters political has brought mockery on him and worse to the whole Christian Church.

Williamson is part of a wider political problem.

The Holocaust, if not in extent, then in evil intent was the greatest crime committed in world history. Those who deny it are unworthy of a place at any dining table. They have separated themselves off from civilised society. Hitler nearly destroyed a whole civilisation from which, in God’s good providence, Christianity took its roots. And without Christianity, the world will have no chance of civilisation. Hitler unstopped would have destroyed Christianity.

Further, worrying the world and the church with anti-semitism is a complete distraction from the real religious issue of our day, which is the large and growing Muslim populations in the great cities of Europe.

The anti-semitic right is one of the greatest barriers to political progress in Europe. Desperate conservatives danced with this devil in Germany in inter-war years. In our times, conservatives at home and abroad are fighting against the formation of a European super-state with dictatorial powers, not least in economics, as the Irish are finding out. We shall not win this or any battle by partnering with those whom we most fear and whose solutions would include our own political ruin.

An imperative for the conservative right in Europe is a Declaration of Civilisation which any politician of good will and humanity can sign and which would specifically condemn anti-semitism and holocaust denial. This would separate the sheep from the goats among the potential European allies for UKIP and the British Conservatives. This would make for a true ecumenism in matters political.

If these true friends cannot be found, we will find ourselves alone fighting for the freedom and prosperity of our great country. And this fight, my Lord Archbishop of all people, knows is well worth having.

Why we should welcome David Cameron’s ‘Happiness Index’

His Grace is fully aware that this headline risks irking his readers and disappointing his communicants: there has been universal derision of the idea of measuring people's psychological and environmental wellbeing since it was announced, but only by those who obtusely misunderstand or purposely misrepresent it.

Yesterday, ConservativeHome published an article which suggested that it is all part of a ‘European plot’, which was strange coming immediately after a blanket condemnation of ‘conspiracy nutters’.

It’s clearly a touchy subject, with the Mail’s ‘Black Dog’ reporting:

The Prime Minister’s spin doctor Andy Coulson has banned No 10 staff from referring to Dave’s laughable ‘Happiness Index’.

Essex boy Coulson thinks the initiative, dreamed up by Cameron’s ‘branding’ guru Steve Hilton, is ‘airy fairy b*******’. He insists it keeps its dreary official ‘general wellbeing’ tag – in the hope that it is forgotten as quickly as most of Tory hippy Hilton’s other gimmicks.
Yet it is widely known that economic measures like wages, inflation and GDP are a wholly inadequate way of measuring much at all about a nation: according to US senator Robert Kennedy, GDP measures everything ‘except that which makes life worthwhile’.

And he has a point, for a rise in GDP is not necessarily a good thing. If thousands of people die from bird flu in one year, that gives a boost to undertakers and crematoria, and so increases GDP. Terrorism increases policing and security costs, and if we happen to go to war, the production of armaments and ammunition contributes to greater economic activity with a consequent boost to the nation’s GDP.

But these are hardly positive or beneficial contributions to the summum bonum.

There needs to be a more holistic method of measuring the ‘national mood’, and charging the Office of National Statistics with gauging ‘general wellbeing’ is a start.

And His Grace will tell you why.

And it has nothing to do with French gaîté, an EU plot or even the King of Bhutan.

He pointed out last week that the Tories began as a church party, concerned with the Church and State, in that order, before our concerns extended to the economy, free markets and many other fields which politics now touches.

The Church is concerned with the whole (or ought to be): a person’s economic situation is inseparable from their spiritual well-being. Man does not live by bread alone, but he’s a darn sight more receptive to salvation after a bit of bread and fish.

One has to go back to Locke and the inspiration for the American Declaration of Independence to understand where David Cameron is coming from:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This ‘pursuit of happiness’ has nothing to do with job satisfaction, marital bliss, Ant & Dec or the feel-good induced by discerning the nation's favourite Abba song.

Locke’s notion of happiness is acutely linked to liberty.

It is not the task of government – least of all a Conservative government – to make people happy: it is the task of government to ensure that people are free to attain their objectives and fulfil their hopes and aspirations to make their own happiness.

As the Prime Minister has observed: "You cannot capture happiness on a spreadsheet any more than you can bottle it - and if anyone was trying to reduce the whole spectrum of human happiness into one snapshot statistic I would be the first to roll my eyes."

So let us give the man some credit for returning the Tory Party to its spiritual church roots and for seeking to measure progress not only by how the economy is growing, but by how the quality of life is improving; and that is fused with people’s sense of contentment, harmony and inner peace.

And it is not unlikely that this chimes with an EU objective, for the European Commission are acutely concerned with issues beyond the economic and always have been. What the UK was told was purely about trade was, for our continental neighbours, also about quality-of-life issues such as welfare, health, sustainability and social inclusion, which emanate from the Union’s foundation upon Roman Catholic Social Teaching.

And here’s the nexus of the matter.

The Christian religion has given Europe a scheme of values in which economic, social and penal policy have their place, but the understanding of these is inseparable from our historical roots. For through the Old Testament our spiritual roots go back to the early days of civilisation and man's search for God.

For England and for the United Kingdom, it has historically been the Protestant Reformed Religion which has provided us with our sense of ‘well-being’, for it has become inseparable from our sense of liberty. And that notion of liberty has a quite distinct theological lineage, not only from sin and the power of evil, but also in the Calvinist understanding of church governance – ‘liberty from Romish hierarchies’. According to Burke: 'To preserve that liberty inviolate, is the peculiar duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons.'

The ‘Happiness Index’ is ultimately a measurement of liberty. David Cameron, in his long-gone PPE days at Oxford, will have studied Locke and Mill and the philosophy of what we bequeathed to our American cousins in ‘the pursuit of happiness’. And he will know that happiness and autonomy are indivisible. Mill said: “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way.” To be autonomous is to be able to reflect on and evaluate one’s desires, beliefs and values: we don’t just act; we choose how to act; we choose which goals to adopt, and we reflect on the reasons for our beliefs. By this, we can shape ourselves and our own lives; and if we shape ourselves according to our own values, we express our individuality.

Mill argued that ‘the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being’. Leading our lives in our own way, making our own choices expresses and develops our thoughts, feelings and imagination. So, to be happy, we must be autonomous.

But that autonomy must be guided or ‘assisted’ towards good choices, moral choices, and Mill assumes that people will learn from their own and others’ mistakes. Autonomy which leads to bad or immoral choices will not produce happiness, so it is autonomy itself which is intrinsic to happiness.

The fons et origo of our ‘Gross National Happiness’ is a via media between Locke and Mill; between Liberalism and Toryism, and this is no bad thing for a Tory-Liberal Coalition to pursue.

But one comment in the ConservativeHome thread is worth observing:

As long as Cameron keeps paying my taxes to the EU and refuses an EU Referendum, I shall certainly be miserable.
For a nation which is itself bound by alien rules and stifling regulations cannot pretend that its people are autonomous. And as long as they are not autonomous, they are not free. And as long as they are not free, they will not be happy.

Here, Mr Cameron, lies the potential zenith of your ‘Happiness Index’ and the glory of your premiership.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileaks: US advises Belgium on how 'to attain prominence in Europe'

This really is priceless.

The leaked cables appear to reveal discussions between various countries on whether they would take prisoners released from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility:

When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe. ...”
If nothing else, this is quite an enlightening insight into how the US views EU politics and relations between member states: take a low-threat Guantánamo terrorist inmate; give him a few fancy chocolates when he lands in Brussels; the Belgian prime minister (when they have one) gets to shake hands with the President of the Untied States; and France, Germany and the UK will bow down in awe and wonder.

It will take rather more than that for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.

But this was the 'low-cost' option.

Alternatively, they could incur huge debt, say 11 times the size of GDP; bankrupt their national treasury; make pledges to creditors which amount to 220 per cent of the country’s annual economic output; call in the IMF and the ECB; arrange a bail-out; and then default on their agreements.

Belgium will then be as prominent as Greece and Ireland.

But that is the 'high-cost' option.

As the US State Department points out, taking a Guantánamo inmate is a lot cheaper.

Unless, of course, he starts blowing you up.

Wikileaks demolishes the US-Israel-Zionist conspiracy

You can shake a hand in public, yet plan subterfuge and assassination in private.

Shakespeare had Hamlet write this revelation down immediately upon his tablets: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

At least we’re sure it may be so in the Middle East.

It has to be the ultimate in open government, transparency and freedom of information.

All democracies preach it, yet still they seek to control precisely what should be made available to the people.

This is understandable.

Official secrets in the wrong hands imperil lives and compromise national security.

But there is no harm at all in discovering that President Barack Obama ‘prefers to look East rather than West’, and ‘has no feelings for Europe’; that he critical of David Cameron; that the US spies on the UN; that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il suffers from epilepsy; that Russia has become a ‘virtual mafia state’; that Libyan leader Colonel Gaddhafi's full-time nurse is a ‘hot blond’; that Germany’s Chancellor is referred to as Angela ‘Teflon’ Merkel; or that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is ‘driven by paranoia’.

Such things constitute political trivial pursuits: they were always widely suspected; now that they are common knowledge, nothing will change.

It is, however, surprising that Alan Duncan is the subject of an intelligence dossier and that he even features on US radar.

The release of several hundred thousand classified cables from the US State Department is embarrassing for politicians and diplomats, but it is all very entertaining for everyone else.

Except, perhaps, for Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, who is probably himself now a target for assassination.

But it’s very difficult to see what all the fuss is about.

Anyone with an ounce of psychological discernment or insight knows that nasty things are said behind one’s back, and that politicians are particularly predisposed to dissing their colleagues and counterparts.

But what is rather more interesting is that Arab nations – including the Wahhabi King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia – have been urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme:

Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.
Perhaps, again, it ought to come as no surprise to us that Sunni Muslims are seeking to wipe their Shi’a cousins off the map.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain has also argued forcefully for taking action to terminate Iran's nuclear programme: '...by whatever means necessary. That programme must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.’

Zeid Rifai, then president of the Jordanian senate, told a senior US official: ‘Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter.’

But it gets even more interesting to learn that Yemeni government has been involved in the systematic cover-up of US strikes on al-Qaeda strongholds. Yemen is split virtually 50/50 Sunni/Shi’a, and they clearly do not see al-Qaeda as the route to the worldwide caliphate. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Gen David Petraeus, then commander of US forces in the Middle East: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."

So it’s not all some evil US-Jewish-Zionist plot to humiliate Islam and eradicate Allah.

Indeed, there is Arab-Israeli consensus that neither wishes to be blown to kingdom come in a puff of Iranian nuclear smoke: Israel’s Ehud Barak ("Fate of world rests on stopping Iran") clearly sings the same acrostic psalm as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia ("cut off the head of the snake").

Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities has hitherto been viewed by Muslims of all shades as a desperate last resort of the ‘crusading Christians’ to prevent Islam rising to challenge Western hegemony.

But these communications don’t leave much wriggle room.

They reveal the manifest contradictions between a state’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors: foreign policy is not what it seems, and no amount of openness, transparency or FOI requests will bring to light what is taking place in the darkness.

We have long known that politicians may be ‘economical with the truth’, but on the matter of the Middle East we discover a plethora of bare-faced lies that make Tony Blair’s ‘sexed-up’ dossier on Iraq look like a picnic in the park.

His Grace is not disposed to conspiracies or to believe in secret plots.

But Wikileaks is a whistleblower’s website, and they appear to have an awful lot of whistles to blow. As these revelations reverberate around the world, it is evident that they serve a purpose.

It is worth considering what and whose.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

For the First Sunday in Advent

Eric Pickles saves Christmas

It is not clear whether the Communities Secretary is intent on saving Christmas from ‘politically correct Grinches’ who seek to eradicate the festival that marks the birth of Christ, or from the annual Daily Mail hype which seeks to persuade us that this is so.

But the BBC, Sun, Daily Express and Daily Star are unanimous in their appreciation of Father Pickles and relieved that the ‘war on Christmas’ is over.

Out, apparently, are ‘Winterval’, ‘Winter Festival’, ‘Winter lights’, ‘Celebrity lights’, ‘Luminous’, ‘Eid/Diwali/Christmas lights’, ‘multi-faith holiday’, school bans on nativity plays and shopping centres’ clamping down on carol singers.

In are Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol singers and school nativity plays in abundance.

"We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas,” Mr Pickles says, “And not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ.”

The essential message from the Communities Secretary is for ‘councils to stop worrying about offending people and celebrate a Christian Christmas’ : ie, let Christmas be Christmas.

His Grace is loath to play the Grinch, but he would rather hear the Prime Minister tell every Government department to stop worrying about offending minority groups whose beliefs are challenged by Christian orthodoxy or agendas are hindered by the application of the Christian conscience: ie, let Christians be Christians.

There is no point saving Christmas while the Church is being systematically undermined and coerced, and its orthodoxy gradually outlawed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Blair-Hitchens religion debate

It is kind of so many to ask His Grace to comment on the outcome of the Munk Debate: 'Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world'.

It is reported that devout atheist Christopher Hitchens trashed the devout Roman Catholic Tony Blair:

PRO: 22% CON:57%

PRO: 32% CON: 68%

Professor Richard Dawkins is positively orgasmic over this startling new evidence for the non-existence of God that he has commissioned himself to write another book and generously promised to donate all royalties to the ultra-enlightened Richard Dawkins Foundation.

The full debate is available HERE.

But His Grace would urge you not to waste your time.

This event was nothing to do with reasoned debate: it was about selling tickets to raise the profile of Munk's objective 'to debate major issues facing the world and Canada'.

'...the world and Canada'?

Is Canada not a part of the world?

Or is Munk so Canadacentric and in denial that the only way they think they can be heard is to invite a controversial politician to debate with a political controversialist?

The debate sold out and played to an audience of 2,600. Before it commenced, touts were selling tickets for up to five hundred Canadian dollars, which challenges Kylie's O2 mark-up for extortion.

But His Grace would just like to point out one very obvious thing which the media have hitherto ignored, perhaps out of sensitivity:

The pro-religion argument was put by a highly divisive politician accused of deceiving Parliament to support an illegal war and of complicity in war crimes. During the debate, demonstrators unveiled placards that read 'Arrest Blair' and 'War criminals not welcome here'. He is a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, now with his own Faith Foundation, having spent his entire political career undermining the cause of religion and the conscience concerns of his co-religionists.

The anti-religion argument was put by a man presently undergoing chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer, who has indicated that he may not have long to live.

No-one protested against his presence.

The man dying of cancer won.

As they say (somewhere), 'Go figure'.

Hugh Dallas quits over 'anti-Pope' email

This is the picture which Hugh Dallas, Scottish Football Association's head of referee development, forwarded to his friends on the eve of Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland in September, and over which he has been forced to resign.

The Roman Catholic Church called it a 'tasteless message' and demanded that the SFA sack Mr Dallas. The Director of the Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney, urged very swift retribution. He said the email was 'totally unprofessional, gratuitously insulting to the Pope, deeply offensive to the Catholic community of Scotland and an incitement to anti-Catholic sectarianism'.

An incitement to anti-Catholic sectarianism?


A joke?

But this is Scotland, where certain Rangers-Celtic tensions are but a breath away from the IRA-UDF civil war.

It is where even the 'Hokey Cokey’ is an expression of 'faith hate'.

It is where politicians have urged the police to arrest anyone using the song to taunt Roman Catholics under legislation designed to prevent incitement to religious hatred.

The SFA have been assiduously trying to stamp out sectarianism, and so they had no choice but to bow to the demands of the Roman Catholic Church: Hugh Dallas had to go.

When does humour become unacceptobly sectarian?

Is this Peter Brookes cartoon, which appeared in The Times last year, sectarian?

Is it an 'incitement to hatred'?

Or is it artistic genius communicating what a thousand words does not?

There is no doubt that the Pope caused dismay among HIV/AIDS campaigners last March when he declared on a trip to Africa that condoms were not the solution to the epidemic ravaging the continent. He said that the disease 'cannot be overcome by distributing condoms – it only increases the problem'. He unequivocally condemned the use of condoms even as a means of preventing the spread of HIV.

By portraying Pope Benedict with a condom on his head, Peter Brookes was ridiculing this assertion.

And yet many Roman Catholics saw it as an attack on the Pope personally.

But after last week's 'clarifications' on condom usage (however they finally translate), perhaps Mr Brookes might feel vindicated.

The Hugh Dallas email is crude in comparison: there is no artistry to speak of at all. And yet it communicates a sense of righteous indignation that there has been a cover-up of priestly paedophilia even at the highest level.

Are we now at the point where religion - all religion - is protected from criticism and immune to ridicule and satire?

Are all to be 'standardised'; rendered void of levity and humour?

Are we seeing the prohibition and systematic redefining of a great British characteristic?

What about the Guardian's anti-Semitism?

The BBC's anti-Anglicanism?

Would Hugh Dallas have been sacked for sending out an email which offended Protestants?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Have the Conservative Party written off the Church of England?

This week has seen the first meeting of the ninth General Synod of the Church of England, inaugurated by its Supreme Governor Her Majesty the Queen, and attended by the State shepherds of the sheep to discuss the pressing spiritual and political issues of the day.

The Conservative Party’s response?


On Tuesday, the Synod debated a key theme of Conservative policy: The Big Society. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Timothy Stevens, said that the programme had begun to unleash a new wave of energy in the churches for practical social action. The Synod enthusiastically welcomed the concept of the Big Society as an opportunity for the Church and a way of emphasising work that is already being done.

The Conservative Party’s response?

They put out an email celebrating ‘Inter Faith Week’, ‘urging everyone to get involved in inter faith activities and make connections with people of different beliefs’.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles attended the opening of the General Synod, but nothing was reported by the Conservative Party or the Government: no email was circulated to celebrate the Church’s contribution to the ‘Big Society’ or its important role in public life.

Instead, he focused on multi-faith themes: “Collaboration builds stronger understanding and helps people to concentrate on the values they hold in common – without ever losing their unique strengths,” he said.

And the Conservative Party reminded us: ‘As well as aiming to strengthen bonds between people of different faiths, Inter Faith Week also seeks to increase understanding and collaboration between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.’

There is no longer a privileged place for the Church of England in the Conservative Party; just an expression of ecumenical, multi-faith mish-mash to unite ‘people of religious and non-religious beliefs’.

And the Conservative blogs were no better.

The Party’s own blog said not a word about the Established Church all week.

But neither did any Conservative blog.

The Blue Blog doesn’t even have a category heading into which a discussion could be placed, unless the Church is now merely a component of ‘Community Relations’.

The Spectator's Coffee House has a CofE category, but Theo Hobson uttered not one syllable (in fact, he has only ever uttered one article on the Established Church, and that was more than a year ago on the matter of the Pope's visit).

And the nation’s foremost ConservativeHome blog steered clear of the subject altogether, following its decision to commission and publish an article on Remembrance Sunday which proposed that Islam should be adopted as the state religion.

It is curious, if not a little hypocritical, that the blog which castigated the Archbishop of Canterbury for daring to comment on Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms has absolutely nothing to say when an entire Synod debate is dedicated to exploring the Christian roots of a major theme of the Cameron Government. You would think that ConservativeHome might at least mention the Church’s ‘Big Society’ debate.

Not a word.

Instead, its editor Tim Montgomerie wrote a piece for The Times berating the Church for talking about nothing but homosexuality.

And thereby simply gave further expression to the media caricature that this is indeed the case.

What about the Church of England’s social housing programmes? Its inner-city work among the poor and disenfranchised? The fact that it runs thousands of schools? Its advocacy work for prisoners of conscience in repressive regimes? It unparalleled dedication to charity concerns? Its voluntary work with the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups?

The Church does not only talk endlessly about these things; it does them. But the media aren’t very interested, you see: they wish to focus on the drama of division, contention and conflict.

Just as they do with the Conservative Party.

The Church of England is the national embodiment of the ‘Big Society’ and has been for centuries. But the media focus has been the endless debates, committees, reports, schisms and not-quite-schisms on the issue of homosexuality.

Yet behind the scenes, without a word of thanks or appreciation, they simply get on with being acutely engaged in social action; expressing compassion to the alienated, outcast, oppressed and persecuted, irrespective of their gender, skin colour, sexuality or religion. And they were doing it while David Cameron was still a whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly past Bekynton to Lower Chapel.

Margaret Thatcher, a Protestant Nonconformist, knew and understood. In a speech in 1977 she observed:

‘The Tories began as a church party, concerned with the Church and State, in that order, before our concern extended to the economy, and many other fields which politics now touches. Religion gives us not only values – a scheme of things in which economic, social, penal policy have their place – but also our historical roots. For through the Old Testament our spiritual roots go back to the early days of civilisation and man’s search for God’.
The reality is that David Cameron doesn’t really ‘do’ Church: he doesn’t understand its foundational precepts and he doesn’t grasp its constitutional significance. The CofE does not form part PPE, even at Oxford.

And what the Conservative Party does not do, the Conservative blogs do not do.

And when they do, their narrative evidences precisely the same obsessions as the BBC: homosexuality and Islam.

In Statecraft, Margaret Thatcher wrote: ‘I believe in what are often referred to as “Judaeo-Christian” values: indeed my whole political philosophy is based on them’. In her second volume The Path to Power she went further: ‘Although I have always resisted the argument that a Christian has to be a Conservative, I have never lost my conviction that there is a deep and providential harmony between the kind of political economy I favour and the insights of Christianity.’

David Cameron’s Conservative Party would do well to reflect seriously on the constitutional importance, historical significance and the social and community imperative of the Church of England.

Before it is too late.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On burning the Qur'an and desecrating the Bible

It is widely reported (at least by the BBC and The Daily Mail and the New Statesman) that a 15-year-old girl has been arrested on suspicion of 'inciting religious hatred' for burning a copy of the Qur'an.

Yes, a 15-year-old girl: a child.

Contrast the response of the police over this girl's decision to burn a copy of the Qur'an with their complete indifference to the decision taken by Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art to desecrate the Bible.

The response to that 'exhibit' was measured, but the offence to many Christians was no less palpable.

Yet the state permits freedom of artistic expression, and the Bible is considered fair game. One cannot coerce the non-believer to revere that to which he or she is completely indifferent and, in an increasingly post-Christian and secular context, the Bible is perhaps no different to the Conservative Party's last manifesto.

They vie equally in a public library for the bottom shelf.

But Cathrerine Heseltine of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee reminds us that the burning of the Qur'an is one of the most offensive acts to Muslims that she could imagine. She said: "The Qur'an is the most sacred thing to over a billion Muslims worldwide. You can see that in the way Muslims treat the Qur'an - washing before touching it and in many Muslim homes you will find it on the top shelf above all other books. We will never destroy the quranic texts. We believe it is the word of God. God’s guidance for us in this life."

And so in public libraries it must sit on the top shelf.

Even though not everyone agrees that it is 'God's guidance' on any matter whatsoever.

His Grace has said many times that he is not one to condone the burning of books; that is, unless he is cold and has run out of logs. And he certainly would never condone causing gratuitous offence.

But there is an emerging state coercion here which is moving perilously close to the need for an 'I am Spartacus' moment: not, in any sense, to cause offence to Muslims; but to stick two fingers up to the ubiquitous, illiberal totalitarianism which denies freedom of expression by negating the right to offend against the supposed sensibilities of minorities. The doctrine of the state is compelling respect and enforcing reverence for that which the majority may consider profane. That is not only an offence against democracy: it is an offence against the conscience and a negation of the religious liberties for which (inter alia) His Grace laid down his life.

The Anglican Covenant

His Grace had been holding off from commenting on this until a decision had been taken in Synod.

Now that that decision has been taken (an overwhelming ‘aye’ in all three houses for sending it out the diocesan synods), the mechanism designed to encourage / facilitate / bolster / impose / bludgeon / compel / enforce unity merits a little analysis.

The Covenant is designed to hold the Anglican Communion together for better or worse, in sickness and health, ‘til the Second Coming do them part.

For, like papal infallibility, only the apocalyptic parousia can render it absolutely null and utterly void.

But to be Anglican is to be synodical and devolved, not totalitarian and centralised: the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a pope in his realm and neither is the See of Canterbury as absolute as the See of Rome.

So just how is the Anglican Communion to act when one Province decides unilaterally to re-define, adjust, develop and ‘progress’ in an area of morality or teaching in a manner that does not accord with Anglican tradition?

Whatever the Anglican tradition is.

Who will do what to whom?

Good grief, the Church of England can’t even discipline within its own ranks without uproar: the Suffragan Bishop of Willesden criticises the hereditary principle of monarchy and espouses distinctly republican views – which is, well, just a tad un-Anglican – and his boss the Bishop of London was so ‘appalled’ that he rebuked and suspended him.

But Bishop Pete’s twittering mates are all so appalled by the Bishop of London’s public rebuke and semi-suspension that they decide to start a Facebook support group. Lambeth Palace, in the meantime, says +Pete is ‘entitled to his views’, while former Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes the Bishop of London for being ‘far too severe’, asking: ‘How often in the past have bishops ignored heretical comments by clergy?’

Magnify this relatively minor spat to a rather more significant one between autonomous Anglican provinces, and you’ll see the problem.

If the US branch says it’s consistent with the ‘Anglican tradition’ to consecrate an openly gay bishop or the odd lesbian, who is the African branch to be ‘appalled’ at such a development?

And if one Province decides that it is most definitely consonant with the ‘Anglican tradition’ to appoint women to the Episcopate, who is to decide the proportionality of the punitive action against them?

What if the Anglican Church of Australia, like +Pete, wishes to object to the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England on the basis that the hereditary principle is ‘corrupt and sexist’?

Shall ++Cantuar simply say they are ‘entitled to their views’?

Who is the guardian of the 'Anglican tradition'?

How can there be Roman unity in Anglican diversity?

How can one impose discipline without exerting a pseudo-papal authority?

The Covenant is designed to resolve disputes, yet it is clear that Anglicans do not do ‘punitive action’ very well: we do not even do suspension, preferring instead the euphemistic ‘withdraw from public ministry’. So we can forget anathematisation or excommunication.

Perhaps the Covenant is un-Anglican, but the very fact that it is a development in the Church’s doctrine of ecclesiology actually renders it rather Anglican.

If we are to avoid the ‘piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion’, do we not need a bit of glue?

It’s a certain fact we’re out of whitewash.

And what on earth could be wrong with a framework which demands consultation?

How can one resolve disagreements without dialogue?

The bizarre thing is that the Anglican Church actually practises what the Roman Catholic Church pretends to: subsidiarity; notwithstanding that the very concept is a Roman Catholic invention. It is to do with governance at the lowest level, and the Anglican Communion has historically been constructed on devolved localism. Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell would be proud.

But it hasn’t worked.

It is the old Conservative tension between Tory centralised authority that seeks to preserve tradition and Whiggish local democracy to precipitate radical reform.

Is the Covenant a via media between restriction and liberty; between subsidiarity and centralisation; between paternalism and autonomy?

Insofar as it appears to satisfy neither the Archbishops of West Africa nor the US Episcopal Church, perhaps the balance is right. Yet if the Covenant be not unanimously approved by all 38 Provinces in the Communion, it can be authoritatively adopted by none.

And that will just leave the Jerusalem Declaration, which advocates ‘the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family’ (8) and the rejection of ‘those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed’ (13).

It also stands upon the bedrock of the XXXIX Articles ‘as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today’ (4).

If His Grace is honest, he is a little tired of all this: we are not at a moment of historic schism like those of 1054 or 1517. Let the Worldwide Anglican Communion go the way of the British Empire, of which it is but the spiritual ghost. The Archbishop of Canterbury should be wholly concerned with leading the Church of England, not distracted hither and thither in cobbling together endless formulae by which mutually exclusive provinces may continue to perpetuate the perception of communion. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins: the factions have already decided their courses and will not put aside their differences. The moment a province decides to appoint to the Episcopate Katharine Jefferts Schori and then Mary Glasspool, it is clear that they don’t give a damn about acting ‘with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy’.

It is not so much a matter of asking what fellowship light hath with darkness, but to some that is precisely what it is about. The ‘dissolution’ so feared by the Archbishop of Canterbury is as inevitable as the British withdrawal from India: you can’t buck the people.

Unless you’re prepared to use force.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How can you trademark 'face' and 'book'?

After their successful prosecution of Teachbook.com for infringing trademark restrictions and 'riding on the coat-tails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark', the omnipotent internet phenomenon is now making moves to trademark the word 'face'.


Perhaps the Church of England should issue a trademark 'Notice of Allowance' to protect the integrity of the name 'Jesus'. And anyone who attempts to misrepresent His teachings or 'ride on the coat-tails of the fame and enormous goodwill' of the Head of the Church of England ought to be prosecuted, fined and imprisoned to the maximum that the law of trademark infringment permits.

Has Ruth Gledhill been abducted by aliens?

This image is taken from the confused and dim report from yesterday’s Synod by The Times’ religion correspondent.

It might as well have been broadcast from the farthest red dwarf in the nebula Alpha Centauri, 4.22 light years away.

Perhaps it was.

For either The Times has been possessed by a shape-shifting Daily Sport, or Ms Gledhill has indeed been probed in her nether regions by ET.

Less than a month after publishing an essentially fictitious report about one Anglican bishop branding other Christians as ‘Nazis’, Ms Gledhill penned this spectacular headline last Saturday: ‘Archbishop of Canterbury has been abducted by aliens’.

The issue, as ever, is gay clergy.

It is Ms Gledhill’s favourite topic.

Along with female priests and bishops.

But Ms Gledhill is a woman, and so gender issues and the androcentric fallacy have a little more resonance for her. Perhaps not quite a feminist, though like all feminising enthusiasts she is both a critical voice within the Church and rebel against the Church. She and Riazat Butt at The Guardian admirably stand alone among the macho male religion journalists who dominate the rest of the mainstream media (though perhaps ‘macho’ is not quite the term for some).

Citing an interview with Bishop Gene Robinson – that rose petal in the side of Anglicanism’s US wing – Ms Gledhill began her report: “The Anglican bishop at the centre of a battle over homosexual clergy has condemned the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggesting that he has been ‘abducted by aliens’ on the issue.”

Except that Bishop Gene had said no such thing.

He was, instead, quoting some friends of his (he obviously has some). But when you read what he said that they said, it is clear that they hadn’t said that either:

“I have clergy friends in England who literally studied at Archbishop Williams’s feet when he was teaching and who have said to me it is almost as if aliens have come and taken Rowan away from us and they have left something here that looks like him but we don’t recognise him any more,” Bishop Robinson said.

This is a manifest regret at the perceived change in the heart of a man apparently caused by attaining high office: they have ceased to recognise him; it is almost as if aliens had descended and abducted him.

Did you get that?

‘…almost as if…’

Does Ms Gledhill not appreciate metaphors or subtle similes?

Does a media organ as prestigious as The Times have to reduce the art of expression to the banal twittering of the tabloid?

This is not the place for His Grace to enter into the theological complexities of this issue (either sexuality or the extra-terrestrial): he merely observes, more in sorrow than in anger, that Ms Gledhill is increasingly becoming more concerned with a headline ‘to die for’ than with reporting the facts.

Once again, the few Times readers who can be bothered to fork out for the indulgence to enter the sanctuary through the veil of the paywall have made their views clear:

• Another sloppy, sensationalised headline bylined by Ms Gledhill.
• The headline is quite disgracefully misleading.
• Given that you are misrepresenting clergy of all shades of opinion (following the recent libelling of Wallace Benn) I can only assume you either do not know or care. But it's poor - and just means we lose confidence in The Times.

His Grace eagerly anticipates Ms Gledhill’s next broadcast: he can hardly contain himself as he waits to discover from which planet it will emanate, or whether it might be confirmed that she has been possessed by the spirit of Darth Vader, held hostage by Nazi storm-troopers or has simply succumbed to the irresistibility of propagating a Goebbels-like fiction by which the Established Church might be made more in her image.

Of one thing we can be sure: whatever the truth is, it won’t be appearing in The Times any time soon.

Ed Balls struggles to grasp the details

Poor Ed.

Rejected overwhelmingly for his party's leadership by his parliamentary colleagues, Labour Party members and his trade union buddies. His head is still with Children, Schools, Families, breast-feeding and nappy-changing, while his heart is still in the Treasury. But his feet are well and truly in his mouth when it comes to Home Affairs.

Yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May delivered a statement to the House of Commons on the Coalition’s intention to reduce immigration. She said:

"Under Labour, net migration to Britain was close to 200 thousand per year, for most years since 2000. As a result, over Labour’s time in office net migration totalled more than 2.2 million people – more than double the population of Birmingham. We can’t go on like this."

It’s true: we can’t. New Labour not only promoted plurality and ‘multi-culturalism’; they wilfully imposed it upon us through mass immigration to bolster their support base in an attempt to eradicate forever the ‘forces of conservatism’.

To address this, the Home Secretary announced a plan to reduce net immigration substantially.

We cannot, of course, do anything about immigration from other EU member states: the Poles and Romanians will continue to pour in (if that isn’t xenophobic or an incitement to racism), and we can expect a flood of Irish as well as their salaries are cut and unemployment rates soar. But economic migration from outside the EU will be cut from 28,000 to 21,700 per annum.

A modest cut, perhaps. But it’s a start.

In response to this, on the BBC News yesterday evening, Shadow Home Secretary Ed Ball's was awfully confused.

He said: "The problem is 80 per cent of our migration comes from the EU states – they're not affected at all by the cap which was announced today by Theresa May."

But this is quite wrong.

According to the Office of National Statistics (Long-Term International Migration Series), the UK welcomed 528,000 migrants last year, of which 292,000 were non-EU.

If Ed Balls does his maths, he will find that this is 55 per cent of the total; not 80.

But the issue is not migration, but net migration. Last year, inflows and outflows of British and EU citizens largely cancelled each other out and non-EU net migration counted for more than 93 per cent of the total!

Perhaps Ed Balls has not quite got up to speed yet with his new brief.

Or he is eyeing the dog’s dinner that Alan Johnson is making of being Shadow Chancellor.

Or the pig’s ear Ed Miliband is making of being Leader of the Opposition.

Poor Ed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pope's condom revolution

As His Grace foretold, the 'clarification' on condom usage is being further clarified, and the Thomist doctrine of the 'lesser evil' is seeping through the chinks in the hitherto impregnable wall of Humanae Vitae.

The Vatican's spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has said that the Pope intended that the change of policy should apply to anybody with HIV/Aids, on the basis that preventing another person from being infected was the lesser of two evils, even it meant averting a possible pregnancy.

Did you get that?

"...even it meant averting a possible pregnancy."

Fr Lombardi's precise words: "I personally asked the Pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship... This is if you're a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We're at the same point."

Did you get that?

The gender is immaterial.

Now then.

His Grace would like to know why the only STI apparently covered by this compassionate provision is HIV/AIDS?

Why may one not wear a condom to avoid infecting someone with chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, viral hepatitis, herpes...?

In Africa, one may not conveniently pop along to one's GP for a dose of antibiotics: STIs which may be relatively benign in the West can undoubtedly be fatal in other parts of the world.

It may take a while for that one to seep through.

But let us consider further.

Fr Lombardi has reiterated Pope Benedict's comments that the motive is to save life.

If the death which would ensue from unprotected sexual intercourse is an aborted baby, why may one not use a condom to avoid the manifestly greater evil of abortion?

It may take quite a few decades for that one to seep through.

Unless we have a few more rational, intelligent, compassionate popes like Benedict XVI.

Archbishop of Canterbury's address to the General Synod

In his first Presidential Address to the new General Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury urges members to recognise the value of the Covenant for the life of the Anglican Communion:

"The Covenant text itself represents work done by theologians of similarly diverse views, including several from North America. It does not invent a new orthodoxy or a new system of doctrinal policing or a centralised authority, quite explicitly declaring that it does not seek to override any province's canonical autonomy. After such a number of discussions and revisions, it is dispiriting to see the Covenant still being represented as a tool of exclusion and tyranny."
He also warned of the consequences of the Church of England not engaging in the inevitable changes that will occur within the Communion, including the affect on Communion relations - which could in turn affect vulnerable churches:

"It is an illusion to think that without some changes the Communion will carry on as usual, and a greater illusion to think that the Church of England can somehow derail the entire process. The unpalatable fact is that certain decisions in any province affect all. We may think they shouldn't, but they simply do. If we ignore this, we ignore what is already a real danger, the piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly. All very well, you may say; but among the potential casualties are all those areas of interaction and exchange that are part of the lifeblood of our church and of many often quite vulnerable churches elsewhere. These relations are remarkably robust, given the institutional tensions at the moment, and, as I've often said, many will survive further disruption. But they will be complicated and weakened by major fracture and realignment."
Dr Williams describes the Covenant as a tool with which disagreement within the Communion could be managed, even if such disagreement could not be resolved:

"The Covenant offers the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult. And it also recognises that even after consultation there may still be disagreement, that such disagreement may result in rupture of some aspects of communion, and that this needs to be managed in a careful and orderly way. Now the risk and reality of such rupture is already there, make no mistake. The question is whether we are able to make an intelligent decision about how we deal with it. To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognise that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly."
The Archbishop also turns his thoughts to the idea of the 'Big Society', and the debate taking place in Synod later today:

"at the moment, our society is calling out to the real Church with a new urgency. We are going to be discussing the language of the Big Society in this group of sessions. And if such language means anything – as I believe it does – it looks to an ideal that (John) Wesley would have recognised easily: men and women determined to enhance each others' lives by building up their freedom to shape their future and their communal life with fairness and generosity; people for whom responsibility is not a grim and repressive word but a joyful acknowledgement of what we owe to each other."
Dr Williams goes on to discuss the need for greater theological debate on both sides of the discussion around same-sex unions:

"The other issue, still bitterly divisive in the Communion, is that of our approach to same-sex unions. It is inevitable that, whether in open debate or in general discussion, this will be around during the lifetime of this Synod. I shall make only a brief comment here, having said a fair amount on the subject this time last year and in other settings. And it is that this has become a cardinal example of how we avoid theological debate. The need for some thoughtful engagement that will help us understand how people who read the same Bible and share the same baptism can come to strongly diverse conclusions is getting more urgent, because I sense that in the last few years the debate on sexuality has not really moved much. It is unthinkingly treated by some as almost the sole test of biblical fidelity or doctrinal orthodoxy; it is unthinkingly regarded by others as one of those matters on which the Church must be brought inexorably into line with what our culture can make sense of. Neither side always has the opportunity of clarifying how they see the focal theological issues – how one or the other position relates to our belief in a divine Saviour. And if we are not to be purely tribal about this, we need the chance for some sort of discussion that is not dominated by the need to make an instant decision or to react to developments and pressures elsewhere."

Bishop Pete Broadbent deletes Ruth Gledhill as a Facebook friend

You've heard of kicking the cat?

Well, it appears that the Bishop of London has suspended the Suffragan Bishop of Willesden for his ill-judged remarks about the forthcoming Royal Wedding. The Rt Rev'd Richard Chartes wrote:

Dear Colleague,

I was appalled by the Bishop of Willesden’s comments about the forthcoming royal marriage. In common with most of the country I share the joy which the news of the engagement has brought.

I have now had an opportunity to discuss with Bishop Peter how his comments came to be made and I have noted his unreserved apology. Nevertheless, I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice. I have also been in touch with St James’s Palace to express my own dismay on behalf of the Church.

Arrangements will need to be made in Bishop Peter’s absence and further details will be given in due course.

With thanks for your partnership in the Gospel.

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres KCVO DD FSA
In asking the Bishop to 'withdraw from public ministry', the Bishop of London has effectively suspended his suffragan.

Yet there is confusion, for +Pete appears to have told the Church Mouse that he has not been suspended.

If he be not suspended, it is not clear what his present status is, insofar as he is prohibited from officiating in public ministry, which must include celebration of the Eucharist.

To His Grace, if a bishop may not officiate and oversee, he has ceased to fulfil the functions of a bishop.

Suspended: debar temporarily from a function, office, privilege, etc (OED)
So, however it is wrapped up, +Pete is suspended.

But the pettiness in +Pete's decision to remove the exquisite Ruth Gledhill as a Facebook friend really does suggest a certain level of childishness in the reaction to his suspension.

Perhaps His Grace shouldn't hold his breath for +Pete to confirm him as a Facebook friend.

Gerry Adams for Taoiseach

Well, why not?

Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa; Yitzhak Shamir became Prime Minister of Israel; Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize and was welcomed into the White House; Colonel Gaddafi was courted and praised by Tony Blair: history is replete with those who were once designated ‘terrorists’; incarcerated, reviled and repudiated, yet eventually welcomed to the political top table without repentance.

And why be a self-exiled minnow in Westminster when you could be a fully-communicant carp in the Dáil?

And credit where it’s due.

Sinn Féin never wanted the euro: the party opposed the Lisbon Treaty, and has been as consistently ‘eurosceptic’ as UKIP.

Well, perhaps not quite. But Sinn Féin was the only Irish party to oppose the Treaty, and Gerry Adams was unafraid of sharing the ‘No to Lisbon’ platform with other nutters, fruitcakes and gadflies.

It was also Gerry Adams’ stated position that the second referendum was based on fraudulent assurances of treaty amendments to assuage Irish concerns. Sinn Féin alone was of the view that what was a bad deal for Ireland in 2008 remained so in 2009.

And so Gerry Adams campaigned for a ‘No’, fully cognisant of the implications for national democracy and Irish sovereignty: he hasn’t dedicated his life trying to liberate the Republic of Éire from centuries of British subjugation only to see it subsumed to a Germanic Fourth Reich.

Sinn Féin knew what we all knew: a nation which adopts the euro is no longer sovereign. And Lisbon meant that Ireland's voting strength on the Council(s) of Ministers was reduced to a meagre 0.8 percent at the same time as Germany’s increased to 17 per cent and that of the UK to 12 per cent.

Gerry Adams is the foremost politician of Ireland’s nationalist party. For him, anything which compromises that sovereign and sanctified concept of nationhood – as, for example, the effects of the Common Agricultural Policy on Irish farms and rural communities – is anathema.

The awkward reality for Brian Cowen and his Fianna Fáil party is that Sinn Féin now have economic credibility and political clout. And Gerry Adams has sensed his moment, as deputy first minister Martin McGuinness explains: "The decision by Gerry to leave one of the safest seats in Ireland to seek election to the Dáil in Louth and to play a central role in the battle for Ireland's economic recovery is leadership in action."

The economic bail-out being thrashed out between the EU, the IMF and the UK is a national humiliation, and all indications are that it is about to bring the Irish Government down. The promise of an election ‘some time’ next year may be insufficient to hold the coalition together: why prop up a disgraced government and humiliated leader and give them time to regroup, when a swift kill might be preferable for your own electoral hopes?

Sinn Féin have become the people’s party.

And Gerry Adams is the people’s saviour from the economic morass into which they have sunk.

Yes, we once wanted him hanged, drawn and quartered like all traitors.

But the British Parliament from time to time has also demanded the execution of Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Shamir.

And history vindicated them.

His Grace never thought he would see the day he posted a blog in praise of Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams, but on the question of Irish sovereignty vis à vis the European Union, they have been both consistent and right.

And His Grace is always generous and fair.

A simple sovereignty campaign message now, beyond the inane ‘A Better Deal In Europe’, would see Gerry Adams elected to the Dáil. The democratic will of the people in such a verdict would amount to a repudiation of the status quo and the demand for a renegotiation of Ireland’s relationship with the EU, which is likely to involve readopting the punt.

And if the politicians do not heed this, it is very likely that Gerry Adams – fiercely and sincerely advocating the heart-felt national interest by disparaging oppressive and unjust supra-national treaties which infringe nationhood, negate sovereignty and compromise proud traditions – would eventually be elected Taoiseach.

It worked for Hitler.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lt Col Allen West speaks out on the Islamist ‘perversion of Islam’

When you're asked an awkward question, you can either distract and deflect as the politician does; you can ruminate and reflect as the philosopher does; you can equivocate and obfuscate as the diplomat does.

Or you can answer the question explicitly and directly, as the soldier does.

When asked about the Islamist terrorists’ 'perversion of the religion of Islam', Lt Col Allen West replies:

Let me say this. I don’t care about being popular – whatever. The first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to study and understand who you’re up against. And you must realise that this is not a religion that you’re fighting against: you’re fighting against a theo-political belief system and construct; you’re fighting against something that has been doing this thing since AD 622 – since the seventh century, 1388 years. You want to dig up Charles Martel and ask him why he was fighting the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732; you want to ask the Venetian fleet at Lepanto why they were fighting a Muslim fleet in 1571; you want to ask the Christian – I mean the Germanic and Austrian knights why they were fighting at the Gates of Vienna in 1683; you want to ask people why they fought at Constantinople and why today it’s called Istanbul because they lost that fight in 1453. You need to get into the Qur’an: you need to understand their precepts; you need to read the Sira; you need to read the Hadith, and then you can really understand that this is not a perversion: they are doing exactly what this book says.

I want to close by saying this. And I think we have said this all through this morning so far. Until you get principled leadership in the United States of America that is willing to say that, we will continue to chase our tail because we will never clearly define who this enemy is, and then understand their goals and objectives which is on any jihadist website, and then come up with the right and proper goals and objectives to not only secure our Republic, but to secure Western civilisation.
Lt Col Allen West is the third of four generations in his family to serve in the military. He retired from the US Army in 2004 and is the first African-American Republican Congressman from Florida since a former slave served two terms in the 1870s.

It remains to be seen if the soldier’s perspicuity will survive a term in Congress.

Daily Mail plagiarises His Grace

It really is incredible: bare-faced, unashamed and quite incredible.

Some sections of The Daily Mail's further article on Bishop Pete Broadhurst have been lifted verbatim from that by His Grace, without a word of accreditation.

Blogs, of course, feed off each other habitually, and the honourable ones credit their sources. But they tend not to be profit-making mass-media organisations employing a plethora of journalists whose job it is to write original copy.

Today, Melanie Phillips writes:

Does he perhaps have a professional sideline reading the tea-leaves at church fetes?
Yesterday His Grace wrote:

He really ought to read what the Bible has to say about soothsaying.
Today Melanie Phillips writes:

Yet look at the feeble way Lambeth Palace has responded to this diatribe, declaring that the bishop was ‘entitled to his views’.

Well actually, no he is not. As a bishop of the Church of England, anything he says has the imprimatur of the Church.
Yesterday His Grace wrote:

Bizarrely, rather than censure the Bishop, Lambeth Palace said: ‘(He) is entitled to his views.’

His Grace begs to differ.

The views he is entitled to express are the views of the Church of England. He is a leader within the Established Church of which the Queen is 'by God's Ordinance’ Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor.
Today Melanie Phillips writes:

He was also effectively denying the ­constitutional position of the Church of England — and indeed, similarly ­repudiating his own undertakings as a bishop of that Church.

For the monarchy and the Church of England are umbilically linked. The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church — as will be Prince William when he inherits the Crown — and the monarch is pledged to defend the faith which that Church represents.

Moreover, when he was ordained into the Church of England, Bishop Broadbent will have sworn ‘true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God’.
Yesterday His Grace wrote:

The views he is entitled to express are the views of the Church of England. He is a leader within the Established Church of which the Queen is 'by God's Ordinance’ Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor.

And, God willing, Prince William will inherit those titles and responsibilities when he becomes King...

All who are ordained into the Church of England swear an oath of allegiance. Bishop Pete has said:

“I, Peter Broadbent, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God.”
Today Melanie Phillips asks:

So did he falsely swear an oath in which he didn’t believe at the time? Or does he no longer believe it, making him a ­hypocrite who should depart the Church whose vow of loyalty he now rejects?

And when he ordains priests in turn, how can he require them to swear ­allegiance to an institution he regards as ‘corrupt and sexist’?
Yesterday His Grace asked:

Has the Bishop become a hypocrite? A liar? Even a philanderer?..

Do these vows have so little meaning that they are as easily disregarded as the marriage vows of Prince Charles and Diana, whom the Bishop so evidently disrespects and despises?

Does Bishop Pete uphold the traditional doctrine and teaching of the Church he purports to serve, or not?

When he ordains deacons and priests, does he cross his fingers behind his back as he asks ordinands to swear allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors?
Perhaps His Grace should be flattered that such a highly-paid award-winning journalist has chosen to plagiarise not only his line of thinking but his very words. Perhaps The Daily Mail should employ him directly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, must resign

It is reported in The Mail on Sunday that Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, has prophesied that the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton will last just seven years.

That's precisely what the Established Church needs: generous, humble and optimistic shepherds of the sheep who set their minds on all that is noble, pure, lovely and of good report.

He really ought to read what the Bible has to say about soothsaying.

Apparently, on his Facebook page, he described the Royal Family as ‘philanderers’ with a record of marriage break-ups who ‘cost an arm and a leg’. He also referred to the Prince of Wales as ‘Big Ears’.

Well, these are simply statements of fact: there have been and are ‘philanderers’ in the Royal Family, and they do cost an arm and a leg. And Prince Charles does apparently possess prominent auditory apparatus, though His Grace is no expert in cranial proportions.

But Pete omitted to tell us that there are also sincere, devoted and committed Christians in the Royal Family who take their wedding vows before God very seriously; they understand fully the meaning of fidelity and faithfulness, duty and honour, loyalty and service.

And Pete also forgot to tell us that, while they do indeed ‘cost an arm and a leg’, they supply the Treasury with an entire torso of revenue and provide the nation with a head.

And Pete should also know that it is wrong to judge by appearances or to mock the afflicted: judging by his beer-swilling picture, he’s no looker.

But Pete is a judgmental bishop, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those whom he hates. He describes himself as a ‘Christian Socialist’, so he is of the Gordon Brown school of economics: perhaps one ought to pity his myopia and forgive his ignorance of fiscal probity and economic morality.

Yet it is one thing spitefully to give the Royal couple just seven years, or to liken them to ‘shallow celebrities’ and talk of their wedding as ‘nauseating tosh’ or ‘national flimflam’. But it is quite another to assert that the hereditary principle – the very bedrock and foundation of the Monarchy – is ‘corrupt and sexist’.

Media reaction to this story has focused on the Bishops ‘cruel’, ‘disrespectful’, ‘absurd’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘childish’, ‘extremely rude’ and ‘un-Christian’ comments: in the words of Nicholas Soames, they are ‘not what one expects from a bishop’.

The Bishop of London could not be reached for a comment, and Clarence House said it did not wish to comment.

Bizarrely, rather than censure the Bishop, Lambeth Palace said: ‘(He) is entitled to his views.’

His Grace begs to differ.

The views he is entitled to express are the views of the Church of England. He is a leader within the Established Church of which the Queen is 'by God's Ordinance’ Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor.

And, God willing, Prince William will inherit those titles and responsibilities when he becomes King.

But Bishop Pete is a self-confessed republican. Apparently, when news of the Royal engagement was announced, he tweeted: ‘Need to work out what date in the spring or summer I should be booking my republican day trip to France.’

Being all with-it and media savvy, Pete has his Twitter feed directly linked to his Facebook, and this tweet elicited one of his friends to ask: “Isn’t the Queen your boss?”.

To which Bishop Pete replied: “I think you’ll find that God and the Bishop of London are my bosses. I am a citizen, not a subject!”

This is curious, and the Bishop is guilty of a gross hypocrisy.

All who are ordained into the Church of England swear an oath of allegiance. Bishop Pete has said:

“I, Peter Broadbent, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God.”
And so he became a curer of souls.

Has the Bishop become a hypocrite? A liar? Even a philanderer?

Do these vows have so little meaning that they are as easily disregarded as the marriage vows of Prince Charles and Diana, whom the Bishop so evidently disrespects and despises?

And what of Article XXXVII: Of the Civil Magistrates?

The Queen's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other her Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.

Where we attribute to the Queen's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify; but only that prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.
Does Bishop Pete uphold the traditional doctrine and teaching of the Church he purports to serve, or not?

When he ordains deacons and priests, does he cross his fingers behind his back as he asks ordinands to swear allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors?

Why would he demand an allegiance of them that he repudiates for himself?

Is his ministry just an act, a pretence, a façade of Christian ministry and ecclesial leadership?

When approached at his home by The Mail on Sunday yesterday, Bishop Pete is reported to have said: “I’m not speaking to you. I really am not speaking to you. If you want to run a gutter story, run a gutter story. Bye.”

His Grace has asked Bishop Pete to become a Facebook friend.

He patiently awaits the decision.

But if His Grace has in any way misrepresented or misquoted Bishop Pete in this article, the errors will be corrected, false attributions retracted and an apology will be forthcoming.

For such is the probity and integrity of His Grace’s ministry, his love for the Church and the authenticity of his faith.

Ann Widdecombe dances the samba - "It's like haemorrhoids, keep coming back more painful than ever"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope follows the Anglican lead on condoms

A few bishops and vicars might be jumping ship, but this ‘development’ in Roman Catholic teaching suggests that Rome is not as semper eadem as she likes to believe.

Pope Benedict XVI has ‘clarified’ the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which unequivocally prohibits of all forms of artificial contraception: abstinence and the rhythm method were the only means available to Roman Catholics of avoiding conception.

But Pope Benedict has decided that condoms may now be used ‘in certain cases’.

Cherie Blair will be delighted.

Whilst the Pope appears to have in mind the reduction of HIV infection, it is not clear why HIV should be preferred over any other sexually transmitted infection.

If one may wear a condom to reduce HIV, why may one not wear one to avoid catching chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, viral hepatitis, herpes… ?

The Pope reiterates that the Roman Catholic Church does not see condoms ‘as a real and moral solution’, but ‘in certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality’.

Humane sexuality?

That is a most interesting phrase, denoting benevolence, understanding and compassion.

Pope Benedict is essentially saying that condoms are the lesser evil.

This has been the Anglican position since the Lambeth Conference of 1930.

According to a book due out this week, the Pope offers the example of a male prostitute using a condom. He says: "There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be ... a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes."


A male prostitute using a condom?

What happened to ‘go and sin no more’?

If a male prostitute (of either sexuality?) may use a condom to earn a living while he is ‘redeveloping’ his understanding of responsibility, why may not any man who is developing his understanding of what it mean to be a sinner?

By curious coincidence, this story is breaking on the very day when His Grace was wondering (on Twitter) when an infallible teaching on faith and morals is, in fact, infallible.

Humanae Vitae is evidently conditional, provisional and partial.

While the immutable principle remains, namely that contraception nullifies the creation of life through the sexual act, Pope Benedict is arguing (boldly, in His Grace’s view) that condom use which preserves life and avoids death is a responsible act.

This is really is quite a revolution in the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

For if the death which would ensue is an aborted baby – from within or without of wedlock – why may one not use a condom to avoid the manifestly greater evil of abortion?

Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae is evidently not an infallible pronouncement on faith and morals because we now learn that condoms are permitted ‘in certain cases’. So unless a papal teaching on faith on morals is explicitly infallibly promulgated ‘ex cathedra’, it is evidently provisional.

John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which decreed that women cannot be ordained, is similarly not of an ‘infallible’ status.

So might female priests be acceptable ‘in certain cases’?

Leo XIII's Apostolicae Curae, which decreed that Anglican orders are 'absolutely null and utterly void', was also not infallibly pronounced.

So might Anglican orders be valid and sufficient ‘in certain cases’?

Just wondering.
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