Mr. Blair’s Cafeteria

This past Lent, in the course of an interview with Attitude, a gay magazine, Tony Blair said that Pope Benedict XVI’s “entrenched attitude” toward homosexual behavior was less tolerant than that of many ordinary Catholics. “There are many good and great things the Catholic Church does,” the former British prime minister and recent Catholic convert opined, “and there are many fantastic things this pope stands for, but I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic church, particularly a well-attended one, on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you’d be surprised at how liberal-minded people were.”

Well, that’s certainly a relief. I was beginning to worry that Blair’s conversion would set in motion a chain of events that would result in gays being burned at the stake throughout Her Britannic Majesty’s lands.

In December 2007, Tony Blair said the following, as he was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church:

“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

Among the things the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God is the truth about the human person, which includes the truth about the sexual nature of the human person, which includes the truth that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. So what is going on here? There would seem to be only two possibilities.

The first is that Mr. Blair understood what he said during the ceremony of his reception into full communion, but did not believe the words he spoke. In other words, he made a false oath. This seems unlikely, given Mr. Blair’s public record as a man of honor who stands by his convictions, right or wrong, popular or unpopular.

The second is that Mr. Blair was woefully ill-catechized prior to his reception into the full communion of the Church. That seems more likely, and fits neatly with a related fact, namely, that Mr. Blair’s wife, Cherie, has been known to harbor dubious views about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Thus the new archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, might wish to have a look into the state of catechesis in England’s premier Catholic see—not so much as a punitive matter (although someone was clearly derelict in their duty here), but as a means of seizing an opportunity to remind English Catholics that the Church’s defense of the dignity of the human person (which Mr. Blair applauds) is very much involved in the Church’s teaching on sex (which Mr. Blair deplores, or at least dislikes).

In his interview, Blair compared the situation of religious communities holding classic moral beliefs to that of a political party on the ropes: “You can either…hold onto your core vote…[saying] ‘Let’s not break out because if we break out we might lose what we’ve got, and at least we’ve got what we’ve got so let’s keep it,’ or…you say, ‘Let’s accept that the world is changing, and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out.’”

Plan B, we may be sure, did not occur to Edmund Campion as he was tied to the rack during the English Reformation.

There is something terribly sad about all this. By all accounts, Tony Blair is a man with longstanding, serious religious and spiritual interests; he is also a man of obvious intelligence. Yet, judging by his Attitude interview, he is ill-informed about the nature of the Church and ignorant of the “yes” behind the Church’s “no” to the morality of homosexual acts—which is a “yes” to the good of sexual love within marriage. And judging by a lecture Blair gave at Westminster Cathedral shortly after his conversion, he knows little of the Church’s social doctrine, preferring instead a mishmash of leftist pieties.

Tony Blair is being cheated by the Church he embraced. And the whole Church is being cheated as well, for a well-catechized Blair could be a powerful witness to Catholic truth in a moment when that truth, a deeply humanistic truth, is under fierce assault.

Archbishop Nichols?

George Weigel

By

George Weigel is an American author and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

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  • Cooky642

    It’s undeniably true that Mr. and Mrs. Blair could be an earth-shaking witness for Truth, if only they knew what it was. It’s not just too bad that they don’t know–I think it’s downright criminal!

    And yet, look at our most famous examples in this country. Do the Kennedys espouse the Truth? How about Ms. Pelosi? What of those famous ‘Catholic’ entertainers in New York or California? No? Why not?

    There are too many places in this country where you could throw a rock into a congregation at Mass and be hard-pressed to hit an orthodox Catholic. Most simply are ignorant of the Truth. Ignorance is curable. Then there are those who know the Truth, and prefer the fame and fortune of this world. It’s past time for all of us who do know the Truth to stand up and call out those who refuse to acknowledge it. Perhaps, some may be moved to right this wrong. I pray that Archbishop Nichols will be one of them.

  • SeanReynoldsNZ

    I remember reading that Archbishop Fulton Sheen once stated that “There would not even be 100 people who hate what the Catholic Church is, but there are millions of people who hate what they think that the Catholic Church is.”

    It’s important to teach the real Truth on the matter of what it is to be human, and the truth is that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is the place where the rubber hits the road. (Thanks Christopher West). When I went to World Youth Day in Sydney last year (incidentally it was my honeymoon with my lovely bride: We married May 24 2008, the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians – Patroness of Australia), there were thousands of people wanting to hear about the vision for life and love that the Catholic Church teaches and many of them could not get seats at the talks on the matter.

    I am going to suggest something here: We only have ourselves to blame for the pickle we are in over the marriage debate. Are we all truly committed to living out the vision for life and love that the Church teaches? Or are we trying to take whatever shortcuts we can find?

    If you use contraception you have no good reason to oppose same sex marriage: The only arguments that work against same-sex marriage work if you accept that the transmission of life is integral to human sexuality. Likewise, to sight the reasons of multiple partners against same-sex marriage does not work in an age where marriage vows are merely words that people say rather than live out.

    Pre-nuptial agreements are essentially a statement that one is entering into a relationship with reservations.

    Prostitution is a contract: Marriage is a covenant.

    Anyway, I’ve had enough of a rant. Please pray for Jolene and I to live out the committment we made in Auckland, New Zealand on May 24 last year every day for the rest of our lives. Our Lady Help of Christians, Pray for us.

  • Warren Jewell

    Well said, Mr. Weigel, Cooky and SeanNZ.

    “Back in the day” – to show my age – - -

    We sort of gathered sexual activity into a wondrous bundle of the mystery it should remain outside of marriage as ‘the marriage act’ – no other appellation was given.

    “. . . the truth that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” is simply part of the God-given truth that ALL sexual activity outside of marriage is disordered – perversion of the truth behind human sexual activity. And, this does not preclude that some things that happen between wed couples can qualify as perverted, too, such as self-seeking actions and contraception.

    Somehow, as the marriage act, to my youthful imagination, sexual activity was to be some glory between – yea! – even Mom and Dad! So – what is it that we have set aside the glory for?

  • goral

    “The first is that Mr. Blair understood what he said during the ceremony of his reception into full communion, but did not believe the words he spoke. In other words, he made a false oath.”

    I know Mr. Weigel that you want to give Tony the benefit of the doubt so I’ll take your words and state that that is the reason T.B. does what he does.
    He stated the words, he knows the pope’s position which is the same as the words.
    He knows who and what the pope represents because he was a man of authority.
    All of this is part of his life, he understands it perfectly.
    The problem is that’s it’s not in his heart.

    If he is a victim of anything it’s the tradition of Henry VIII and Q.E. and so many others of his stature who arrogantly proclaimed their sovereignty uber alles .
    No catechesis will change that. It’s the football fans who would most benefit from archbishops Nichol’s instruction.

  • elkabrikir

    Well said, goral. My exact thoughts as I read the article.

    Mr Blair “poorly catechized”: phooey!

    I wouldn’t even stand-in as a sponsor for somebody because I knew she, “the Elect,” was on the pill. She had been completely educated on the subject and knew full well that use of the pill, or any other form of contraception, by a Catholic, is the matter of mortal sin. She didn’t care and made no effort to conform her will to that of God’s as taught by the Church.

    How one can make a good confession before baptism and confirmation, and still be on the pill, is beyond me and rests in God’s justice. I couldn’t, in good conscience participate in what I considered a fraudulent oath.

    Sean, may the grace of your sacramental marriage sustain you with the continual building up of the Theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. Through them you will have the fortitude, prudence, temperence, and justice to live in peace, joy, and love for many decades (God willing), until death do you part. I pray he blesses you with many children for they are the fruit of your Trinitarian union, the glue which binds you together—they represent the third person of the Trinity: the Paraclete, and they’re the joy of your marriage. Thanks for asking for prayers. We are one body.

    Our bishops and priests regularly wink and nod at all sorts of sinful behavior when administering the sacraments. It’s actually a sin against justice, because one can’t even receive the sanctifying grace of the sacriment if one is not in a state of grace.

    You may be able to fool Mother Nature, but you can’t fool her creator: God.

  • steve p

    George,

    Your column today is an occassion of sin. It brings out the cynicism in me. Mr. Blair is a politician. His lips were moving when he took the oath. We know what that means.

    steve p

  • Cooky642

    Steve P., I’m truly sorry this column was an occasion of sin for you. I don’t believe there’s any sin in speaking the truth with charity, and I think Mr. Weigel did that. What is, is. Why it ‘is’, is a matter of conjecture, but one hopes that the least damning possibilities are the correct ones (because then, there is a higher possibility of repentance). As with Elkabriker’s newcomer, the most dangerous possibility is that one knows and just doesn’t care. That ought to be enough to bring us to tears for the suffering they are inflicting on our Lord. That ought to be enough to drive us to intercessory prayer.

  • plisto

    I think we all should love the sinner while hating the sin. Who are we to condemn? We can condemn wrong actions but the position of the performer’s soul is not our business. We must pray and make sacrifices, be willing to suffer for others, like Christ -suffering is no fun and often we receive no certainty, that our prayers are helpful. But we must persevere in the “night” while trusting in God’s mercy -and hope that mercy for ALL.

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