Via Bel is thinking, the news from the Daily Mail that Tony Blair is, apparently, hoping to convert to Roman Catholicism after he leaves office next month. This, in itself, is hardly news; the Telegraph had much the same story last month; what is news is that Blair apparently has apparently discussed with Fr Timothy Russ, priest at the Immaculate Heart of Mary near the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers, the possibility of his being fast-tracked into the role of deacon, if and when he’s received into the Church. Says the Mail, quoting
a new book soon to be serialised by The Mail on Sunday – The Darlings Of Downing Street by Garry O’Connor,
so it’s almost certainly untrue,
Mr Blair is reported as asking his confidant Father Timothy: “Would this be possible?” He was told: “It usually takes two or three years”, to which he replied: “The fact that I’m PM, could this make a difference?”
Bel’s looked up the qualifications for becoming a deacon and, probably by some oversight, being a former Prime Minister doesn’t appear to be among them, Anyway, you can read more of this in Bel’s excellent blog.
For my part, I was struck by the way Fr Russ seems to have mellowed; it was only in 2004 that he was being spectacularly indiscreet and not at all complimentary about Mr Blair. Then the Telegraph was reporting that
Fr Russ, the parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in nearby Missenden, Berks, told a newspaper that Mr Blair had raised the issue of conversion over lunch.”When he asked me, it was in the abstract,” the priest said. “It wasn’t, ‘Can I become a Catholic?’ but, ‘Can the Prime Minister of Britain be a Catholic?’ He said Mr Blair would be “freer to consider the matter” after he had left office. “But even if he resigns or whatever, I doubt he has the ‘necessary’ to join the Catholic Church.
“It is always a work of grace,” said Fr Russ.
“He would probably have a lot going for him, but he also has to change a lot.”
Mind you, Fr Russ’s judgement seems slightly questionable; at the same time, he was telling The Guardian, of Mr Blair,
“He’s a good person and he’s very concerned about humanity. And whether he becomes a Catholic or not, I think he’ll use his position to do something constructive, perhaps in Palestine. He’s got integrity and I can’t see him doing what other former prime ministers doing and going on lecture tours of America.
“It’s not a question of whether he becomes a Catholic but a question of where his conscience leads him.”