Not Saussure

June 11, 2007

Blair to become a Catholic?

Filed under: Blair, Catholicism, Politics — notsaussure @ 7:26 pm

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.”


March 4, 2007

BNP seeks alliance with radical anti-abortion campaigners

Filed under: Abortion, Catholicism, Politics, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 2:05 pm

Politics certainly makes strange bedfellows; I see from The Observer that

The British National Party is building an alliance with radical anti-abortion activists in an attempt to reach out to Catholics and secure their votes in future elections.Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, and one of his close deputies confirmed yesterday that they held private talks last week with the UK co-ordinator of Life League, an anti-abortion lobby group. Griffin and Mark Collet spent two days with James Dowson, an Ulster-based businessman and the main force behind Life League. […]

Griffin claimed that amplifying the party’s ‘pro-life’ policies would win it new votes among Catholics. ‘There used to be a perception in Northern Ireland and Scotland that we were an Orange party. This is not so,’ he said. The BNP, like Dowson, wanted to reach across the sectarian divide.

Don’t know how well this is going to go down with all the Poles, on whom I understand the BNP is none too keen (at least not if they come here to work), who’ve so greatly increased attendance at Catholic churches, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, over the last couple of years.


February 9, 2007

Adoption question

Filed under: Catholicism, Law — notsaussure @ 9:20 pm

From The Times (via Tim Worstall)

Being white and already having a mixed-race child (from Mrs Duncan’s previous relationship) meant that they failed the criteria for a normal adoption.

I take the rationale for such a criterion to be to do with the well-being of the adoptive child — it being thought, perhaps, that it’s in the child’s best interests to grow up in an environment where his ethnic background is similar to that of his parents and siblings (Mrs Duncan’s previous partner was an Arab, apparently, and there maybe aren’t that many half-Arab children up for adoption).

But whatever the reason, can anyone explain to me how this criterion is any less discriminatory than the Catholic adoption agencies’ refusal to consider placing children with gay couples, on the grounds that it’s in the child’s best interests to grow up in a family with a male and a female parent (or, in some circumstances, with only one parent) rather than two parents of the same gender? Why hasn’t there been a fuss about this discrimination against couples who’ve already got a child who’s apparently the wrong colour?

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January 24, 2007

Catholic Church and gay adoptions

Filed under: Catholicism, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 5:30 pm

Most of the contention over Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor vs the government on gay adoption seems to miss the point (text of his letter to Tony Blair here).

Whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of the Catholic Church’s position on this — that, as far as they’re concerned,

Catholic teaching about the foundations of family life, a teaching shared not only by other Christian Churches but also other faiths, means that Catholic adoption agencies would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents

and want, therefore, to continue to refer gay couples to other agencies who be able to consider their applications — the fact is that it’s the Church’s position and it won’t budge on it. I don’t think the Cardinal is able to change this even if he wants to; that’s a matter for his colleagues in Rome and, even if the Pope and the other cardinals were willing to consider the matter, it’s not going to get sorted out in the next two months, which is when the new regulations come into force. (more…)

October 26, 2006

Veils and vestments

Filed under: Catholicism, England, history, Islam — notsaussure @ 10:32 pm

A curious article on the Beeb website, purporting to draw parallels between current concern (at least in some quarters) about how Muslim women dress and religious controversy in the C17th:

These may seem like unfamiliar and uncharted waters that British society is moving into – controversy over religious clothing, and fearful tensions between a religious minority and the mainstream. In fact, we’ve been here before, 400 years ago – or somewhere uncannily like it.
In the days of Elizabeth I and James I/VI, the English church was riven by the Puritan controversy. The main issue – at least on the surface – was what ministers should wear: traditional robes or ordinary clothes. The difference is that then it was the establishment that demanded distinctive clothing and the radicals – the Puritans – who insisted on everyday wear.

and it goes on at some length to try to establish this.

I’d have thought there was an historically much more recent and far closer parallel, though; that between Catholics in Victorian England and Muslims today — recent immigrants, practicing a faith that had long been distrusted and seen as the enemy of Protestant England, and one with connections, at least in the English mind, both with hostile or potentially hostile foreign powers, with foreign religious leaders issuing fatwahs (or encyclicals, as we call them) that the faithful may be tempted to follow in preference to British law and custom.   You’ve certainly got the terrorist connections, and there was even controversy about religious dress; I’m not sure when the rule was revoked but certainly the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, which is generally thought of as having removed most of the legal disabilities suffered by Catholics, provided

That if any Roman Catholic Ecclesiastic, or any member of any of the orders, communities or societies hereinafter mentioned, shall, after the commencement of this Act, exercise any of the rites or ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion, or wear the habits of his order, save within the usual places of worship of the Roman Catholic religion, or in private houses; such ecclesiastic or other person shall, being thereof convicted by due course of law, forfeit for every such offence the sum of Fifty pounds.

Curiously, though, they left religious women alone;

Provided always, and be it Enacted, That nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend in any manner to affect any religious order, community or establishment consisting of Females bound by religious or monastic vows.

On a slight sidetrack, I’m always a bit bemused by complaints about Muslim women who wear the veil visibly rejecting British norms and mainstream society; I mean, most of us would agree, I’d have thought,  that taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and living a communal life with other, like-minded, folk was rather out of the mainstream and something of a radical rejection of many aspects of contemporary life and culture, but we don’t seem too bothered when monks and nuns do it.   I suppose one difference is  we’re used to seeing them. 

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October 5, 2006

Religion — inherited or not?

Filed under: Blogroll, Catholicism, civil liberties, Islam, Philosopy — notsaussure @ 8:58 pm

An interesting point in the comments to a piece on Those Evil Muuuuslems at A Big Stick…

Garry makes the perfectly reasonable point that

Religious belief isn’t the same as race. As I’ve said before, you can choose your religion but not the colour of your skin. But you should be free to choose your religion. Those who follow a particular religion should be able to follow that religion without being smeared, misrepresented, or persecuted for the crimes of the few.

However, in one of the replies Andrew Bartlett expresses something similar to I’ve often thought but never really seen expressed so clearly: (more…)

September 20, 2006

The Guardian sets the Pope straight

Filed under: Catholicism, press — notsaussure @ 10:30 am

Jonathan Freedland, ticking off the Pope:

The Pope seems unaware that, for hundreds of millions of people, religious affiliation is not a matter of intellectual adherence to a set of abstract principles, but a question of identity

You know, despite what Mr Freedland says, I rather think that idea may have crossed His Holiness’ mind. I could be wrong, though.

Freedland then tries his hand at Biblical translation:

“Note how his weekend apology to Muslims quoted St Paul to describe the crucifixion as a “scandal for the Jews”. There must be a hundred lines the Pope could have cited without evoking the two blood-soaked millennia during which Christians blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus.”

One poster comments:

You idiot Freedland – the Pope spoke in Italian, not English: “Ma noi predichiamo Cristo crocifisso, che per i Giudei scandalo, e per i Gentili, pazzia” (1 Cor 1:23).

The Italian ‘scandalo’, from NT Greek ‘skandalon’, means ‘obstacle’. That is why English Bible translators have translated the verse as follows: “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles” (RSV, but compare any other English version).

September 19, 2006

Reforming Islam: a disingenous request?

Filed under: Catholicism, Islam, Politics, Religion — notsaussure @ 11:02 pm

From Soumaya Ghannoushi’s article, Return to the dark ages, in today’s CiF:

Not a day goes by without calls to reform Islam being raised — a mission which Pope Benedict XVI has declared impossible.

Actually, I wasn’t aware that he had done. I did, however, read in The Times last week that (more…)

September 18, 2006

Westminster Cathedral Demo against Pope

Filed under: Catholicism, Community, Islam, UK — notsaussure @ 9:46 am

Joee Blogs, A Catholic Londoner has some photos of a pretty offensive demo, comprising about 100 people and organised by Omar Bakri Muhammad’s sidekick, Anjem Choudary, which confronted him and other worshippers on Sunday at Westminster Cathedral; he writes


September 17, 2006

Quote of the day

Filed under: Catholicism, Islam, press — notsaussure @ 12:15 am

Found in the Guardian’s CiF


September 16, 2006 10:57 PM

The Pope should apologize for implying Islam was less tolerant of Christians than Christians are of Muslims. He should make this apology in the largest church in Saudi Arabia.

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