Friday, April 10, 2009

Nothing will change?

Tony Blair converted to Catholicism two years ago and is now offering advice to the Pope on doctrinal matters.

Asked if he agreed with the Pope's attitude to homosexuality, he told Attitude:

'There is a huge generational difference here.

'There's probably that same fear amongst religious leaders that if you concede ground on [homosexuality], because attitudes and thinking evolve over time, where does that end?

'You'd start having to rethink many, many things. If you went and asked the congregation, I think you'd find that their faith is not to be found in those types of entrenched attitudes.'

He added: 'Organised religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changed circumstances.

'You can either A: Hold on to your core vote, basically, you know, say "look, 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 B: 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".'

Blair seems to think that the Church should follow along with changing and evolving attitudes. People decide to think one way, so the Church should follow. I wouldn't want to belong to a church which operated this way. I would want a church to hold me to a standard of right, even if it went against the temper of the times.

In other words, if Blair wants to argue for an acceptance of homosexuality he should really be claiming that the Church was wrong in the past and should now admit its mistake - rather than blather on about evolving attitudes.

However, even if we accept Blair's approach to the issue, his claim that accepting homosexuality would extend the reach of the church is doubtful.

Blair is taking a very common position here - one that is worth criticising. There are many people, most of them non-radical and well-intentioned, who want to apply the non-discrimination principle and who genuinely believe that by doing so nothing significant will change.

In other words, they sincerely believe that in not discriminating they will keep all the traditional goods that they and society enjoy and will simply extend these goods to other groups who were previously excluded.

It seems a no-brainer to them: if we are inclusive we will allow others to share in goods which were previously irrationally denied to them.

Blair is not a radical who wants to smash the Catholic Church. He wants the Catholic Church to continue and to grow in influence. His approach, though, is much more dangerous to the Church than he realises.

We already have an example of a major, formerly mainstream Christian church which has taken the Blair road. The Episcopal Church in America is dedicated to non-discrimination and is accepting of homosexuality. Has this church stayed the same but with a more inclusive outlook and a wider audience?

In fact, it has changed radically and suffered upheaval and schism. I described some of these radical changes in my last post. The Episcopal Church has appointed as the new dean of one of its seminaries Dr Katherine Ragsdale. Her main activity has been to lead a political think tank called Political Research Associates (PRA). The papers published by this think tank, and endorsed by Dr Katherine Ragsdale, are aimed at attacking the heterosexual nuclear family, fathers and marriage.

Dr Ragsdale is a lesbian minister in the Episcopal Church. It makes sense for her as a lesbian to attack the traditional family and to press instead for alternative family types. If homosexuality is the equal of heterosexuality in the Episcopal Church, then why should she accept that fathers are a natural part of the family? Logically she can't accept such an idea - otherwise her lesbianism would be taking second place. Similarly, how can she accept that the heterosexual nuclear family is the natural form of the family - if she accepted this, she would be denying that homosexuality was equal to heterosexuality.

So in accepting homosexuality the Episcopal Church must, as a matter of logic, deny that fathers are a natural part of the family. The Episcopal Church must also deny that the heterosexual nuclear family is the natural form of the family. And if it isn't the natural form of the family, why has it been held to be so in the past? The answer given by many will be that it performed some sort of exploitative, oppressive role from which we are now being liberated by the modern, politically correct church.

If homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality then which culture should predominate? Should homosexuals aim to become more like heterosexuals? Or heterosexuals more like homosexuals? The Rev. Dr. Marvin Ellison, an ordained Presbyterian minister, was invited to give a keynote address to the Episcopal Divinity School last year. He argued that heterosexuals should assimilate to homosexual sexual norms:

Considerable evidence suggests that the majority heterosexual culture is coming to resemble gay culture with its gender flexibility, experimentation with family forms, and celebration of the pleasures of non-procreative sex ... This process may be thought of as reverse assimilation. The lesson, Bronski suggests, may be that "Only when those in the dominant culture realize that they are better off acting like gay people will the world change and be a better, safer, and more pleasurable place for everyone."

But, complains The Rev. Dr. Ellison, there is a stumbling block to this better future:

"The Religious Right with its notorious "straight agenda" is hardly enthusiastic about queering the church or world."

The Rev. Ellison wants to inspire us with these words:

Celebrating our common humanity requires making an odd, decisively queer turn toward radical equality and plunging in together to rebuild a vibrant, just and wildly inclusive social order.

The "inclusive social order" requires a "decisively queer turn" in which fathers are no longer considered a natural part of the family; the heterosexual nuclear family is no longer the social norm; gender identity is no longer fixed into the categories of male and female; and sexual morality changes to embrace a more promiscuous, homosexual style sexuality.

Can we really be surprised that the Episcopal Church is beginning to break up? The church lost 115,000 members in the years 2003-5; 800 out of 7000 parishes in North America are exploring future options; and four bishops have taken their diocese out of the church in recent years:

Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker argued for the split from the national church. He's repeatedly argued that the Episcopal Church has abandoned orthodox Christianity for a liberal social agenda.

"The Episcopal Church we once knew no longer exists. It's been hijacked," Iker told the Dallas Morning News.

The Episcopal Church we once knew no longer exists. Following a principle of non-discrimination did not mean keeping the church and extending its reach. It meant losing the church.

Tony Blair's advice to the Pope is not sound. Blair is not deliberately intending to harm the institution he supports. He is not motivated by radical malice. His fault is that he assumes too casually that non-discrimination cannot do harm, that it merely extends a good more widely, rather than undermining that good.

And Blair has this fault because it is so common, so assumed, within political debate and discussion at the moment. It is part of the reigning political mindset.


  1. I absolutely detest Tony Blair for ‘converting’ to my Church.

    All these people that define themselves as ‘Catholics-but’ should be rightfully excised from the Catholic community.

    I have no interest in whether they are motivated by malice or are just plain stupid. Their presence is the presence of a nest of white-ants in the foundations of one’s house.

    I would rather have a small Church that is successful for being true to its core principles, than some ‘open’ society drenched in the tepid syrup of liberal sentiments.

  2. It is unfortunate that Tony Blair is such a prominent figure, as the conversion process is a long one that doesn't stop when you are received into the Church. Few people have the opportunity to be converted by well-formed Catholics - I, for one, came via the liberal route - and hopefully Blair will eventually see the inconsistency, impracticality, and error of his current stance. It would be very difficult, I imagine, as such a famous person, and I think he deserves our prayers more than our abhorrence. Whatever his faults, Blair has taken a very brave step to convert to Catholicism. Kilroy, I don't think anyone should be detested for that!

  3. I concur with Mr. Richardson case and point. But while we are on the subject of homosexuality, I thought I would add my 2 cents, seeing that you do not have those in Australia. I’m an American, residing in California and not too long ago we voted on Position 8. There was much confusion and tension on what Prop 8 was really about. I personally believe the confusion was rooted in our own language. For example, we only have one word for “LOVE” and that is LOVE. But in the Greek there are four or three different words for love. So we (English speaking) have to use love very carefully. And it is the same with the word “Marriage”, there is only one word for marriage and that is marriage. Now homosexuals in California want to call their civil union’s marriage, thus placing them equal or the same as heterosexual marriages.

    So here is my point, I believe when a male and female are married in a Christian Church it is a Christian marriage, but when a male and female are married civilly through proper local Government and State channels it is not a Christian Marriage. Yes, I know the obvious! But somehow we still recognize the two marriages as the same or at least we take this idea for granted. A Christian marriage is between man, woman and God. A civil one is not. But yet we call them both marriages? I personally believe that the word marriage should only be used to mean a religious, sacred, or holy union between God and man. And anyone that try’s to highjack this word is only kidding themselves. If it’s not a union between man, women and God it’s not a marriage. But somehow homosexuals are determined to call their union marriage? If they finally get there way, well then fine I’ll just start calling my marriage a religious, sacred, or holy marriage to make sure we are clear on the difference so my children will not be confused.

  4. Old Hat, I abhor the infiltration and watering down on my Church by anyone, whether they are famous, infamous or otherwise… whatever… there is nothing positive about people joining the Church and then literally playing a part, no matter how small, in destroying it, its teachings and wisdom. Accordingly, I see no ‘brave step’ in Blair’s ‘conversion’. As a consequence, I see nothing to celebrate in his touting of the Catholic label. To me it’s just a curious example of the progressive liberal running out of things to be transgressive about that he has to transgress against what’s left in his environment: the dominant liberal paradigm. Years spent pushing the most outrageous leftist anti-Catholic legislative agenda… and after he leaves office he then decides to joint the party?! Perhaps you are fooled or easily impressed, but not me Sir, no way. These people are still the enemy. In fact, they are even more dangerous now then they were before, due to the damage they can do within the City. Blair can go to buggery.

  5. Kilroy, I do agree that the Church needs to crack down publicly and vocally on those within the Church who do not espouse Church teaching, and that includes prominent figures like Tony Blair. However, I am not willing to play God and suggest that Blair's conversion was insincere or that he should be denied the opportunity to repent. We are all sinners, after all.

    I suspect the preparation he was given prior to conversion was about as good as most Catholics' formation, in other words misleading at best and probably heretical. This is a Church-wide problem, and I think if someone manages to convert despite all this then it is a glorious testimony to God's mysterious ways. If that makes me gullible or foolish, so be it.

    I too would like to see the Church pruned down, but I don't think it's right to try to exclude people who know no better. The fact is, whether we like it or not, most Catholics - and where I live most priests - would concur with Blair, and until the Church toughens its stance and educates Catholics properly, these people will remain ignorant.

    I suspect you will say that ignorance is no excuse, and there is an important point to be made there, but our Church clearly teaches that to be fully culpable one must know that one is sinning.

    So, I suppose what I am saying is that I'm not willing to judge anyone's soul, including Blair's, and while I denounce many of his views and hope he will be corrected, I think it is wrong to "detest" him or to wish that he or anyone else had not come to the Church.

  6. ahhhh...A true Christian speaking, thanks old hat for your comment, there must be wisdom in age.

  7. Blair would be well served if he were to read and learn from that great convert and fellow national G. K. Chesterton.

    His short essay Why I Am A Catholic contains quite a few nuggets.

    It is almost as if Chesterton were in fact answering Blair's call to accede to modern whim: "the Catholic Church is in fact the enemy of many influential fashions; most of which still claim to be new, though many of them are beginning to be a little stale. In other words, in so far as he meant that the Church often attacks what the world at any given moment supports, he was perfectly right . The Church does often set herself against the fashion of this world that passes away; and she has experience enough to know how very rapidly it does pass away."

    In short, the Catholic Church " the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age."

    One does wonder why Blair has converted if this is his position. Unlike Chesterton who embraced his new church by embracing its Faith, Blair seems to want his new church to embrace his faith. What a shame that this is the publicity that Blair brings, not to endorse his new Faith but to undermine it.

  8. Blair's psychopathic egotism would be hilarious if it hadn't already proved to be so tragically destructive in the real world.

  9. I think Rohan Swee has captured the essential truth of Blair, narcisism. It's very much a feature of the leaders of the new left. Egotism is one of the uniting factors behind Blair, Rudd, Carr, Keating (assuming he counts), Clinton and Obama. Nothing pleases them more than to be the "agents of change". That's why he saught to change things for the sake of change when he was PM, like attempting to abolish the ancient office of Lord Chancellor. I don't see that there is any increase in liberty or happiness, or even a cost saving to the taxpayer. Now he is tampering with the most ancient institution in the West and sacred morality. Changing the understanding of God, and changing Godgiven morality (as seen by people who call themselves as Catholics which should include Blair) is the next best thing to being a leader made into a god.

    I also think that Blair's "Catholicism" is largely down to his wife's influence. She, herself, strikes me as a "club Catholic", defines herself as a Catholic as part of a politeco-ethnic identity, Irish as opposed to English. I don't think she is a paragon of Catholic virtue either, with her taking 98.5% of the proceeds of her lecture tour in 2005 when it was touted as "raising money for a children's cancer charity". Liberal Reformers always need to have a solid conservative wall to push against, otherwise they'll end up flat on their faces. The fate of the Epsicopal Church in the US where they largely destroyed the conservative side is proof of that.

  10. Liberal Reformers always need to have a solid conservative wall to push against.An interesting idea. I do remember reading an article by an English liberal who confessed to something like this. He didn't like what England had become and blamed the fact that the conservatism he had worked against was weaker than it should have been.