The Prime Minister and Roman Catholicism
BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair’s relationship to the Roman Catholic Church has again attracted the attention of the media. It was reported, and Downing Street sources have admitted, that he attended a Roman Catholic mass on his own in Westminster Cathedral. He already attends mass regularly with his wife, who is a Roman Catholic, and his children, who are being brought up as Roman Catholics.
The question has now been aired anew: Will Mr Blair himself become a Roman Catholic? The Times has commented, “Mr Blair is clearly at home at Catholic Mass”, and has reported that in church circles it is considered more likely that he “would convert after his term as prime minister ends”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman has denied emphatically that he is “converting to Catholicism”. Yet there was an evident sensitivity about newsmen asking questions on the subject. There was an outburst from his chief spokesman after facing a barrage of questions: “There should be certain parts of any public figure’s life that should be allowed to remain private. Where the Prime Minister goes to church is a matter for him and for his family. Nobody else. End of story.”
We disagree emphatically. The Prime Minister’s religion or lack of it is important, and it is important that the public should know about the matter. For too long it has been made an axiom of public life that religion should have nothing to do with politics. We cannot accept that religion should be tucked away under wraps in some small corner of a politician’s life and the covers pulled back to reveal his religion only at a church service or in his private devotions. People’s religious outlook doe affect their decision making.
But Britain has a precious Protestant heritage, and however little it may be honoured today it is vitally important that it remain in place. Can we rely on a Roman Catholic prime minister to refrain from interfering with that heritage? Can we rely on a prime minister with Roman Catholic sympathies to act properly on issues in which the Roman Catholic Church has a political interest?
Former leader of the Roman Church in Austria under investigation
ALLEGATIONS of child abuse made against the former head of the Roman Church in Austria, Cardinal Hans Groer, have caused thousands of Austrians to renounce Roman Catholicism. The first allegations were made three years ago. Six months later Groer resigned. His successor in office said that he and four bishops thought that the allegations were “in essence” true. The allegations are now being investigated, not by the police authorities but by the Chief Abbot of the World Benedictine Confederation, and even then only because a Roman Catholic protest group was formed when the Church refused to look into the matter. A spokesperson for the group said that the refusal “was the spark that ignited the fire. We called for a referendum, and even though the Church called on the people to boycott our movement, more than half a million Austrians voted with their feet.”
We are reminded of the unrest among the people in pre-Reformation times principally on account, says historian Roland Bainton in The Penguin History of Christianity, “of immorality among the clergy. . . The enforcement of clerical celibacy led in many instances to clerical concubinage. . . Complaints about clerical incontinence were heard in every country of Europe. . .” It remains to be seen if the present, widespread immorality among Roman priests is the prelude to the downfall of the Papacy and the establishing of a new Reformation, which, according to Scripture, will surely come. In any case it is our duty to pray for the fulfilment of God’s promise, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. . .” (2 Thes. 2:8).