Thursday 5 April 2007

Secularism under threat?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor's anxieties about the onward march of 'aggressive secularism' (see this post) seem to have forced a personal re-think on whether Catholic bishops should sit in the House of Lords. According to this week's Tablet (subscription required):

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has declared that Catholic archbishops should sit in the House of Lords in what appears to be a personal change of heart on the subject. The cardinal said he regretted that there is no Catholic bishop to speak for the Church in Parliament though he conceded there was no consensus on the subject among his fellow bishops and that canon law presents an obstacle to such a plan.

The Cardinal went on to assert that 'an argument could be made for the five archbishops to sit in the Lords by right'. He's already picked up support from the retired Anglican bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, himself a life peer who (according to The Tablet's report) 'said this week that he supported official Catholic representation in the Lords along with representatives from other faiths but added that space would be a problem.'

Oh well, if that's the only problem, I'm sure they could build an extension to the Palace of Westminster, then everyone could squeeze in - leading Scientologists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses. After all, they all represent sizeable constituencies and could make an equally convincing case that they should sit in the Lords 'by right'. But perhaps there are other 'problems' with the Cardinal's plan, such as the mockery it would make of democracy and the already compromised separation of church and state.

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