Saturday 13 December 2008

Should Blair have come out as a Catholic when he was PM?

Kind of following on from the last two posts...

The BBC's Robert Pigott has done an interview with Tony Blair, in which the latter explains his decision to delay becoming a Catholic until after he had left office. The former PM argues that there would have been a 'palaver' if he had converted while he was still in Downing Street, and feared that talking too much about his religious beliefs at the time would have led to people dismissing him as a 'nutter'.

Despite my own agnostic secular humanism (coupled with the odd flash of ex-Christian nostalgia), I think it's a shame that Blair didn't feel able to be open about his proto-Catholicism while he was still prime minister. For one thing, it would have blown a hole in the historical anomaly by which high office in Britain is assumed to be restricted to card-carrying Protestant Christians. For another, despite all the mutterings about Blair's piety, in practice I think he had a firmer grasp of the separation of church and state than his Presbyterian successor. This was evident from the cries of 'hypocrisy!' after he 'came out' as a Catholic, not only from the usual far-left anti-Blair suspects, but from conservative Catholics who despised his position on abortion and his refusal to exempt the church from equality legislation.

If Tony Blair had felt able to be more honest about his beliefs while he was PM, he would have joined the ranks of honourable, liberal Catholic politicians - less numerous here than in the US, where Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry are notable examples - who regularly arouse the wrath of bishops and cardinals and in doing so act as a reminder that the faith is not owned by the hierarchy, that not all Catholics are political reactionaries, and that not all progressive Christians have sold their souls to the anti-American pseudo-left.

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