Friday, 28 January 2011

What has Constantinople to do with Birmingham

On 21 December 2007, Anthony Blair apparently converted to the Catholic Faith. “Apparently”, because he has publicly dissented from the Magisterium since then, for example on 8 April 2009, when he told the Pope to rethink the Church’s teaching on sodomy. On 15 September 2010 L’Osservatore Romano carried an article by Blair in which he sought to co-opt Newman’s teaching on conscience and the sensus fidelium to the cause of dissent. As John Smeaton observed at the time, (1) the publication of the article was shortly preceded by the announcement of the Birmingham Three’s exclaustration, (2) Father Dermot is “one of the world’s leading expert defenders of Newman’s legacy”, and (3) “since the removal of … the Birmingham Three the Newman Cause blog has had no substantial articles”. It has now disappeared altogether. While the Birmingham Three were at the Oratory together, several articles critical of Tony and Cherie Blair and directly related to the authentic interpretation of Newman appeared on the Newman Cause blog. For example:

“Since becoming a Catholic, Mr Blair has refused every invitation to disown and repent of [his anti-life/anti-family political record]… [S]ome commentators, including Catholics, have sought to justify it by saying that Mr Blair’s silence is because his support for abortion, embryo experimentation, civil partnerships and gay adoption has always been for him, and remains now, a matter of conscience. Now this is the danger in The Tablet’s association of Newman and conscience with the case of Tony Blair. If as a Catholic Mr Blair thinks that his conscience directs him to support such positions, to invoke Newman in defence of his stance would be a travesty. For Newman, no Catholic can be in good conscience in supporting the positions Mr Blair espoused. The impossibility of conscience, enlightened by Faith, justifying adherence to evil is one of the most important of Newman’s lessons for our times.” (October 2009: h/t John Smeaton)

Or this, published on 27 November 2009, concerning Deacon Jack Sullivan’s request that the Times remove from its website an article about a visit to Cherie Blair, which was sprung on him by some PR guy in the pay of a bishop:

“Unfortunately, Jack had not been made aware of Mrs Blair’s public opposition to the teaching of the Church. He undertook the visit in good faith, believing Mrs Blair to be simply a prominent Catholic. … The conjunction of Mrs Blair’s ‘conscientious’ dissent from the teaching of the Church with Jack Sullivan’s apparent endorsement of her could do harm to Newman’s reputation, and that is our reason for posting this clarification. Newman is indeed the great teacher of the rights and duties of conscience. It is of the greatest importance that his teaching is not used to make him the patron of Catholics, like Cherie Blair and others, who in the name of conscience practise dissent from the Church’s teaching. The decision to arrange Jack’s visit to Mrs Blair, and then to publicise it under Jack’s name, has not contributed to upholding a true interpretation either of Newman, or of Cherie Blair.”

If one was to think that the exile of the Birmingham Three, and Father Dermot in particular, was a manoeuvre in a wider campaign to appropriate the thought of Newman to the cause of liberal dissent by removing prominent critics of those who hold court at the heart of Relativism’s Dictatorship, then it is the humble opinion of this commentator that one would not be far off the mark.