Sunday, July 31, 2011

While the NHS clamps down on Christian prayer, it spends £205,000 on ‘voodoo’

Healing is a mystery; a miracle, even. The cure of souls has long been the task of theologians and ministers, while the cure of bodies has been given over to scientists. But in the healing, sustaining, guiding of disturbed persons whose troubles arise in the context of ultimate meaning and concerns, we find ourselves in need either of prayer or the psychiatrist’s couch: ‘counselling’ has become a new religion. While theologians increasingly learn less Greek and almost invariably no Hebrew, the pastoral focus is on social services and ‘therapy’: the Church has abandoned Scripture and spiritual direction for synergetic psychology and generic spirituality. We end up with a Freudian-Jungian creed: “We believe in psychotherapy, alternative medicine and pseudo-science, Maker of all things human, seen and unseen...”

His Grace does not, of course, reject the insights of psychology: he is more than content to consider and embrace them as they accord with theological principles and help to explain the frailty of human creation. But he repudiates the wholehearted acceptance of psychotherapeutic ideas which irrationally exclude that which is specifically Christian. As this blog has focused over the years on state-sector employees who have been disciplined, suspended or dismissed for offering to pray for the sick or even for merely mentioning the name of Jesus, it has become evident that our culture is returning to its pagan roots and rolling back three centuries of religious liberty. A shrine of flowers and teddies brings comfort and hope; the Bible and prayer in the name of Jesus bring hurt and despair. So the state moves to outlaw that which divides, for it is ultimately ‘hateful’ or the foundation for ‘extremism’.

His Grace writes this as he ponders a story in The Mail on Sunday, which informs us that £205,000 of public money is being spent by the NHS to examine ‘spiritual healing’ or ‘voodoo’, as Simon Singh calls it. It would be wrong to dismiss this out of hand: research is valuable, and there is no means by which the efficacy of a treatment may be verified other than by scientific trial. But this ‘healing energy’ is a rather nebulous force. And there are those who will say it is a rather bizarre waste of money at a time of government cuts and universal spending restraint. Of course, this is lottery money, so not quite extracted forcibly from the British taxpayers. But there is one sentence which irks:
“The healing appeared to be based on the Buddhist spiritual practice of Reiki, which is ironic when Christian doctors and nurses are warned about praying for their patients.”
Is it more acceptable because the research is led by turban-clad gastroenterologist Sukhdev Singh? Is it because Buddhism is unifying, inoffensive and vogue? Is it because the treatment is said to induce ‘tingling, heat (or) coolness’ and so satisfies a yearning for some kind of attention-seeking ‘God loves me’ religious experience?

Why is £205,000 able to be spent on researching ‘energy flow imbalances’ while doctors and nurses may not even offer prayer to their patients?

His Grace agrees that: ‘Healing energy is all around us. In essence it is universal – part of nature itself.’ But if there is growing evidence that ‘spiritual healing’ can be effective, why aren’t we dedicating £205,000 to a research project into the efficacy of prayer and scriptural direction? And when it is established (as it surely would be) that living a life of prayer and meditation in sacrificial obedience to the Creator brings mental and physical benefit as well as spiritual enlightenment, perhaps the state would stop persecuting those doctors and nurses who have always known so.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bilal Zaheer Ahmad – ‘the viper in our midst’

He never killed anyone; simply exhorted others to do so. He incited his fellow Muslims to attack British MPs who voted in favour of the Iraq war; people like Roshonara Choudhry faithfully obeyed.

He posted on Facebook: ‘This sister has put us men to shame. WE SHOULD BE DOING THIS.’ A few days later, he posted on a website: ‘I think Timms got let off lightly, in comparison to the countless civilians that have been killed as a direct result of the war he voted for. Roshonara Choudhry is a heroine. Free Roshonara Choudhry and give her a medal for justice.’

He listed pro-war politicians on the website and urged his co-religionists to 'raise the knife of jihad' against them. He explained how to find out constituency surgery details, and then helpfully provided a link to an online shopping site selling knives. How very thoughtful if him. He also possessed electronic copies of books called, two of which were entitles 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad and Zaad-e-Mujahid: Essential Provisions of a Mujahadid. It really needed no new legislation; no particular statutory prohibition of ‘hate crime’ to deal with this: Bilal Zaheer Ahmad was soliciting murder. He posted his poison on US-based website (since taken down in the US, but which re-directs in the UK – His Grace does not wish to link).

He not only called for a further attack upon Stephen Timms MP (in a prayer, no less), but also the judge who had sentenced Roshonara Choudhry. And so Mr Justice Royce jailed him for 12 years with an additional five years’ extended period on licence. The Judge told him: “Whatever our views on the Iraq War we are a democracy. You purport to be a British citizen but what you stand for is totally alien to what we stand for in our country. You became a viper in our midst willing to go to as far as possible to strike at the heart of our system.”

Mr Justice Royce told Ahmad his views were ‘corrosively dangerous’ and that he had attempted to strike at the heart of British democracy. “Politicians are often faced with difficult decisions. They don’t always get it right,” he said. “They have to face up to serious criticism on occasions as part of the democratic process. The same can be said for bankers, press barons and judges. It is important MPs can hold constituency surgeries without the threat of someone pulling out a knife and trying to kill them. You were intent on striking at the heart of our democracy and if our politicians are to be at risk from those like you, then the message must go out loud and clear that this country will not be tolerate such threats to its democratic processes.”

Imran Khan, defending, said Ahmad had fallen in with members of Islamist movement al-Muhajiroun when aged 16 at college because he felt ‘excluded from mainstream society’. "This is not the case of a man indoctrinating but of a man who has been indoctrinated by others," Mr Khan said.

It is no defence at all to plead ‘exclusion’: it is a little like blaming the father of Anders Behring Breivik for not being a good dad.

A few months ago, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that it was insufficient to focus on the murderers; attention must be paid to the ideology. She told us that in addition to combating violent extremism, the Government will tackle ‘extremist philosophies’ by looking closely at ‘the values’ of the organisations themselves. Mrs May said: “There’s an ideology out there that we need to challenge and when we first came in as a government one of the things we were very clear about here at the Home Office was we needed to look at extremism, not just violent extremism.” The assertion is that violent extremism is incubated within the ideology of non-violent extremism.

Indeed it is.

And so ‘the viper in our midst’ is not simply the serpent, but the serpentine religio-political philosophy which meanders through society, twisting and turning, meandering and beguiling, spinning its spell and weaving its contorted and perverted message into the foundations of our culture.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Andrew Sullivan: the Church of England is gone

There is a thought-provoking (and beautifully-written) article on The Sunday Times website by Andrew Sullivan, who has returned to the UK to find it not quite as he remembers. This quoted section is worthy of some reflection:
...

What’s gone, of course, is the C of E. Religion itself appears to have been wiped from the cultural map in Britain in ways unimaginable in faithful America. This, to my mind, is a tragedy, for a society without some relationship to the transcendent can become simply boorish and myopic. But, again, I see the merits of secularism more clearly now. It takes constant exposure to American fundamentalism to feel relieved by the prosaic dismissal of the spiritual by the English. And again, I wonder whether this has really, truly changed. Anglicanism, as it was founded by the first Queen Elizabeth, was always about the blurring of doctrinal difference, the aversion to looking into others’ souls, the modesty of a limited spiritual imagination epitomised by the Book of Common Prayer.

An old don of mine once remarked that he supported the Church of England as a bulwark against religion. He had a point. And, yes, I know evangelicalism is on the march in England. But take it from me: it has a huge, long way to go. And an occasional, real, vibrant debate about what is existentially true could add some colour to the shades of grey in England’s tepid spiritual conversation.
With these brief observations, Andrew Sullivan identifies the spiritual essence of what it is to be English, and what it used to be to live in England. But when he talks of 'religion', he must mean Christianity, for religion per se has certianly not been 'wiped off the map'. Unless His Grace is hallucinating.

Ireland and the abyss that divides bishops from their priests

Amidst the cries of indignation and media furore surrounding Enda Kenny’s decision to nail his 95 Theses to door of the Dáil and lead the Irish people to the promised Republic of Laws, it is easy to overlook a small but crucial section of his speech. Careful to separate the sheep from the goats, the Taoiseach remarked:
“This Roman clericalism must be devastating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work so hard to be the keepers of the church’s light and goodness within their parishes, communities and the human heart.”
A single sentence replete with poignant reminders of those faithful ministers of God who do indeed labour hard in their service for Him, and yet struggle to retain their humanity and sanity as they are caught in the whirlwind of fury against the paedophile priests who have tarnished the whole Catholic brand and so brought shame upon priests everywhere.

There is a powerful article in the Irish Times which tells of the sorrow, anger and paranoia of many ‘ordinary’ Roman Catholic priests who ‘feel failed and abandoned by the church hierarchy’. These ‘good priests’ are living a life in the shadows; some unable to venture out of their homes without being spat upon; others unable to minister a kind word or a gentle touch for fear of being misunderstood, falsely accused or defamed.
“Why don’t you, Mister Hoban, f**k off back to Rome with your nuncio... Piss off back to Rome, you f**ked-up celibates... Keep away from my children, you bunch of perverts.”
The article quotes such voicemails received by Fr Brendan Hoban, a 63-year-old parish priest of Ballina, Co Mayo. We read that he was reluctant to reveal their wording: ‘His hesitancy is rooted in the same terror that has sent most priests deep into their parish bunkers this week, the terror of appearing to place the anguish of their own tattered, lonely souls above the suffering of the victims of clerical abuse.’

This is the everyday reality that confronts these ‘good priests’. Yes, of course the suffering of the children must come first, but if it takes an Anglican to speak up for the suffering of the innocent priests, His Grace will do so. It is wrong, indeed, it is an irrational discrimination and an evil prejudice to tarnish an entire group of people because of the terrors, crimes and perversions of a few of their number. Only the ignorant can look at Mohamed Atta or Osama bin Laden and see all Muslims; only the foolish can listen to Peter Tatchell and hear all gays; only the undiscerning can contemplate the actions of Anders Behring Breivik and judge all Christians; and only the asinine can consider the paedophile in the confessional and condemn all priests.

Yet Fr Brendan reveals that praise for the Taoiseach is coming not only from the Protestants, secularists, atheists, humanists and agnostics; we read: ‘Enda Kenny was saying nothing that Irish priests haven’t been saying for years... he is challenging Rome as distinct from the Irish church.’ Of course, some priests don’t like it, like the absurd Fr Thomas Daly or Drogheda, Co Louth, who disseminated a tract after Mass last Sunday informing his congregation that the last European leader to issue such a blistering attack on the Pope ‘was the ruthless German dictator Adolf Hitler’. And he reminded them, parabolically, that like Hitler, the Taoiseach ‘had to face reality’, and this is ‘a cautionary tale’.

O dear.

With priests like that, no wonder there’s a little tension between them and their overseers. But while Fr Thomas speaks for no-one but himself, three angry priests appear to speak for the majority:
For them, their powerlessness has long been confirmed in the heedless appointment of bishops lacking the competence, intellect or independence of spirit to address the spiritual needs of a rapidly evolving republic; bishops such as Cloyne’s John Magee. “He never worked in a parish, so had no experience of how to run a parish, never mind a diocese. I’m not blaming him for that – it’s back to who appointed him,” says Fr Billy O’Donovan, of Conna, in the Cloyne diocese.

It was Rome that handed the power to John Magee to appoint a head of child protection. Magee chose Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, then in his late 70s. Says another priest: “Denis O’Callaghan is an absent-minded professor – and they put him in charge of child protection?”

O’Callaghan is “a man with a great heart”, says Fr Hoban, “but completely disorganised”.
One may well ask, as the Irish Times does, “But where were those angry, articulate voices when the damage was being done, when Rome was directing this republic’s affairs and their brothers in Christ were violating the young and vulnerable?”

Fr Brendan’s response?
“They were where they always were,” he says Hoban, “trying to do 1,001 things and trying to do them the best they can.”
Woefully inadequate, of course: the Lord made children his priority, to be suffered to come whenever they desired; not to become the victims of suffering. But Fr Brendan explains that dioceses are not run by bishops and priests; indeed, priests are ‘totally excluded from any say... (and are) effectively disenfranchised’. And he discloses that any who dare to ask questions, put their heads above the parapet, or challenge the status quo are ‘weeded out in the seminary’; they are all ‘at the bishop’s mercy’, and so cowed, intimidated, bullied into silence.
It demonstrates what a cold place the church can be for a dissident, says Hoban. “And we have reaped the whirlwind... If a good guy said anything , he said it to the bishop or the parish priest and felt that he’d done what was required. Guys find themselves in situations where their instinct says this doesn’t concern me. Because the message always was: go into your parish; diocesan policy is not your concern.”

In short, blinded by loyalty and conformism, priests trusted too much. Now, pole-axed by fear, they are overcompensating. Some have described their fellow clergy as “evil priests” in newspapers; one urges people to boycott the church collections.

The priests’ fear is no longer of the bishops; it’s of the head-spinning no-man’s-land where they now find themselves. Ageing and isolated, they are operating in hostile territory where their Rome-appointed shepherds are themselves in a state of confused terror – “running around like 27 headless chickens”, according to Fr Tony Flannery – and where the Irish church’s straight-talking totem, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, has effectively alienated them all. The isolation and exclusion, compounded by this alienation from their bishops, explains much of the sense of abandonment and fear felt by many priests.
And natural justice seems to fly out of the window. For any priest accused of a sexual offence, there is an automatic presumption of guilt, and it is they who have prove their innocence. They are instantly suspended (very publicly) by their bishops, and their lives and ministries ruined before any formal investigation begun or a word uttered in a court of law. In this matter, suspension cannot be a neutral act. And even those who are found to have been falsely accused have to endure such headlines as ‘Slur Fr returns to pulpit’. And so we read of ‘the abyss that now divides many bishops from their priests’, and that ‘(t)here is no trust of any kind’:
“We have the feeling that a facade is being created, such as in the Eucharistic Congress and the new texts, a pretence that all the troubles are now being dealt with and that, from here on, the church will flourish,” says Hoban. “We are not encouraging people to join us. We know it’s not going to solve any problems. In this diocese there will be eight priests left from an original 34 in 20 years’ time. There is no planning... The whole thing is imploding with no recognition of this.”
And then we get the exhortation to implement the provisions of Vatican II; the vision of ‘a church of the laity, with parish councils at the core’. Then, says Fr Brendan, allegations of abuse could have been dealt with by mothers and fathers instead of the clergy. This is interesting, because elsewhere Vatican II is often blamed for the paedophile scandal: its trendy, liberalising agenda having distorted the understanding of priesthood and corrupted the traditional order, as though paedophilia only entered the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s. The tension and division between Rome’s liberals and conservatives is palpable:
Now the last of the so-called Vatican II priests are disappearing, and the few young men who are replacing them are universally perceived as fiercely traditional and conservative. Over and over, my conversations with priests return to the calibre of church leaders. This is why O’Donovan, even during Cloyne’s traumatic week, believes that there is a “far more important week ahead”, meaning the appointment of a new bishop.

“Names being mentioned or guessed at are all right wing, conservative and with a Rome background,” he says. “We’ve been there before... My biggest fear – and it is a real fear – is that someone would be appointed that priests and people will find unacceptable, and that many, priests and people, will walk in that event. We’ve taken enough. We want someone who will talk to us and listen to us”

Would Irish priests support a breakaway from Rome? “No,” says Hoban. “What you’re talking about here is the nature of the church. We are deeply unhappy with the competency of the leadership and the drift of Rome. The consultation and transparency we talk about, well, it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. But, to live with yourself, you have to keep saying the things you’re saying.”
And he genuinely grieves over the consequences of ‘celibacy, formation and the loneliness of the ministry’. As the faithful abandon the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and it sinks into the morass, mired in systematic collusion and corruption, stained with the torture and rape of its own children, Enda Kenny has called for reformation. It remains to be seen whether or not Fr Brendan Hoban will find the courage and conviction of Martin Luther. For the truly ‘good priests’, there is no alternative. But they are there. Thank God, they are there.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John RW Stott – In Loving Memory

His Grace has lost count of the number of times he met the Rev Dr John Stott, who sadly (for us) went to be with the Lord yesterday. There were many times during the 1980s and early 90s, often at Christmas over a coffee and a mince pie, and his conversation was invariably charming and thought-provoking: he radiated something of the ineffable wonder of Christ; a serenity, gentleness, sincerity and beauty so often lacking in the Church. And yet there was also firmness and conviction: he was one of those who truly walked with the Lord, day by day.

When you see the number of tributes from all over the world which are appearing in a Remembrance Book dedicated to his memory, you begin to understand that he was more than a vicar, chaplain, rector, and rector emeritus. He was a bishop in the true sense of the word. He wasn’t concerned with status, hierarchy, the pursuit of power, or with any other misunderstood or misapplied definitions associated with that ministry: he was an overseer of the Church and a guardian of the Truth. He was never formally recommended for the office of bishop or appointed by the Queen. But he didn’t need to be. John Stott was raised up by God and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit. He helped to guide the Church of England through a period of turmoil which might well have ended in schism. But by his superintendence, inspection, diligence, visitation and investigation – all of those functions inherent in Episkope – he shepherded the flock towards peace and unity. And he taught – most excellently. And wrote – most inspirationally. He fed the Church like a true Elder, and was respected the world over for his moral character, holiness, faithfulness, and charisma.

John Stott is often categorised as an ‘Evangelical’, a badge he wore with pride, but the popular definition is too narrow for his theology. His views on hell and soul annihilation, for example, would be at variance with the tenets of traditional Evangelicalism. And he was celibate by choice, living an almost monastic life devoted solely to God. When it comes to the ‘wings’ of the Church of England – the political divisions within the Via Media, particularly between the extremities of the conservative Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic wing and the progressive liberal wing – John Stott was firmly of the former: he applied the letter of Scripture to the modern scenario, and was unafraid to call sin sin and preach the cross of suffering and the gospel of salvation. But he was ever aware of what Hauerwas celebrates as the ‘messy complexity’ of both Scripture and the Church, because ‘the diversity of the Gospels illustrates that there is a variety of ways to live faithfully’. He accepted creative tensions as a permanent feature of the Christian life, and he made that life appealing: he was an Anglican for all Wings, and the world is a little darker and the Church all the poorer for his passing.

"Come ye, blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

God bless you, John. You have run the race, and now you have your crown.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Cameron U-turn on DNA

While some governmental policy U-turns are strategically irrational, others are a reasoned and reasonable response to further reflection on the force of popular opinion. The former are often deemed to constitute a lack of political conviction; the latter a lack of political will. Both types are usually portrayed by HM Opposition as evidence of ‘chaos and confusion at the heart of Government’. After all, too many U-turns and the demos ceases to know what one believes in or stands for.

His Grace can live with the U-turns on scrapping free school milk, capping welfare handouts, privatising forests, and sentencing discounts for criminals pleading guilty. The Conservative Party is, after all, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and compromise is the order of the day, if only out of sensitivity for the Liberal Democrat polling meltdown. But when it comes to abandoning manifesto commitments which relate to our rights and civil liberties, we move into the realm of betrayal.

And betrayal is not too strong a word, for the pledge to expunge from police databases the DNA of more than a million innocent people was not only a Conservative Party Manifesto commitment; it was in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto and then reiterated in the joint Coalition Agreement, which constitutes the Coalition Manifesto.

The Conservative Manifesto pledge (pp79f):
The indefinite retention of innocent people’s DNA is unacceptable, yet DNA data provides a useful tool for solving crimes. We will legislate to make sure that our DNA database is used primarily to store information about those who are guilty of committing crimes rather than those who are innocent. We will collect the DNA of all existing prisoners, those under state supervision who have been convicted of an offence, and anyone convicted of a serious recordable offence. We pushed the Government to end the permanent retention of innocent people’s DNA , and we will change the guidance to give people on the database who have been wrongly accused of a minor crime an automatic right to have their DNA withdrawn.
The Liberal Democrat Manifesto pledge (p94):
Liberal Democrats will protect and restore your freedoms. We will... Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, too.
The Coalition Agreement (Section 10):
The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion. This will include... The Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
The pledge really couldn’t have been any clearer: it accorded with conservative, liberal and democratic values, and was issued in triplicate.

The Scottish model is a reasonable and fair balance between the manifest need to solve serious crimes and the negative impacts on people's rights and liberties if their details are stored in perpetuity on a state database. Since 2004, anyone (including children) arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can have a sample of their DNA taken, which is then retained in police records forever, regardless of whether or not a person is charged or convicted. There is an inherent presumption of likely future guilt. In Scotland, some DNA from innocent people can be retained, but only for three years and only in cases relating to violent or sexual offences. After that, the police must apply to a Sheriff, who may grant permission for the police to retain the DNA for a further two years. Scotland prohibits the permanent retention of the DNA of children: there is an inherent presumption of future innocence.

But The Daily Telegraph tells us now that the Conservative Party will not ‘end the permanent retention of innocent people’s DNA’; the Liberal Democrats will not ‘stop storing DNA from innocent people and children’; and the Coalition will not be ‘adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database’. Instead, the police will permanently retain DNA profiles ‘in anonymised form’, leaving open the possibility of connecting them up with people’s names.

This is a perversion of the definition of ‘anonymous’: if a mechanism is retained for matching a DNA profile to an individual, there is no anonymity. The Telegraph observes that this ‘appears to break a Coalition commitment to delete all innocent profiles’.

Appears to break a commitment?

No, it is a positive, absolute, undeniable and unequivocal break of the agreement: it is a breach of faith and trust; a broken promise; a betrayal.

There are presently more than five million profiles on the State Database, which includes a million completely innocent people. The State has thereby assumed the right of ownership of our DNA. If the State can harvest that, why not our kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts and eyes?

The bizarre thing is that this illiberal, undemocratic and un-conservative U-turn does not come as a result of Liberal Democrat pressure upon Conservatives. And neither is it a result of an EU directive or diktat; indeed, the ECHR ruled in 2008 that such data retention was unlawful. So to whose tune is the Coalition dancing? Surely not a police jig?

Daniel Hamilton of Big Brother Watch observes: “This is a disgraceful U-turn on the part of the government. Destroying physical DNA samples is a pointless gesture if the computer records are to be retained. Despite paying lip service to freedom and civil liberties, this government is fast proving itself to be every bit as illiberal as its predecessor.”

Quite.

Come on, Prime Minister. Could you please explain the provenance and reasoning of this U-turn? And while you're at, could you also please clarify what it is you believe and stand for? Thank you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Warsi: Time for Miliband to come clean


The Government is now being open and transparent about its meetings with media, including News International. Labour must now do the same. Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet must also be open and transparent about their meetings with media organisations.

Conservative Party co-Chairman, Sayeeda Warsi said: “This Government is delivering unprecedented transparency, from local councils to the heart of Whitehall. Ed Miliband now needs to come clean. Where is his list of Shadow Cabinet media meetings? He was late in publishing his engagements with senior media executives. Then he only published his meetings back to September. Finally, under pressure, he then gave details back to May. On top of this, the Labour leader then had to correct his list to include an extra appointment with News International, fuelling suspicion that he chose a September cut-off to keep hidden a meeting with Rebekah Brooks.

“Instead of trying to score political points, Ed Miliband should get his own house in order.”

The statistics are interesting. News International average daily circulation as at June 2011 is 33.5 per cent. News International average Sunday circulation stands at 41.1 per cent.


The proportion of meetings between DCMS and News Corp and subsidiaries is below that of other departments and less than half that of Ed Miliband:


No data currently exists for Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet colleagues.

The Fascist Guardian

His Grace had a Guardian article brought to his attention yesterday: ‘Anders Behring Breivik: Tunnel vision in an online world’ by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. It rails against the ‘darker waters’ of the ‘anti-Islamist blogosphere’, with its ‘unmitigated hatred of the new Europe, aggressive denunciations of the "corrupted, multiculturalist power elites" and pejorative generalisations about immigrants, targeting Muslims in particular’.

Eriksen is right to point out:
Contributors to these websites, blogs and chat groups cannot merely be labelled "rightwing". One member of the Norwegian "Forum Against Islamisation" was also a member of the Socialist Left party. Others see themselves as the true heirs of social democratic values, or as the last carriers of the torch of the Enlightenment.
But he reveals a poor grasp of understanding of political philosophy when he observes:
Many talk about gender equality, some about social injustices and class. Others hold more conventional rightwing views, ranging from downright racism to paranoid conspiracy theories about Muslims plotting to take political control of western Europe.
Only in a left-wing perversion of reality could conventional right-wing philosophy be summarised as a spectrum ranging from racism to conspiracy theory. And Eriksen’s final paragraph is most revealing:
Breivik must willingly have allowed himself to be brainwashed by Islamophobic and extreme rightwing websites. However, had he instead been forced to receive his information through a broadsheet newspaper, where not all the stories dealt with Europe's loss of confidence and the rise of militant Islam, it is conceivable that his world would have looked slightly different. Perhaps one lesson from this weekend of shock and disbelief may be that cultural pluralism is not necessarily a threat to national cohesion, but that the tunnel vision resulting from selective perusal of the internet is.
Read that again: ‘...had he instead been forced to receive his information through a broadsheet newspaper...’

Presumably, Erikson is not talking about The Times or The Daily Telegraph (or is he?). The answer to the ages-old problem of evil is to immerse oneself in the spiritually edifying and politically enlightening pages of The Guardian: it will lead you into all truths for it is gods-breathed. Here we see the Left’s strategy for the eradication of dissent from state orthodoxy: they brainwash you to accept the globalist, warmist, ecumenical, third-way, middle-ground, europhile, multi-faith, multiculturalist mantra. They achieve this by forcing us to read The Guardian or by imposing a compulsory taxation to finance a state broadcaster whose philosophical worldview is distinctly Guardianesque. They destroy all competition, permitting a ‘mainstream media’ to arise which will be subject to state control and regulation. The recalcitrant and recidivist simply have their takeover bids blocked and licences removed: they fail the state’s ‘fit and proper’ test for media ownership. As dissent is crushed, contrary opinion is censored, and the liberty to associate freely is eradicated. This is Orwell’s nightmare vision: it is fascism. And it is not borne of ‘right-wing extremism’, but of the pages of the left-wing Guardian.

On this theme, His Grace received an email yesterday from Mr Rodney Atkinson. It is reproduced here:
What is Fascism? - the Left's (deliberate?) confusion.

Nazism (the National Socialist German Workers Party) and Fascism are not right wing nationalist movements, although fascists and some extreme nationalists have some attitudes in common. But the right wing nationalist in France, Jean Marie Le Pen joined the resistance to French fascism and fought against the Nazis in the Second World War. The socialist Francois Mitterand on the other hand was a member of the Nazi collaborating Vichy Government – and received an award "La Francisque" for his loyalty to the cause. Jacques Delors, that other founder of the present European Union and on the left of French politics, was in the French equivalent of the Hitler Youth!

In Britain Oswald Mosley, who was at one time in the Conservative Party and became a Labour Minister, was later to become the leader of the British Union of Fascists (invited by the young embryo euro-federalist Kenneth Clarke to speak at the Cambridge University Conservative Association!). The Fascist leader of Italy from 1925 to 1945, Benito Mussolini, had previously edited the newsletter of the Italian Socialist Party: "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merging of state and corporate power," he wrote. "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." He doesn't exactly sound like Margaret Thatcher or Norman Tebbit does he? But he does rather sound like the Advocate General of the Left's favourite empire the European Union: "Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and could be restrained without affecting freedom of speech."

Fascism, whose principal enemies are communism and liberal democracy, is in fact of the left, the right and the centre, just as its opponents are also to be found on the left, right and centre. It is in this very apolitical confusion and its ruthless desire for power and action, which makes Fascism so dangerous. Indeed Fascism appeals particularly to the so called centre, the ‘third way’ politicians, those who seek a half-baked mixture of left and right, of capitalism and socialism, and who seek nothing more than to wield power through the State. No wonder that Tony Blair fits so well into the European fascist tradition – third way, supra-nationalist, euro-federalist and corporatist – sustained by the donations of big business and big unions. Having sacrificed so much British democracy on the altar of European corporatism, Blair has, on retirement, obtained lucrative jobs in large supranational corporate institutions. It was, of course, the Liberal Lloyd George who said in 1936 that ‘Hitler is the greatest living German. It is a pity there are not more like him in England’.

The main elements of Fascism are: corporatism (that is the State granting of power to corporate bodies like businesses, unions, interest groups, churches etc), collectivism, State authoritarianism, supra-nationalism, centralism, political intolerance of alternatives, anti-free-trade and, nearly always, Roman Catholicism. The social and economic theories promoted by that Church since the end of the 19th century are specifically corporatist and based on the infallibility of the leader and on the subordination of the nation state and democracy to global religious leadership.

Left-wing socialists (a minority in the Labour Party) share the liberal conservative support for popular sovereignty, the authority of Parliament, common law, democratic nationhood and, nearly always, Protestantism. Orthodox Christianity, with no Pope-like figure, is also based on pluralism and nation states – ie Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Serb Orthodox etc. Orthodox countries were particularly cruelly suppressed by European Fascism with the aid of the Vatican during the Second World War and the suffering and ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans continues this process today.

And when The Guardian joins in the attack on Serbs and the BBC allows its ‘comedians’ to attack anti-fascists like the late Norris McWhirter, we see that the dissection of Fascism into its constituent parts includes a large portion of socialism which merges almost seamlessly with that authoritarian/collectivist form of capitalism called corporatism. It is the Labour Party which is most under threat electorally from the BNP, not the Conservative Party, and it was of course the BBC who between 1937 and 1939 kept Churchill and his warnings of the Nazi menace off the air. And it is the very legal structure and State enforced financing of the BBC which is so inimitably corporatist and anti-democratic.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The demonisation of the Right

Just a day after a ‘right-wing extremist’ systematically slaughtered around 100 Norwegian teenagers, Vince Cable goes on national television and denounces the ‘right-wing nutters’ in the US who don’t want to raise the debt ceiling. The ‘Tea Party’ Republicans, he says, pose a bigger threat to the world economy than any problems in the eurozone.

Just a few months ago the right-wing Freedom Association and Norris McWhirter were caricatured by the BBC as fascists and neo-Nazis, and even Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer Charles Moore now asserts that Right is wrong. International Development Minister Alan Duncan equates socially-conservative, right-wing Tories with the Taliban; the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi has had a swipe at the Right; and David Cameron isn’t averse to talking about ‘right-wing extremists’; a ‘right-wing fascist party’; ‘far right groups’ and ‘the hard right’.

The subliminal message is inescapable: ‘Left is good; Right is bad’, because right-wing beliefs breed right-wing philosophy which spawns right-wing extremism which is malignant. Ergo, those who tend towards the political Right must be subject to state surveillance.

And so we arrive at the unquestionable BBC state orthodoxy and narrative of enlightenment. It is ‘spin’, but of such an Orwellian subliminal manipulation of the vernacular that any contrary utterance strikes a chord of jarring dissonance, and the speaker or writer is cast into political, social or spiritual oblivion. Norman Tebbit, Simon Heffer, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Daniel Hannan, Peter Hitchens, John Redwood, Melanie Phillips, The Freedom Association... These are the new ‘fascists’ of the Right; they exist at the periphery of social acceptability, while the fascistic tendencies of those left-wing groups which seek to intimidate and silence any reasoned protest against socially-liberal, ecumenical, europhiliac multiculturalism are completely ignored.

It appears now that if you believe in small state, low tax policies; are fiscally conservative; oppose on-tap abortion; support the traditional, nuclear family; seek to limit immigration; support withdrawal from the EU; advocate freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of belief, you are without doubt a racist, bigoted zealot, and almost certainly a ‘right-wing extremist’ or a ‘right-wing nutter’.

And if it is ‘fascist’ or ‘extremist’ or ‘right-wing’ to say this, then it would appear that His Grace also needs watching. But so do the vast majority of Britons who are proud to stand up for such beliefs and advocate such policies, for there beats yet the Conservative heart of the nation.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Christian fundamentalism

We are told that Anders Behring Breivik, the man who bombed Norway’s government buildings and then went on to slaughter 92 of Norway’s youth while they were on a summer camp, is a Freemason. Here he is in his regalia. His Lodge must be appalled by the association. Breivik has been variously described as a ‘Christian fundamentalist’, a ‘neo-Nazi’, and a ‘Right-wing extremist’. His Grace has written before on the disconnect between left-right political philosophy and vernacular terminology, and the pervasive demonisation of the Right: how National Socialism is an expression of the political Right is an interesting discussion, but today His Grace would like to focus on the reported ‘Christian fundamentalist’ who is also a mass murderer.

Religious fundamentalism is not a new phenomenon: indeed, it is as old as religion itself, and is concerned with the believer’s adherence to foundational precepts. There is no one school of thought even within one religion: one Muslim fundamentalist may pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, and adhere to the Five Pillars; another will seek to wage war against the values of liberal democracy, blowing us all to smithereens and martyring himself in the process. The former is ‘devout’ while the latter has become an ‘Islamist’: the one who follows literally the example of Mohammed in bringing the sword to unbelief in order to establish the Caliphate. There are also Sikh fundamentalists and Hindu fundamentalists; indeed, all religions will have those whose belief is concentrated upon the fundamentals of their faith.

Like Christianity itself, Christian fundamentalism is expressed differently within each nation state and community. In South America, adherents of Liberation Theology who seeks social justice for the oppressed are widely considered to be dangerous political subversives and so fundamentalist. In the US, fundamentalism arose as a reaction to religious liberalism and tends towards literalism: that is, every word in the Bible means exactly what it says. For ‘creationists’, this means the world was created in six days. For others, the focus is on issues of morality like abortion and homosexuality: the ‘Religious Right’ are considered fundamentalists simply by virtue of their conservative views on family values. But if such views render Evangelical Protestants fundamentalist, a fortiori must they make Pope Benedict XVI fundamentalist, as many readers of The Tablet may attest. And if he be so, then so are all Roman Catholics who adhere to the traditions and obey literally all the teachings of the Magisterium. In the UK, the socially-conservative, ecumenical parliamentary group Cornerstone is considered somewhat fundamentalist; indeed, Alan Duncan once referred to them as the ‘Tory Taliban’. ‘Fundamentalism’ is a slippery term when applied to Christianity.

But never over recent centuries has ‘Christian fundamentalism’ been used to justify mass murder. We are not talking about bombing Dresden or sinking the Belgrano or any appalling loss of life within a context of war: we are talking about a professing Christian who decides to take the law into his own hands and act unilaterally. Anders Behring Breivik shows a remarkable ignorance of the teachings of Jesus, who exhorted Peter to put away his sword. To be a fundamentalist follower of Jesus would be to dedicate one’s life to celibate pacifism. And not only that, it would be to give away all that one has to the poor and live in a commune where everyone shares everything and all possessions are in common. Socialists often claim their political inspiration from such teachings, ergo the ‘fundamentalist Christian’ would be a ‘Left-wing extremist’ rather than one of the Right. The Christian is concerned with Scripture, tradition, and reason. And there are those who would add experience. But no Christian tradition at all, from the era of the New Testament and the Church Fathers through the Middle Ages, Reformation, Enlightenment, and on to modernity and postmodernity, could possibly, reasonably or scripturally be used to justify the shooting of 92 teenagers enjoying their summer holiday.

The Christian fundamentalist who advocates that such an atrocity may be justified as a reactiontion to multiculturalism is certainly no type of Christian. They may be fundamentalist, but their fundamentals are not founded upon New Testament principles, where we read that we must submit to the ruling authorities, love our neighbours and our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. The foundation, the crucial things in Christianity, were articulated by Hooker for the Church of England:
This is then the foundation, whereupon the frame of the gospel is erected: that very Jesus whom the Virgin conceived of the Holy Ghost, whom Simeon embraced in his arms, whom Pilate condemned, whom the Jews crucified, whom the Apostles preached, he is Christ, the only Saviour of the world: ‘other foundation can no man lay’.
To believe this is to be a ‘Christian fundamentalist’, and His Grace is proud to be so. Individual believers may hold some things ‘weakly’, but those who deny them absolutely are in certain error. No Christian church can directly deny this foundation without ceasing to be such. Everything else - absolutely everything - is secondary, tertiary, or utterly peripheral.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse is dead



Some are born dead, some achieve death, and some have death thrust upon them. At whatever point it occurs, it is unavoidable, inevitable, inescapable.

Amy Winehouse was of those Marmite kind of artists: you either loved her or loathed her. She had recently cancelled a number of concerts in Serbia, Turkey and Greece so she could 'sort herself out'. Sadly, it appears that rehab was not enough. Her long battle against drink and drugs has brought her music to an end, and the world has lost another talent at a tragically young age. RIP.

Today, we are all Norwegian

It is not appropriate to say an awful lot: sometimes less is more. His Grace's thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway, who today are facing the appalling bloody consequences of the greatest assault upon their nation since World War II. It is one thing to bomb the centre of governmental political power, but the assault upon the nation's innocent youth is an unspeakable crime of quite a different order of evil. Today, let us weep with those who weep, and remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Announcing the EU Fiscal Federation


Listen carefully: "...the Heads of State, Heads of Goverment are determined to close ranks and be together."

Forget the peoples.

"...there had to be a federation at the financial, fiscal and economic levels."

So, Eurogeddon (temporarily) postponed. Germany gets its Empire. Welcome to the Euromark.

Greece defaults, but let’s call it 'Margaret', or 'Mary-Ann'


When you examine the ‘aid’ package agreed last night to bail out bankrupt Greece (again) and keep the euro afloat, it amounts to a default. When you borrow cash on agreed terms and repayments cease because your bank account is empty, you’re not suffering a temporary cash-flow problem: you’re bankrupt. So if the lender should be stupid enough to lend you even more cash simply to enable you to go on paying him, it doesn’t take a dumbed-down GCSE in maths to work out that this money merry-go-round is a fiscal illusion. But this has been hailed as another great triumph of EU solidarity, and so Presidents Barosso, Van Rompuy and Papandreou drank champagne into the early hours of the morning, in awe of their economic flair and wonder at their political skill.

But while they call it ‘aid’, ‘restructuring’ and a ‘comprehensive agreement’, it amounts to default.

President Sarkozy said: "If the rating agencies are using the word you just used (default), it is not part of my vocabulary. Greece will pay its debt," he told assembled journalists and reporters.

Not in his vocabulary?

It reminds His Grace of a decade ago, when, much to the concern of British Euro-sceptics, a European Army was formed under the guise of a collaborative peacekeeping force. The then President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, dismissively responded: “If you don't want to call it a European army, don't call it a European army. You can call it 'Margaret', you can call it 'Mary-Ann', you can find any name, but it is a joint effort for peacekeeping missions - the first time you have a joint, not bilateral, effort at European level."

You see, in the EU, not only can a word can mean whatever you want it to mean; if a word causes difficulty or inconvenience, a myriad of alternatives are available to make the concept palatable. Don’t like ‘European Army’? Call it ‘Margaret’ or ‘Mary-Ann’. Don’t like ‘European Constitution’? Call it ‘The Lisbon Treaty’. Don’t like ‘EU Taxation’? Call it ‘Value Added’, etc., etc.

Greece has defaulted, and that's beyond dispute. But, if it makes you feel better, we’ll call it ‘restructuring’. It’s a nice, progressive, positive, optimistic word, implying forward momentum, denoting accord and agreement. Yes, private lenders will be forced to contribute a considerable chunk of the €109bn package, but let’s not focus on that. The important thing is that a clear signal is sent to the markets to show the EU’s determination to ‘stem the crisis and turn the tide in Greece, thereby securing the future of the savings, pensions and jobs of our citizens all over Europe’.

And so the Nikkei index rose 1.2%, while the Hang Seng was up 1.5%. US stocks are up 1.2%, and the share prices of vulnerable EU banks rose by more than 5%, led by our very own Barclays, which ended 7.8% higher. As news of the agreement broke, the euro reached a two-week high against the dollar.

And everybody is happy.

Can these fools not see that this is all a farce? What on earth happens when this latest bailout runs out? Where will the next €100bn package come from? Will the Greeks mortgage the Acropolis? Sell Crete? Auction off Patmos, Lesbos and Corfu?

Short-termism is, of course, a natural consequence of the democratic cycle: since politicians are held directly accountable to their electorates only every four years or so, there is little incentive for them to implement unpopular policies today when they can be shunted off for their heirs and successors to grapple with tomorrow.

So we get sticking-plaster politics and antiseptic economics, when what is needed is immediate, remedial surgery and amputation.

But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So let’s deal with balms, lozenges, tonics and panaceas to restore the stability of the eurozone.

Sadly, none will cure the cancer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Enda Kenny proclaims the Irish Act of Supremacy over Rome



He didn’t issue an edict for the dissolution of the monasteries, and he didn’t quite assert ‘The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of (Ireland)”. And neither did he proclaim: ‘No foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.’

But he might as well have done.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday (text and video), Enda Kenny said he was outraged by the Cloyne Report , which documents how allegations of child abuse by 19 priests in Cork (yes, 19 – in just one county) were purposely covered up by the Roman Catholic Church. In one instance of obvious deception, a bishop drafted different reports for Rome and diocesan records in order to protect a paedophile priest. And this wasn’t 30, 40 or 50 years ago. It wasn’t during the immediate post-Vatican II era when we are told these things were ‘less understood’. No, we are talking about the systematic cover-up of the rape and torture of children just three years ago.

Has the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland learned nothing?

Enda Kenny evidently thinks not, so he has proclaimed the Irish Act of Supremacy: “This is not Rome,” he said. “Nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity, and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world. This is the ‘Republic’ of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities, of proper civic order, where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version of a particular kind of ‘morality’ will no longer be tolerated or ignored.”

Gosh.

Setting aside the inconvenient fact that the Irish Republic is more than content to submit to the immutable precepts of the Treaty of Rome; bow the knee to foreign princes and persons in Brussels; and obey ‘the delinquency and arrogance’ of the EU’s version of a particular kind of secular morality, Enda Kenny appears to have been possessed by the spirit of Dr Ian Paisley. In fact, if you replace ‘Republic’ with ‘Kingdom’ and ‘Ireland’ with ‘Britain’, Dr Paisley could have made much of the speech. Enda Kenny unequivocally condemned the Roman Catholic Church for the ‘horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied… In the name of God. But for the good of the institution’. He denounced the ‘attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic’. And he thundered against clericalism, which ‘has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors’ of paedophilia. “The Cloyne Report,” he said, “excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism, that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

That’s good. That’s very good.

The Chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Charlie Flanagan, has demanded the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio. The Irish Parliament has issued a motion ‘deplor(ing) the Vatican's intervention, which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the Irish state and the Irish bishops’. And, laying down the law, they now ‘require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State's authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance which will have the force of law’.

It is a classic ‘Pope or Parliament’ spat, of the sort we are very used to in England but which is a first for the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland. This is a country in which the church owns most schools and quite a few hospitals, and state-run broadcasters still issue a twice-daily call to Roman Catholics to fall on their knees and pray (a call which must be immensely vulnerable to challenge in the European Court of Human Rights). The present tension is between Canon Law, which permits priests accused of child abuse to appeal their cases to the Vatican, and Irish law, which demands that all suspects be immediately reported to the police. A confidential 1997 Vatican letter instructed Irish bishops to handle all allegations of child abuse strictly in accordance with Canon Law. It warned bishops that their child protection policy, particularly its emphasis on the need to report all suspected crimes to police, violated the Church’s law. The Cloyne Report reveals how one diocese in County Cork run by Bishop John Magee, a former private secretary to three popes, suppressed evidence of child rape and molestation as recently as 2009. It concludes that the Vatican was complicit, encouraging Irish bishops to collude and cover up all new crimes.

It appears, in Catholic Ireland, clerical hierarchy still rules. This is the fourth such report in the last six years to detail Rome’s attempts to conceal sexual abuse by Irish priests. The fact that the Vatican appears to be indifferent to their findings and reluctant to reform is causing potentially irreparable damage to relations between the Irish State and the Holy See: “The revelations,” Mr Kenny says, “have brought the government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture.”

It beggars belief, with the worldwide incidences of child rape, with new cases emerging almost by the week, that the rape and torture of children are, according to the Taoiseach, ‘downplayed or “managed” to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and “reputation”.’ The inverted commas around that final word evidence Mr Kenny’s view of his church: it is devoid of humility, truth and contrition; its ‘reputation’ is tainted, if not worthless. The Vatican has adopted a ‘calculated withering position’ on clerical abuse, which he said was ‘the polar opposite of the radicalism, the humility and the compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded’. The church's leaders have repeatedly sought to defend their institutions at the expense of children and, in a delicious phrase almost worthy of Shakespeare, he seethes: “Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s ‘ear of the heart’, Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

The gimlet eye?

That's good! 'Gimlet eye' is good.

And not only that: the Vatican initially said they did not intend to make any specific response to this new report, and Father Federico Lombardi directly contradicted its findings, saying it was ‘somewhat strange to see the Vatican criticised so heavily’. You’ve got to admire his sense of priorities. He went on to talk of the problems of ‘mandatory reporting’ which give rise to ‘serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature’. He’s talking about the sanctity of the confessional, of course. Hitherto, Roman Catholics have been secure in the knowledge that they can confess their lies, lusts, greed, fornication, adultery and even murder to their priest, and it would go no further. Paedophilia, however, appears to be of a different order. His Grace can see the problem: either the confessional is confidential, or it is not. And if it is not, the sinner may think twice before unburdening himself (or herself) to the priest-informant.

But Fr Lombardi (not for the first time) fails to grasp the primary concern. In light of his astonishing arrogance, not to say public relations disaster, it comes as no surprise that Enda Kenny had no choice but to assert the primacy of the Irish Republic. The Vatican’s ‘particular kind of “morality”’ can no longer be tolerated. And, unfortunately, but quite understandably, he sets his sights firmly on the man who has probably done more than any of his predecessors to clear out the filth:
Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said: ‘Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.’

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.

Not purely, or simply or otherwise.
Although Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is quoted out of context, this declaration is seismic. Indeed, the whole speech is one of the most important in Irish history, if not one of the most significant in two millennia of Europe’s contorted church-state relations. This is not 1054, and neither is it quite 1517. But there are distinct undertones of 1534; of powers once exercised by popes being appropriated by kings; of politicians cutting a few more of those keys bequeathed to St Peter. If not quite passionately delivered, it was brilliantly written and ensures that Enda Kenny’s place in history will not be defined by bailouts or confined to economic oblivion. Brilliantly, by denouncing the Church of Rome, this Taoiseach may sufficiently deflect attention from the Treaty of Rome, whence emanates the true ‘dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, and narcissism’. Canon Law is one thing. But Community Law is quite another. On the correlation, His Grace will quote the wise observations of Lord Shore of Stepney, from his book Separate Ways:
…no one who has been engaged seriously in the business of examining draft EC laws and treaties can have any doubt about their quite extraordinary – and deliberate - complexity. Every new article or treaty clause is, with reference to articles in earlier treaties - generally to be located in a separate treaty volume. Indeed part of the whole mystique of Community Law is its textual incomprehensibility, its physical dispersal, its ambivalence and its dependence upon ultimate clarification by the European Court of Justice: and the Brussels Commission and their long-serving, often expert officials are, in interpreting and manipulating all this, like a priestly caste - similar to what it must have been in pre-Reformation days, when the Bible was in Latin, not English; the Pope, his cardinals and bishops decided the content of canon law and the message came down to the laymen, only when the Latin text was translated into the vernacular by the dutiful parish priest.
In the words of Qoheleth, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

But the problem the Vatican has is that, for as long as it is giving refuge to Cardinal Bernard Law within its sacred precincts, it is simply not credible for the Pope, Fr Lombardi or anyone else to assert that the Vatican is prioritising the needs of the children. If His Holiness were really prepared to do 'everything possible' to heal this appalling wound, he would not only remove Cardinal Bernard Law from his Vatican sinecure, he would also remove his cardinal’s hat and hand him over to Boston's police department, in order that those boys who were tortured and raped on his watch, while he stealthily shuffled his paedophile priests hither and thither and lied to the authorities about their conduct, might experience justice.

Until then, we need a few more like Enda Kenny, who remind us, however imperfectly, in the spirit of Josiah and Luther, that reformation is not a monument to an event in time, but a perpetual movement of living faith.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chris Bryant: Queen warned Cameron about Coulson


It was, perhaps, only a matter of time before the Queen herself became embroiled in the hysteria surrounding #hackgate. The saga has already ruined the lives of hundreds of journalists; humiliated editors and media barons; destroyed confidence in Parliament and the police; brought down a 168-year-old newspaper; and cost a man his life. Now Labour’s Chris Bryant alleges that David Cameron was warned by senior members of the Royal Family about the unsuitability of Andy Coulson.

Entries at 9.10am, 9.26am, and 9.46am on The Guardian’s live-coverage of the phone hacking scandal (20 July 2011) read:
9.10am: Did the Queen tell David Cameron not to hire Andy Coulson? That's what the Labour MP Chris Bryant has just suggested on BBC News. He did not name the Queen, but he talked about "very senior" members of the Royal Family having doubts about the appointment of Coulson as Cameron's communications chief. Bryant said that he thought these warning had been passed on to Cameron's office.

The Queen's grandchildren had their phones hacked. And quite probably other members of the Royal Household ... I think it would be perfectly natural for very senior members of the Royal Family to be very troubled about the appointment. After all, Andy Coulson was the editor of the News of the World when the royal princes' phones were hacked. That is not in dispute. And Andy Coulson indeed resigned from the News of the World expressly because of the hacking of the royal princes' phones ... My understanding is that members of the Royal Family were very troubled about [the appointment] and that there were certainly attempts to make sure that the prime minister understood that.

Bryant said he knew this indirectly from "a very good source". He said that he had not spoken to the person involved directly, but that he had spoken to a person who had spoken to the person (a member of the Buckingham Palace staff, he seemed to imply) who "made quite clear to people that there was a high degree of anxiety about this". The message was passed on not directly to Cameron, but to "members of his team", Bryant said.

9.26am: On the BBC News Mark Harper, the Cabinet Office minister, has just said he cannot comment on Chris Bryant's allegations. (See 9.10am.) According to the BBC, Downing Street sources are already dismissing Bryant's claims as "complete rubbish".

9.46am: Chris Byrant says he has it on good authority that the Royal Family tried to warn David Cameron about hiring Any Coulson. (See 9.10am.) Number 10 says this is "rubbish". (See 9.26am.) Is there any way we can resolve these two claims? Perhaps the warning went to Ed Llewellyn and he just failed to pass it on?
This is curious. The Queens has the constitutional right to warn her Prime Minister on any matter she sees fit. But it would be very odd indeed for her to comment personally on No10 staff, and it would also be rather irregular for ‘very senior’ members of the Royal Family or the Royal Household to express any such opinion. Further, one might ask how on earth Chris Bryant knows about such a warning – who is this ‘very good source?

Come on, Mr Bryant. You’re a theologian, a former Anglican vicar, and a stickler for truth, openness and transparency. So, assuming Her Majesty isn't a personal mate of yours, would you please disclose the identity of the friend of the friend of the very senior members of the Royal Family who warned the Prime Minister’s Office about the unsuitability of Andy Coulson?

You may do so privately via email if you prefer.

Bless you.

Eurogeddon - fiscal union and German destiny


When you hear of eurozone contagion and fiscal meltdown, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and politician against banker. There will be large knock-on effects worldwide and urgent high summits. These are the beginning of death throes.
According to David Bloom, currency chief at HSBC, “We are heading towards fiscal union or break-up. Talk is no longer enough as the fire threatens to leap over the firebreak into Spain and Italy. What the market is worried about is Germany's long-term commitment to the euro project. If we see unreserved and absolute backing from the political establishment of Germany, that will be a soothing balm."

And the response of Chancellor Angela Merkel is taken directly from the Monnet grand plan for European integration: ‘There will be no "spectacular step",’ she said. “Just a controlled process of gradual steps and measures.”

And so, gradually, incrementally, salami-slice by salami-slice, we edge towards fiscal union – a monetary union with a single bank, a single interest rate, a single economic policy, and a single taxation policy. It was always obvious to anyone with an ounce of discernment that a single currency would fail in the absence of political union. And here we have it: not with a single ‘spectacular step’, but ‘a controlled process of gradual steps and measures’.

One has to feel sorry for the Greeks (not to mention the Irish and the Portuguese), for they have now ceased to be a sovereign nation. Greece is bankrupt, and he who pays the bail-out calls the tune. But one must also pity the poor German taxpayers, who are now bearing the costs of the entire state debt of Greece. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Telegraph encapsulates perfectly the religio-political dilemma;
In essence, this is a soul-searching drama within Germany over its own national destiny and place in Europe, echoed in the Netherlands, Finland and even France. Europe's confusion reflects the schizophrenia of its ancient tribal nations, each faced with the fateful choice of crossing the Rubicon to an EU Treasury and joint government or letting the EU project unravel after half a century.
When we hear talk of ‘German destiny’, we are talking about the self-perceived divine mission to preside over a unified Europe, achievable through a dominating German state. Germany’s Christian Democratic Union has been the driving force of European integration since the end of the Second World War. They are passionate about solidarity, the single market and the EU’s Social Charter. But these political objectives did not have their genesis in the Treaty of Rome: the same ideas were expressed by the Nazi finance minister Professor Walther Funk, the architect of Hitler’s ‘New Europe’. In 1942, he issued a compendium of papers which contained chapters and sections on ‘The Common European Currency’, ‘Harmonisation of European Rates of Exchange’, ‘The European Economic Community’, ‘The European Agricultural Economic Order’, ‘A Common Labour Policy’ and ‘The European regional principle’. In a summary of collectivist ideas and economic structures, he wrote: ‘The individual will be replaced by the people, the world market will be replaced by the living space, and capital will be replaced by the organisation of labour.’

Such a notion of ‘destiny’ or ‘divine right’ was also in the mind of Kaiser Wilhelm II, when he said: ‘…after the elimination of the British and the Jews…the result will be a United States of Europe… The hand of God is creating a new world…a United States of Europe under German leadership.’ The strategy was to consist of a central European economic association through mutual customs agreements, including France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austro-Hungary, Poland, and possibly also Italy, Sweden and Norway. This association, while without a common constitutional over-structure and with the maintenance of external equality of its members, would lead to the establishment of economic domination of Germany over Central Europe.

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl for many years declared his dissatisfaction with a common market of independent states, and believed it was German ‘destiny’ not merely to lead a European union, but to dominate it. At the time of the Maastricht debates, he said: ‘The European Union Treaty introduces a new and decisive stage in the process of European Union, which within a few years will lead to the creation of...the United States of Europe. There is no alternative to a policy which aims at combination, unless we wish to challenge fate. It has been my policy from the outset to combine indivisibly German unity and the political unification of Europe. For myself, these are two sides of the same coin. We shall only be able to create this greater Europe provided we irreversibly advance the present European core. Both must continue and remain at the top of the agenda: the European Union and the greater European edifice. There is no question of ‘either/or’ here, but only ‘both/and’.’

In stating this, he was merely following the ‘destiny’ mindset of his predecessors. Another former chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, declared: ‘Germany has a divine mission to save Western Europe.’ Since the era of Charlemagne, the notion of a ‘German destiny’ has been deeply engrained in the national psyche; it is an instinct which has driven Germany in the past, and one to which Hitler frequently referred in his speeches. Helmut Kohl also had dominance and destiny at the forefront of his thinking when he said: “The future will belong to the Germans...when we build the house of Europe... In the next two years we will make the process of European integration irreversible. This is a really big battle, but it is worth the fight.”

In 1994 the CDU, Chancellor Merkel’s party, set out their vision for a federal Europe, with a parliament which they stated would be a ‘genuine law-making body’. They further stated: ‘No country should be allowed to block by veto the efforts of the other countries to deepen integration.’ There can be no other interpretation of these aspirations than that they look to the emergence of a single state, with law-making and tax-raising powers. The CDU document went on to say: ‘Never again must there be a destabilizing vacuum of power in central Europe. If European integration were not to progress, Germany might be called upon, or tempted by its own security constraints, to try to effect the stabilization (a word replete with unpleasant historical echoes) on its own, and in the traditional way.’

His Grace will leave his readers and communicants to reflect on what Chancellor Kohl may have meant by that final phrase. Kohl and Merkel are a world apart from the Nazis, but Kohl did assert his conviction that if there were to be no further European integration, there may well be war. His Grace takes the contrary view: if we proceed along this path, it will surely lead to war. The terms ‘Reich’ and ‘Europe’ are synonymous in German thinking: a strong Reich was always necessary for a strong Europe, and conversely a strong Europe is inconceivable without a strong Reich. This is now Europe’s political law: EU policy is German policy; an assault on EU policy is an attack upon Germany; the failure of the euro represents the fall of the German empire. That cannot happen without Europe-wide convulsions, and the UK will not be insulated from the fallout.

Karl Lamers, the author of the 1994 CDU paper, asserted: ‘The highest interests of the Europeans are identical.’ Try telling that to the Greeks, as unemployment soars, wages are cut, public services are decimated and civil strife takes hold. As Germany achieves her ‘destiny’ as the head of a united Europe, controlling the European money supply is the principal means of sustaining that position. In a speech to the European-Atlantic Group on 12th June 1996, former German ambassador to the UK, Dr Jurgen Oesterholt, declared: ‘Germany is unconcerned with the economic experts who are ranged against monetary union. They will be proved irrelevant by the force of European will. It is Germany’s historic mission and role to provide that will.’

That ‘European will’ has now established a bail-out fund of €2 trillion, contra the received wisdom of the economic experts. The priority is to stabilise the monetary system, even if, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out, ‘this risks pushing German debt levels above 110pc of GDP and causing apoplexy in the Bundestag’.

"We are approaching the endgame for this part of the European sovereign crises: the number of cans that now need kicking down the road would challenge the left foot of Lionel Messi," said Gary Jenkins from Evolution Securities. "The chances are that the EU will only take the step of fiscal union or common bond issuance at one minute to midnight on a weekend when it is clear that the system is close to collapse."
As the sun darkens and the moon does not give its light; as the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies are shaken; we await the man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people; the one who will lift us out of the economic morass in which we are sinking. Send us such a man and, be he god or the devil, we will receive him. As His Grace prophesied long ago, we are witnessing the birth of the euromark. And so the plan will be perfected: the 'Germanisation of Europe’ will be complete; her ‘destiny’ fulfilled.

ADDENDUM (22 July 2011)
Some readers have found this post 'racist'. It is nothing of the sort. Indeed, in The Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne alludes to the same 'German destiny' in his article 'The euro crisis will give Germany the empire it’s always dreamed of'. He observes:
Yesterday’s witching hour of the European Union means that Germany has come very close to realising Bismarck’s dream of an economic empire stretching from central Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Oborne chose Bismarck; His Grace focused on Kaiser Wilhelm II and Professor Funk. No difference at all. Is Oborne 'racist'?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch in the dock: the show trial of the century


Never in 40 years of British newspaper ownership has Rupert Murdoch faced questions in the High Court of Parliament. With his son James at his side, followed swiftly by Rebekah Brooks, this trial is likely to be one of the most-watched in broadcast history, if not live, certainly via YouTube. The fact that the phone hacking scandal has already forced a 168-year-old newspaper to close and claimed the scalps of media executives, the two most senior police officers in the country, and yesterday, very sadly, the life of the News of the World reporter who blew the whistle on Andy Coulson, ensures national focus and a global audience. Never before has an obscure Commons committee of tedious backbench MPs been thrust onto the world stage.

So serious is the crisis that the Prime Minister is abandoning the starving in Africa to take the helm of his coalition ship and steer it through the choppy waters. Yet it appears a tsunami is about to hit: if reports are true that he has himself breached the ministerial code, it will be for him to refer himself to the independent adviser on ministers’ interests. There is indeed a prima facie case to answer.

But it’s all a bit of a show. Rupert Murdoch owns three (non-profitable) newspapers and a minority share in BSkyB, the output of which is regulated by Ofcom. In what sense is this an ‘empire’ which exerts ‘too much power over British public life’? So much so that it needs dismantling, regulating and controlling?

It is manifestly true that News International is not ‘the only bad dog on the street’, so this trial must be extended to Paul Dacre and the Mail Group, to the Mirror Group, and to the BBC. It is, after all, about allegations of illicit data gathering in order to secure headlines. It is about the relationship between Parliament and the media, politicians and journalists, and prime ministers and proprietors. It is about the balance between power and scrutiny; influence and manipulation. Ultimately, it is about the right to express an opinion, because if the end result is statutory regulation of the press, another liberty will have been sacrificed to the lust of the state.

So, while the Westminster bubble forms a lynch mob and obsesses about Rupert Murdoch; and while the myopic masses scream for his head along with the scalps of James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks; let us not forget that the most egregious media manipulation emanates from the corridors of Broadcasting House, and more substantial abuses of power may be observed at the Mail and Mirror groups of newspapers.

Come on, Mr Whittingdale. Your time is at hand.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Religious liberty in public life

Following the recent decision of Trevor Phillips and the EHRC to defend the traditional liberties of Christians, Gary Streeter MP has sponsored an EDM stating:
That this House welcomes the decision of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene in support of four cases involving discrimination against Christians that are presently with the European Court of Human Rights; notes that this is a long overdue recognition of the need to defend religious liberty and marks an important development in relation to a better understanding of the role of faith in public life; and further welcomes the Commission's advocacy for reasonable accommodation in the workplace as an acknowledgement of the place of conscientious objection for those with religious belief.
It is indeed 'long overdue recognition' which hopefully 'marks an important development in relation to a better understanding of the role of faith in public life'.

But it is, quite frankly, appalling that this EDM has attracted only nine signatures.

If there can be no reasonable accommodation of religious faith in public life, then we have indeed lost a liberty for which our ancestors were imprisoned, tortured and martyred, and for which more recent generations have fought and died. If more Conservative MPs cannot see that, His Grace despairs.
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