Roman Catholic Church to Cameron: "You are out of your depth"
Joseph Devine, Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, is a feisty, robust and forthright sort of church overseer - the type who doubtless takes the Catholic Herald and at one time might have been beheaded or burned at the stake for asserting a dogmatic spiritual authority over the temporal power of the king.
The Bishop has apparently written a terse and testy letter to the Prime Minister which is rather critical (to say the least) of sundry government policies and of the Prime Minister's whole moral worldview. The Bishop, it might be observed, has form in this, having previously criticised Mr Cameron for 'surrounding himself with secularists'.
Unfortunately, His Grace has been unable to acquire a copy of Bishop Joe's Epistle to the Cameroons (if any reader or communicant can oblige, your treasure will be in heaven), so we must depend on the secondary account of The Scotsman. In summary:
The apparent disconnection between the Prime Minister's assurances and the Government's actions relating to religious liberty in the ECtHR 'only serve(s) to compound our perplexity about the imperfect fit between your statements and actions. You appear to be creating a political culture in which words mean nothing'.
The bishop then asks: 'on what basis can you expect anyone – Christians in particular – to trust or respect you?”
Noting how Roman Catholic adoption agencies have been made to feel 'not welcome', he says: 'That feeling... is the legacy of the last Labour government. Sadly, many of your government’s policies show no sign of reversing that, despite your plausible public relations exercises'.
On the Prime Minister's reproach of the Church of England over women bishops to 'get with the programme', the Bishop advises: 'Disagree with decisions by all means, but such graceless comments were indelicate to the point of being offensive. And this from a Prime Minister belittling the nation’s established church. Hardly an example to set for society in general and especially for the youth of this country.'
He than asks: 'So where next for David Cameron’s spiritual mission?... While I cannot speak for other creeds, let me be quite frank with you. So far as the Roman Catholic Church...is concerned, you are out of your depth. We will take no finger-prodding lectures from anyone or any group devoid of moral competence.'
There are some who might say that the Prime Minister would be wholly justified in responding to that criticism with a phrase including the words 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black', or with some allusion to glass houses and the casting of stones. Certainly, no Roman Catholic bishop in Ireland would presently be so bold. But Bishop Joe then prophesies: 'I suspect it is only a matter of time before you go one step further and outlaw the teaching of Christian doctrine on sexual morality on the grounds of discrimination.'
David Cameron is basically completing what Blair began: Religious freedom 'under your premiership...is no longer being respected in the UK'. And in one final barb, the Bishop observes that the Christian Church has lasted for 'two millennia...and all this amazingly without any direction and guidance from you or your peer group'.
He ended the letter 'Yours Truly', which is jolly nice and Christian of him.
This is a most pleasing rant, to which No10 has apparently promised a comprehensive response. Some will think the Bishop a doddery old fool who speaks on behalf of the medievally-minded and bigoted; others will recognise his apostolic authority to speak truth to power. If any of His Grace's readers or communicants are matey with Bishop Joe, a copy of the correspondence in both directions would be most appreciated.