Friday, May 18, 2007

Continuing the foreign theme

British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly will swim the Tiber and join the rest of his family. Once he is no longer prime minister that is; being a Catholic in Britain and having political power apparently is a bit of a sticky wicket.

Am I too cynical to complain that it seems awfully convenient for Blair to convert now, when his political career is over? Particularly since, according to the article
(Blair) has regularly attended Catholic services in recent years, both with his family and alone ... Mr Blair has not been seen in a church of his professed Anglican faith except on official occasions.
I wish I could display the appropriate appreciation due to all new converts. But that timing ...

But I know that complaining about the reporting in this article requires no cynicism whatsoever. Two priceless gems. First:
While opposition leader in the mid-1990s Mr Blair often took communion with his wife and children at a Catholic church in Islington in London, which is seen as a signal he is totally loyal to the faith.

If you are not a Catholic, you are not "in communion" at a Catholic Mass and so you cannot (it's not especially a matter of legalistic rules) "take Communion." The Church's teachings and rules here are plain as day. The very next paragraph of the story even notes that he stopped receiving the Host "in public" (but in private, might we infer?) upon the instructions of Britain's top Catholic bishop.

The wisdom of the Church's inter-communion rules aren't even an issue with respect to the Ever-Falling Religious IQ of the Media because the unnamed Evening Standard author cited the fact of a Protestant taking Communion at a Catholic Mass (which occurs every day, for better or worse) as "a signal he is totally loyal to the faith." That is ... Bonkers. Batshit. Bedlam. (Those are just the B's, and I'm not even getting into objective b-matters like blasphemy).

You broke the Church's rules before you were even a part of it. Whatever else might be said, how is that evidence of being "totally loyal"? You don't even have to be a Catholic to absorb and agree with the Church's teaching on inter-communion. You might be right to be an outsider because Rome teaches a false theory of justification or inserted the filioque or overstates Petrine primacy or whatever ... but the non-Catholic is objectively an outsider, knows it, and should act accordingly, even on his own terms.

Second, we get the greatest "bury the lead" of all time. The revelation that the Catholic Church has repudiated the Nicene Creed, a blockbuster story that is not mentioned until the 4th- and 3rd-to-last paragraphs.
If Mr Blair is to convert formally, he will have to undergo a course of instruction, which is likely to be conducted by Father Seed.
To be received officially into the Church, he will be expected to take part in a service of baptism, followed by confirmation and Holy Communion.
"We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins"? I guess not.

All the important Christian churches acknowledge one another's baptisms as valid (one would think a religion writer would be good for knowing such a thing). If Blair is an Anglican in good standing, he will not be rebaptized, period. I suppose it's theoretically possible that Blair was never baptized or only baptized in a church that isn't Nicene-compliant (like the Mormons, say). But given Blair's life history and his current public profession of the Church of England, I extremely seriously doubt either of those possibilities.

1 comment:

Flo said...

The problem of converting while in office might have to do with the fact that the British prime minister is actively involved in the selection process of Bishops whithin the Church of England. I guess it would be kind of weired if a catholic gets to pick anglican bishops....

well, yeah the reporter obviously didn't really know too much about communion rules (but look at the bright side, at least it seems as if Blair actually listened to the Bishop...)

and the thing about baptism, yes he won't get baptised, but isn't it often the case that the profession of faith by already baptized RCIA participants is in the same service with those who will get baptized, which would allow to call it a service of baptism...

yeah, I know, I am putting a positive "spin" on it, but shouldn't we be generous with giving the reporters the benefit of doubt than to assume the worst ?