There has been a rumble of discontent from the pews over the last week due to an article published by the Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth in Our Faith On Sunday, the Mass sheet used by quite a number of Catholic Churches across the U.K. The front and back pages are preset and the inner spread is printed specially for each parish. The back page contains the readings and propers and the front generally three or four articles. These are generally milk and water but not last Sunday. This weeks article began by mentioning Mr. Blair's long anticipated entry into the Catholic Church and contrasted his reception by cardinals and the pope with the reaction of Anne Widdecombe. It went on to ask a series of questions regarding Catholics and their moral obligations if engaged in politics. It suggested that if they always voted in accordance with Catholic doctrine they would be unelectable and went on to ask if adultery should be made illegal as it is a sin. Many have read this article as very manipulative and sneaky. It was placed into the hands of many thousands of Catholics as they arrived for Mass last weekend without anyone, priest or lay person, being aware that it was coming or whence it came. It is both cowardly and a scandal.
I along with quite a number of parishioners were appalled, some very angered indeed. One described it as a kick in the teeth. We have taken it up with the publishers. They are unwilling to say who wrote the piece which was published anonymously. The more one reads it the worse it seems.
While I am strongly of the opinion that the article should not have been written, the degree to which it has whipped up hatred of Tony Blair has left me feeling uneasy. I myself felt angry all week about it until this morning's sermon. It was of course about the calling of Saint Matthew. The priest, a visitor in the parish, took as his text, " I have come to not to call the virtuous but the sinners". He said that one of the wonderful things about the Catholic Church is that it is a church of sinners. God does not accept us only when we have become perfect but comes to meet us in the degradation of our sinfulness. He described the painting by Caravaggio of the Calling of Saint Matthew where Christ appears almost to reach across the canvas to grasp hold of Matthew who, ensconced among his cronies, gestures towards himself as if to say, " Me, you can't possibly mean me!". In the heat of things it is easy to forget the New Commandment. While in no way wishing to play down the enormity of the issues involved, ( indeed I think most people fail to realise how huge they are), the lack of compassion among those feeling righteous angry saddens me.
These thoughts have not cleared things up for me in the least but set me thinking even more. Considering Mr. Blair's voting record, on abortion, unjust war, etc., to what degree may we judge him? Given the seemingly expedient timing of his coming into communion can we or should we make any judgements about his sincerity? And even if he is sincere, to what degree does this mitigate the evil which has resulted from his actions? There have been many in history who have done evil of untold magnitude with great sincerity.
I have a feeling that Mr. Blair's soul is in a state of great anguish. The constant smiling and seemingly endless confidence seems so fake to me. I wonder if he has dug so far down into the black pit that he feels if he keeps slogging away he will eventually come out the other side. I wonder if he wakes up at night and sees bloodstains on his hands. While we must object to biased articles being published, and to the way he was received into the Church, and to the way his wife carries on, and to his continued flouting of so much that is Catholic doctrine, we should also pray for him. To do otherwise is not Christian.