Saturday, October 31, 2009

The EU’s real philosopher-guardians

We have been duped.

While the European Commission has busied itself nullifying and abolishing democracy, and the media has been obsessed with the side-show of Tony Blair’s quest to be the first Emperor of the Holy European Empire, the President of the Commission has been appointing our real philosopher-guardians.

Plato would have been proud.

Until Lee Rotherham of the Taxpayers’ Alliance brought this to Cranmer’s attention, His Grace had no idea that the President of the Commission (and he alone) appoints a group of ‘experts’ as the EU’s ethical advisers and spiritual guides. And if His Grace did not know, it is highly likely that very few indeed knew: and quite possibly only Dr Richard North, for he knows everything that there is to know or that is worth knowing about the EU.

But if he knew, he has been very Jesuitical about it.

Dr Rotherham observes: ‘The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies is a moral compass in the Commission.’ They are tasked with ‘quietly’ guiding EU policy on some of the biggest issues of our day, including ‘stem cell research, meat consumption, food waste, Dolly the Sheep, GM crops, and the range of issues that summon up bands of outraged activists into chilly fields to chain themselves to outcrops of nature’.

They go by the acronym EGE (European Group on Ethics), and their mandate is to advise the Commission on ethical questions, either at the request of the Commission or on its own initiative (Article 2). And in true EU style, ‘the EGE's working sessions shall be private’ (Article 4.3) and ‘the EGE shall adopt its own Rules of Procedure’ (Article 4.7).

And the EU’s website does not conceal the fact that these 15 ‘experts’ have been hand-picked by one man: ‘They are appointed by the President of the European Commission on the basis of their individual expertise, and they are experts in disciplines such as science, jurisprudence, philosophy and theology.’ They will advise the Commission for the next four years on every important scientific pursuit and ethical consideration. And their deliberations are in secret and they can make up the rules as they go along.

If the President appoints them, he alone becomes the arbiter of what is right and wrong; what is permissible and what is prohibited; what is good and what is evil. His criteria for selection are not disclosed, but these ‘techno-moral custodians’ are dominated by scientists, and, as Dr Rotherham observes, specifically exclude ‘general moral philosophers’. He asks: ‘In particular, why is there not even a single symbolic churchman there?’

Cranmer would rather have a churchman doing the job of a churchman than look like a churchman and not be doing the job of a churchman. And he would himself rather not look like a churchman but be a churchman than look like a churchman and not be. There are too many ‘symbolic’ appointments which do little more than provide a patina to the decaying bronze.

But it is no longer a secret: the European Union has an ‘ethics committee’ to discern the mind of God; to determine the divine will; to decide what constitutes the canon of secular scripture and to define what is good and what is evil.

Another unaccountable priestly caste takes its place.

As Harold Macmillan once observed: "We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts."

Except, of course, that now we have.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tony Blair: L’Europe, ce n’est pas moi

It is reported that the star of the first Emperor of the Holy European Empire is fading.


Who else could wear the crown of Charlemagne with such pseudo-royal finesse? Who else could possibly match Tony Blair on the world stage? Who else could charm and smarm his way from Rome and Berlin to Paris and Dublin? Who else could create the role ex nihilo and give the semblance of an omnipotent ‘President of Europe’ to balance the President of the United States. Of course, the power of the role is nothing like, but seeming is all. And Tony Blair ‘seems’ par excellence.

It is inconceivable to Cranmer that the Presidency would go to anyone else: the role was made for Tony Blair, and he for it. God knows, he even converted in order to proclaim the Old Faith at home and abroad, even if it be not quite according to Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic.

Mr Blair’s problem is his campaign team. David Miliband clearly irritated EU leaders with his allusion to Mr Blair’s political X-Factor – his ability to ‘stop the traffic in Moscow and Beijing’. And the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom told EU leaders: 'Get real - this is a unique opportunity to get a strong progressive politician to be president.' When Gordon Brown instructs his fellow EU leaders to ‘get real’ about Mr Blair’s candidacy, the medium becomes offensive and patronising. Who, after all, is he to lecture the presidents and prime ministers of the great nations of Europe to ‘get real’? Why should the omnipotent Franco-German Axis, the progeny of Emperor Charlemagne, listen to a gruff Scottish schizoid whose political growl is as feeble as a dying breath?

And so Tony Blair now has competition in the form of:

John Bruton of Ireland
Bertie Ahern also of Ireland
Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands
Herman Van Rompuy of Belgium
Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia
Wolfgang Schüssel of Austria
Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg
Felipe Gonzalez of Spain
Paavo Tapio Lipponen of Finland
and Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden

Failures, pygmies, nobodies and has-beens (or are they have-beens?). The only name missing is Neil Kinnock.

Until one realises that perhaps the very notion of 'President Blair' would be antithetical to the EU’s historic modus operandi. The Empire has not got where it is today by being overt, in-your-face and transparent with all its plans and strategies disclosed. No, it has only become omnipotent through covert and under-hand means, by being secret and opaque. Pick the most anonymous, innocuous name from the list above, and perhaps you are more likely to find the first ‘President of Europe’, for the role is best forged behind the scenes, out of the public gaze, unscrutinised by an oblivious, distracted, celebrity-obsessed media. And Tony Blair is a political superstar: he would be the very incarnation of the hitherto-concealed and frequently-refuted reality that the EU is indeed a state, with its own government, diplomatic service, central bank, currency, airspace, army...

And so the first President of Europe is to be chosen in secret by an élite trinity: the BBC reports that EU leaders ‘have now set up a three-man team to decide on their position’.

Three men to decide the President of half a billion people?

As Charles Moore once observed, the inexorable drive to ever-closer union ‘is being conducted like a papal conclave’. In this, he echoed the late Lord Shore of Stepney, who observed that the Commission behaves ‘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’.

Such a top-down, autocratic system of government is antithetical to the bottom-up model of accountability which beats with the heart of Protestant theology. From Rome’s Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann to Lisbon’s Chancellor Werner Fayman and whoever the other two are, it is government by the anti-democratic guardians of self-interest.

Plus ça change.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

From Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’

It is one thing to read or watch the media reports of the continuing terror attacks in Iraq, but it is perhaps not until one experiences that one may feel. Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ is also president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME). His church, St George's, is the only Anglican church remaining in Iraq. Its congregation and staff have continued despite many threats and attacks.

Last Sunday, the church and its clinic were damaged in a bomb attack. Outside the church at least 132 people were killed and over 600 injured. St George's Church, its congregation and staff are a vital example of Christian witness in the Middle East and deserve our prayers and support.

Please read Canon White's message below and consider making a donation.

25 October 2009

Dear Friends,

I am very sorry to tell you that the two major bomb explosions in Baghdad this morning have done serious damage to the church compound, the clinic, the bookshop, the school rooms and the mothers' union buildings. The windows were replaced after the bombings on 19 August, but they have been destroyed again, and this blast hit the church much more powerfully. Even the window frames and the doors were blown out. All of the cars in the compound and the Danish Memorial were destroyed.

And the clinic? The St George's clinic provides free medical and dental treatment to people in Iraq, regardless of their religious or ethnic background. It is staffed by a team of medics representing each of the Abramic faiths: Muslim, Christian and Jew. It contained high quality medical equipment provided by charitable donations to the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. In a moment, much of this equipment has been destroyed, placing it permanently out of reach of the Iraqi people who need it so desperately.

Outside the church, at least 132 people were killed and over 600 injured. Destroyed fragments of their bodies have been thrown through windows of the church, making the clean-up operation yet more unpleasant. Many of our staff and church members remain unaccounted for. Lay Pastor Faiz and I have been trying in vain to reach them by telephone.

Today was a terrible day for us. But even in the blood and trauma and turmoil, there are things for which we can, and indeed must, praise our G-d. The carnage was terrible, but it could have been even worse. At 10.30am this morning, when the bombs exploded, there was no-one in the church. If the bomb had been just a few hours later, the glass from the windows would have ripped through the congregation causing terrible human damage. Yesterday an enormous tree fell down outside the church, which prevented the suicide bomber from detonating his explosives where they would have caused maximum damage.

Some people ask us whether days like today make us want to give up. We have seen much of what we have worked for destroyed. We have seen people we love bereaved. But the truth is, it is days like today that remind us why our work in Iraq is absolutely essential. We must continue to provide a place of worship for Iraqi Christians. We must continue to treat the medical needs of Iraqi civilians. And we must continue to engage with the senior religious leaders from across the sectarian divides, working with them to challenge the belief systems that lie behind this terrible slaughter. We will not stop because of this.

Will you stand with us and help us to restore what was destroyed?



To donate, either by standing order or with a one-off payment, please see the donations page of their website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lizz Truss and family values

Cranmer has been asked to comment upon the attempts of the local Conservative association in SW Norfolk to deselect their newly-adopted candidate, Liz Truss. She was, by all accounts, an excellent choice, lauded and praised universally for her skills, experience and prospects for considerably strengthening the parliamentary party after the next general election.

But during the selection process, it is alleged that she concealed the fact that she had engaged in an extra-marital affair with Conservative backbencher Mark Field, which led to the breakdown of his marriage. One of Cranmer’s communicants has asked him to comment upon the matter in the context of the conservative view of family values.

His Grace likes to oblige.

Family values are utterly, absolutely, completely and irrefutably irrelevant to the case.

His Grace hopes that he has made that clear.

A matter that is all over the ubiquitous Internet is hardly a matter that is concealed. If the local party in SW Norfolk has not bothered to research the candidates before them, the omission is theirs. Whilst much which pollutes the Internet is tittle-tattle, and much of that muchness is distorted, exaggerated and/or quite unjustifiable, untrue or unfair, a Conservative association engaged in something as radical as the election of their prospective parliamentary candidate has a duty to research their candidates thoroughly, and to raise any questions or concerns through the appropriate channels.

However, there are now calls for CCHQ to intervene and prevent the local association from deselecting Ms Truss. Even the arch-defender of Tory grass roots has said that the Conservatives of SW Norfolk ‘are stretching patience to breaking point’.

It is profoundly concerning to hear that the increasingly omnipotent and omniscient CCHQ is being given such high-profile succour as they pursue their power-grab and sideline the local association to the point of irrelevance. Deficient and negligent the Conservatives of SW Norfolk may be, but who is to be the judge of deficiency and negligence?

One cannot on the one hand oppose the imposition of all-women shortlists and on the other defend the right of CCHQ to halt what is perceived to be an unjust deselection. One cannot simultaneously wish to see power returned to local associations only to oppose it when it is exercised in a manner with which one disagrees. Toryism is benign paternalism; not malignant authoritarianism.

The awkward fact is that Liz Truss is one of Mr Cameron’s most highly-favoured women / gay / ethnic candidates, and holds privileged status on the party’s List of Approved Candidates. She is approved despite the party knowing of her affair, and that approval confers an authority which a local association should not be permitted to overturn: ie, a candidate approved centrally may not be unapproved locally, though some may disapprove of him or her. However, when a candidate does something which renders them unapproved in the eyes of the local association, in terms of conduct or character, the central authority should not be empowered to intervene and to impose its will upon the local association.

But that is not the case in the matter of Liz Truss. Had she engaged in a squalid affair after being selected, that may indeed be legitimate grounds for local intervention: Boris Johnson faced more than a little scrutiny in Henley when his personal life was perceived to be hindering his performance as an MP.

But the fact is that it is utterly un-conservative to assert that what one does in the bedroom has any bearing at all on one’s ability to represent one’s constituents in Parliament. One does not need to dwell in a traditional family unit in order to uphold it as the building block of a stable society. And it is highly questionable the extent to which the morals and standards of one should be imposed upon another. Of course, one may have expectations, but the Conservatives of SW Norfolk appear not to have made them sufficiently explicit. None of us can know the personal circumstances which led Ms Truss and Mr Field to pursue their curtain-twitching assignation, but neither is it for us to judge. Whilst an extra-marital affair does indeed reveal something of a person’s character, in the case of Liz Truss there is more than a whiff of sexism: for a man to sleep around is ‘natural’; for a women to do so is whoredom. If Mark Field is acceptable for the Cities of London and Westminster, then Liz Truss should be in SW Norfolk. The hypocrisy is sickening.

But there is no rule within CCHQ’s centralised constitution that local associations may not be hypocritical. If that were the case, CCHQ would find itself subject to its own support status, for they have been known to be guilty of their own brand of hypocrisy in the capricious unapproval of what they have previously approved.

So, what is to be done?

Cranmer is persuaded that this unseemly saga has caused an irretrievable breakdown in the working relationship, as irretrievable as the breakdown Ms Truss’s affair caused Mr Field’s marriage. It has broken down to such an extent that the candidate no longer has the support of the local association, and the local association appear not to want their candidate. One cannot fight a next general election without arms and legs. But it is not for CCHQ to impose a solution or interfere with local democracy: if they were wise, they would refrain from intervention.

If they were wise.

The centralised handling of so many candidate selections and the imposition of the favoured Cameroon has so frequently ended in tears that it ought to be evident that CCHQ interference does more harm to the party than the occasional little local difficulty. And no winner can emerge from this situation.

With regret, Cranmer concludes that Ms Truss ought to do the honourable thing and resign. If she is as talented and as valuable to the party as is reported, she will have no problem finding another seat to contest. The common cry of curs in SW Norfolk appear to want an unsullied saint as their parliamentary candidate and so wish to banish Ms Truss from their rotten fens. She should simply banish them, and tell them there is a world elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lord Heseltine rises to Chris Bryant’s EU bait

Just as the Minister for Europe goaded, exactly as he intended, one of the Conservative Party’s ‘big hitters’ has sensed the bait, surfaced from the party’s EU purdah and chewed at an unseemly mouthful of Chris Bryant’s worm.

Lord Heseltine has predicted that David Cameron will be ‘forced into a swift and humiliating retreat on Europe if he wins power’.

Excellent. Fantastic. Just what we need.

So now we know that Chris Bryant was right: David Cameron is either incompetent or ‘downright fibbing’. At least that is what Lord Heseltine implies, or indeed, makes rather explicit. The former deputy prime minister predicts that Conservatives in the European Parliament will rejoin the European People’s Party (EPP) soon after the election. The Times reports that he ‘warned the party leadership at a private meeting last week that its currently Eurosceptic stance would be deeply damaging to Britain’s foreign policy interests. He suggested that the Conservative leader would inevitably have to “reach an accommodation” with the EPP — even though that would be extremely difficult to achieve without losing face and enraging party activists’.

He’s not wrong on that point.

And Cranmer cannot see how Conservative MEPs could possibly pursue such a path, having all just been elected on a platform and manifesto pledge to leave the EPP.

But while the oldest internecine fissure opens up once again within the Conservative Party (caused, please note, by one of the Europhile wing), the campaign for President Blair gathers apace. According to David Milliband, Tony Blair would have the motorcade factor: he would ‘stop the traffic in Beijing and Moscow’.

Well, he didn't quite manage to come to Jerusalem in the clouds and descend with great power and glory to the Mount of Olives. So perhaps Beijing and Moscow will be easier fare.

But according to The Guardian, Mr Blair has got to launch a dynamic campaign now or he might not fulfil his religio-political destiny. Cranmer was struck by Mr Miliband’s comments:

"I think he, like me, is waiting to see what kind of person Europe wants, because the choice is not primarily his, the choice is for Europe."

One might expect the Foreign Secretary to be able to distinguish between Europe and the EU: it is also wholly misleading to present the new President as ‘the choice of Europe’. Setting aside the absence of a distinctly European demos, there is no sense in which ‘Europe’ has agreed that it needs a president at all: indeed, those countries who rejected the proposal were badgered and bludgeoned into making the ‘right’ decision. And there is also no sense in which President Blair will be elected by the will of the people: he will be appointed by a self-serving, self-perpetuating oligarchy. If ‘the choice is for Europe’, it is revealing that David Miliband believes ‘Europe’ to be synonymous with EU leaders: Europe is just 27 men and women.

Or is it 26?

As Cranmer consults his lawyers today (for he is still sorely distracted, not to say incredibly urinated afar by the continuing gross injustice he painfully endures), he shall be praying that today’s hearing in the Czech Constitutional Court will determine that the Lisbon Treaty does indeed impinge upon the country's sovereignty.

President Vaclav Klaus sees this. How can a constitutional court not?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conservatives to restore grandparents to the heart of the family

The Bible does not talk of grandparents, but it does talk of one’s children’s children, and they are presented as a gift to the righteous and a symbol of God’s love and faithfulness. There is little doubt that the elderly and their children’s children were intended to forge a bond in order that wisdom, experience, learning and faith may be passed on and preserved through the generations. Grandparents are meant to be a second set of parents: their influence in a child’s emotional and social development can be as great as that provided by a mother and a father – for good or ill. They are not only caretaker guardians, but the archivists of family history; principal storyteller, mentor, confidant, and diplomatic intermediary between child and parent. Not to mention banker and debt counsellor. And where else can a child find the role model for their own twilight years?

Yet, for many grandparents, their children’s children have become little more than a picture on the sideboard or a charm on grandma’s bracelet.

The Conservative Party intends to restore the primacy of grandparents to the family unit by granting them rights in law which used to be theirs by tradition. But with changes to society (or ‘Breakdown Britain’), there has been an increase in incidences of separation, divorce and the rise of the single parent, such that millions of grandparents have simply lost touch with their children’s children, some even barred altogether from the access they request. And with rampant paedophilophobia, we are moving into the realms of having to subject all grandparents to a Criminal Records Bureau check before they are even permitted to mind their grandchildren.

The breaking of the grandparent-grandchild bond is heartbreaking for both parties, and a cause of irreparable deprivation to the youngest especially. Stories abound of the children of divorcees, the abused and the bereaved being palmed off to complete strangers or homosexual adoptees, irrespective of the wishes of the grandparents who presently have no rights in law over the future and care of their children’s children. Indeed, step parents have greater rights: water has become thicker than blood.

And so the Conservative Party has pledged to put the needs of the child to the fore, and where deemed appropriate the courts will be able to place grandparents at the front of the custody queue if their grandchildren face being fostered or taken into care. In the hierarchy of rights, ageism will no longer be trumped by homophobia.

Unless, of course, the grandparents happen to be practising Christians.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chris Bryant: Either David Cameron is incompetent or he’s ‘downright fibbing’

The new ‘Europe Minister’, former Anglican vicar Chris Bryant, has prodded a hyper-sensitive sore point for many Conservatives. So sensitive is this spot that it is scarcely mentioned, and when it is, it is frequently done in code. And those who dare to breach the impenetrable shrouded vernacular by a bit of plain speaking on the matter are either threatened or completely sidelined and ignored.

In a goading attempt to persuade someone, anyone, to come off the Tory fence, The Sunday Telegraph carries a story in which theologian-turned-politician Chris Bryant says the Conservative Party is ‘living in cloud cuckoo land’ by virtue of their continuing opposition to the European Constitution (aka the Lisbon Treaty).

Cranmer wishes people would stop misrepresenting Cloud Cuckoo Land. Anyone who bothers to read The Birds by Aristophanes would find this land a surprisingly rational place. While Pisthetairos may be trusting and Euelpides ever hopeful, what is life without hope or trust? And in the same play, it is observed: ‘Full of wiles, full of guile, at all times, in all ways, are the children of Men.’ It is an echo of Jeremiah’s earlier-written ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.’

And the Reverend Chris Bryant ought to know such things.

And he should examine the motives of his own heart before pontificating policy or casting aspersions on the character and integrity of the Leader of the Opposition.

Whilst it is true that it appears that the Lisbon Treaty is ‘all but ratified’, it is by no means the case that ‘the time for arguing about Lisbon (is) over’. The issues will not go away any more than the question of the UK’s entry into the EEC went away between 1973-5. The more President Blair struts his stuff on the world stage, eclipsing, dwarfing and thwarting Prime Minister Cameron at every turn, it will not be forgotten that it was the ‘Constitution for Europe’ which created him Emperor, and which gave the Union the legal authority to decree foreign policy and acquire whatever powers it requires to fulfil its unspecified objectives. It will remain a running sore in the country until the boil is lanced by a referendum of the people - a plebiscite which Mr Bryant's party promised, indeed, made a manifesto commitment to hold, and then reneged on the pledge.

And he dares to accuse David Cameron of incompetence or 'fibbing'.

While Mr Bryant says that his job is now on ‘how we can make this work for Britain’, he sets aside the inconvenient fact that the overwhelming majority of the British people do not want it to work for Britain: they do not want it at all.

And so he deflects his self-conscious awkwardness on to David Cameron. He says, “The Conservative leader's pledge ‘not to let matters rest there’ was deliberately ambiguous and misleading. The Tory position is inept. They haven't thought it through, and there is a fundamental deception at the heart of what they are saying. I think your readers will end up feeling deceived by Cameron over the question of a referendum. I would lay a very big wager that they will be very disappointed if there was a Cameron government because they wouldn't end up having a referendum."

He thereby deduces that Mr Cameron is guilty of duplicity and deceit, collusion and cover-up. And he concludes that either Mr Cameron is ‘incompetent’ or else ‘he's downright fibbing’.

Cranmer likes the word ‘fibbing’, especially when used by scurvy politicians. What is a fib if it is not a lie? And if it be a trivial or venial lie, that does not make it not a lie, though it may indeed be less of a lie. But in matters relating to something as fundamental as the governance of the country, that can hardly be a trivial, venial issue. In which case, by presenting Mr Cameron as a ‘fibber’, Mr Bryant is undoubtedly a liar.

And then he criticises the Conservative Party for forging an alliance with ‘homophobic’ Poles in the new ECR group in the European Parliament, claiming the reason why they were happy to sit down with Michal Kaminski of the Law and Justice Party was that 'they shared his views on homosexuality’.

Perhaps the good Reverend might examine David Cameron’s record of voting on civil partnerships and 'gay rights’ over recent years, and then compare it with the record of his own leader, who has always seemed to absent himself when Mr Bryant’s priority concerns for ‘equality’ were voted on.

Perhaps Gordon Brown has more in common with the alleged views of Michal Kaminski than he might dare to admit or Mr Bryant might care to examine.

The Telegraph article ends with a bizarre statement. Mr Bryant is clearly a fervent Europhile, boasting that he has ‘taken part in every major Europe debate in Parliament during his time there'. But he then assures us that he is not ‘obsessive’ about the issue, saying: "If you have got your European cagoule on you are not going to be rational."

Why is it that all the other politocos sport anoraks, but Mr Bryant talks of cagoules?

Are they the fashion in Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rome’s Via Media

There is something quite seismic afoot, which really does confirm what Cranmer has been saying for many years: Pope Benedict XVI is the foremost theologian of the age, and certainly the finest intellect to hold the Papal Office in a century. He is also gifted with shrewd and highly-attuned political antennae, which the Anglican hierarchy cannot but wonder at. Indeed, he leaves them standing.

Ever since the Bull Apostolicae Curae issued by Leo XIII in 1896, the Church of England has been in no doubt regarding Rome’s view on ordinations conducted with the Anglican rite, which Cranmer introduced in 1550. They are, declared Pope Leo, ‘absolutely null and utterly void’. And so absolutely and utterly worthless were they that he implored those who sought orders to return to Rome where they would find ‘the true aids for salvation’.

This was reiterated as recently as just a year ago, when Cardinal Dias quite rudely implied that the Church of England is suffering from spiritual Alzheimer's and ecclesial Parkinson's. And Cardinal Kasper, speaking with ‘the frankness which friendship allows’, declared that Rome’s recognition of Anglican orders was ‘definitively blocked’.

But Pope Benedict has retracted the ‘definitively’, set aside the ‘absolutely’ and dispensed with the ‘utterly’. The tedious ecumenists have been blown out of the water: their time has run out. It seems, after all, that there is to be accommodation of Anglican orders within the Roman Catholic Church. And Cranmer is of the opinion that this is one of the most significant shifts in post-Reformation Christendom.

There is no doubt that the timing of the Pope’s Apostolic Constitution with its ‘Personal Ordinariate’ incursion into the Anglo-Catholic or ‘High Anglican’ wing of the Church of England is unfortunate. That the Archbishop of Canterbury was given just a few weeks’ notice appears a little rude, not to say quite disrespectful. And yet there is a sense in which Dr Williams has been quite naïve; indeed, had he been possessing of half the antennae of His Holiness, he would have seen this coming years ago.

There has long been profound concern among Anglo-Catholics that the ‘liberal’ wing of the Church was on the ascendancy. The fine scholarship of Anglican historians and theologians was being subsumed to such ephemeral obsessions as the ordination of homosexuals and women. It is wholly consistent with the Church of England’s belief about itself – that it is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church – that the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican Orders by the Roman Catholic Church. Since there are so many traditionalists within the Anglican Communion who accord with this, it is difficult to ignore the subtle but evident allusion to the call of Pope Leo XIII that they should return to Rome where they would find ‘the true aids for salvation’.

And yet there remain some very great and significant differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches, including the very office of the Papacy, Rome’s assertion of authority, its belief in the insufficiency of Scripture, and the enormity of the claim to Papal infallibility.

And yet perhaps about 700,000 Anglicans out of 80 million worldwide are now considering the Pope’s invitation to swim the Tiber; not to convert, as such, but to dwell under their own tabernacle within the Roman Catholic Church with the ability to retain some distinct Anglican practices.

There is a sense in which Pope Benedict has graciously offered to sustain the Catholic wing of the Church of England, about which the Archbishop of Canterbury appears not to care very much at all. The Vatican has said that it is simply responding to approaches by Anglicans in search of a spiritual home, and so they have obliged. And what can be wrong with starving children being fed by the friendly neighbours next door if their own parents refuse to nourish them as their health and wellbeing require?

The problem is that the move has damaged the foundation of Anglican identity: it has upset the balance of Hooker’s ‘Catholic and Reformed’ via media. Indeed, the Pope’s invitation can only have the effect of making the Church of England more Protestant, which, in the present age, simply means more liberal, secular and relativist: there are very few parishes now which have much time at all for the XXXIX Articles or the historic character inherited from the days of Queen Elizabeth I. The Catholic tradition is important to the identity of the Church of England, and it is worth fighting to preserve.

So, what is to be done?

There has already been a little spluttering of objection: the Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered a not-so-veiled rebuke for having little warning, and his predecessor Lord Carey has indicated that he is appalled by the untimely discourtesy. He said: "I think, in this day and age, this was inexcusable that Rome decided to do this without consultation."

But Cranmer is a rather more intrigued by the legal implications: he is persuaded that the path to Rome will be rocky for any Anglican province or diocese, and they may not find in the Roman Catholic Church quite the spiritual haven that they expect. There may be dispensation to use The Book of Common Prayer, but it is very doubtful the extent to which a distinct and genuine ‘Anglican identity’ might be preserved within the Roman Catholic Church. There are very many Anglo-Catholics indeed for whom their Anglicanism consists of far more than Cranmer’s masterpiece. In addition, Anglican clergy are unlikely to take their entire congregations with them, and risk losing their houses and church buildings. There will be no financial compensation, as there was for disgruntled clergy following the decision to ordain women priests, not least because the Church cannot afford it.

And let us not forget the considerable implications that the ‘church within a church’ model presents for the Roman Catholic Church. The incorporation of highly-educated and conservatively-Catholic-minded (even Tory) Anglican vicars and bishops could create some uncomfortable competition for the more liberal (and Labour) Roman Catholic priests and bishops in England and Wales. And why should they maintain an enforced celibacy when the Anglican ministers may marry? There can be no doubt that married clergy coming in from the Anglican Church will raise yet again the issue of clerical celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church.

Cranmer wonders if the arrival of the Catholic-Anglicans might not be a Trojan horse of unintended reformation within the Roman Catholic Church.

And he is yet to examine the Apostolic Constitution and the extent to which it will confer or claim jurisdiction, and precisely over what such conferred or claimed jurisdiction will be. While this is not quite an hegemonous power grab, it has certainly taken a detour around the Archbishop of Canterbury, and has thereby arguably humiliated the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The first Elizabethan era was concerned to retain the Church of England's Catholic identity: it would be ironic if it were to be wholly lost during the second.

While Cranmer has no doubt that His Holiness will be familiar with the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 - and doubtless also highly attuned to the increasingly widespread belief that it is time for it to be repealed - any jurisdiction claimed by Rome within this Realm may yet be fraught with some intractable religio-political complexities.

Friday, October 23, 2009

BBC commissions the Nick Griffin Show

He has already been signed to succeed Jonathan Ross. That will save the corporation (or rather the licence fee payer) £18 million, for Nick Griffin comes at a bargain price (free) and his views are not quite so offensive. And, as far as Cranmer knows, Mr Griffin has never verbally assaulted a pensioner or made obscene phone calls. But he has managed to boost the Question Time audience to record levels. The show usually trundles along with 2.5 million anoraks transfixed by tedious partisan posturing in the presence of the occasional pseudo-celebrity. But last night’s viewing figures smashed the previous Question Time record, when 4 million tuned in to hear Margaret Beckett and Sir Menzies Campbell drone on about moats and duck houses. Other previous highs have included Will Young (3.2 million) and the Iraq war (3.3 million).

But Nick Griffin has dwarfed all of them, attracting a colossal 7.9 million viewers. Ultimately, television is as much about viewing figures as the newspaper business is about selling copy.

There has been much criticism of the BBC for inviting the leader of the BNP on to its flagship political platform: they were besieged by a baying mob and have been inundated with complaints: Ofcom will doubtless be a little busier today.

But Cranmer would like to say how poor the performances were of all three representatives of the main political parties. Jack Straw stammered his way through some ill-prepared tales from Blackburn; Sayeeda Warsi was purposely chosen for her skin colour and religion, yet simply repeated ad hominem attacks ad nauseam; and Chris Huhne, like all Liberal Democrats, had nothing specific to say about anything. All three gave distinctly unmemorable performances, and failed miserably either to expose Mr Griffin’s odious beliefs or the BNP’s sinister strategy.

Last night was one of the few Question Times in which the observations and political contributions of the ‘token celebrity’ outshone those of the ‘professional’ politicians. Bonnie Greer is a playwright and deputy director of the British Museum, but if she were to stand for Parliament, she would get a landslide: she has something of the Obama factor about her. She alone held her cool, and (more importantly) exposed Nick Griffin’s intellectual inadequacies and the absurdities of the BNP. In fact, she came out with the most memorable challenge of the programme. On the subject of the BNP’s plans to change its constitution to permit ethnic minorities to join the party, she said to Nick Griffin: “You can laugh all you want, but if I was a BNP member, I'd be scared.”

She not only charmed, she did so intelligently, rising above the partisan bickering on immigration which beset the other three. While they were arguing among themselves about which party has the best policy and who voted for what, Bonnie Greer was eloquently upholding the right to freedom of speech, and telling Nick Griffin that she had brought books for him – to enlighten him on the true history of the British Isles; to challenge some of his beliefs and prejudices; in short, she offered to educate him.

Who else has offered to do that for the self-styled ‘most loathed man in Britain’?

And that was why she towered above the political posturing and the unseemly fringe behaviour of the politicians. Each time Mr Griffin tried to persuade the British people that he was thinking what they were thinking about Winston Churchill, patriotism, Islam, homosexuality and immigration, Jack Straw spoke about his Jewish antecedents, Sayeeda Warsi said he was ‘disgusting’, and Chris Huhne said... err, Cranmer cannot recall. But Bonnie Greer offered him an education.

How else can one enlighten the ignorant? How else should one challenge the bigot? How else may one inculcate values, develop maturity or instil morality?

And Mr Griffin should accept her kind offer, for he even admitted that he could not himself explain his own past views and actions, or why he believed what he believed. While he denigrated Islam, he lauded the Klu Klux Klan (in the presence of a black American). He contradicted himself over holocaust denial, and implied that ‘indigenous people of Britain’ were victims of genocide but were not necessarily white because, to him, skin colour is irrelevant. He appeared not only not to know himself, but he could not explain how or why he knows what he claims to know.

Mr Griffin would benefit enormously from studying for an A-level in Critical Thinking, a BTEC in epistemology, or even just a few hours of ‘Citizenship’.

In many ways his performance was a disappointment: it was certainly a wasted opportunity. Although he attempted to present himself as the BNP’s Tony Blair – a political saviour who is challenging his party’s ‘Clause IV’ and modernising its constitution to make it suitable for modern Britain – he struggled throughout to articulate anything coherent: he was reactive and defensive.

But his mere presence on the British political scene ought to be a constant reminder of the manifest failings of all of the main parties. The rise of the BNP is a direct consequence of 12 years of New Labour’s immigration policy, their diminution of our liberties and an unprecedented assault on the Christian faith – all of which have alienated millions of its core voters. A vote for the BNP is now the most high-profile protest vote in the history of political sects and dangerous cults. And it is not that their supporters are necessarily racist; it is that they can tune in to the BBC and watch the ‘professional’ politicians receive the kicking and verbal assault that the ballot box can only ever imply.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

His Grace – an update

Cranmer has been profoundly moved by the hundreds of messages he has received, not only upon his august blog but also sent directly to him via email. He had no idea that so many bishops, priests, peers and politicians partook of His Grace’s daily bread, and he apologises that he has been silent. But a period of reflection and counsel was necessary. He deeply regrets the evident inconvenience that this has caused to his readers and communicants, particularly at a time when His Holiness is forging a Roman-Anglican via media and Mr Cameron is advocating a Conservative-Marxist third way which will magically make Parliament ‘more representative’. Upon these matters Cranmer has much to say, but he is sorely distracted.

His Grace says that he has taken counsel, and he has. And the most beneficial has come from people whom he has never met, and almost certainly never will (not to mention Beethoven, whom he hopes one day to meet to the sublime reverberations of the Missa Solemnis). There is a kinship in cyber-fellowship which is every bit as real as the eternal Communion of Saints, and he has been persuaded by these much-valued friends (not Beethoven) of the virtue of his motivation and the righteousness of his cause.

Injustice is an unbearable malignance. As some will know, it has always been in His Grace’s nature to contend for justice and truth in both the religious and political realms, even though the costs have been great. His flesh may be weak and occasionally falter, but the spirit triumphs. There is somewhere a metaphorical equivalence between the penalty of dissonance in contending against the postmodern zeitgeist and the all-consuming flames of 1556.

His Grace is now drawn once again to fight for justice: the cause is indeed just and must be prosecuted to the full. In order to do this, he humbly asks for the support of his readers and communicants. He has done this before in the spiritual realm, and has been moved by the fervent outpouring and efficacy of your prayers.

But this request is temporal and material, and His Grace has been reluctant to ever make such a plea, not least because there are very many far more worthy causes. But a certain wrong needs to be righted: a gross injustice and an offence against all that is right and true needs to be challenged, and the costs are acutely material as well as profoundly emotional. His Grace is not being sued and is the subject of no lawsuit against him: he has done no wrong, committed no crime, and neither is any alleged. And yet he suffers immense detriment.

Justice should not be thwarted by Mammon, but it is observed that it all so frequently is, especially when Mammon appears in the guise of a tax-payer-funded Philistine giant ogre towering over the Israelite shepherd of modest means. Black dogs may pass but black holes are not so ephemeral. Other top political blogs are supported either by wealthy benefactors or advertising revenue: Archbishop Cranmer has neither. In order to prosecute his cause, His Grace has been advised by knowledgeable and supportive communicants both humble and noble that it would be no shame to make an appeal for funds to support His Grace’s august blog (and his ashes) at this time: to give his readers and communicants the opportunity to make an offering in proportion to their appreciation (which may, of course, be none).

But His Grace would like to make it clear that his Collection Plate is not simply a pew-hopping one-way transaction to fix the church spire or to invest in hedge funds or shares to short-sell in order to meet the episcopal pension deficit. No, while he would be grateful for all donations large and small, if there are readers and communicants who would prefer to have their sums returned when the black hole dog has passed – which it surely will – His Grace will do precisely that. Paypal provides all the necessary details to permit this, or alternatively send an email direct to confirm.

His Grace would like once again to express his sincere appreciation to all of those who appreciate him and are holding him in prayer at this time of testing, whatever your religious belief or political creed (which appear to be manifold and diverse, indeed, quite catholic). Pax vobiscum and bless you all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Black Dog

Cranmer’s readers and communicants will need to bear with His Grace today, for he is subject to a very great oppression which has not only brought him very low, but turned him to thoughts of another death which would bring him great relief. When one makes a principled stand for truth and justice, one more than half hopes that the immutable virtues might prevail, that the light of truth might shine in the darkest recesses, and that justice might flow like a river.

But real life isn’t like that.

Its rains on the righteous as well as the unrighteous, regardless of whether or not they lied when they were 17.

When one confronts a liar and a bully, perhaps it is to be anticipated that they might lie and bully more in order to deceive and deflect, because one knows the identity of the Father of Lies, and he is an adversary of formidable capacities. The personal costs – emotional as well as material – may be understood intellectually, but they are scarcely comprehensible or even recognisable de profundis. One may, like Job, bewail the day one was born and seek to crawl back into the heavenly security of the womb. But even the womb is no longer a refuge: indeed, it has become the principal place of mass murder. One may lament from the depths of Sheol, like the psalmist, and in deep sorrow and misery cry to God and ask for mercy. The psalmist may trust in God, but the anguish of the pit is unbearable.

The depths of despair are deeper than the ocean, and the black void is a taste of death.

His Grace is not sure that he has the strength to continue or the will to live, if, indeed, his ashes could be said to have ever re-lived in a corporeal sense at all. He needs to spend some time in the company of Beethoven: his Sonata Op 106 in B Flat Major is already playing. Vivat, vivat. If His Grace again returns to the earth in dust, he thanks his loyal readers and communicants for their congenial fellowship over these years, and he prays God’s richest blessings upon you all sincerely.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tony Blair venerates the bones of St Thérèse of Lisieux

Matthew Parris (who describes himself as a ‘lapsed militant atheist’) decided yesterday to visit Westminster Cathedral to pay his respects to a big arched glass box containing the ornate wooden house with little tiles, embracing the sealed alabaster box in which the bones of St Thérèse of Lisieux lay. Or, as he says, 'were presumed to lie'.

As he queued with the faithful, he passed a sign which said ‘The Plenary Indulgence’, and which went on to explain that a plenary indulgence is the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. Apparently Pope Benedict has declared a special grant of indulgences to pilgrims to these relics at Westminster: ‘One plenary indulgence may be gained each day and may be applied either to a soul in Purgatory or the pilgrim himself or herself’.

Mr Parris’ response: ‘A Lutheran rage rose in my gorge. Jesus would have been incandescent. I think I’m a Protestant atheist.’

At least the indulgences are not being sold (unless the peripheral stores selling candles for £1 and roses for £1 or fish and chips for £3.75 count as collateral profiteering).

But on leaving the cathedral, Matthew Paris had a surprise encounter (or meeting of eyes) with our former prime minister and latter-day convert to the faith, Tony Blair.

Why would Mr Blair be venerating the thigh and foot bones of a 19th-century French saint? Why would he seek to light a candle, clutch a rose, touch the glass box, and stare at an ornate wooden casket containing a few bones which he trusts are contained therein?

This was no photo opportunity: Mr Blair was anonymous and alone, which rather indicates sincerity in his Guardian-Tablet-Romish piety.

Was he hoping to beseech St Thérèse for a little French-Catholic intercession in his bid to become President of Europe?

Or was he seeking the plenary indulgence to relieve the punishment due because of his manifold (mortal) sins?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rome, Relics, Royalty and Rowan

It is strange, is it not, that the relics of a saint are touring the UK, resting even in Anglican cathedrals to ‘joyful applause’ (while her thigh and foot went to Wormwood Scrubs); the Duke of Edinburgh is paying homage in Walsingham; Cardinal Newman is on the path to sainthood; Pope Benedict XVI is about to make the first ever papal state visit to these shores; the Queen has reportedly ‘grown increasingly sympathetic’ to the Roman Catholic Church while being ‘appalled’, along with the Prince of Wales, at developments in the Church of England...

...and the Archbishop of Canterbury is preaching about how setting up ‘carbon reduction action groups’ would help people to ‘reconnect with the world’ and ‘become human again’.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jacqui Smith humiliated as Geert Wilders UK ban overturned

Radio Netherlands are reporting that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in London has ruled that Dutch politician Geert Wilders should not have been refused entry to the United Kingdom in February.

This is a total humiliation for Jacqui Smith, who requested the ban, not to mention Gordon Brown and this whole tawdry Labour Government who have conspired to diminish our precious liberties and eradicated them systematically one by one.

Mr Wilders said he was ‘very happy’ about the ruling. He said the British government's decision to bar him had been politically motivated and described today’s ruling as ‘not a victory for me, only a victory for freedom of speech’. He said he would be consulting with his lawyers, and planned to travel to Britain at the earliest possible opportunity.

And will be assured of a hero's welcome and a media frenzy far in excess of anything he might have achieved had he not been persecuted and martyred by the Home Secretary.

Mr Wilders was originally invited to show his anti-Islam film ‘Fitna’ at the House of Lords, at the invitation of Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox. The film condemns the Qur’an as a ‘fascist book’ and warns against Islamic violence and the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe. Prior to his planned trip to the UK, an Amsterdam court ruled that he should be prosecuted for racial hatred – a case which is still pending.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (who is not having a good week at all) refused Mr Wilders entry to the country because she said his visit would ‘threaten community security and therefore public security’. The Home Office said they would ‘stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country’. They therefore blocked Mr Wilders' visit on the basis of legislation designed primarily to keep out 'religious extremists' and ‘preachers of hate’.

Mr Wilders decided to defy the ban and flew to the UK anyway. He was detained when he arrived in London and put back on a plane to the Netherlands. The screening of ‘Fitna’ at the House of Lords went ahead without Mr Wilders, attended by reporters and a handful of politicians.

In response to today's ruling, a Home Office spokesman said, "We are disappointed by the court's decision today. The Government opposes extremism is all its forms. The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view."

It is to be noted that this arrogant spokesman does not even have the courtesy to refer to the elected Dutch politician as Mr Wilders.

Doubtless Lord Ahmed will now be summoning his 10,000 co-religionists to descend on Parliament for peaceful protest, edifying debate and constructive dialogue.

Geert Wilders for EU President?

The ‘Brighton bomber’ enters Parliament

Can you imagine Guy Fawkes being taken into the Grand Committee Room of Parliament and asked to share a ‘forgiveness’ platform with King James I?

Of course, we already have terrorists in Parliament. And since Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have been brought into government, complete with tax-payer funded, unrestricted access to the Palace of Westminster, there seems no reason at all to bar Patrick Magee, the ‘Brighton Bomber’, who will enter Parliament at 6.30pm today.

The occasion marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Brighton Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party Conference in 1984. There are many MPs and peers who find his presence repugnant: he was, after all, the most successful bomber to attempt to assassinate the government since Guy Fawkes’ abortive attempt four hundred years ago. Mr Magee plotted, planned and planted the bomb in the hope if murdering Margaret Thatcher and destroying the entire British Cabinet. And he came very close.

But while the traitor Guy Fawkes is still incinerated annually on the top of a thousand bonfires, Patrick (or ‘Pat’) Magee is being fêted at the expense of the taxpayer instead of being detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Cranmer might view this differently if Mr Magee were repentant. For forgiveness is a divine command, and to restrict its flow is to limit mercy. But Mr Magee is not remotely repentant. Indeed, he says he ‘stands by his actions’ though he ‘regrets the attack’.

Perhaps he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this pseudo-legitimising paradoxical verbiage and oxymoronic incongruity.

One cannot regret what one stands by. If an action is mistaken, it must be amended: only a just and right action can be defended. To legitimise is to negate regret. Mr Magee still argues that he ‘felt trapped’ because they were ‘the underdogs’ who ‘had no other way’.

The bomb was wholly justifiable because there was no alternative.

This is not the reasoning of someone who ‘regrets’.

Indeed, it is a consequence of liberating a man who should have served his entire natural life (eight life sentences) incarcerated for treason, if not been sent to the gallows. For what is the attempted assassination of Her Majesty’s Government if it be not treason?

But the Good Friday Agreement dispensed with the need for retribution. Indeed, treason is no longer a capital offence. Patrick Magee (or ‘Pat’) was released after a mere 14 years (less than three years for each death, or four months for each injury and death), without the need for regret, atonement, reparation or justice for the injured and bereaved. There was a crass quid pro quo: we’ll stop bombing you if you free our fellow freedom fighters. It was a very good Friday agreement indeed for the likes of Patrick Magee.

Or 'Pat'.

And so today he enters Westminster as a guest of The Forgiveness Project and the ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues’ (the what?). He will address an audience along with Jo Berry, the daughter of the MP Sir Anthony Berry who was killed in the blast. Apparently ‘hearing the story of “the enemy”’ is intrinsic to the project’s mission.

Ms Berry’s participation in this event is, of course, a matter for her. To share a platform with the man who murdered your father must be difficult indeed. Even more so when the murderer shows no remorse, and when they are giving the pulpit of the Grand Committee Room – in which Sir Anthony had frequently spoken – to an assassin who still argues that he ‘had no other way’.

Tell that to Lord Wakeham, whose wife was killed in the attack.

Tell that to Lord Tebbit, whose wife was left paralysed for life.

How can a platform for forgiveness even be considered when it is not forgiveness which is being sought and the event offends those who have been most hurt? Forgiveness is concerned with repentance, contrition and regret. And that is not on offer.

The ‘underdogs’ who ‘had no other way’ certainly had the way that is now being pursued, for this is about reconciliation and participation in the legitimate processes of government. Patrick Magee had the choice of participating in democracy or blowing people to bits. He chose the latter because he could not be bothered to talk, negotiate or vote. And when he did vote, it was easier to terrorise than to abide by the outcome.

And now he has become a celebrity terrorist, lauded and applauded by his employer ‘The Forgiveness Project’. He is next to be seen on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ or ‘Dancing on Ice’.

A few years ago, the BBC invited Lord Tebbit take part in Radio 4’s ‘The Reunion’ alongside Mr Magee. Lord Tebbit wrote in The Daily Telegraph: ‘Now it seems we are to be encouraged not merely to accept Mr Magee as a respectable human but to admire and — most sickeningly of all — to like him.” In another article published in The Financial Times earlier this year, Lord Tebbit declared that this kind of appeasement was symptomatic of the weakness and lack of resolve in modern British society.

To the question of whether he would like to meet Mr Magee and his accomplices he replied: “Yes, I would like to bump into them. If I was driving a heavy truck.”

For Lord Tebbit, forgiveness is a conditional social contract — it is given when it is deserved. And he says: “I can’t forgive someone who justifies what he did.”

The Forgiveness Project is a cultural counterfeit consistent with the zeitgeist. It is not quite ‘forgive and forget’, but it is about excusing and ‘fair-mindedness’, somehow minimising the hurt by ‘putting it into perspective’, or the pursuit of some ‘blind trust’ in the hope of a promise yet to be fulfilled.

Lord Tebbit said that he would share a platform with Patrick Magee ‘when Magee could repent, atone for his sins and help to indict and convict those who employed him’. He wrote of The Freedom Project that it ‘excuses, rewards and encourages murder’.

For the Christian, there must be forgiveness, but genuine forgiveness is not an emotion and it does not negate the rawness of hurt or loss. God did not excuse sin by considering that there may be extenuating circumstances. And neither does God meet our defiance by denying His hurt: the pain was traumatic, the agony almost unbearable.

Forgiveness is the outworking of the love of God. We must pray that God would forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are commanded to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. St Paul makes it clear that personal vengeance is inconsistent with loving our enemies.

Yet he also says:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

If the state had fulfilled its obligations, justice would have been done and be seen to have been done. And Patrick Magee would not now be walking around freely preaching 'forgiveness' in the heart of the institution he once tried to destroy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Tablet: Roman Catholic Church needs to influence ‘the right Tories’

The cover cartoon says it all really. It shows ‘Tory toff’ David Cameron strutting over-confidently but inexorably along to electoral victory, hotly pursued by a prancing prelate eager to bend Mr Cameron’s ear over the depravities of homosexual adoption, the demonic influence of embryology or the evils of civil partnerships. This magazine is lost in its own misguided prejudice, and quite ignorant in its assessment of both the social make-up of the Conservative Party and the inadequate influence of its own Church.

While the Church of England has attended party conferences and held numerous meetings with Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice to contribute to its agenda to restore ‘Broken Britain’, the Roman Catholic Church has ‘stayed behind’ and ‘been slow to develop a dialogue with the party’.

Essentially, The Tablet criticises the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales for sucking up to the likes of Edward Leigh who has ‘little influence in the party’, instead of ‘developing a relationship with its most influential figures’.

This is a curious criticism from a Christian magazine. Did not the Lord exhort believers to invite the last and fellowship with the lowliest?

It is, in any case, ill-considered nonsense to assert that the highly-respected Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee wields ‘little influence’. Indeed, Edward Leigh is one of the most respected MPs in the House. Archbishop Vincent Nichols is also unjustly criticised for contributing to a book by Edward Leigh because Mr Leigh is ‘right wing’ and perceived to be critical of David Cameron’s leadership, and ‘such friendships could be a hostage to fortune’.

And so Richard Kornicki has been appointed parliamentary co-ordinator at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and it is his task to develop ‘a relationship with its most influential figures’. The Tablet writes: ‘Kornicki’s role is to communicate between Catholic parliamentarians and the bishops on issues of mutual concern. With a background in the senior civil service he is also making contributions to policy work. The presence of such an experienced figure is a coup for the bishops, but the key question is how best to use his insights into parliamentary legislation and policy implementation in a way that can improve the Church’s influence. Before his appointment, the activities of the bishops’ tiny staff were largely limited to opposing Labour legislation that allowed gay couples to adopt, liberalised the law on embryology and sought to extend equalities. No wonder the Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, complained that “the Church seems obsessed by sex and lacks a helpful view, or understanding, of the difficult judgements politicians have to make”.’

And then The Tablet continues to talk about sexuality.

The Anglican obsession appears to be spreading.

Damian Green’s view is not shared by all of his colleagues. Mark Hoban is Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury and he believes that his Church’s relationship with the party is improving. He refers to regular cross-party meetings with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and now with Archbishop Nichols. But The Tablet notes that Mr Hoban ‘sets limits on the areas in which the Church should intervene’: ‘For instance he feels it would be prudent to avoid involvement in cases where the government of the day is debating whether to bale out particular firms that have got into financial trouble.’

He says: “The key thing is for the Church to speak on matters where it is clearly credible – like inner cities and the family – but not on matters where it is has no practical engagement. It has to be clear what its priorities are, not least in determining what it wants to secure in the coming parliament.”

No, Mr Hoban. The key thing for the Church is to preach the gospel, in season and out. And this is not limited to ‘inner cities and the family’, but to ‘practical engagement’ with the whole of life and social existence. It is a task hopelessly beyond credibility, for it seeks to be transformative of society by bringing redemption to the individual. One may impose change from without, or nurture it from within. One can bend ears or change hearts. This is not about strategies, practicalities or political priorities, but prayer, reflection and inspiration. It is about knowing right from wrong, distinguishing between good and evil, and having the courage of one's conviction to defend one's creed against the spirit of the age.

Would to God that all Conservative MPs were prophets.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cherie Blair lies about Ian Paisley

One is always inclined to believe the worst of one's religio-political opponents. If they are renowned for their bigotry, it makes sense to keep the coals hot with a few apocryphal stories to justify one's own bigotry.

Cherie Blair has told a packed Town Hall at the Cheltenham Literature Festival: "From beginning to end Ian Paisley never shook my hand. His wife would but Ian Paisley wouldn't because I was Catholic. Of course, Tony wasn't (Catholic) at the time.."

And so, she says, Dr Paisley would regularly shake hands with Tony Blair because he was not (then) Roman Catholic, while she was perpetually snubbed because of her faith.

It is not clear what her motives may be for this outrageous lie. Playing to the audience in Cheltenham by stirring up some anti-Protestant feeling seems a little strange. Cranmer knows for a fact that Dr Paisley shakes hands quite regularly with Roman Catholics - be they constituents, ministers of religion or politicians - and does not manifest such petty discourtesies as Cherie Blair avers.

If Dr Paisley could bring himself to shake hands with Bertie Ahern (a Roman Catholic) and share a joke with Martin McGuinness, the former IRA chief-of-staff turned Sinn Fein peace-maker, then shaking hands with Cherie Blair would present him with no problems at all.

Perhaps she is simply saddened that she never got to venerate the great man.

Cranmer is delighted that the Paisleys have hit back via The Guardian. Quite what Mrs Blair believed she was accomplishing with this nonsense is a complete mystery.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barack Obama and the igNobel Peace Prize

The President said he was humbled and undeserving.

Cranmer agrees.

Yet he was no more undeserving than Yasser Arafat.

It was a curious decision to bestow this prestigious award upon someone who has not yet contributed anything to world peace. He has made a few fine speeches of hope and change, but nothing has been achieved, no promises fulfilled. Yet the Nobel committee said it chose President Obama ‘for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples’ and for creating ‘a new international climate’.

They said: "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Such is the Obama cult. He has not brought peace to Afghanistan, he has not got the Israelis and Palestinians talking, he has not halted Iran's nuclear programme. But his presence has ‘captured the world’s attention’.

That’s nice.

Cranmer hopes to win the award next year. He may not yet have captured the world’s attention, but he intends to write a few articles of how he hopes to do so.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bishop of Croydon attacks Conservative economic policy

The Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has objected (rather strongly and scornfully) to the Conservative Party’s strategy for dealing with the national debt. He has also criticised the party for linking with ‘racists’ and ‘pseudo-facists’ in its new EU group. The Bishop hath a blog – “Nick Baines’s blog - musings of a restless bishop”, and restless (indeed, intolerant) he certainly is. In response to George Osborne’s speech, he wrote: "Call me old-fashioned, but was George Osborne having a laugh yesterday?"

A laugh?

The Bishop appears to be another theologian-economist with a penchant for Marx and an aversion to capitalism. It is noteworthy that he does not appear to have commented upon Labour’s conference anywhere upon his ‘restless’ blog.

Labour, of course, are in government.

Perhaps the Bishop is not sufficiently restless to consider that they might be in any way responsible for the economic morass into which we are all sinking. Perhaps he has not noticed that 12 years of Labour have made the poorest poorer, youth unemployment higher and inequality greater than at any time under Margaret Thatcher or John Major.

Since the Shadow Chancellor has hitherto only announced how he intends to raise £7 billion, Cranmer can hardly wait to hear the Bishop’s reaction to how Mr Osborne might deal with the remaining £163 billion. The Bishop writes dismissively: "Freezing public pay rates was hardly demanding of the grey matter and miserable prioritising of the rich over the poor didn't come as a great surprise."

Cranmer must have missed the ‘miserable prioritising of the rich over the poor’. Did the Shadow Chancellor not specifically say that the lowest paid public sector workers would be exempt from a pay freeze? And did he not also announce an end to tax credits for families earning more than £50,000 a year? And the limiting of baby bonds worth £250 to the disabled and the poorest families?

How does this constitute ‘prioritising of the rich’?

One wonders why some bishops appear to be pathologically incapable of a rational consideration of anything that emanates from the forces of Conservatism: it is, after all, the political philosophy which has sustained the Established Church for centuries.

But the Bishop’s attack on Mr Osborne did not stop there. He singled out the Shadow Chancellor's mantra ‘We're all in it together’ for particular scorn, saying: "Why did no one laugh?... Osborne and Cameron aren't ‘in it’ in the same way thousands of people I serve in south London are ‘in it’. They are rich kids with inheritances to spare them worrying about their future - whatever happens to the economy in the future."

He continued: "I know the Old Etonians (who, along with their chum Boris will soon run the country) are doing their best but ... why did no one laugh?"

And here we get to the nub of the Bishop’s gripe (if gripes can have a nub).

Consider ‘rich kids’, ‘Old Etonians’, ‘chum Boris’, and the Bishop begins to reveal a rather nasty motivation for his outburst. And when he lauds ‘Polly Toynbee’s sums’ as his economic gospel, one’s suspicions are confirmed.

In his further comments, the Bishop says he ‘long(s) for a party that will raise taxes and “let justice roll”.’

If the Bishop believes for one minute that a high-tax society will ‘let justice roll’, he might just consider that it is the world’s low-tax economies which consistently yield higher standards of living for their populations and do most to alleviate poverty at home and abroad.

The Bishop discloses: “But I did grow up in the north at a time when the Tories shattered my city (with help from Derek Hatton and co) and left wounds in my family that still weep. These guys have not the first idea about life outside the privileged circles in which they moved and I don’t trust them or their worldview.”

There can be nothing to redeem these evil Tories. Rachel is still weeping for her children in Liverpool, and the Bishop is incapable of forgiveness.

The truth is that Bishop Nick has already written off David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson because of their privileged upbringing and education. He ignores completely the immense amount of work done by Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Centre for Social Justice’, an agenda which David Cameron has announced will be at the heart of his administration.

For Bishop Nick, ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ will always be an oxymoron because ‘their worldview’ is incapable of compassion because they ‘have not the first idea about life outside the privileged circles’.

Perhaps the Bishop might reflect upon whether one really has to lose a five-year-old disabled son in order to understand something of the pain and trauma of doing so. What can a bishop possibly know about that? And when he has considered that one might indeed sincerely and sympathetically weep with those who weep, he might grasp that even Old Etonian rich kids and their chums live with bread like him, feel want, taste grief and need friends.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

David Cameron’s DNA – family, community and country

These, he said, were the things he cares about.

And so David Cameron expounded his mildly-theological mission statement – ‘Modern Conservatives, New Britain'. And this would be a Britain which would not only roll back the frontiers of the state, but would do so in an environmentally friendly manner. He touched on all the traditional great Tory themes – family, society, institutions and nationhood – and he vowed to restore common sense, respect, decency and fair play to a society which has been bereft of such virtues for more than a decade. He refreshingly spoke more of responsibility than rights, more of community than the individual, more of ‘we’ than ‘I’.

Setting out his vision for Britain, Mr Cameron said: “I see a country where more children grow up with security and love because family life comes first. I see a country where you choose the most important things in life - the school your child goes to and the healthcare you get.

“I see a country where communities govern themselves - organising local services, independent of Whitehall, a great handing back of power to people. I see a country with entrepreneurs everywhere, bringing their ideas to life - and life to our great towns and cities.

“I see a country where it's not just about the quantity of money, but the quality of life; where we lead the world in saving our planet. I see a country where you're not so afraid to walk home alone.

“We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society, stronger families, stronger communities, a stronger country. All by rebuilding responsibility.”

And he pledged to ‘tear down Labour's big government bureaucracy, ripping up its time-wasting, money-draining, responsibility-sapping nonsense.'

It is not quite the Beatitudes, but it was compassionate and conservative in a thoroughly Anglican way: it was uplifting and edifying stuff.

But Cranmer has a ‘but’.

Though it is the most cordial, mildest and politest of ‘buts’.

The social arrangements of (post-)modern Britain no longer acknowledge precedence, respect our institutions or even adhere to a cohesive morality. The disintegration of authority has led to the collapse of justice and resulted in a social fragmentation which demands ‘equality’ for everyone and ‘freedom’ to express anything. Liberalism is pervasive, and this is fundamentally at odds with Conservatism.

The purpose of establishment is to prevent fragmentation and restore cohesion. That is why it is the greatest of political themes and the most important of Conservative aims. Yet how can this be revived unless individuals are prepared to recognise – in this or that individual, in this or that office – a vested authority by which their gospel of relativity may be constrained or redefined? How can one assert a particular view of society and bring it to ideological fulfilment without making people subject to the power of the state whose frontiers one has pledged to roll back?

It is one thing to take people to a mountaintop and share the ecstasy of the vision; but the realising of it is a matter of the utmost political delicacy. Establishment – including that of the Church – is necessary to uphold the authority and sustain the morality by which the political will is achieved.

And David Cameron’s political vision can never be achieved while there is a superior parliament, court, government, president and pervasive secular orthodoxy to which every family, community and the whole country are presently subject.

Lord Dannatt? The appointment of all peers is now a ‘political gimmick’

When the Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling was told by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis that former Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, was joining the Conservatives in the Lords, he expressed the hope that it was not a ‘political gimmick’. He added: “We’ve seen too many appointments in this government of external people where it’s all been about Gordon Brown’s PR. General Dannatt’s an experienced figure and should rightly be working alongside government. I’m always suspicious of government’s motives when it does things like this.”

And so he ought to be.

And equally suspicious ought one to be of the motives of the Opposition ‘when it does things like this’.

Mr Grayling was neither ‘in the loop’, nor attentive to what Ms Maitlis was telling him. She specifically said that the General was to join the Tories, while he continued under the mistaken impression that it was Gordon Brown, and not his own leader, who was offering the General a job.

And so Mr Grayling went on to berate the Government for a ‘political gimmick’.

Rather like former bishops or speakers, it is rare for former service chiefs to align themselves openly with any political party. Most former defence chiefs raised to the peerage sit as cross-benchers, above the unedifying fray of partisan politics.

There are some who are questioning David Cameron’s judgement over this appointment, suggesting that he has potentially politicised the armed forces as the motives of each retiring senior military figure will now be questioned and ‘tainted’.

This is not a problem for Mr Cameron. But it is certainly one for General Dannatt.

It was his lack of judgement which leaked this story on a Radio Five interview yesterday. Today, that poor grasp of politics has wiped the reporting of every other Conference speech off the front pages. He alone is responsible for this.

It transpires that he has been advising the Conservative Party ‘for months’, which is a manifest assertion of political allegiance and a breach of the convention that the military are politically neutral.

While the whole country has heard Sir Richard openly criticise the Government for not providing enough support and equipment for troops in the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was believed that he was speaking up nobly for the armed forces. When he said he believed that the Army is fighting the Taliban with ‘at least part of one arm’ tied behind its back, we believed that the General was speaking with honourable motives.

Now there is more than a whiff of playing politics.

That Sir Richard is to be made a peer will now come as no surprise. That he will be a minister in the next Conservative government is now foregone.

But the reality is that there is no real difference between Labour and the Conservatives when it comes to appointments to the House of Lords. All peers are now ‘gimmicks’, for the second chamber is itself now nothing but a gimmick – a political football for either party to fill with its placemen and cronies in order to gain partisan advantage in the legislating process. Lord Dannatt may bring more to the Upper House than Lord Sugar, but as a Conservative what he brings will be much diminished.

And what will David Cameron do when the next wing commander, general or admiral steps out of the chain of command and starts to criticise publicly his Conservative government for not ring-fencing the defence budget, or for failing to provide the necessary ships, helicopters or body armour to allow them to do what they have been sent into a theatre of war to do?

And when he does nothing, will he object if they start to advise Labour?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Luvvies, pride and prejudice

Cranmer was going to talk about George Osborne’s austerity truth-telling versus Ken Clarke’s regulatory sophistry.

But the former is tedious and the latter a rather predictable delusion: indeed, Mr Clarke’s speech was reminiscent of that given by John Maples, then Shadow Foreign Secretary, a decade ago, when he announced that it was official Conservative Party policy to re-negotiate the Treaty of Rome. The faithful cheered to the rafters, but anyone who knew anything about the EU knew that he was talking nonsense.

But there was a little side-show last night which merits some analysis. The homosexual hypocrite Ben Summerskill was due to speak at the ‘Tory Conference Pride’ – the party’s first official ‘Gay Pride’ event – and laud the progress made by the party, such as the acceptance of gay civil partnerships and an unqualified apology for Section 28. But he was not so pleased with the presence of Michal Kaminski at the conference, since he is alleged to hold ‘homophobic’ and anti-Semitic views. On behalf of a rainbow coalition of luvvies – including Ewan MacGregor, Stephen Fry and Jo Brand, Michael Cashman, Eddie Izzard and Patrick Stewart – Ben Summerskill demanded that David Cameron disassociate the Conservative Party from Poland’s Law & Justice Party, because its members hold such ‘extreme’ and ‘offensive’ views. They wrote: “We want to believe the Conservative Party has really changed – please help us by rescinding the invite to the Polish Law & Justice Party and urging them either to change their views or quit your new European group.”

And to make his point, Mr Summerskill stamped his feet, threw a hissy fit and withdrew as the LGBTory star turn.

Nothing contrived about that at all.

Then über-luvvie Stephen Fry was wheeled out to support the boycott, also decrying the ‘homophobic’ Law & Justice Party, and insisting that all of David Cameron’s efforts over the past four years to woo the ‘gay vote’ have foundered because of this EU alliance.

Nothing contrived about that either.

But Cranmer wonders why such strength of feeling was never evident when the Conservative Party were allied to the European People’s Party. Why was there no call from luvvie-dom to boycott the ‘anti-gay Tories’ for being in alliance with the EPP, when the group includes Polish Civic Platform, the Deputy Speaker of which rejoiced in a court decision to deprive a lesbian mother of custody of her four-year-old daughter: “The court didn’t bow to pressure from the aggressive homosexual lobby, which came to make a scene as usual”. And it also includes Forza Italia, who produced a blatantly ‘homophobic’ poster at the last Italian general election (“Daddy and Papa? This isn’t the family we want!”). And the German CDU are not above manifestations of racism, having called for the deportation of 'criminal foreigners': “We have too many criminal young foreigners… Germany has had a Christian and Western culture for centuries, and foreigners who don’t stick to our rules don’t belong here”. They also campaigned in 2000 under the slogan Kinder statt Inder (‘Children rather than Indians’). And let us not forget the Austrian People’s Party, whose Secretary General called for the banning of burqas, adding: “If we allow consultations to be held in Turkish, we will one day become Turkish ourselves.”

All of these parties are members of the EPP. But Ben Summerskill and Stephen Fry never once objected to their ‘extreme’ and ‘offensive’ views, and never demanded of David Cameron that he disassociate from such ‘homophobes’ and ‘fascists’.

Cranmer smells the Le Male-drenched wrist of Michael Cashman MEP all over this. The homosexual (may one call him so, or is it 'gay'?) Labour MEP has clearly been out on night manoeuvres, holding assignations with his political soul-mates, and has contrived a media row with a few high-profile luvvies to discredit the Conservative Party and denigrate Michal Kaminski.

It’s a good job the party still has the support of Jim Davidson.
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