Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Thames Flows into the Tiber? or Crossing the Channel & the Rubicon

Welcome Home to Rome

Former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, was recently received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England (Anglican) must be somewhat embarrassed but not surprised in light of the many defections from the Worldwide Anglican Communion since the ordination of women and the recognition of same-sex marriages within their fold and epicopacy. Some have gone to Eastern Orthodoxy while others have gone West to the See of Saint Peter and the Bishopric of Rome, a.k.a., Catholicism.

Catholics in England (and the rest of Britain) are happy but reservedly so. On the one hand, any person's conversion to full communion with the Church and the reception of Confirmation and Holy Communion as a fellow Catholic is cause for great joy. It is an article of our faith that Holy Mother Church possesses the
fullness of grace (all seven valid sacraments) and the fullness of truth (both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition being channels of Divine Revelation) are entrusted to the fullness of authority (Pope, Bishops & Magisterium). Hence, it is a cause of joy that another person is now able to share in the sublime beauty of that plenitude of fullness.

On the other hand, there is concern about moral judments made by Mr. Blair during his time on 10 Downing Street (British equivalent to the White House in the USA). Had he been Catholic while Prime Minister, like many politicians in the former colonies (alias the United States), he would have been in conflict with official church teaching on certain issues, most especially abortion. Sadly, here in the USA, so-called Catholic politicians who classify themselves as 'pro-choice' (meaning they oppose any ban on abortion) brazenly receive Holy Communion while only a few Bishops like Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, have the courage to ban these same people from Holy Communion itself.

Deo volente, Tony Blair had a true and complete and full conversion. While not a 'death-bed' conversion like that of the Emperor Constantine, it could be similar in that at least Blair respected Catholicism enough not to be a formal and public hypocrite by becoming Catholic while P.M. when he knew he would not always make decisions which conformed to the moral teachings of the church. If he intentionally delayed his conversion until he could and more importantly would embrace the moral code of Catholicism, albeit after he left office, at least he was honest with himself, the nation and the Church. How many 'Catholic' politicians in the U.K. or U.S.A. claim to be Catholic but consistently vote to support abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriages, et al.? While it would have been much better for Mr. Blair to convert a long time ago and be a practicing Catholic during his time as Prime Minister, it is unlikely he would have been elected and perhaps, as is claimed by his staff, he was not ready to embrace ALL the churches doctrines and disciplines at that time.

Perhaps, Blair crossed the Rubicon before he crossed the Tiber, i.e.,, maybe he defeated those internal forces which previously prevented him from entering full communion. Many converts admit there was one or two doctrinal or moral points they had to resolve before making a Profession of Faith, at least an honest one. Many tell of a stumbling block, be it a Marian dogma, Papal infallibility or the Church's teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, women's ordination, etc. Finally, they either see the light or are willing to abandon themselves completely and totally to God and His Holy Church and thus surrender their personal authority by submitting to a higher one. Too many 'half-baked' Catholics around today who only accepted some but not all the official teachings and laws of the Church. Too many who were not taught the correct or at least the complete deposit of faith during their period of catechesis and intruction. Best to have someone wait until he or she is ready to give their entire assent of faith and their complete submission of mind and will to the Pope and Magisterium. Anything less is cheating God, is cheating the Church and is cheating the person him/herself.

I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that Tony Blair truly came into full communion with Rome, liturgically, theologically and morally. I hope his Profession of Faith was sincere and complete. And despite his faults, mistakes and sins of the past, new converts are asked to make a good first confession before they are Confirmed and receive Holy Communion. Let us trust that is what happened and rejoice that this Christmas, Tony Blair and family can attend Mignight Mass together and receive the Sacraments as one family within the great family of faith we call the Catholic Church.


Diane Korzeniewski said...

Father said: Too many 'half-baked' Catholics around today who only accepted some but not all the official teachings and laws of the Church.

I like the expression used by Fr. William Casey. He calls them, "Yes, but - Catholics".

"Yes, I am Catholic, BUT - I believe in woman's right to choose"

"Yes, I am Catholic, BUT - the Pope has his opinion, and I have mind

"Yes, I am Catholic, BUT - I will go to Mass when I feel like it

The litany goes on.

My prayers go out to Mr. Blair, that he has had an authentic conversion and has reconciled with his past.

I know some wanted a public admission of sorts. Perhaps in some future interview. I'm less hopeful about this, while at the same time recalling many miraculous, deep, and lasting conversions.

I've been a life-long Catholic, but (there's that word again), I had slipped into relativism. Only by the grace of God through the future Pope Benedict's words to the conclave on the dictatorship of relativism did the lightbulb turn on.

Truth is fixed and static, not moving and dynamic. Bending a compass needle does not change the position of North.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of our bishops were as consistent, and as bold, as those who fought the great heresies of the past?

Those who do so today, get labeled all sorts of things. When more bishops get the kind of criticism as does Abp Burke, we'll know the Church is turning a corner.

Scott said...

It's unfair to project embarrassment on the Church of England over this, as there are people who've gone the other way as well. Thus has it ever been. We all have our own journeys and sometimes make such changes to follow the path we believe we need to be on.

Decisions regarding women and homosexuality have not been made lightly or recklessly. Too often Anglicanism is painted by others as blindly going astray in some way. Its structures allow for discussion and decision about these things, using the minds God gave us to work with.

Anonymous said...

Let us wish them every blessing & a true conversion..

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately scandalised is how faithful catholic feel in the UK with Blairs conversion. He has been the main architect of the culture of death for a decade. He has overturned the christian understanding of marriage and the family by passing into law gay marriages (civil partnerships) and anyone that discrimnates against such relations is liable to prosecution. There has been no hint of change in Mr Blair although one of his advisers has been Hans Kung and his wife publicly advocates women priests in the Catholic Church. I hope he has repented. Did he have to make a confession before reception as he was already a baptised crhistian? The cardianl Cormac Murphy O'Connor is trying to remove and silence a prominent Catholic blogger Damian Thompson following questioning of this "conversion". I hope he has truly converted

Anne said...

Its a shame that he could not have been a true Christian Prime Minister to us when he had the opportunity and the grace to do so. Lets hope and pray that this is not just a conversion of convenience but true and that he can make up to our Country all the wrongs that he has instigated when he was in power.

Father John Boyle said...

Wishful thinking I fear...

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