A Catholic In Secret

How Is That Necessary?

unionjackI’ve been reading Bishop Charles Chaput, of late – excellent book. I really recommend it – and just got through his description of life for Catholics in colonial Maryland circa the end of the 17th century.  It wasn’t exactly the land of the free for everyone back then, and it certainly wasn’t full of religious tolerance.

Surprised?  Weren’t the colonies populated by people looking for religious freedom?  Sure.  They were looking for the freedom to practice their religion, not for someone else’s freedom to practice his.  And Papists were a distinctly unfavored minority amongst the settlers. “Popery” was against the law in Maryland, in fact.

The British tabloid The Mail reports that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was secretly a Catholic while he held office.

Full details of how Tony Blair ordered Downing Street officials to lie about his passionate commitment to Roman Catholicism throughout his ten years in No 10 emerged yesterday.

Spin-doctor Lance Price said Mr Blair told him to kill off an accurate Press report in 1998 – months after he took power – that he had spoken candidly of his Catholic faith to an Italian cleric on a holiday in Tuscany.

Careful now. The British tabloid is acting just like an American Tabloid. Here, they quote one Lance Price, who is described as a ‘spin-doctor’, who quotes Blair, in turn.

‘He asked me to squash a story that he had told the Archbishop of Siena, “In my heart, I feel more of a Catholic,”’ said Mr Price, an ex-Downing Street deputy Press secretary.

Feeling more of a Catholic doesn’t actually make you one, of course.

So why keep his religious leanings a secret?  Well, there’s British law…

Mr Price said there were huge gaps in Mr Blair’s knowledge of Catholicism. ‘We said, “You do realise the heir to the throne can’t marry a Roman Catholic and still go on to be King?”

He was astonished. I thought it was something everyone learned at school.’

Rather like Maryland law in 1683, where a Catholic could not hold office.  Or vote for anyone to hold that office, either.  Except that Blair wasn’t likely to become king.  Prime Minister is something else entirely.

Although there has never been a Catholic Premier, there is no constitutional bar. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy are Catholics.

In BBC1’s Christmas Voices today, Mr Blair says he did not convert in office because it would have been ‘a palaver’ and he feared talking about his religious beliefs would lead to people dismissing him as a ‘nutter’.

Ah! So it wasn’t the law after all, that prevented Blair from converting while in office.

Call it – tradition.

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