Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Will we look back on the last quarter of the 20th century as the only time since the Reformation when Roman Catholics have really been tolerated in Britain? During the long period in which Cardinal Basil Hume was Archbishop of Westminster, the Catholic Church came out of the ghetto. The row about gay adoption shows that this process is now going into reverse. The New Labour enthusiasm for homosexuality is so great that anyone who does not share it is to be prevented by law from full participation in the life of society. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron accept this public doctrine, though they pull long faces about the effect on children, as if it were not in their power to prevent it. The sad lesson is that the honourable Hume-ian attempt of the Church to engage with the wider world has weakened its position. The letter which Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the present CardinalArchbishop, wrote to the Prime Minister emphasised that Catholic adoption was sometimes permitted to single parents, that homosexuals should be accepted, and that children could be placed with adoptive parents who were not Catholic and not even religious. But it was not right, he said, that the Church be compelled to offer equal rights to gay couples because 'marital love involves an essential complementarity of male and female'. This extreme reasonableness has the perverse effect of making the refusal to accept homosexual couples look almost arbitrary:

neither marriage nor religion is necessarily insisted on by the Church as qualifications for adoption, but two blokes shacked up together are beyond the pale. The Cardinal would have been on stronger ground -- and won more popular support -- if he had conceded less to the new establishment in the first place. In a way, the Church has little to worry about.

History shows that persecution wins more recruits to the faith. But as a Catholic convert myself, I feel gloomy. I think that the Church can enrich the life of the whole of society and has been right to try to do so.

The new rule of paganism, dressed up in the language of human rights, will prove more oppressive than the vaguely Christian culture that we are leaving behind.

Tony Blair has maintained two consistent but contradictory approaches in office -- one is to try to imitate Mrs Thatcher in his leadership style, the other is 'triangulation'. It looks as if he is going to continue this combination in retirement. He clearly expects to make a great deal of money from giving lectures in America, and for this it will be necessary to deliver rousing speeches about the unity of the English-speaking peoples and the global triumph of democracy. At the same time, though, he needs, Clinton-like, to show his caring side, and so he is acquiring a sudden enthusiasm for the environment. I gather that Richard Wilson, the actor, is always being asked to deliver his catchline from One Foot in the Grave -- 'I don't believe it!' -- and resolutely refused until someone offered him £12,000 to do so at a private party (though the deal fell through due to a disagreement with husband and wife about the price). How much could Mr Blair get for saying, 'I'm a pretty straight kind of guy'?

Now and again, one reads little news stories about sects which, believing that the end of the world is nigh, gather on a hill in Montana or in a car park in Geneva to await the Last Day, and then, when nothing happens, rather sheepishly go home. …

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