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Our bishops supported Labour for so long that no one will listen if they criticise the Tories

In fact, from a Catholic point of view, the coalition is doing rather well

By on Thursday, 8 July 2010

Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, co-operated with Schools Secretary Ed Balls over the sex education Bill

Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, co-operated with Schools Secretary Ed Balls over the sex education Bill

This Government has now been in power for two months, and there are enough straws in the wind for the beginnings of an assessment as to how well, from a Catholic perspective, the coalition is doing. Rather well, I would have thought. I cannot help thinking how pleased Frank Longford would have been by the recent speech of the Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, pledging penal reform. He would have been especially pleased with the intention substantially to reduce the number of people banged up, as well as chagrined by the fact that it was a Labour government that had doubled their numbers since Clarke was Home Secretary himself (I once asked Frank, shortly before his death, whether he regarded himself as New Labour or Old Labour. “Oh, very Old Labour”, he said. “At my age I can’t really be anything else”). 

Back to the Government. The assumption has always been, of course, that our bishops are politically more or less on the Left and that they supported Blair in 1997 (though Archbishop Vincent Nichols rather unconvincingly denied it when he claimed that the new Prime Minister’s reference to “the common good” was taken from the bishops’ pre-election statement).

If they were indeed Blairites, the Labour government’s consistent contempt for Catholic social and moral beliefs ought surely to have brought a falling of the scales from episcopal eyes –though up to the very last they tacitly supported Ed Balls over his appalling sex education Bill, with its requirement that Catholic children should be told how to access contraception and abortion. The Bill was finally defeated by the Tories, who refused to co-operate in its passage, and so was cut short by the election.

If our bishops had resisted this grossly anti-Catholic legislation as consistently as the Tories did, they could have claimed some of the credit for its ultimate failure. But they thought Labour would succeed, so they co-operated with it. It’s a pretty shameful story: lack of principle combined with political incompetence. And now, if ever they criticise this Government, everyone will just assume they are, as usual, just supporting Labour.

  • Peter Kingsley

    Is that Catholic Herald suggesting that to be a good Catholic one must vote Tory?

  • W Oddie

    Of course not: I nowhere suggest anything remotely like it. Why don't you just read what I wrote instead of making up your own silly version?

  • Peter Kingsley

    If you are going to be provocative in what you say perhaps we are allowed to
    be too!

    Kind regards and every blessing.

    Your friend in Xst,


  • Peter Kingsley

    Sorry William, I thought you were implying that the Catholic Bishops had cuddled up a little too closely to the Labour government. Perhaps the Tories can learn from this error. With prayers and best wishes to you and all at the CH. Your friend in Xst, Peter

  • Peter Kingsley

    On reflection perhaps it would have been more appropriate just to call for tolerence, respect and understanding not just from Catholic journalists and the Bishops Conference of England and Wales but also from both sides of the House.

  • David Lindsay

    “As consistently as the Tories did”? Hardly!

  • Graham Horner

    The labour government should have had more respect for the Church. However as the labour party now looks back on its time in office and is questioning its policies, can the Church not be equally introspective and look at its own doctrine? As a practicing Catholic I recognize that the tenuous connection between bible teaching and contraceptive use is not respected by most Catholic couples – therefore why are we too fearful to teach this in school to our own children?
    In order not to be hypocritical I believe the Church needs to look at its own doctrine before criticizing others, as the Church of England has been doing recently.

  • W Oddie

    What do you mean, 'hardly!' The Tories voted against the bill on all occasions. What's inconsistent about that. They OPPOSED THE BILL, dammit. Labour tried to push it through regardlesds. And our bishops didn't oppose it; on the contrary, they shamefully facilitated it.

  • W Oddie

    I was implying that, because it's true

  • Peter Kingsley

    I understand. Sorry for sounding a little critical. Thank you for helping us reflect on our Church and its relationship with the State here in the UK.