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A surprising number think that because of his beliefs Tony Blair should have been denied entry into the Church: But wouldn’t that mean a lot of expulsions?

Nobody sincerely wanting to become a Catholic should ever be refused: their reasons are between themselves and God

By on Monday, 2 July 2012

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives to give evidence at the Leveson inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Monday, May 28, 2012. The Leveson inquiry is Britain's media ethics probe that was set up in the wake of the scandal over phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, which was shut in July after it became clear that the tabloid had systematically broken the law. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives to give evidence at the Leveson inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Monday, May 28, 2012. The Leveson inquiry is Britain's media ethics probe that was set up in the wake of the scandal over phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, which was shut in July after it became clear that the tabloid had systematically broken the law. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Sometimes, in the discussion which follows a blog, a subject is introduced which may be in some ways more important than that addressed in the article itself. Thus it was, in the debate that followed my recent blog criticising Cherie Blair’s astonishing attack on women who decide to give up their paid employment to look after their children.

It was an important subject: but the exchange which followed my blog about it threw up an entirely different one; and I need now to return to it, since not only did I not explain my own view as fully as I should have done, but the discussion I provoked was itself inconclusive.

“It was always outrageous to me”, declared one correspondent, “that her hubby B. liar was ever accepted into the Church.… To me it is yet another thing that should be held against the cause of Pope John Paul II’s canonisation (love him though I do). He should have refused Blair’s reception into the Church. The Blairs are so obviously and completely anti-Christian.”

As it happens, I had written, more than once, before the news that he really was going to be received, explaining why the rumours about Blair’s imminent reception into the Church couldn’t be true because of his views on a number of issues, including abortion and embryo research, not to mention the legislation enacted by his government bringing about civil unions and the closure of our Catholic adoption agencies: I naturally assumed that because of his beliefs on these topics he wouldn’t want to be a Catholic. So I was astonished when he actually did cross the Tiber.

But at the time I refused all media invitations to provide hostile comment, since becoming a Catholic is a process which does bring about huge changes in one’s relationship with God (only those who have done it in adulthood can know how great the changes can be) and I was in no position to know what had gone through Blair’s mind as he prepared for his reception. Nobody, when you are received, asks you publicly to repudiate your previous life (though of course you make your general confession): but you do, at your reception, declare your belief in all that the Church teaches to be necessary to salvation. The whole process is a revolution in your life. How did I know what Blair thought now?

Above all, it seemed to me that the whole question of whether or not he should have become a Catholic was principally to do with his own personal relationship with God: what could I know about that? So, to the suggestion that Pope John Paul should have blocked his entry into the Church (though actually Blair was received in the present pontificate) I replied, as part of the post-blog discussion on the matter, “Nobody should ever be refused entry into the Church: this is not some Pall Mall club in which we have a blackball…. It is not for us to judge: there is always a good reason for wanting to be a Catholic.” Well, that brought the wrath of several correspondents down on my head: as you may read if you are interested.

There was also, of course, widespread controversy at the time. This is how the Mail reported it:

John Smeaton, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “During his premiership Tony Blair became one of the world’s most significant architects of the culture of death, promoting abortion, experimentation on unborn embryos, including cloned embryos, and euthanasia by neglect.

“SPUC is writing to Tony Blair to ask him whether he has repented of the anti-life positions he has so openly advocated.”

Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, herself a convert, raised Mr Blair’s previous support for embryo research, gay ‘marriage’ and abortion, saying: “My question would be, has he changed his mind?”

….a Church source said: “Whatever he previously believed or did is a matter for individual conscience. The Vatican welcomed his decision ‘with respect and joy’, so if the Pope is welcoming it, it seems a little strange that some English Catholics are questioning it.”

Well, HAS he change his mind? What does Mr Blair believe now? John Smeaton has pointed out that Blair’s modestly entitled “Tony Blair Faith Foundation” is affiliated with some of the most vigorous proponents of abortion-on-demand on the international scene. The Faiths Act Fellowship, coordinated by the Interfaith Youth Core, is a major initiative of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and is, it seems, deeply connected to the international abortion movement through several of its funding agencies: you can read details of this here.

Does that mean that Blair himself believes what they believe? Possibly; but I don’t know, he hasn’t said.

The question of whether someone who may believe in a woman’s “right” to abortion should be received into the Church irresistibly raises another: How CAN he or she be refused, when so many Catholics (like Blair’s own wife) do believe in these things without being actually EXPELLED from the Church? It is clear, for instance, that Blair has been greatly influenced by his friend Hans Küng, who though he has had his licence to teach Catholic theology revoked is still “in good standing” as a Catholic priest.

“The Church’s absolute prohibition of abortion”, Küng has pronounced “is a merciless extremism that could be anything but Christian”. His clear view is that the fertilized ovum is not a human person, and he quotes St Thomas to justify his view. “There is a great difference between the classic Catholic doctrine and St. Thomas Aquinas’ position, because he thinks that human animation is a process and there is not a human person from the beginning,” said Küng. The Thomist view is that “because the human person, presupposes an anima intellectualis, an intellect, what distinguishes humans from animals, it is clear that at the beginning there is not a human person.”

For this reason, says Küng, “a fertilized ovum, evidently is human life but is not a person. So the problem of abortion is considerably reduced.”

Well, I’m not going to get into refuting THAT, I don’t have the space (though maybe I will when I do). But if an undoubtedly devilishly plausible theologian like Küng, who still has a considerable reputation in academic circles, and who is STILL A CATHOLIC PRIEST IN GOOD STANDING (WHY, WHY, WHY?) spins this doctrinal web, and if his good friend Tony Blair is, not surprisingly, caught in it, how can we argue that his application to join the Church should have been turned down? Why should he not be a member of the Church for holding Küng’s views, when Küng is actually a priest in that same Church despite holding them himself?

I repeat; Küng is still “in good standing” as a priest. In other words, he may still preach and teach the faith in a pastoral situation though not, since the removal of his licence to teach theology, in a Catholic theology department; in other words he’s a theologian who is a Catholic priest, but he’s not a Catholic theologian.

I am confused by this. I cannot myself see any reason why Küng should not have been forcibly laicised years ago. Many would call that an extreme and intolerant view; I would argue that it is simply a rational one. How can the Church still give him the authority to teach, on its behalf, that so many of the Church’s teachings are false? But even I, “extremist” though some may argue me to be, do not see how Küng could be actually expelled from the Church, despite his besetting sins (as it seems to me; though I am not his judge) of gross intellectual pride. There has to be the possibility of dying in a state of final penitence, a much more likely outcome within the Church: how can he be denied that? And if Küng cannot be expelled, then it was not, could not have been, right for Blair to be denied entry. Within the Church all things are possible; Blair’s journey of faith is not yet over. It is surely not for us to say more than that about his membership of the Universal Church.

  • Markpetergray

    I think the truth is that some Catholics judge far too much, especially where politics is concerned. I squirm every time I hear of a bishop calling on priests to deny a pro life politician the sacraments, let alone sanctimonious members of laity claiming judgement on someone, not knowing what sins they may have confessed, or many other important pieces of information before judging them. It’s ugly and reflects poorly on what should be a ‘broad’ church, if not in theology, at least in terms of interpretation of some aspects of social policy.

  • teigitur

    A ” broad Church”. Are you getting The Catholic Church mixed up with the Anglican Communion? Which is now so broad its disintegrating, members can believe anything, or nothing.

  • paulpriest

    Sorry Dr Oddie but I’m afraid you’re missing a very crucial point:

    In order for Tony Blair to be received into the Church he had to make a renunciation of his past sins [private & public]
    ..and a sworn belief in the Truth of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church.

    The clerics involved [and we all know who they are] KNEW of Mr Blair’s position – knew there was no public or private retraction of position or repentance for those grave sins [ irrespective of his conspiracy Can 1329 in the genocide of the unborn - need I remind you the man is guilty of the latae sententiae crime of Judicial murder in fomenting an illegal unjust war [a sin he went on to commend and revel in its adulation within his autobiography]]

    …in other words there was grave scandal invoked.

    A man declares he is truly repentant of that which he has repeatedly stated he is not repentant.
    A man states he believes that which he certainly does not believe.

    …and those who received him into the Church – KNEW IT!!!

    This is not like those already within the Church repudiating, renouncing and betraying their faith…this is about someone who will act likewise with no intention whatsoever of conforming to the moral teachings of Holy Mother Church – lying to get in!

    How can we know what the inner soul acknowledges and repents?
    We can’t!
    But we don’t need to: Mr Blair has denounced that for which the Church stands in print, in speech and in action.

  • tim

    I haven’t heard it suggested that any pro life politician should be denied the sacraments (or any of them) – that certainly would make me squirm .  But taking what you meant rather than what you said, I agree that we (most of usl) have no right to judge people.  We do have the right to comment (charitably) on what they do, and perhaps sometimes even an obligation to refute what they say.

  • Patrickhowes

    The Catholic Church is in danger of going down the same path!Whether Tony Blair should have or should not have been refused entry into the Catholic Chcrh is academic.But why would you want to join a Church when you do not believe in what it teaches?Did Mr Blair have an alternative motive?…Why bother or did it all nicely tie in with his launching his Foundation and this would stand him in good stead to atract donations?Call me cynical…

  • nytor

    It’s not whether he should have been received at all. It’s that now he has been, he has no right to dissent from the Church’s teachings. It’s now that he should be disciplined, but I agree with you that he should not have been refused entry.

  • nytor

    Anti life politicians should be denied the sacraments according to canon law. That’s what he meant.

  • nytor

    You mean anti life (or pro abortion) politicians – and it is simply a matter of canon law that they should not receive the sacraments if they vote in a way contrary to Church teachings on the matter.

  • nytor

    Abortion is not a “social policy” about which there are multiple legitimate views. There is only one legitimate view for a Catholic to hold on the subject.

  • Patrickhowes

    But Dr Oddie,you appear to cotradict yourself.On the hand you seem to favour an expulsion of Hans Kung and not Tony Blair?Would more expulsions be a bad thing?Would it not leave the Church with those who actually believe in what it says and thinks and from them grow out again .The Catholic Church has become a mish mash of ideas and it confuses the hell our of people.

  • Patrickhowes

    Nytor you are absolutely rigt as always,but the Church´s problem is that it does not enact its own Canon Law.If it did,it would be reclaiming many a Catholic school and Parish

  • Patrickhowes

    Here,here!

  • Nat_ons

    Expulsions, no – only those already belonging may face that (some a way over due, and they know it). Exclusions, yes – I suspect so; for, in gospel truth, not all are ready to enter the holy wedding feast. Examinations, exorcisms, and even exculpations ..  well even Constantine needed those in Christ.

    Hans Kueng is a rebel toward due authority yet penitent still in orthodox(-ish) belief and practice (for the most part) – as are most among the magisterium of nuns. Canonical process of law need not be applied formally and materially and publicly to politicians/ leaders who breach Christian discipline, yet informal refusal of communion may still apply. Some such ‘Catholic’ voices already stand excommunicate toward the church catholic by their own free and obdurate stances – so any non-catholic who imagines the discipleship of Christ is window dressing can only face a woeful shock.

    “For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Heb 10 : 26-27.

    “God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, No. 51

    http://www.courageouspriest.com/why-no-communion-for-pro-abortion-catholic-politians 

  • teigitur

    I agree. There are so many disobedient Bishops, the Church is in great danger. Thank the Lord for the present Holy Father.

  • JByrne24

    The views that I have posted here (several times) on matters such as abortion, Gay relationships, including marriage and euthanasia (and the views I hold on others which haven’t recently cropped-up, such as stem cell/embryo research) are essentially Kungian and ones that Mr & Mrs Blair and many other well-informed people, who regard themselves as Catholics, could quite possibly hold. 
    On the specific matter of abortion, I used the name of St. Thomas Aquinas, rather than that of  Fr. Hans Kung, for obvious reasons, as part of my intention to try to persuade people to think a little out of their usual “boxes”.

    People who cannot accept the Church’s official views on these matters, on the grounds that they are absurd, are vilified on this website and by some Catholics elsewhere.  On the matter of abortion, people might consider the damage caused because the Church’s view that a zygote or a primitive foetus are as much a human being as an almost full-term, in-utero, baby is seen (by educated people generally) to be ridiculous.  If the Church were to drop its foolish insistence to the contrary, then some progress could be made in attempts to limit late abortions. It is the Church’s insistence on its current view that causes its voice to be ignored by wider society, and denied a rational contribution to any debate.  
    It sometimes seems as though elements in the Church realise this, and don’t seek to impose ridiculous views on some (prominent) people who are well-informed and intelligent. But it doesn’t do this openly and clearly, and many people believe they see a fudge, or, even worse, hypocrisy.

  • JByrne24

    You say there is only one legitimate view. That is your opinion. It’s not mine, and it’s not the opinion of many other Catholics.

  • JByrne24

    As W Oddie pointed out:…. actually Blair was received [into the Church] in the present pontificate.

  • JByrne24

    Removed by author – posted in error, sorry.

  • Marialouisa

     But neither your opinion or mine matter – as Catholics, the Magisterium is what matters and it says quite clearly that you may not be Catholic and support abortion.

  • Patrickhowes

    Would you mind if I ask you,have you actually had a baby?

  • Patrickhowes

    Have you given birth to a baby?

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic”, or so I’m told. It’s regrettable that many Catholics turn their backs on the faith, but surely this is no excuse to allow people into the communion who have shown an utter disdain for the church’s teachings, towards God Himself, and who have shown no inclination of regret for all the harm, scandal and pain they have caused.

    If the Catholic church is to be taken seriously (especially by those inside) then Tony Blair is a textbook case of someone who should be refused entry. Generally, I wouldn’t want to be a member of an organisation which accepts his type, but in this case my hands are tied since the Church is not just any organisation.

    But let me ask you, Dr. Oddie….Is there anybody then in world history who could rightfully have been refused entry into the Catholic church? On what grounds would you make such a case, having rejected the notion that one needs to believe what the Church proclaims in order to be a member?

  • nytor

    It is in fact the opinion of the Church, over which you arrogate to yourself primacy for your own opinion.

  • nytor

    Well, it’s not possible, is it? The apostasy is so massive. We need to catechise, rather than punish, but in the case of politicians who vote to change society in ways the Church doesn’t approve then it is fair to say that the public scandal and the harm caused justifies punitive action.

  • nytor

    The Church has not. Many people in the Church have adopted inappropriate ideas, but the Church is itself indefectible.

    That is why people like Blair need to be slapped down. By being allowed to say things like “women should be ordained” (ok, so that was his wife, but still) he confuses the faithful  – he is a high-profile “Catholic” after all.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

     On which grounds can one argue that he should not have been refused entry?

    Please limit your arguments to either one or all of the Bible, the Catechism or the book of Canon law.  My limited understanding of these 3 – plus what common sense I can muster – can find no grounds whatsoever.

  • W Oddie

    I didn’t say that at all: I said that nobody, including Kung, should be expelled. Read it, do

  • nytor

    On the grounds that although he may have committed terrible sins, when he sought admission to the Church he will have made a full confession and will have been absolved. He will have made a “fresh start”. Such is his right, if he had perfect contrition. If there were flaws in his confession, if he left things out or was not probed on things he had said or done in the public domain – and we cannot know if this was the case – then it was up to his confessor to remedy this. Yes of course he needed to be brought to book after all he had done in his public role – but we don’t know that he wasn’t. Who knows what penance was laid upon him? Yes, he should have been made to renounce certain views – but who is to say that he did not? It is the fact that he has publicly relapsed following conversion that is the cause for concern, and which should be corrected to avoid confusing the faithful – but dislike Blair as I do, I am not prepared to say that he did not convert properly and should not have been received. Without being his confessor how could I?

  • nytor

    Removed from ministry, though, certainly.

  • JByrne24

    I have several children and several grandchildren (I’m a man but married to a woman). Why do you ask?

  • JByrne24

    How do you explain the fact that Mr Blair was allowed to enter the Church (under the pontificate of Benedict)?

  • JByrne24

    No, I’m a boringly, normally constructed male person – but my wife has.

  • JByrne24

    As W Oddie pointed out:…. actually Blair was received [into the Church] in the present pontificate.

  • Edwardswyco

    As for myself, I crossed the Tiber in 2007.  When I did, I still held onto some views that could be seen now as un-Catholic (mostly in the realm of the Church’s moral teachings).  I had seen so many other Catholics pick-and-choose their beliefs, plus most moral issues outside of abortion were never really mentioned by my RCIA team.  The pastor who took my first confession and received me into the Church – a good and devout man – also knew that I was currently cohabitating, fornicating, and contracepting!  He encouraged us at every step to stop, but never at any point said, “Until you stop, you’re not being received into the Church.”  And thank God he didn’t do that!!! Because about two years later, I started to learn things on my own and started to hear about the Church’s teachings on things like contraception and sex before marriage.  At first, I angrily rejected them – who do they think they are?  Freedom, freedom, freedom!  But, God’s graces worked their way into my heart and soul and once the walls of contraception were breached, all my other barriers came crashing down!  I loooooooooooove the faith and work hard every day to be a devout Catholic, accepting ALL that the Church teaches.  The Catholic I am today is light-years away from the Catholic I was in 2007 (thank God).  I try to remind myself who I was in 2007 whenever I see someone like Mr. Blair and think, “Why’d they let him in?”  He might be in that same process of conversion, since it IS a process.  However, if after constant public scandal and after constant reprimands Mr. Blair still refuses to recant certain anti-Catholic positions, then Canon law should allow Mr. Blair to be handled accordingly.  All we can do is pray for him (and those like him) that they may be humble enough to open their hearts to the holy wisdom of the Church; likewise, we must pray for the pastors of the flock, that they may have the spines to make that tough decision if a person, despite attempts at catechesis, still choose to reject aspects of the faith. My opinion anyway…

  • Charles Martel

    What the Catholic Church must regain is the sense of the original commission: “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations….”, a disciple being one who submits to discipline while learning the teachings.  This should take the form of a clear statement of those practices to be followed and those to be avoided, presented to all members of the Church, both young and old, and especially to catechumens.  The statement should include basic things like the need to assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days, to avoid contraception, abortion, pornography, unchastity in general, fornication, concubinage, masturbation, drunkenness, drug use, etc., similar to that brief list one finds on a good examination of conscience.  Then the Sunday preaching in every parish, no matter how small, should present these same articles in a cyclical fashion, year after year,  Expectations must be set, as they currently are not. 

  • Parasum

    There is however more than one view possible as to how abortions could be lessened or ended. Bishops may have one view – it does not follow that no other is compatible with Catholic teaching, or that no other is prefderable to theirs. They may be right in priudential judgements of this kind -  or not. What matters, is to do the right thing AFAP.  

    Abortion in a clinic is less bad (all things being equal) than a back-street abortion. Surely one death is preferable to two ?   

  • Parasum

    It’s happened to some in the US.

  • teigitur

    Indeed, and your point is?

  • Patrickhowes

    A point well made!

  • Patrickhowes

    I go back to my point.The rpiests and indeed the Church do little to enact neither canon law nor Catechism.

  • teigitur

    Do you really think the Holy Father even knew about Mr Blair s reception?

  • teigitur

    Boring, indeed, normal……well……

  • Patrickhowes

    The Church in the Magisterium is solid but those that often constitute the Church,priests,US Catholic sisters etctera are the ones who create the confusion and I argue that the Chutch would be better off excluuing rather than expelling.As a parent it would be so much easier to 

  • Patrickhowes

    A fair comment.I totally agree that a Catechism need sto be reintroduced.I think there is just so much ignorance about the Catholic faith.I think Mr and Mrs Balir are a prime example of this

  • Patrickhowes

    Well,one should take communion in a state of grace and having indireclty participated in an abortion is hardly that.Therefore it is the person´s own actions that would bring about this situation

  • Patrickhowes

    If only!Here we go:On abortion most Catholics seems to think it is okay.On contraception,the cockfoster Fathers began telling everyone it is up to you!I favour them handing a copy of Human Vitae as the leave Church.There is no clearer example of the Chuch´s position.As regards masturbation,the CES sexual education video now shows this as normal.In fact the video states “We all do it” when shown to the children.My wife still has not recovered from seeing and hearing this.The saints are no longer taught.The PTFA´S and school governors are ignorant of Church´s teaching.To examine one´s conscience at the end of each day is no longer taught.The blame lies not at the Church´s feet as it is clear on all points but rather at those who have or should have been resposnsible for imparting its teaching

  • Patrickhowes

    Apologies for not knowing your sex!-Well,Iam a father of five and the idea of being without either one of them horrifies me but given your tolerance of abortion,then you would find that acceptable.

  • Patrickhowes

    Surely that is what excommunication means.It is the individual through certain actions that exlcude him/herself

  • Patrickhowes

    But you are wrong Dr Oddie as the Church does expel people!It is called Excommunication.It is a temporary removal rather than a life sentence.So do you think that Fr Maciel amongst other should not have been removed.Mr and Mrs Blair always declared that they were personally against abortion but that they backed other people´s access to it.Catholic teachig does not allow for a private and public separation of values and morals.To receive Holy Communion you must be in a state of grace and not have any mortal sins!!.Abortion is a mortal sin.So to say that people should not be expelled is to go against the Magisterium of the Church as She allows of it!

  • Patrickhowes

    You run the risk of becoming a relativist!