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I feel a shiver when I see the parallels between our world and that of St John Fisher

How long, indeed, before employment in the public sector requires a profession of liberal principles?

By on Thursday, 9 August 2012

St John Fisher as painted by Hans Holbein

St John Fisher as painted by Hans Holbein

Following my last blog, which came about after reading a priestly obituary in the Fisher House Newsletter of the Cambridge chaplaincy, I read on and my spirits rose; instead of the dispiriting legacy of 1960s priestly rebellion against the Church’s authority, I read about St John Fisher (who gave his name to the chaplaincy), the magnificent and martyred alumnus of the 16th century. In an article by Dr Richard Rex, I was reminded that Fisher, who refused to renounce the authority of the pope in favour of Henry VIII, accepted execution rather than go against his conscience. “That Fisher would find himself called upon to deny a doctrine that had been taught in England all his life was something he could hardly have imagined in his student days. More surprising still is how few followed him in refusing. The reason was partly fear, but more the spirit of the age…”

Rex continues, drawing a parallel between the challenge faced by Fisher and those facing Christians today: “We shall not be called upon to make that ultimate sacrifice. But look out for the dominant ideology. Today it is just straws in the wind. Rocco Buttiglione disqualified from the European Commission because of his adherence to Catholic teaching on sexual morality. The closure of Catholic adoption agencies in England because of their refusal to place children with same-sex couples. How long will it be before a formal affirmation of so-called ‘liberal’ principles becomes a prerequisite for employment in the public sector?”

This is disquieting but should not be a surprise. Critics of Christians sometimes attack us for having a “martyr complex”, determined to find injury and insult from our secularist brethren where none is intended. But this is not the case, as Dr Rex soberly points out from the examples he gives.

He concludes: “The consensus is strong, and increasingly determined to have its way. For now we are rightly content to let them have their consciences if we can keep our own. Perhaps we should pray to St John Fisher that if – when – they come for ours, we have the grace and strength to keep them for God.”

I felt a premonitory shiver on reading this last paragraph. St John Fisher: pray for us.

  • nytor

    “How long will it be before a formal affirmation of so-called ‘liberal’ principles becomes a prerequisite for employment in the public sector?”

    It already is – it is stated in many job descriptions that one must have a commitment to “diversity” and any opinions contrary to the prevailing liberal dogma on things like gay marriage would be an infringement of the organisation’s commitment to “diversity”. Cf the housing worker who posted something about gay marriage on Facebook and got demoted.

  • teigitur

    Indeed. The NHS is a case-in-point!

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Everything in the public sector is second class anyhow.  It’s no wonder is it?!

  • Cestius

    “The consensus is strong, and increasingly determined to have its way”  Except that it isn’t a consensus, the country and society is increasingly being hectored and led, largely against its better instincts by a relatively narrow elite in privileged places. That was just as much the case with the “reformers” of John Fisher’s England as it is with the liberal elite of today.

  • mollysdad

    The Thirty-Nine Articles according to the Metropolitan Community Church.

    Of Marriage

    Marriage is the union of any two people who love each the other and desire to live together the one with the other that they may carnally know themselves. Wherefore the so-called union of a man and a woman for life to the exclusion of all others, that progeny may issue from them, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.

  • Nesbyth

    I so agree with Cestius; it’s alarming, truly alarming and making headway curiously fast.

  • theroadmaster

    Conscience may be the last refuge of those who want to defy the socio-political pressures to conform to the ideologies of the liberal elites, who want only uniformity in relation to one’s reaction to them.  St John Fisher was the archetypal man of principal, who stood fast against the tyranny of an oppressive monarchy, determined to impose a new religious order from above, on a profoundly Catholic England during the 16th century.  While one should not compare the situation of the Martyrs who died for their Faith during the violent upheavals of the Reformation period, with present day realities, nonetheless, convinced Catholics and other religious people, will have to resist sanctions like dismissal from their places of employment and even jail, to remain faithful to their consciences.

  • Julia

    Rocco Buttiglione was disqualified from the post by bureaucrats or politicians associated with the European Commission, but the Catholic adoption agencies closed themselves (rather than comply with equality/anti-discrimination legislation). Francis Phillips gives the reason for 
    Rocco Buttiglione , but not for the adoption agencies, and uses the phrase: “The closure of…”. A deliberate piece of fudge
    The point surely is that we do not live in a Catholic-ruled nation. Although we have an official Christian Protestant Church, and FD on the coins, it is false to claim that we are a Christian country because of this. Because the C of E does not threaten Hell, torture and eternal damnation like the CC, it’s churches are usually almost empty.

    We are a secular nation and do not care very much for religion.

  • Julia

    It is indeed (as people say on this site) making headway. But there’s nothing “curious” about this.

    In times when Mankind lived in deep ignorance about the world and about itself, religions held sway. They offered secure and certain knowledge; answers to all the questions and uncertainties – found in old books and from authority figures, some of whom actually claim at times to be unable to make mistakes about important matters. (How mad can you get?)
    When Mankind learnt how true knowledge and understand of the world and himself could be gained, religion began to move out of the picture.

  • Byrd

    The problem here is that buzzwords such as diversity and multiculturalism don’t mean what their dictionary definition says. What’s really meant is: diminishing the power of all organizations within society, especially religion, to enhance the power of government control over people’s speech, thoughts, and lives. TV, cinema and buzzwords are their tools. The question is, are you fooled by them?

  • Myles Keogh

    Great post. Sadly here in the United States the country I grew up in and love is following the same ruinous path. At least now we are at a crossroads. This November election will determine if we decide to continue on the path to self destruction if our citizens decide to reelect this secular, communist buffoon and his cronies that we currently suffer under now.

    St John Fisher Pray for us and Pray for the US.

  • Stan Croft

    Thanks for the reproduction of Hans Holbein’s painting of St. John Fisher.with no trace of malice in the face of that great English saint. Please be careful what you write about him.From Stan Croft Canada

  • nytor

    They were “de facto” closed by the state because the state knew perfectly well that they could not operate as Catholic agencies whilst infringing Church law. The state knew this because an exemption for them was discussed, but it proceeded anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    We may be a secular nation….but not for long.  Secular populations are ageing while Islamic ones are multiplying (growing faster than any other group). 

    But it is our duty as Catholics to spread our Faith in good times and bad.  And that’s what we will do.  God willing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PTKN2NO47JJJJKXYN3DDJNVH6I charles

    Can you honestly say that Mankind is better off today with all our scientific and technological advancement? Do we really know ourselves?  Because when i look around me, I am worried to death the kind of world my children will grow up in
    Society that kills 10 of millions of babies every year in the name of ‘ women right to choose’, that think that all religious people are ignorant and illiterates. Society where few  people are dictating to the rest that we must accept that two men must be seen as husband and wife or husband? The list goes on..  
    We are not better off really. Only a fool thinks that he knows more than The Creator. In the end we may  end up realising that, actually, we are the ignorant ones.

  • Meen

    Yes, or course. Mankind is infinitely “better off” today than in any past era.
    The rest of your comments (except as it pertains to late abortions, about which I would agree) are based on your Catholic faith. This includes your sentence about the “creator”, meaning the Christian God.

  • Meena

    You clearly believe that the Catholic or Christian faith is preferable to the Islamic faith.

    The believers in Islam also believe their faith is preferable to any type of Christianity. 
    They are multiplying faster than the Christians, including the Catholics, and many doubtless wish to spread their own faith.

    Let us hope that all this does not lead to trouble, and that cool reason will prevail.

  • Meena

    An exemption was discussed, but it seems that the final decision was that they would have to obey the same law as everybody else.

    Only HM The Queen is above the law.

  • Meema

    Well the banks were once fully private institutions, and look at what they did!

  • nytor

    The point is that the argument that the agencies closed themselves is fallacious. The state knew perfectly well that denying an exemption would mean they would close or have to sever from the Chirch as they could not operate in infringement of the law of the Church. Don’t try to whitewash the spite of the last government by claiming that they decided to close of their own volition. They were given no choice.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Doesn’t mean that the public sector is much good does it?!  Banks corrupted by human sinfulness……public sector corrupted by official unChristian outlook.  There is a subtle difference.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Preferable is not quite the right word.  I don’t believe the Islamic faith is the one true faith….but I do believe Catholicism is, as it was established by Christ who is God made Man.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Um…actually in Islamic countries the birthrate is in freefall. 

  • Nesbyth

    Rubbish!

  • Nesbyth

    “Because the C of E does not threaten Hell, torture and eternal damnation like the CC, it’s churches are usually almost empty” says Julia…

    So do you think that the Catholic Church fills their Churches up because it “threatens Hell, torture and eternal damnation”?

    This is so simplistic it’s hardly worth commenting on……the message in the Catholic Church is not this; the Catholics understand that there is such a place as Purgatory for those who will not immediately merit Heaven upon dying but who have tried to follow Christ’s commands, or their consciences in good faith. Most of us will have much learning to do and realise what our sins are before we can see God.

     Logically too, if there is a Heaven then there must be a Hell and Jesus makes this clear enough on several occassions, the most well-known being the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats and the punishment for teaching false doctrine “It is impossible but that offences will come but woe to him through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he should be cast into the sea than he should lead astray one of these little ones”

     Various Saints have had visions of Hell, notably St Teresa of Avila, the Cure of Ars and the children of Fatima.

    But the Catholic Church also teaches about the Resurrection and Eternal life as well as the Mercy of God….and, of course, the great Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for love of us and its daily enactment in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist (Mass)

  • Rick DeLano

    “When Mankind learnt how true knowledge and understand of the world and himself could be gained, religion began to move out of the picture.”

    >> I don;t know which is more distressing; that such a comment could be written with a straight face, or that any Catholic could read it with one.

    The next time Goliath stands up and insists that David is no longer relevant, simply recall that Goliath is now required to insist that the universe is composed 99% of substances never observed, and the quantum field theory, when applied to cosmology, results in the most stupendous error in the history of science: it his off by a literally stupendous 120 orders of magnitude.

    Science is great- when it is *science*.

    When it jumps the fence and attempts to arrogate to itself the right to propose its own metaphysics and theology (what, after all, is the multiverse, but a metaphysical substitute for God?)….

    We end up hearing learned men proposing fairy tales where Something comes from a very special sort of Nothing; one which  turns out to contain energy and a law of gravity.

    Sine metaphysicae scientia nihil est.

  • Meema

    I have no direct knowledge of this.

    I simply took you at your word:

    “….Islamic ones are multiplying (growing faster than any other group). ”

  • Meema

    Well YES, I know that – That’s essential to the point I’m making.

  • Meema

    You may say (and actually believe) that: ” They were given no choice”.
    But the fact remains that that is was the agencies who shut up shop.
    It was the failure of the agencies to move with the times which caused them to drive up a dead end.

  • Meema

    You may say (and actually believe) that: ” They were given no choice”.
    But the fact remains that that is was the agencies who shut up shop.
    It was the failure of the agencies to move with the times which caused them to drive up a dead end.

  • Meema

    We probably still know very little about the world, but we now do know a very good way of proceeding in order to find out, little by little as time passes (or seems to pass).
    The apparent incompatibility of quantum mechanics and general relativity, and the apparent missing 94% of the universe, that you cite, are just two of the many things needing much further work.
    We also don’t (obviously) know about what we don’t know, i.e. about our “unknown unknowns”.

    Perhaps, most importantly, we have learned something about ourselves: we now have some knowledge about where we came from and how our brains work. There will probably be great advances in these fields in the coming years.

  • Meema

    Some “unchristian” policies seem to me to be very good ones.

    It’s unrealistic to expect the nation to be run on prochristian policies. Why should people who are not among the small and active Christian part of the population accept that?

  • Meema


    this secular, communist buffoon and his cronies that we currently suffer under now.”

    You must be a Republican – or maybe a Mooney?

  • Meema

    Some organisations feed on buzzwords – they are their life-blood. Not least among such organisations are religions themselves.

  • nytor

    No, the fact remains that the state closed them. Not overtly, but in effect it did so. Spouting nonsense such as “the agencies failed to move with the times” just exposes how little you understand the situation. Bodies operating under the aegis of the Church can only do so if they comply with Church law, or they are not Catholic and cannot operate using the term or the facilities of the Church. The agencies could not change policy and remain Church agencies. Those which have ceased to be Cahjolic agencies can no longer use catholic property or fundraise via churches. They do not have the administrative support of the dioceses.

  • Scyptical Chymist

     Myles Keogh may be guilty of over emphasis but his point is still essentially true. Catholics who support Obama are essentially supporting a secularised and controlling state which panders to personal desires and encourages “do what thou wilt” without sanction in sexual issues,while offering liberal sops to  causes such as health care which Christians can support, but which its ultimate aim is to extirpate Christianity as a force in society.  Woe betide anyone who crosses the boundaries of political correctness on issues such as immigration, sexuality and climate change and many other issues. Any Christian needs to think long and hard and examine Obama’s record before voting in the coming election.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Unchristian policies are against the commands of Jesus Christ.  Are you saying His laws are wrong?!  I guess you can explain that to Him on the Last Day. And if bodies run on unchristian policies are substandard (which they are) doesn’t that tell you something is wrong with unChristian policies?!

    And actually….the UK is a Christian nation by some standards…ie most identify themselves as Christian.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Islamic populations in the UK are growing faster than any other group….but in Islamic nations…the birthrate is going down fast.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    And?!

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    And I’m not sure how orthodox Catholics are doing.  They may be growing fast too….

  • enness

    Which explains why 2 billion people call themselves Christian…and you say I’m the one who believes in fairy tales.  Yikes.

  • enness

    Go to Sudan or the streets of Bangladesh, or even the backwoods of Alabama before you say mankind is ‘infinitely better off.’ What arrogance. What you mean is Western White people are better off, but not actually by a lot…in my country we’re only aborting and contracepting ourselves out of existence less quickly than our European brethren.  Southeast Asia has serious problems because of the bias against girls. In Africa we still see starvation and genocide. Some progress!
    And about comments based on faith…so? Did you look at the title of the publication?

  • enness

    Secularist is accurate.  Buffoon…yes, I can see that. (I certainly don’t think he’s as brilliant as he tries to appear or worthy of the almost inexplicable levels of infatuation I see).  Communist is probably an exaggeration.  But whatever one chooses to call it, it’s not good.  Unfortunately all “my” party could come up with was R-Money.  Pathetic.

  • enness

    Would ou be so kind as to give an example?

  • enness

    Oh, yeah…because fraud and usury have worked out so well for everyone!

  • enness

    Church law and state law were not incompatible until the state, arguably for no very compelling reason, made it so.  At least, that’s what happened in the US.

  • Meema

    Well: God, Hell, Heaven, Sin (disobedience to the first one)……

  • Meema

    “So do you think that the Catholic Church fills their Churches up because it “threatens Hell, torture and eternal damnation”?
    Yes, this is the major cause of ‘more bums on the pews’ than the protestants.

    “But the Catholic Church also teaches about the Resurrection and Eternal life as well as the Mercy of God…. ”

    Yes, but only (for Catholics) if you do what the Church says you should – otherwise we are back to the original sentence, which you quote.

  • Meema

    “The agencies could not change policy and remain Church agencies.”
    Perhaps, for the sake of the children ( whose interests should surely have been paramount? ) they should have considered going independent, to be free of the Church’s policies.
    They would have had very widespread moral and financial support from enlightened quarters.

    Closing the agencies, and abandoning the needs of the children who would otherwise have come to them, was a cruel and angry political act; and very typical of the Church’s self-righteousness. 

  • Meema

    You are quite right. There are still regions where much progress is needed, and where girls and women are regarded as second-rate human-beings – this is often related to religion.
    We once suffered starvation and genocide (the latter again recently) in Europe. In the fairly recent past much of Europe has enjoyed reasonably good governance, and this has helped progress.
    The decline in religious belief has been an enormous bonus.
    Populations in Europe are probably much larger than the ideal. However levels are overall stable – where there are falls, they are slight, and some nations like France are growing rapidly.
    Government policy in respect of: child welfare, wage levels, housing policy and benefits largely determines population trends.