Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blair may seek to become deacon

The Daily Mail had the following story today!

Blair 'may become a Catholic deacon'
Visit to Vatican to see the Pope as last trip before quitting No10 'is highly significant'By JONATHAN OLIVER and MARTIN DELGADO -
Tony Blair has discussed becoming a Roman Catholic deacon when he quits office.
The revelation comes as he prepares to meet the Pope amid speculation that he will use the audience in the Vatican to announce his conversion.
In his last foreign engagement, just days before he leaves Downing Street for the final time, the Prime Minister will visit Pope Benedict XVI in what officials say will be a "highly significant" personal mission.

It is thought that Tony Blair will announce his conversion to Catholicism when he meets the Pope. Reports that he will convert from the Church of England to the Catholic faith of his wife Cherie have often surfaced during Mr Blair's decade in office.
The claims were supported by revelations that he has already discussed not only converting to Rome, but also taking a formal lay position within the Church.
Deacons are just below priests in the Catholic hierarchy and have the right to administer certain sacraments and wear a special white robe known as a dalmatic.
Mr Blair discussed the idea of his taking such a role with Canon Timothy Russ, priest at the Immaculate Heart of Mary near the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers.
The revelation is contained in a new book soon to be serialised by The Mail on Sunday – The Darlings Of Downing Street by Garry O’Connor.
The book states: "Tony expressed his strong desire when he stepped down to become a deacon – and a Roman Catholic deacon at that, confirming the often-speculated belief that he would convert to Roman Catholicism sometime in the future."
Mr Blair is reported as asking his confidant Father Timothy: "Would this be possible?" He was told: "It usually takes two or three years", to which he replied: "The fact that I'm PM, could this make a difference?"
The deacon idea emerged in a conversation a few years ago about Mr Blair's plans after he leaves office. Father Timothy suggested that taking on a formal role in the Church could give him fresh moral clout when he campaigns on climate change and Africa. The priest added: "He has a lot of potentiality for good. He is still looking for the meaning in his life."
The Blairs stopped attending Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary last year for "security reasons". The relationship with the priest became strained after he spoke out against the Iraq War, accusing the Prime Minister of moral surrender.
It is understood that Mr Blair will be accompanied by Cherie at the audience with the Pope in the papal apartments a week on Saturday. The couple are expected to spend the weekend in Rome before returning for their last 72 hours in Downing Street.
It will be Mr Blair's third visit to the Vatican in four years and a source said: "The fact that he will meet the Holy Father for his last official overseas engagement is highly significant and must raise speculation over his conversion to Catholicism."
The latest revelations follow recent comments by Father Michael Seed, who provides private Masses for the Blairs in their Downing Street flat.
The priest, known for bringing high-profile politicians and aristocrats into the Catholic fold, believes Mr Blair is poised to join the Church of Rome.
Converts are usually welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, held the night before Easter Sunday, but these arrangements are considered flexible.
Admittance to the Church is normally a two-year process. But Mr Blair, because he is already a regular attender, is likely to be fast- tracked.
As a deacon, he could help priests administer Mass, preside over baptisms and read the gospel in Church services. Unlike priests, deacons are not required to take a vow of chastity.
Mr Blair, whose children have been brought up as Catholics, regularly attends Mass at Westminster Cathedral and has become close to the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
The Prime Minister's first meeting with the present Pope took place last June, but he had an audience with Pope John Paul II in February 2003, shortly before the US and British-led invasion of Iraq.
It later emerged that the Prime Minister had received Holy Communion from the Polish-born pontiff at a private service for the Blair family in the Vatican.
Mrs Blair, who is a devout Catholic, had an unexpected meeting with Pope Benedict last year when she was on a speaking engagement in Rome.
In 1996 Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster, asked that the Prime Minister – a member of the Church of England – cease taking Communion at his wife’s London church in Islington.
Mr Blair is not believed to have received the sacrament in British Catholic churches since then. However, he is understood to have taken the Eucharist during holidays in Italy where an Anglican church was not easily available.
Mr Blair has always been reluctant to discuss his religious beliefs. Alastair Campbell, his former Downing Street communications chief, famously told one interviewer: "We don't do God."
A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is true that the Prime Minister will visit the Vatican. But I am not going to confirm the date. He will discuss various issues with the Pope including inter-faith issues, the Middle East peace process and international development and aid."
President Bush proved himself less than familiar with Catholic etiquette when, on his way home from the G8 summit in Germany, he stopped for an audience with the Pope in the Vatican.
First he failed to bow before shaking hands, saying: "It's great to be here."
Then officials cringed as he repeatedly called the Pontiff 'sir'. Later, a Vatican spokesman said: "I don't think President Bush meant anything by his use of words. The expression "sir" is widely used in English and especially by Americans – but of course the correct term is "Your Holiness"."


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Blair would make a better deacon than he has a Prime Minister?

Anonymous said...

Mr Bush would of course have been instructed in Vatical protocol; he chose not to follow it.

What does 'devout Catholic' mean in relation to Mrs Blair?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Anonymous 1, I`m sure Private Eye would feel vindicated if he became a deacon!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Anonymous 2, that`s depressing. Not sure what `devout` means in this context. Not what it usually means I suppose.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is about to undertake RCIA in September, I find the idea that Blair's conversion may be "fast-tracked" offensive. Just because he was the Prime Minister shouldn't give him rights above everyone else. He should undertake the RCIA course like everyone else intending to convert.

Fr Michael Brown said...

RCIA anonymous, I quite agree. Our RCIA course started a few weeks ago and consists of 25 sessions. I have once `fast-tracked` a convert. She was an Anglo-Catholic who was already coming to daily Mass for a number of months and was able to answer all the most difficult questions I put to her about the faith. However in Blair`s case some of his government`s policies reveal that he would benefit from an extended RCIA!

Anonymous said...

One hopes that the Holy Father, or at least those in his household, will be aware of Blair's pernicious anti-Catholic views on abortion, same-sex partnerships (and implicitly therfore, support of sodomy), contraception for children (a form of child abuse), etc, etc. Why the Holy Father would agree to meeting such a man for such an alleged purpose (which I doubt anyway) beggars belief.

His wife, the so-called 'devout' Catholic (isn't that what they called Ruth Kelly as well?), also supports these evils.

How, then, can any priest seriously think he is a suitable candidate for conversion to the Faith? A public confession of his errors would be called for to avoid the very real scandal such a false conversion would cause.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Augustinus, I agree that any conversion would be confusing for the faithful without some kind of explanation of where personally he stands on these issues.

I really can`t understand Ruth Kelly at all.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps HE the Cardinal will be given a Life Peerage in exchange for ordaining Blair?

Hopefully not, in both cases.

Anonymous 1.

Anonymous said...

But surely Ruth Kelly is a chap in drag?

Ttony said...

Dear Father, I wish I had as much insight into the PM's soul as your correspondents seem to have. I don't suppose that with all these priests going in and out of No 10 and Chequers there has been any time for him to learn about the Faith.

Anonymous said...

TTony - it's not so much a case of anyone having insight into Blair's soul (that would clearly be impossible) - it's more a recognition of the public statements he has made.

Because of those statements, there is a potential for scandal in the minds of the Faithful if such a conversion (and possible diaconal ordination) went ahead without some form of public explanation of where he stands.

No one would be negative about a sincere and true conversion.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Becoming a deacon? I am sure is a fiction.
Fast tracking Blair? I would see it as a form simony.

Fr Justin said...

Bowing is something to which many Americans are particularly allergic. The idea is that being an American citizen makes them at least the equal of anyone else. When Queen Elizabeth visited the US several decades ago, the White House was asked what was the correct protocol for greeting her, and the answer was given 'Americans bow to no-one'!

Anonymous said...

I pray that stories of Blair seeking ordination are untrue. Can you imagine! At least i suppose he would want to join Westminister and not H&N at least i hope so..can you imagine having him as your parish deacon? Longbenton would probably do him the world of good. He'd never be there for a start, too busy jetting off to run Confirmation classes. In any event a strongly worded profession of faith and obedience to the Church's teaching would be needed to avoid a grave scandal.

Father John Boyle said...

It would be a scandal!