The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Deacon “snubs” Cherie Blair

posted by jmcgee

The Massachusetts deacon whose miraculous healing is clearing the way for Cardinal Newman’s beatification met with Tony Blair’s wife Cherie last month — and now he wishes he hadn’t:

cherie_blair_1017.jpgCherie Blair has received a humiliating snub from a leading Roman Catholic in the U.S.

Jack Sullivan – the man the Church of Rome believes was healed after praying to Cardinal John Henry Newman – dropped in on Mrs Blair during a visit to England last month.

But he is now trying to erase references to their meeting because he says he was ‘shocked and horrified’ to discover that Mrs Blair – although a Catholic – opposes the Vatican’s teachings on sexual morality and had publicly supported pro-choice groups in the debate over abortion.

Mr Sullivan, whose sudden recovery from a severe back condition has put Victorian convert Cardinal Newman just one step away from sainthood, said he was unaware of her opinions when driven to the Blairs’ £5.75million Grade I-listed country pile near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

The 71-year-old Catholic deacon from Marshfield, Massachusetts, claims he would not have agreed to meet her if he had known of them in advance.

He has publicly repudiated his written reflections of his visit in which he spoke of how he and his wife Carol were ‘most impressed with our meeting with Cherie Blair’.

He has also asked at least two newspapers and a range of other media outlets to delete references to the meeting.

He says he is anxious that Mrs Blair does not hijack the figure of Cardinal Newman to promote her own brand of what he sees as pick-and-mix Catholicism.

Mr Sullivan’s latest views were posted on the website of the Cause for the Canonisation of John Henry Newman, which is run by the Birmingham Oratory, the church founded by the cardinal in the 19th century.

‘Unfortunately, Jack had not been made aware of Mrs Blair’s public opposition to the teaching of the Church,’ said a spokesman. ‘He undertook the visit in good faith, believing Mrs Blair to be simply a prominent Catholic.

‘As soon as he was made aware of Mrs Blair’s record of public dissent from the Church’s teaching, Jack requested that all reference to meeting her be removed from the published recollections of his visit.’

There’s more here.

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posted December 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Not for anything, but hasn’t this man (or his family, or advisers, or whomever) ever heard of Google?

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posted December 6, 2009 at 8:18 pm

It’s interesting that Christ found it within himself to meet with the lowest and most undesirable in society, yet this man can’t lower himself to meet with anyone who isn’t Catholic enough for his tastes and now considers himself soiled by the very act. Clearly he wouldn’t have time for Christ either if he returned today.

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posted December 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

kenneth, don’t confuse the low and undesirable with an obstinate dissenter. What do you suppose Jesus would think about Cherie Blair’s version of the Gospel?

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Brandy Miller

posted December 7, 2009 at 12:05 am

We are called by Christ to love the sinner, although not the sin. It is no shame to be seen meeting with sinners, Christ did the same. It is, however, a shame if you refuse to meet them in order that you might help them learn something better or refuse to correct them when you hear them say things that simply aren’t true. It is love and faithful friendship which convert hearts and change minds – not judgment and ostracism.
Cherie Blaire has much to learn about how to be Catholic, but many of us are that same way.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 3:30 am

Jack Sullivan was concerned that Ms Blair might use the publicity of this event to promote her own views, not that he should have met someone he disagreed with or who was not in full agreement with the Church. He did not want Cardinal Newman (who is, in effect, the reason for this deacon’s current public status) to be associated gratuitously and without his consent(!) with a program of promoting dissent from the Church’s teaching from the worst place – within the Church. Not only has Cherie relentlessly promulgated anti-life/pro-choice stances and criticised the Vatican, her husband also now runs a Faith Foundation which insists, from what I can gather, that whilst faith is useful, even necessary, the problem with it comes when anyone takes it too seriously!

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RP Burke

posted December 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

It appears the good deacon, like so many in the church’s hierarchy, fails to understand the difference between whether an act is moral and whether it should be legal.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 11:08 am

And what is that difference, Mr. Burke? I certainly understand that there is a difference when we’re talking about, say, free speech that might be regarded by some as inflammatory. But, where do we draw that line when we’re talking about taking a human life? And why draw it there, as opposed to, oh, over here?

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posted December 7, 2009 at 11:32 am

“I will drink to conscience first and the Pope second.” — John Cardinal Newman.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 11:41 am

The deacon cares more about following the Gospel. Obviously Mrs Blaine does not. She is very aware that her teachings and stances contradict the teachings of the Church. She is more of a Saducee than a “poor lowly sinner.” No doubt you are aware or should be since you claim to know Christ of His response to the Saducees. It was not affirming. She like saducees is very politically active and willing to distort or barter the Faith. That is why the deacon has redpudiated his previous views of her as they were evidently ill informed. He is afraid she will use his visit to promote her own teachings in opposition to Christ and the Church. It is very possible that her type would crucify Christ if they had lived back then. After all He was so disturbing to the political elite of His day. Horror of horrors- He taught that they must repent and live moral lives or go to Hell. That my friend is politically incorrect and as such in modern society, where morality is viewed through a populist lens, deserving of condemnation and legal reprecussions. Crucifixion was used anciently, now they declare you mentally incompetent- or worse.
It is interesting to see some who claim the legal can and should be seperated from the moral. According to that argument what the government (not neccessarily the people as it was a dictatorship and they were oppressed) in Germany did in the early 40s though immoral was acceptable because it was legal. Perhaps such would feel that the Chuch’s resistance to that was ignorant and failed to “understand the difference between whether an act is moral and whether it should be legal.” That stance is not wise and is full of vaguaries and can easily lead to permitting any number of atrocities (depending upon the sensibilities of the person holding it). It is about as definable as the borders of the wind. The legal should not be separated from the moral and if it is the moral is the higher law and as such claims total obedience.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Kristen as much as I respect your learning on Newmen and reference to him, that quote is taken way out of context and way too often. Properly understood it affirms the papacy. It addresses the formation of a proper conscience and not mere feelinings, opinions, views, etc.
Attached is a link that puts the quote in context and indicates that Newman meant and used it in a much different way than it is often misunderstood.
PS: The work that features that quote was found in his “Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone’s Recent Expostulation” Here is the link to that

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posted December 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

The difference between law and morality is not one of drawing a line. Law should conform to morality, ideally. However, as a prudential matter it may that the enactment of a law will, on balance, create a more unjust society. For example: adultery is immoral, but it is not illegal. This is not because the judgment has been made that it is moral to commit adultery, but because the enforcement of a law against adultery has the potential to create a more unjust society (through the imprudent allocation of resources; through the undermining of respect for law caused by lax enforcement, etc.). Of course, we’re not talking about adultery here. But the terms are the same. Will making abortion illegal produce a more unjust society? How will the law be enforced? What will the penalties be? Will it be enforced consistently? Abortion was illegal once; Roe v. Wade was decided within the context of the general liberalization of abortion laws (a political process short-circuited by the Supreme Court). Why were abortion laws being liberalized? Why is the global trend towards liberalization? What was/is it about a regime of illegal abortions that people reject? None of these are intended as rhetorical questions. Rather, they are prudential, political questions that have to be addressed before abortion is once again made illegal. I know from experience that it is their answers to these questions that lead people to say that, while they believe abortion to be immoral, they do not believe it should be illegal. The key is to give them answers to these questions that will satisfy them that making abortion illegal is a prudent decision.

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RP Burke

posted December 7, 2009 at 3:19 pm

To Thomas’s comment just above, let me add that Thomas Aquinas also argued that the enactment of a law that would likely be flouted by the public would lead to the disrespect of all laws.
And one last item: One of the standards of the American republic is that there shall be no establishment of religion. The natural-law philosophy on which the church bases its stance on abortion is seen by others as religious dogma, and refuse to grant the authority to decide which issues are religious and which are not to the Catholic bishops.
It is a lot more complicated than merely to say “Abortion is immoral, immoral things must be made illegal, therefore abortion must be made illegal.”

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posted December 7, 2009 at 5:12 pm

It’s not so much that abortion (the act) should be made illegal. It’s the fact that the providing of abortion should be made illegal. If abortion was illegal and a desperate woman hurt herself in a way to cause an abortion, you wouldn’t want to arrest her and throw her in jail. That would be against Chirst’s teaching of love.
However, if you take away the product of abortion by making it illegal for doctors or others to perform them, then you have successfully decreased the ability to have one done. The unfortunate part about abortion is that it is entirely too easy to have one, and typically it is out of desperation that a woman seeks this end. If you make it easier for her to have the baby by channeling money typically used for pro-abortion organizations into pregnancy help centers you will create a culture in which the human life is more respected. Unfortunately, the product of abortion creates a culture which sees the human life as tissue that can be discarded without taking into mind the life of that human being that could have been.
Just think…what great doctors, philosophers, musicians, artists, etc could be born out of the life of an aborted human.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm

RP Burke, “establishment of religion” means, for example, Church of England – where the religion is institutionalized i.e. established. Atheists, agnostics and liberal Christians (the last being an oxymoron, I know) really get this magical “separation of church and state” thing wrong, much to the detriment of society and government.
Thus, it would be perfectly legal if congress passed legislation to outright ban abortion, on religious grounds. Furthermore, if such a thing happened it would be because the people willingly and knowingly elected representatives that they knew wanted to ban child-killing.
It’s not complicated. Abortion is immoral and should be banned. What a sign of a regressive country, that all of us, in our earliest stages of life, should be viewed upon with such disregard. Having said that, the public’s viewpoint and opinion has to be shaped over the years such that they elected pro-life legislators.

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posted December 7, 2009 at 5:57 pm

The natural-law philosophy on which the church bases its stance on abortion is seen by others as religious dogma…
And still others (e.g. the ones who got more than a D in high school civics) recognize that this natural-law philosophy is the basis for the intellectual and philosophical founding of the US. And then it became the basis for the emancipation of slaves. Still later, it became the basis for women’s sufferage and prohibition. And civil rights laws.
So, are you of the opinion that forcing the Confederacy to stay in the Union, and then emancipating all of their slaves, was a heinous violation of the Establishment Clause?

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Your Name

posted December 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm

It seems to me we don’t get it. If Jesus is our Lord it means we do what he says first and ask questions later. The problem is the church is so caught up in its dogma about its role as thee athority, that it constantly forgets to quote the scriptures. It is the scriptures that give the church athority, and it is the scriptures that state ‘You shall not kill’, and it is the scriptures that state ‘I (God) knew you before you were born’, etc. Because of the weak scripture teaching in the church, many people think the priests are just giving their opinion.
Our approach seems to be our problem. The bishop should send a letter filled with Biblical quotes to show Ms. Blair why abortion is wrong and why she should head the Word of the Lord (because “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord”).

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RP Burke

posted December 7, 2009 at 7:14 pm

A reply to John and Cathyf.
However much you may wish to argue, the hard fact is that the US Supreme Court, the arbiter of what the Constitution says, established the principle of the “wall of separation” between church and state — a phrase traceable to Jefferson and before — no matter what you claim about how the court has it wrong.
As for the issue whether natural law is fundamental to human and civil rights or simply religious dogma, you need to challenge someone else. I just report what I hear and see, things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”.

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Gregg Kimball

posted December 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm

The best analogy to the handling of a (future) case of illegal abortion, is how we presently handle suicides. The act is illegal, the means by which one can carry-out said act are controlled, but the victim is treated as such, and NOT prosecuted in a court of law.

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posted December 8, 2009 at 5:12 am

RP Burke, I believe Jefferson was writing to a church group of some sort when he made the “separation of church and state” remark, such that the implication was that it would protect religious freedom from the government.
As we see today, the Church of England is destroying itself and drowning in political correctness. This is naturally because it is an established institution within the United Kingdom and subject to the temporal whim of politics.
Jefferson et al were wise to not establish a particular religion, or a particular denomination of Christianity, and as a result America is the most openly Christian country in the world.
Whatever the US Supreme Court says, it is made up of a collection of humans, all of whom have their own biases and make obvious mistakes (see Roe v Wade). For example, look at that racist Sotomayor person, who thinks a Latin woman would make a better decision than a white male. These are hardly the words spoken by an objective judge.

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Mary K. Murphy

posted December 8, 2009 at 11:14 am

Dear Deacon Greg,
Perhaps you would help me find an article I forgot to bookmark a few days ago?
It was posted on New Advent and it concerned the Marian inspiration of the European Union flag. It was there one morning and gone by the evening. I do not recall the name of the author. I do not know how to contact Kevin Knight.
Any help you would give me would be appreciated.
I enjoy your postings. BTW, My granddaughter Emily was baptized in your parish in Queens about 1 1/2 years ago. Please pray for her parents to return to the practice of the Faith. They will be spending Christmas with us at our daughter’s house in Virginia.
Thank you for all you do.
Mary K. Murphy

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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Dear “Your Name:” One comment: you have it exactly backwards. In fact, it is the Scriptures which derive their authority from the Church! Jesus did not simply hand the Bible to the Apostles and say, “Follow this.” In the first three centuries after Christ left the earth, there were many documents which were considered for inclusion in the canon we now hold as divinely inspired Scripture. Some were ultimately judged to be trustworthy; many were not. It was not until the end of the third century that the “Bible” as we know it was collected and definitively judged complete and unerring. And who made this judgment? The Catholic Church!

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