Via Media

Via Media

Blair becomes RC

No more rumors. Or shall we say, rumours?
From Ruth Gledhill:

As we reported exclusively that he would, Tony Blair has been received into the Roman Catholic Church. Tony Blair is received into full communion with the Catholic Church. This took place during Mass in the chapel at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, yesterday. The former Prime Minister has been receiving doctrinal and spiritual preparation from Mgr Mark O’Toole, the Cardinal’s private secretary. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said: ‘I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion. My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.’


Some reactions:
South Ashford Priest:

Tony Blair was received last night by Cardinal Murphy O’Connor into the Catholic Church. Has he thereby ‘become a Catholic?’ Has he truly ‘converted?’ I hope so.
I would appreciate similar reassurance to that desired by Ann Widdecombe as reported on the BBC website:

If you look at Tony Blair’s voting record in the House of Commons, he’s gone against church teaching on more than one occasion. On things, for example, like abortion.
“My question would be ‘Has he changed his mind on that?'”


Fr. Ray Blake of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Brighton:

I think it would be quite appropriate for the Cardinal, who admitted Mr Blair to full communion with the Catholic Church to make some statement about who can or cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. Personally I would have serious problems with giving Mr Blair Holy Communion. I am reminded of his pro-civil partnership “skip for joy”, his appalling voting record on Life issues.

I really cannot think of him as anything other than a public sinner, who spent much of his Premiership fighting against everything the Catholic Church teaches.
Persuade me otherwise Your Emminence.



 I don’t doubt the sincerity of Blair’s desire to be Catholic, but he and the Church Catholic have been poorly served by ignoring the several elephants in the chapel and downplaying the extent to which his position on several issues put him outside the pale.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker (former Anglican, now Catholic priest)

I don’t think it’s fair to take easy pot shots at Blair because of his previous views on abortion, gay rights etc. We should give everyone the benefit of the doubt and give him a warm welcome. People do change their minds about certain issues, and instead of criticizing we should give converts time and space.
Let’s hope his new allegiance will spur him on in his new role in the Mid East, and that God will guide him in his efforts to bring peace to Jerusalem.


Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:

This raises some interesting questions which I am sure our friends in the UK can clarify in charity.
I would very much like to hear Card. Murphy O’Conner talk about the “formation programme” for Mr. Blair and if they discussed issues such as how public figures need to be consistent with Catholic doctrine.
For example, since Mr. Blair publicly held positions on certain issues which were contrary to Catholic doctrine, how does his public stance square with his former reception into the Church?
I am not interested in blasting Mr. Blair.  I will probably delete comments which simply rain vituperation on him or anyone else in this matter.   I am interested in the larger issue, which affect American (and not only American) politics as well.
We all know that in the USA for the electoral campaigns there are difficulties when self-proclaimed Catholic politicians support and promote things contrary to Catholic doctrine, such as abortion.   Since they are public figures, taking a public stand, it seems right that they should make a public statement to correct their errors before reception of Holy Communion, lest there be scandal among God’s people.  Archbp. Burke has spoken, written, and acted on this matter.
This should also apply to politicians in other countries.  Remember that when the Holy Father flew to Brasil for the meeting of CELAM, he was asked on the airplane by an Italian journalist about the situation in Mexico where Catholic politicians had removed sanctions from those who procure abortions. 
This is a world wide issue.
At the same time, none of us are finished products yet.  I suspect Mr. Blair or other politicians will not change his positions if they are constantly blasted with nastiness.  Persuasion is needed.  In no way does this condone public denial of Catholic doctrine.  I am trying to underscore the fallen dimension of our human experience. 
Thus, I am glad that Mr. Blair desired closer unity with the Catholic Church and acted on it.  However, I would like some clarifications.

Comments read comments(23)
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posted December 22, 2007 at 9:16 am

Does this mean I have to leave?

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Jim McCullough

posted December 22, 2007 at 9:22 am

Okay, NOW he needs prayers… .

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Terrence Berres

posted December 22, 2007 at 10:27 am

Doesn’t initiation over there include receiving the packet of weekly Offertory envelopes?

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Gen X Revert

posted December 22, 2007 at 11:21 am

I echo Fr. Longenecker and wish Tony Blair a warm welcome. It is always good to see people convert to Catholicism and when they are ‘high profile converts’ it may encourage others.

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posted December 22, 2007 at 11:36 am

when I converted back in the 80’s, in California, I was fairly liberal in my views of abortion and never considered it an ‘issue’. However as I took my conversion seriously, the Holy Spirit over time conformed my mind and heart ,as He still does, to see my misjudgement of true Catholic Christian Justice…the protection of the unborn. Let us pray for our brother Tony, he may yet become a new voice in the world in protecting those most innocent.

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posted December 22, 2007 at 2:53 pm

I concur with Fr. Longenecker also and welcome Tony Blair into the Church, with the rest of us imperfect Catholics.

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posted December 22, 2007 at 3:04 pm

There is a time-honored tradition of those in power only converting when their time in power is over. Like Constantine, baptized on his deathbed, when he would no longer need to wield the power of the Emperor and draw blood. (An action that was completely against church teaching and morality in his era.)
We might bemoan it as expedient. But it is not without precedent.

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posted December 22, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Kim, the same thing is true for me, too. When I converted (1995) I was pro-“choice”, at least as much as I ever gave it thought.
I, too, took my conversion seriously and continued to pray and study the faith. Whithin a short period of time the Holy Spirit worked in my heart and mind and I became ardently pro-life.
Tony Blair may or may not be there yet, but he is definitely on the right path and appears to be open to the graces that the Lord will bestow on a searching soul. I am so thrilled for him that he has come home and I pray that his faith will deepen with each day.

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rob k

posted December 22, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Perhaps we should worry more about the many RCs who are already “pro-choice”.

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posted December 23, 2007 at 3:10 pm

You’ve got a good point, Rob K.

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Dan Crawford

posted December 23, 2007 at 6:02 pm

I do think Jesus should have sought “clarification” from the Good Thief and Paul the Apostle, to say nothing of the thousands of sinners who sought him out. Having determined they were not worthy, he should have refused to associate with them.
I pray Tony Blair will encounter Christ in powerful and wonderful way in the Catholic Church and even a welcome from those who desire “clarification”. I suspect Jesus will be more welcoming than those who claim to be his disciples.

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posted December 23, 2007 at 7:08 pm

There is a time-honored tradition of those in power only converting when their time in power is over.
Might we see a GWB conversion in ’08? *grin*

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posted December 24, 2007 at 12:28 am

Re: Anon’s comment: “Like Constantine, baptized on his deathbed, when he would no longer need to wield the power of the Emperor and draw blood. (An action that was completely against church teaching and morality in his era.)”
I think this is false; in waiting until his deathbed to be baptised, Constantine did what many people in the early church did. The idea was this: sins after baptism may damn you, so better to wait until you are near death. I think it is Augustine (356-428, iirc), with his emphasis on original sin and the possibility of forgiveness for sins after baptism, who essentially effected the regularity of infant baptism and the concomitant idea that people should not wait to be baptized. Constantine lived in a prior generation.
Any specialists out there, if I’m wrong, please correct me.

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posted December 24, 2007 at 12:40 am

Re: Dan’s comment:
Jesus wasn’t a liberal, and we should stop making him such and reading the supposedly tolerant, affirming Jesus against the rule-bound Church. He was a first-century conservative, apocalyptic Jew, and he did a lot more condemning than accepting. Remember what he tells the woman with the sick child: “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”, but then he relents after she says something about pets getting crumbs from the table. Examples abound. Read Matthew, for instance, with your eyes open, and see just how brutal Jesus can come across when he is talking about judgment and what have you.
The basic principle to remember is that God (& thus Jesus) doesn’t affirm us. He saves us. And living as a person being saved involves following the Way established by Jesus, which he himself described as a narrow one. All are welcome, but to whom much is given much is required.
That said, I’m glad Blair is in the Catholic fold (heck, wish I was), and I think we should trust that those who instructed him knew what they were doing and that such things were broached in the process of preparation.

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posted December 24, 2007 at 7:38 am

Well, Dan, the good thief DID clarify when he said that he and his companion were suffering justly for their deeds. Paul also renounced his previous wrong doing, as documented in the book of Acts, and in his own writings. In fact, Jesus first met Paul with a confrontation: “Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” after striking him blind and knocking him off his horse.

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Tim F.

posted December 24, 2007 at 8:30 am

Wasn’t Tony Blair implementing policies to attack marriage and life in general all at the same time people were speculating that he was going to become Catholic? Like in the past two years or so? I may be wrong with the timing but I’ve been reading for quite some time he may convert.

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posted December 24, 2007 at 9:57 am

This discussion and topic makes a great case for why more people don’t consider the catholic church.

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posted December 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm

“This discussion and topic makes a great case for why more people don’t consider the catholic church.”
I think most people don’t wish to consider the Catholic Church because it continually urges us to conversion, which means changing your life, which is sometimes difficult and painful.

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Charles R. Williams

posted December 25, 2007 at 12:22 pm

In converting, Blair has repented of his sins and determined to form his conscience with the guidance of the magisterium. His actions should be taken at face value.
Let us pray that he will grow in holiness every day through the grace of the sacraments as so many have.

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Rich Leonardi

posted December 25, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Fr. John Trigilio, a priest no one would accuse of being faint-hearted on the subject of doctrine and scandal, urges us to give Blair the benefit of the doubt:

Perhaps, Blair crossed the Rubicon before he crossed the Tiber, i.e.,, maybe he defeated those internal forces which previously prevented him from entering full communion. Many converts admit there was one or two doctrinal or moral points they had to resolve before making a Profession of Faith, at least an honest one. Many tell of a stumbling block, be it a Marian dogma, Papal infallibility or the Church’s teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, women’s ordination, etc. Finally, they either see the light or are willing to abandon themselves completely and totally to God and His Holy Church and thus surrender their personal authority by submitting to a higher one. Too many ‘half-baked’ Catholics around today who only accepted some but not all the official teachings and laws of the Church. Too many who were not taught the correct or at least the complete deposit of faith during their period of catechesis and intruction. Best to have someone wait until he or she is ready to give their entire assent of faith and their complete submission of mind and will to the Pope and Magisterium. Anything less is cheating God, is cheating the Church and is cheating the person him/herself.
I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that Tony Blair truly came into full communion with Rome, liturgically, theologically and morally. I hope his Profession of Faith was sincere and complete. And despite his faults, mistakes and sins of the past, new converts are asked to make a good first confession before they are Confirmed and receive Holy Communion. Let us trust that is what happened and rejoice that this Christmas, Tony Blair and family can attend Mignight Mass together and receive the Sacraments as one family within the great family of faith we call the Catholic Church.

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posted December 26, 2007 at 9:29 am

We can’t expect those who are developing their faith to go from milk to meats in one fell swoop. I think sometimes, patience and charity are important. Shoving the meat down a child’s throat is mostly likely only to accomplish a life-long hatred of meat. Waiting too long to give the child meat is just as dangerous. Introducing it when the time is right and having patience is the trick to getting the child to eat meat. Trying to judge the right time is never easy and hence what will probably remain mixed responses by the Church around the globe. Some bishops will wait too long to give the meat and others won’t wait long enough. The rest of us will have to be just that more creative to try to get these too-old to be drinking milk only children eating meat. Force feeding seldom works.

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posted December 26, 2007 at 9:30 am

No more rumors. Or shall we say, rumours?
LOL! Another reason I love your blog. :)

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That's Me

posted December 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm

I could never put a finger on it, but I’ve always liked Tony Blair.
As one who celebrated the 47th anniversary of his reception into the Church, I rejoice that another has found his way home. As for his actions previously, haven’t all of us done things that required Reconciliation?
Part of Blair’s reception would have necessarily included a confession and a firm purpose of amendment, same as everyone else.

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