Via Media

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.