COMMENTARY: Tony Blair's public/private Catholicism[Religion News Service] Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government supported embryonic stem cell research and resisted strengthening laws against abortion, joined the Roman Catholic Church just before Christmas at a private Mass celebrated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
Blair has not publicly repudiated any of his positions. Nor need he. He is a private citizen now.
But Blair apparently holds, or at least held, positions well at odds with Catholic teaching. Blair met with Pope Benedict XVI shortly before stepping down last June, ostensibly in a farewell courtesy call. In the reportedly chilly meeting, Benedict frankly discussed the Blair government's support of same-gender marriage, gay adoption, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research. A few days later, Blair stepped down, and his presumed "personally opposed" positions became truly personal.
Blair's public record conflicts with Catholicism, but much of it conflicts with Anglicanism as well. Anglicanism restricts, and Catholicism outlaws, abortion and embryonic stem cell research -- unfortunately with little effect in the United Kingdom. In Britain, abortion is widespread and so-called "therapeutic cloning" -- creating embryos to destroy them for their stem cells -- is allowed.
Blair's government supported British scientists' failed attempts at human cloning for more than three years. (It does not seem to work. The widely-touted South Korean human cloning "success" turned out to be faked.)
And we cannot forget that Blair's government also supported embryonic stem cell research of the weirdest sort -- inserting the nuclear material of human cells into cow eggs -- which hopefully will not work any better.
Undeterred by scientific failure, the Brits carry on. As Queen Elizabeth II promised in her speech before the State Opening of the Parliament last November, "A Bill will be brought forward to reform the regulation of human embryology and to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of medical research." That includes creating something part-cow and part-human.
Why could Blair (then an Anglican) not have said something -- anything -- remotely Christian about that idea when it was discussed before he left office? It would not have been so startling. Blair was always known to be religious. Some say that's why he and President Bush get along so well.
Blair never really discussed religion while in office; his spokesman once said "we don't do God." Blair since explained "you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter."
Mr. Blair, were you a "nutter" when you said (or at least seem to have said) that God would be the judge of your decision to send troops to Iraq? And were you a "nutter" when you said (or at least seem to have said) that you prayed over that decision? Forgive me, Mr. Blair, I just don't get it.
You have traded Anglicanism for Catholicism -- not exactly a quantum leap, but different all the same. You believe religion is important. Perhaps you agree with the late Protestant theologian, Paul Tillich, who wrote: "Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of a meaning of our life."
Well, I think creating and destroying human life fall in the "ultimate concern" department. It is good that you prayed about Iraq. You prayed. You acted. You spoke.
Would you ever think (at least) and even pray about human cloning? About human-animal cloning? I suspect you will recognize it is all quite creepy.
You are a private citizen, but you still give a lot of speeches. And you are now a public Catholic. I think if you speak publicly about these centrally Catholic issues, people might listen. And no one will think you are a "nutter."» Respond to this article