Saturday, April 4, 2009

Should the Cardinal get a peerage?


Theos article concludes:

It almost goes without saying that having a legislative chamber that is made up by appointment is problematic, though not without some advantages. In this strange but not ineffective system, Cormac Murphy O’Connor could make a valuable contribution. The aggressive reaction of secularists towards such a development not only exposes the illiberal nature of their position but, worse than that, bears the hallmarks of an old but unattractive British habit: anti-Catholicism.

Topical given my debate with Prof Trigg yesterday...

15 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Bickley does not support his conclusions. At all.

First of all, the whole issue seems to be a non-starter: "[T]he canon law of the Catholic Church prohibits a cleric from taking up a post which involves the exercise of civil power..."

If, however, the cardinal is offered and accepts a seat, it is likely to restart a heated debate about the role of religious representation in the House of Lords.

I don't follow British politics, but it seems to me the debate is ongoing. Indeed the author says so explicitly, noting "[t]he aggressive reaction of secularists towards such a development."

Is Bickley anticipating an aggressive reaction? If so, the charge of illiberality would be preemptive and constitute poisoning the well. On the other hand, if the reaction is already present, then the debate will not be restarted by O’Connor's appointment.

The [Anglican] bishops’ bench could, at worst, be considered an anodyne influence or, more kindly, as a fairly enlightened, progressive and compassionate force in the House. There’s certainly no land grab for political influence, in spite of what the National Secular Society would have us believe.

First, it would nice to know (and a point of intellectual honesty) precisely what the National Secular Society would have us believe, supported by quotations. A rebuttal to an unquoted position raises the immediate suspicion that the author is tearing down a straw man. I'm very skeptical that the NSS's principal objection to the Anglican bishops' participation in the House of Lords is that they might vote as a bloc.

More importantly, why should we believe that the bishops' participation should even be an anodyne, much less a "fairly enlightened, progressive and compassionate force?" Bickley offers us no other reason than that they are bishops. He says nothing at all about the individuals, their positions, the degree to which their participation is determined by the CoE hierarchy, and any details of that influence.

Likewise, why should we believe O'Connor could make a valuable contribution? Merely because he is a Cardinal? Without any details of the secularists' reaction (real or imagined), how are we to determine if their position is illiberal or anti-Catholic? Is it illiberal to ever oppose a cleric on anything? Is it unattractive anti-Catholic prejudice to make any criticism whatsoever of a catholic cleric?

Bickley's position goes beyond laziness into outright incompetence.

anticant said...

You can sign the petition at:

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/nocormacpeerage/#detail

The full wording reads

“It is reported that the Government is considering bestowing a peerage on Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Roman Catholic Church in England. In light of the 'paedophile priest' scandals in his Church's recent past and his appalling leadership failures in dealing with these matters, Murphy O'Connor has demonstrated himself to be unfit to take any place in Parliament and should NOT be given such a reward.”

I would add myself that he has been the most reactionary Archbishop of Westminster of recent times, fighting tooth and nail against many liberalising measures. His efforts to preserve the right of Catholic adoption agencies not to consider same-sex couples as being suitable adoptive parents, when he threatened to close the agencies down if he did not get his way, was only defeated after a [rare indeed] cabinet rebellion.

A sweet old Irish nun who I meet at the local Marie Curie hospice where we are both day patients was rapturously thrilled yesterday having been to a farewell reception for Cardinal M O’C, saying what a lovely man he was and how all the clergy adored him. As you will imagine I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut – one of the difficulties of holding ‘unacceptable’ opinions which, if voiced in conventional company, are met either with blank stares or exclamations of “you can’t really mean that!”

BB: The NSS' objections to bishops sitting in the House of Lords are [a] that we think the Church of England should be disestablished anyway, [b] we don't see why not just the C of E, but any religious group, should have a privileged voice in the legislature - the House of Lords is not an assembly of 'interest groups' - and [c] if the Cardinal is given a peerage Jews, Muslims and other faiths will be jockeying for position to get them too.

I have no objection to peerages being given to religious figures on individual merit, but I don't think Murphy O'Connor qualifies on that ground. Some of his predecessors, such as the saintly monk Basil Hume, would have been an adornment to the Lords but this man is a hidebound bigot and, if the facts alleged in the petition are true, a humbug as well.

Steven Carr said...

The Cardinal went on BBC Radio to say that atheists were not fully human.

That was on Sunday 15th March 2009 on the 'Sunday' programme.

Stephen Law said...

Steven - where can I get that quote, exactly? Is it still available?

Steven Carr said...

It seems to have gone from the BBC Iplayer site.

Here is a Transcript

“I’m on the attack. We have to stand up to them [non-believers]. There is something not totally human if you leave out transcendent [God] and you [atheists] are not fully human. They have an impoverished understanding to what it is to be human. We are all made by God.”

Atheists? They are Untermenschen. Ask any Catholic.....

anticant said...

But of course. In Transactional Analysis terms, religion is all about "I'm OK - You're not OK".

They each want to be Top Dog. But they will all band together against atheists, agnostics and secularists, who they hate even more than they dislike each other.

anticant said...

I have just posted the following in Anticant's Arena:

http://antarena.blogspot.com/2009/04/atheists-not-fully-human-says-cardinal.html

Matt M said...

Surely his position on atheists is perfectly consistent with his worldview -- If he believes that the purpose of human beings is to serve (in some nice, fluffy, loving way) God then obviously any human not doing so is falling short.

anticant said...

Nice? Fluffy? Loving?

"Thank God I am not like THESE people!" - the cry of the Pharisee down the ages.

M. Tully said...

Well,

From my standpoint, neither the Cardinal nor anyone else should receive an appointment to the Lords. It's an anachronism left over from the feudal period. That being said, since GB has no prohibition against church state meddling and the Cardinal seems to represent an interest just the same as the rest of the Lords, how do you argue against his seating if appointed?

Then again, advocating for the citizenry electing ALL of their representatives is a viable alternative.

Kosh3 said...

From Anticants site:

"...he was reported as saying on BBC Radio 4 that it was necessary to stand up to unbelievers, as since they don’t recognise that we are all made by God they have an impoverished understanding of what it is to be human. Well, thanks for telling me. If I am not fully human, Cardinal M O’C, what are you?"

But, claiming atheists don't have a full understanding of what it is to be human is not the same thing as claiming atheists are not fully human. I can not have a full understanding of what it is to be a scorpio, and still be one.

anticant said...

That's a smart piece of sophistry, Kosh, but the intent and denigratory thrust of the Cardinal's remark is quite clear.

Dehumanising your opponents as a preparatory move to deligitimising them, discriminating against them and ultimately destroying them is the oldest trick in the totalitarian book.

Kosh3 said...

"That's a smart piece of sophistry, Kosh, but the intent and denigratory thrust of the Cardinal's remark is quite clear."

Perhaps, perhaps not, but it ain't sophistry.

anticant said...

Oh well, a sophism by any other name....

Steven Carr said...

Atheists not totally human The Cardinal speaks out about why people like him are mot human than people like us.