Joy in the Vatican over one sinner who repents
Chief Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi hails a day of jubilation and celebration:
‘The choice of joining the Catholic Church made by such an authoritative personality can only arouse joy and respect.’
Well, Scripture is quite clear that he ought to be shouting from the dome of St Peter’s and similarly rejoicing over the conversion of every penniless peasant who has no authority whatsoever, and even those who have zero personality.
The announcement reads like some sort of spiritual coup; a concern with the status, pride, privilege and influence rather than with humility. And doubtless there will be a goodly feast some time to celebrate, and it is likely to be an exclusively Roman Catholic affair. Cranmer would like to know how many of the poor, lame, maimed or blind will be invited (Lk 14:7-14). For ‘if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same…’
And the BBC can’t help but mention that this conversion comes as research indicates that ‘Catholic churchgoers now outnumber Anglicans for the first time since the Reformation in the UK’. And rightly, it puts this down to EU immigration from Eastern European countries: ‘The numbers have swelled due to the large number of EU nationals from Eastern Europe who have immigrated to the UK in recent years… Estimates for church attendances in 2006, based on previous years' figures, reveal 861,800 Catholics attended services every Sunday compared with 852,500 Anglican worshippers’.
So the EU is indeed eroding the primacy of the national Church (though Cranmer freely admits that its leadership is destabilising the foundations of its own accord).
The Roman Catholic Church divides its sins into venial, carnal and mortal, and it is not exactly clear of how many of each Mr Blair is guilty. Of course, the heavens rejoice over one sinner who repents, but Cranmer would like to know if he has repented of all the anti-Christian legislation for which he was responsible while in office. As Ann Widdecombe MP observes: ‘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?”’
Cranmer looks forward to being invited to the Blairs’ celebratory dinner, for true Christian hospitality is found in inviting someone who cannot repay you, someone who is unfamiliar to you, someone who is in some sense opposed to you. Then the concept of invitation receives a Christ-related meaning. Christ is the hospitality of God toward us. He invites all of us, from all languages and cultures, from all statuses of society, to the great feast, the Lord’s Supper, the feast which none of us can repay.