Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cranmer’s Pulpit No. IX


Cranmer is delighted to reward his communicants with an open pulpit today - for no other reason than that it delights him to do so.

His Grace’s ‘traffic’ has set a further record this month, with just under 20,000 unique visitors.

In perpetual commemoration of the spiritual liberation afforded by his own pulpit experience with the Provost of Eton, Dr Henry Cole, 'Cranmer’s Pulpit’ is for communicants to raise whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns they do so wish…

…intelligently and eruditely, of course.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ken is toast

Cranmer knows all too well precisely what it is like to be made into toast, for on that fateful day he was reduced to little more than carcinogens and charcoal, and the butter and jam were thereafter only to be found in the afterlife. But Mayor Ken Livingstone is about to become toast in a very real political sense, for key members of his staff have deserted him, the media are intent on exposing him, and his empire is crumbling around him.

Rumours of dubious grants made to organisations led by his friends have been circulating for quite some weeks, but C4 Dispatches lifted the lid on the worst. The accusations made against him are not, as he likes to think, all ‘Tory smears’ - though some may be - but proven manipulations and deceptions which have given this Trotskyist an unparalleled unaccountable power-base which permits him to consort with the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi or Hugo Chávez on the world stage, and apologise ‘on behalf of London’ for slavery, poverty, global warming, and the Jews.

We now know that he drinks whisky from 10 in the morning until midnight, in contravention of his own rules. It is alleged that he used public money to campaign for his own re-election and smear another politician, and he has perpetually sought to undermine Trevor Phillips by appointing others to advise on matters of race and equality. And he has no shame in supporting a man who praises terrorism, loathes Jews, and hates homosexuals. And yet he has stated that he would refuse to meet the Pope!

Yet it is strange indeed that, despite all these accusations, the policy failures, the mususe of public funds, the controversies over courting muslim clerics and insulting a the Jews, that nothing ever seems to stick to Mr Livingstone. Cranmer applauds Kate Hoey MP for speaking out about this man. She seems to be the only Labour MP who has raised her head above the parapet.

It is time for a change, and Cranmer is praying for Boris.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Anglican Muslims?

Cranmer's communicant 'Grumpy Old Catholic' has emailed him a letter from The Daily Telegraph on the topic of the application in Oxford to sound the Call to Prayer:

Sir - Derek Bhowmick-Shepherd writes to express his anxiety about the call to prayers at Oxford's central mosque disturbing the sleep patterns of local people (Letters, January 16).

The proposal put to the city council asked for permission for a call to take place no more than once a week at the time of Friday prayers (1.30pm) and the range of the amplified call would not be nearly as far as feared.

The example from another part of the world of an authorised radio frequency on which broadcast reminders to congregational members of their prayer-times is already used in part by at least two of east Oxford's five mosques.

But what a gain to the local culture it would be to make the minaret operational and have this once-a-week, two-minute reminder in classical Arabic of divine greatness.

The main issue is whether the right to call for prayer exercised by Christian churches can be extended to another faith community. With clear guidelines on noise pollution, such a move would be nothing less than an expression of mature, vibrant society.

Many other cities in Britain and throughout the world make provision for different calls to prayer to exist alongside each other.

What's so different and difficult about Oxford

Canon David Partridge, Central Mosque, Oxford


It was bad enough when the Bishop of Oxford came down in support of the mosque, but what is even more interesting is that Canon David Partridge, a retired Anglican vicar, gives his actual address as being Oxford's Central Mosque.

Cranmer was wondering why none of Oxford's 'interfaith' Muslim leaders give their address as Christ Church.

Perhaps there is no better riposte than that made by Lord Tebbit in The Spectator:

Sir: Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 12 January) contemplated the banning of church bells in Oxford by politically correct cowards unwilling to turn down the application for the use of artificially augmented calls to prayer from the mosque.

I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. There is nothing in the Koran about the use of loudspeakers. There is nothing to prevent imams from competing with the noise of traffic and calling their prayers as imams did for many centuries. Of course, I would hope that the city authorities would indicate, as they turn down the applications for loudspeakers, that they would be likely to grant an application for bells to be rung from the mosque.

Rt Hon. Lord Tebbit CH
House of Lords, London SW1


Quite so, quite so.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gordon Brown erases Britannia

The figure of Britannia first appeared almost 2000 years ago when the Romans created her as a personification of the British Isles, which they called Britanniae. She made her first appearance on a Roman coin during the rule of Emperor Hadrian, and her first appearance on a British coin came during the reign of Charles II, on the copper farthing in 1672 and the copper halfpenny in 1673.

When the penny was abolished, it was decided to place Britannia on the 50p coin, where she has been ever since. In 1973, she made way for a circle of hands which commemorated the UK’s entry to the Common Market. It was a temporary substitution for a particular political event, and the coin passed into history like all commemorative tokens, ultimately to be found of interest only to collectors and historians of the Royal Mint.

But Gordon Brown, who appointed Michael Wills, one of his most trusted allies, as Minister for Patriotism, with orders to promote ‘Britishness’, and who himself professes to be avidly ‘British’ and a leading proponent of this ‘Britishness’, has now approved a decision to eradicate Britannia from the 50p coin permanently. The symbol will thereby no longer be on any British coin for the first time in more than 300 years.

And it is not only Britannia whom Mr Brown is eliminating: the traditional heraldic designs on a total of seven coins, including the crowned lion and chained portcullis, will all vanish.

Instead, there will be a ‘representation of modern Britain’. Slowly, by stealth, these scurvy politicians are eroding the British national identity. One might as well replace Britannia with the 12 EU stars, for that is where this is heading. Indeed, the £2 coin already looks suspiciously like a euro-coin, and the new £20 also possesses a certain euro-note appearance.

The Daily Mail helpfully conjectures on what these representations may include:

Cranmer can hardly wait to see the final approved designs.

It is noteworthy that last year was the 300th anniversary of the United Kingdom, and there was no official celebration. This is a government which fails to understand the importance of history, tradition, and symbols of unity. Britannia is as relevant now as she was 300 years ago, and, like the Union flag, she is both the incarnation and the embodiment of the national psyche. Britannia is a symbol of the British Isles and the British people, and the fate of such important and enduring symbols should not be for here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians to eliminate at a whim, depending totally on which side of the bed they get out of in a morning.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today, for the first time, the bodies representing Britain’s Muslims will join in events to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day was initiated by the European Parliament in 2000 and further supported by a declaration of the United Nations in 2005. Britain’s churches have been involved from the outset, but the mosques have tended to boycott the commemoration, following the lead set by the Muslim Council of Britain. This has now ended. Their concern had been about not negating the significance of other acts of genocide while specifically remembering the Nazi one.

In another first, Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is attempting to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world with the development of an Arabic-language website. Ghaleb Majadle, Israel's first Muslim cabinet minister, said: ‘From now on, Arabic speakers will also be able to learn the truth about the Holocaust without intermediaries that act from hate’.

While Iraninan President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a ‘myth’, and said Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’, and further played host to an international conference of Holocaust deniers, Jordan's Prince Hassan says: ‘This educational website on the Holocaust in Arabic presents a unique opportunity to learn about and understand the issues which are not only of historical import, but are also vital to our lives today’.

In light of the Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism prevalent in Arabic countries, they want to offer an alternative source of information to ‘moderates’ in these countries, to provide them with reliable information about the Shoah.

The site not only includes material which explains the history of the Holocaust, it also tells stories of Islam’s ‘Oskar Schindlers’ – the Muslim ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ from Turkey and Albania who saved many Jews from the death camps.

Yad Vashem has experienced a tremendous growth in the number of visitors from Islamic countries, and Cranmer is pleased to hear of the enlightenment of Muslims from Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Emirates, Blackburn, Bradford and Oldham.

The nation must remember Auschwitz, Dachau and Birkenau. While we were silent, six million disappeared like smoke before our eyes. The history is to be repented of and learnt from. Never again should we remain silent as calls to destruction echo throughout the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A response from Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou MEP

Cranmer has received an unsolicited email (is this evidence that His Grace is being 'monitored'?) from Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou MEP, who was responsible for drafting the EU report entitled "towards an EU Strategy on the rights of the child". Since she thanks His Grace in advance for his ‘diligence and understanding’, and since His Grace prides himself highly in standards of intelligence and erudition manifest upon his august blog, he is delighted to post this communication in its entirety in order that Ms Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou may speak for herself:

Dear Members of Cranmer's blogspot,

I would like to draw your attention on some inaccurate information that is mentioned in your article " The EU challenges faith-based education" which was published on your website on the 16th of January 2008.

First of all regarding the EU report entitled "towards an EU Strategy on the rights of the child" which your article is mentioning, I would like to highlight that I was draftswoman on behalf of the Women's Rights Committee of the European Parliament but not draftswoman for the main report which was the responsibility of the Civil Liberties Committee where the rapporteur was Mrs Roberta Angelilli.

Secondly, you refer to paragraph 127 of the report which recommends the banning of headscarves and hijabs for girls at least in primary school. This paragraph was indeed included in the draft version of the report (which you seem to have received) and originates from members of another political group of the Parliament and certainly not from me. I actually fully share the views that you have expressed on your website regarding this paragraph and its consequences.

I would however like to point out that in the plenary vote of the report that took place last week in the European Parliament in Strasbourg (16 January) this paragraph was rejected by a large majority of Parliamentarians and is therefore not mentioned anymore in the final text. For your information, I am attaching the report as adopted in plenary.

I would very much appreciate if you could bring the necessary changes to your article in order to avoid the spreading of inaccurate information.

I would like to thank you in advance for your diligence and understanding,

Best regards,

Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou
Member of the European Parliament
ASP 8E 217- Rue Wiertz-B-1047-Bruxelles
Tél: (+32) 22847447-Fax (+32) 22849447


Cranmer would like to point out that while Ms Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou is concerned to emphasise that the paragraph attributed to her which so tested His Grace’s readers and communicants ‘originates from members of another political group of the Parliament’, both the individuals and the group remain unidentified.

Cranmer was going to work out the Greek for ‘passing the buck’, but blogger seems unable to cope with the font, and His Grace is rather too busy today with weddings and funerals.

But the final version of the document which was adopted by the 'EU Parliament' includes a section on 'Children and democracy', and Cranmer couldn't help noticing that the EU:

188. Stresses that the position of children in non-democratic States is very precarious and calls on the Commission to give consideration to this group of people;

189. Calls on the Commission to look into the issue of raising the political awareness of children and young people in third countries where democracy is restricted, so that they can develop into politically aware citizens;

190. Calls on the Commission to stress the importance of young people being able to voice their opinions on a voluntary basis through (political) youth organisations;


Since the EU is itself not merely undemocratic but fundamentally anti-democratic, are they calling for children to be educated about this fact?

So if whatever Euro-authority is monitoring Cranmer's august blog would care to forward that enquiry to some unsuspecting Euro-official, His Grace would be appreciative of the enlightenment.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The case for Conservativism

Many times over the past year Cranmer has been asked why he is a Conservative. There are many reasons, yet none that have not been previously articulated more eloquently or more incisively by eminent others, like The Monarchist. The request for an apologetic treatment brought to mind the Christian and Kantian and pre-eminent Burkean Roger Scruton: ‘one of the most perceptive critics of the modern world. A professional philosopher, Scruton's insights have a holistic depth so sorely lacking in much of the professional punditry. Unlike most academics...his writing is striking by being not merely intelligible, a feat for anyone who has emerged from extensive contact with academic philosophy, but elegant’. In ‘Why I became a Conservative’, he observes:

A nation is defined by its language, religion, and high culture
The Old Fascist was de Gaulle, whose Mémoires de guerre I had been reading that day. The Mémoires begin with a striking sentence — “Toute ma vie, je me suis fait une certaine idée de la France” — a sentence so alike in its rhythm and so contrary in its direction to that equally striking sentence which begins A la recherche du temps perdu: “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.” How amazing it had been, to discover a politician who begins his self-vindication by suggesting something — and something so deeply hidden behind the bold mask of his words! I had been equally struck by the description of the state funeral for Valéry — de Gaulle’s first public gesture on liberating Paris — since it too suggested priorities unimaginable in an English politician. The image of the cortège, as it took its way to the cathedral of Notre Dame, the proud general first among the mourners, and here and there a German sniper still looking down from the rooftops, had made a vivid impression on me. I irresistibly compared the two bird’s-eye views of Paris, that of the sniper, and my own on to the riots in the quartier latin. They were related as yes and no, the affirmation and denial of a national idea. According to the Gaullist vision, a nation is defined not by institutions or borders but by language, religion, and high culture; in times of turmoil and conquest it is those spiritual things that must be protected and reaffirmed. The funeral for Valéry followed naturally from this way of seeing things. And I associated the France of de Gaulle with Valéry’s Cimetière marin — that haunting invocation of the dead which conveyed to me, much more profoundly than any politician’s words or gestures, the true meaning of a national idea.

{...}

Socialism is antithetical human nature
When I first read Burke’s account of the French Revolution I was inclined to accept, since I knew no other, the liberal humanist view of the Revolution as a triumph of freedom over oppression, a liberation of a people from the yoke of absolute power. Although there were excesses—and no honest historian had ever denied this — the official humanist view was that they should be seen in retrospect as the birth-pangs of a new order, which would offer a model of popular sovereignty to the world. I therefore assumed that Burke’s early doubts — expressed, remember, when the Revolution was in its very first infancy, and the King had not yet been executed nor the Terror begun — were simply alarmist reactions to an ill-understood event. What interested me in the Reflections was the positive political philosophy, distinguished from all the leftist literature that was currently à la mode, by its absolute concretion, and its close reading of the human psyche in its ordinary and unexalted forms. Burke was not writing about socialism, but about revolution. Nevertheless he persuaded me that the utopian promises of socialism go hand in hand with a wholly abstract vision of the human mind—a geometrical version of our mental processes which has only the vaguest relation to the thoughts and feelings by which real human beings live. He persuaded me that societies are not and cannot be organized according to a plan or a goal, that there is no direction to history, and no such thing as moral or spiritual progress.

{...}

The pursuit of liberty and virtue is individual
Most of all he emphasised that the new forms of politics, which hope to organise society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality. There is no way in which people can collectively pursue liberty, equality, and fraternity, not only because those things are lamentably under-described and merely abstractly defined, but also because collective reason doesn’t work that way. People reason collectively towards a common goal only in times of emergency — when there is a threat to be vanquished, or a conquest to be achieved. Even then, they need organisation, hierarchy, and a structure of command if they are to pursue their goal effectively. Nevertheless, a form of collective rationality does emerge in these cases, and its popular name is war.

{...}

And the greatest of these is love
Moreover — and here is the corollary that came home to me with a shock of recognition — any attempt to organise society according to this kind of rationality would involve exactly the same conditions: the declaration of war against some real or imagined enemy. Hence the strident and militant language of the socialist literature — the hate-filled, purpose-filled, bourgeois-baiting prose, one example of which had been offered to me in 1968, as the final vindication of the violence beneath my attic window, but other examples of which, starting with the Communist Manifesto, were the basic diet of political studies in my university. The literature of left-wing political science is a literature of conflict, in which the main variables are those identified by Lenin: “Kto? Kogo?”—“Who? Whom?” The opening sentence of de Gaulle’s memoirs is framed in the language of love, about an object of love — and I had spontaneously resonated to this in the years of the student “struggle". De Gaulle’s allusion to Proust is to a masterly evocation of maternal love, and to a dim premonition of its loss.

{...}

Real freedom is found in subjection to tradition and truth
In effect Burke was upholding the old view of man in society, as subject of a sovereign, against the new view of him, as citizen of a state. And what struck me vividly was that, in defending this old view, Burke demonstrated that it was a far more effective guarantee of the liberties of the individual than the new idea, which was founded in the promise of those very liberties, only abstractly, universally, and therefore unreally defined. Real freedom, concrete freedom, the freedom that can actually be defined, claimed, and granted, was not the opposite of obedience but its other side. The abstract, unreal freedom of the liberal intellect was really nothing more than childish disobedience, amplified into anarchy.

{...]

Conservatism is an organic movement, not a petrified monument
I had been struck by Eliot’s essay entitled “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in which tradition is represented as a constantly evolving, yet continuous thing, which is remade with every addition to it, and which adapts the past to the present and the present to the past. This conception, which seemed to make sense of Eliot’s kind of modernism (a modernism that is the polar opposite of that which has prevailed in architecture), also rescued the study of the past, and made my own love of the classics in art, literature, and music into a valid part of my psyche as a modern human being.

{...}

Collectivism is a taste of hell
It was not until much later, after my first visit to communist Europe, that I came to understand and sympathise with the negative energy in Burke. I had grasped the positive thesis — the defence of prejudice, tradition, and heredity, and of a politics of trusteeship in which the past and the future had equal weight to the present — but I had not grasped the deep negative thesis, the glimpse into Hell, contained in his vision of the Revolution. As I said, I shared the liberal humanist view of the French Revolution, and knew nothing of the facts that decisively refuted that view and which vindicated the argument of Burke’s astonishingly prescient essay. My encounter with Communism entirely rectified this.

{...}

The best human beings can hope for
Briefly, I spent the next ten years in daily meditation on Communism, on the myths of equality and fraternity that underlay its oppressive routines, just as they had underlain the routines of the French Revolution. And I came to see that Burke’s account of the Revolution was not merely a piece of contemporary history. It was like Milton’s account of Paradise Lost — an exploration of a region of the human psyche: a region that lies always ready to be visited, but from which return is by way of a miracle, to a world whose beauty is thereafter tainted by the memories of Hell. To put it very simply, I had been granted a vision of Satan and his work — the very same vision that had shaken Burke to the depths of his being. And I at last recognised the positive aspect of Burke’s philosophy as a response to that vision, as a description of the best that human beings can hope for, and as the sole and sufficient vindication of our life on earth.

Conservatism as a lasting vision of human society
Henceforth I understood conservatism not as a political credo only, but as a lasting vision of human society, one whose truth would always be hard to perceive, harder still to communicate, and hardest of all to act upon. And especially hard is it now, when religious sentiments follow the whims of fashion, when the global economy throws our local loyalties into disarray, and when materialism and luxury deflect the spirit from the proper business of living. But I do not despair, since experience has taught me that men and women can flee from the truth only for so long, that they will always, in the end, be reminded of the permanent values, and that the dreams of liberty, equality, and fraternity will excite them only in the short-term.

The task before us
As to the task of transcribing, into the practice and process of modern politics, the philosophy that Burke made plain to the world, this is perhaps the greatest task that we now confront. I do not despair of it; but the task cannot be described or embraced by a slogan. It requires not a collective change of mind but a collective change of heart.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The New Euro-UK Constitution

His Grace would like to introduce erudite communicants and loyal readers to the new Constitution of the United Kingdom, published for the first time in the vernacular, more by a process of dynamic equivalence than literal translation.

It consolidates all of the previous EU treaties, is 331 pages long, and interminably dull. It codifies the powers of the ‘Supreme Government of Europe’, introduces the ‘President of Europe’, endows the Union with a legal personality, and creates a global diplomatic corps which envisages EU ambassadors in every country of the world.

Welcome to your new government and to your new leader.

All of this, however, involves no erosion of essential national sovereignty, and nothing in it is remotely constitution, for that very concept is abandoned.

These politicians do not hold to the truth, for there is no truth in them. When they lie, they speak their native language, for they are liars and the sons of the father of lies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Miliband: ‘Bishops support the Treaty of Lisbon’


To Cranmer’s total incredulity (and, judging by the howls of laughter, to that of the entire House of Commons), this was a line which the Foreign Secretary gave to the House of Commons as evidence for the innate goodness of the Treaty of Lisbon, and as a substantive reason for the House to support it.

His Grace is dumbfounded:

Firstly, that the Foreign Secretary should bestow upon the Commission of Bishops such religio-political clout as to be able to sway the elected representatives of the Commons; and secondly, the delusion that this group is held in such high spiritual regard that their patronage might constitute some moral argument for selling the United Kingdom down the river.

Bishops have been little more than a prop of government for quite some time. They are now routinely wheeled out to sit on committees or to ‘impartially’ investigate whatever the Prime Minister wishes to be investigated from the moral high ground, or it is they to whom politicians allude when the debased is in need of sanctification and the sepulchres need a little whitening.

But this ‘Commission of Bishops’ is not constituted of the leaders of the Church of England: it is a Roman Catholic-led ecumenical body which is financed by the European Union to produce reports singing the praises of said union with all glory, laud and honour.

Its stated objectives are:

- To monitor and analyse the political process of the European Union
- To inform and raise awareness within the Church of the development of EU policy and legislation
- To promote reflection, based on the Church's social teaching, on the challenges facing a united Europe

It is led by Bishop van Luyn of Rotterdam, a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture and adviser to the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. Its present occupation is to consider such issues as the ‘Christian reflection on climate change in the EU’, but, as the Foreign Secretary observes, it has recently been concerned with fervently supporting the EU Constitution:

Adoption of the Reform Treaty:

Hope for the continuation of European construction

COMECE’s Secretary General Mgr Treanor greets the announcement of an agreement on the new treaty for the European Union. The agreement, reached by the 27 Heads of States and Governments at the European Council of Lisbon last night, brings an end to four years of difficult endeavours and to the institutional crisis following the rejection of the EU constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

COMECE welcomes the fact that concern for the European common good and the interest of 500 million citizens finally prevailed over threats linked to issues of national interest.

COMECE particularly welcomes the introduction of article 15b in the Treaty establishing the European Community, which stipulates that ‘The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.’ And especially alinea 3: ‘Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.’ On the basis of this article, which introduces a new provision into the Treaties, the EU institutions will engage in a deeper dialogue with the Churches, thus allowing Christians to accompany more effectively the process of European construction. This should lead to a Union characterized by more Justice and Solidarity and an enhanced Responsibility for major global challenges.

COMECE notes with interest that the Reform Treaty introduces a preamble to the Treaty on European Union that recognises the cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe ("DRAWING INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law").

Nevertheless, Mgr Treanor considers that ‘The debate about the Christian roots of Europe is inseparable from the reflexion on the European identity; thus, it needs to be continued’.

The Reform Treaty will be officially signed by the 27 Heads of States and Governments on December 13th in Lisbon. The ratification process will then start: through referendum in Ireland and presumably by parliamentary decision in all the other Member States.

The COMECE Secretariat encourages Christians to follow closely the issues and challenges of the European debate during the following months. The Reform Treaty, despite its shortcomings and complexity, represents a satisfying institutional solution for the enlarged EU; it introduces necessary reforms into the decision-making process that should allow European construction to continue in an efficient and just way.

In the light of the outcome of the Lisbon Summit, it is worth recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remark: ‘If (…) on some points justified criticisms can be raised about certain European institutions, the process of unification remains a most significant achievement which has brought a period of peace, heretofore unknown, to this continent, formerly consumed by constant conflicts and fatal fratricidal wars..’ (Address of HH Benedict XVI - Meeting with the Authorities and the diplomatic corps. Hofburg, Vienna Friday, 7 September 2007)


The ‘Commission of Bishops’ to which the Foreign Secretary refers does not produce papers or makes declarations as a body of cooperating churches and equals; it is a political, top-down, Rome-led organisation in which all the other churches are ‘ecumenical partners’, but manifestly inferior in status and prestige. Indeed, there is a certain order of ranking, with the Orthodox sitting at the right hand, and the others in the far lower echelons. The Church of England is not mentioned anywhere.

And Cranmer finds it most amusing that they list very much in their ‘Who we are’ section, and even more in their ‘What we do’ section, but their ‘agenda’ section is absolutely blank.

One wonders why.

And one further wonders what Mr Miliband would expect a group of bishops which is financed by the EU to say about the EU. Bishops these days are rarely inclined to bite the hands that feed them.

UPDATE
Mr Daniel Hannan MEP linked to His Grace's post, with a predictable sequence of ad hominem and straw man responses.

His Grace's loyal communicant Mr Bob uncovered evidence that the Commission of Bishops is indeed in receipt of EU grants.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The EU Constitution Show

Since politics became a branch of the entertainment industry, Parliament has been obsessed with soundbites, visual imagery, and Punch & Judy showpieces (whatever the denials) because all of these constitute the very essence of theatre. But the House of Commons is about to stage a production which is scheduled to run for four weeks, the outcome of which will be an unmitigated flop.

No matter what they call this show – From Here to Lisbon, Around the EU in 80 days, Constitution Street, EUtopia Actually, A Referendum for All Seasons – the outcome is foreordained. The second reading of the European Union (Amendment) Bill begins today, and is allotted four weeks of debate. It is, of course, all about the Constitution for Europe Lisbon Treaty, and not one jot or tittle of it may pass away. It is set in stone, fixed, immutable, and yet it is to be talked about ad nauseam. Boredom will be the means by which this Bill will pass, as this duplicitous and deceitful government seeks to conceal all embarrassing points in the euro-speak and technical jargon which has for years been used by Brussels as camouflage. The hope is that both the media and the British people will find it all so deadly dull that they shall cease to be remotely concerned with the profound constitutional implications that the Bill represents. It is not so much the salami-slicing of ‘essential national sovereignty’ as a coup by soporific attrition.

Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will find themselves skating on ice as they attempt to maintain unity within their ranks. Backbench mutinies are likely within all parties, and it is the Prime Minister’s hope that the spectre of Maastricht will return to haunt the Conservative Party, whom the media will then parade to the nation as riddled with division and unfit to govern.

And the hope is not vain. Mr Cameron has yet to fulfil his pledge to leave the EPP, and he has not said what his policy will be if, after the next general election, he finds himself in power and subject to a treaty which the overwhelming majority of the Party opposes. A retrospective referendum has not been assured, and even if it were, there is precious little that inclines one to believe that it would be granted.

There is no reverse gear on the acquis, and the Church of England has been complicit through its allegiance to the Soul for Europe programme. The EU accretes power through an inverse subsidiarity which negates the very definition of the concept. There is no opportunity to renegotiate, and so the only alternative appears to be secession. The ‘in or out’ referendum unnerves all party leaders, but Cranmer is bemused to know why. If politicians bothered to serve the people instead of presuming to lord it over them, the people might just be more inclined to trust them. The whole sovereignty argument has been massively exacerbated by the undeniable reality that the British people no longer possess it at any level: if a vote for a local councillor can no longer change the frequency of refuse collection, it is beyond belief that a vote in a general election could ever repatriate policies on fishing, agriculture, immigration, justice, workers’ rights, human rights…

Make no mistake about it, this is an issue of nationhood and sovereignty. And it is about time that this once-great nation had visionary leaders with enough self-confidence to win our country back. And still Cranmer wonders if Mr Cameron might be the man. For the Conservative Party’s Europhiles are a dying breed, and each general election brings in new blood which is overwhelmingly sceptical.

And Mr Brown’s hope for interminable and embarrassing ‘Tory splits’ may be short-lived as he underestimates their thirst for government. Indeed, Mr Brown’s yearnings for Conservative divisions may well prove to be cohesive and unifying for the Party. When one understands this reality, and observes that the EU’s own research shows just a third of Britons believe the country has benefited from EU membership and just a quarter saying they trust the EU, this is a mood which the Conservative Party must embrace. And if it does, Cranmer prophesies victory.

And in the meantime, why does Mr Cameron not exhort his ‘Democracy Task Force’ to evolve a few policies which will move the Conservative Party to a sure and certain foundation? The very notion of a ‘Democracy Task Force’ is, in any case, a fraudulent façade as long as the UK remains shackled to the fundamentally undemocratic EU. So Mr Cameron should forget his proposal for a ‘Bill of Rights’ – we have one already, and it has served us well for more than three centuries. How about a policy for English courts to regard English common law as pre-eminent and superior to Strasbourg law? English laws for English judges, if you will. The implications for the UK’s relations with the EU would be obvious.

Cranmer is burdened and yet elated by the feeling that the UK’s membership of the EU is heading for a very rough ride. Indeed, he believes with every fibre of his being that the UK is heading inexorably towards the exit; a fundamental renegotiation which will place the UK firmly within the trading bloc, and liberate the nation from the political curse of ‘ever closer union’. Whether it comes in one year, five, or ten, Cranmer does not know. No man knows the day or the hour. But it will happen. Rest assured. It will happen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

M&S Muslim sales assistant refuses to sell 'unclean' Children's Bible

Cranmer is occasionally informed of a story which communicants mischievously send him in order to test his powers of restraint and the levels of his blood pressure. This is one such.

It concerns a book of Bible stories which was for sale in Marks & Spencer in Reading. When the customer tried to pay for it at the till, the Muslim sales assistant declared it to be ‘unclean’, refused to serve her, and went away to fetch someone else to conduct the sale.

The saga was covered by the Daily Mail, and Cranmer looks forward to the outcome of the investigation. But he looks forward even more to observing the extent to which the Muslim sales assistant is reprimanded, or whether Marks & Spencer will simply cease selling Christian books in what is an increasingly Muslim area.

And one wonders what accusations of ‘racism’ would have arisen if this had been a Christian employee who had refused to sell a copy of the Qur’an, and whether such an employee would have been 'investigated' or summarily dismissed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Labour to ‘review’ collective worship in schools

Libby Purves of The Times has picked up on the fact that this wretched and godless Labour government is intent on hacking away at another layer of the nation’s Christian heritage, and will be 'reviewing’ (i.e., eroding and thereby abolishing) the statutory obligation upon schools to hold a daily act of collective worship. Yet this story merits far more than the mere reporting of the fact. While the practice may seem anachronistic, it is a profoundly important dimension of a child’s education. One may learn about religion in class, but one can only experience it in practice. Of course this raises questions of induction, indoctrination, and liberty, but all of these issues are addressed in existing legislation which ultimately gives parents the right to withdraw their children. But very few do. And this is because of the reality that if children don’t experience something of the divine in a school assembly, they are increasingly unlikely to experience it anywhere.

Since 1944, schools have been on the frontline of a rapidly-changing society. While the school act of collective worship had traditionally been uniform and predominantly confessional up until the 1960s - reciting the Apostle’s Creed, saying the Lord’s Prayer, singing hymns and listening to a mini-sermon – immigration and the advent of other religions, coupled with the process of secularisation inherent to the postmodern era, has forced change. As the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks observes in his book The Persistence of Faith, the UK has seen ‘a wider disintegration brought about by the loss of what Peter Berger called “the sacred canopy”, that overarching framework of shared meanings that once shaped individuals and society. In its place has come pluralism: the idea that society is a neutral arena of private choices where every vision of the good carries its own credentials of authenticity’.

Educational theory is replete with the themes of modernity; the metanarrative being empiricism which seeks knowledge via the senses and human experience. Thus scientific theory, mathematical logic, and historical fact are corroborated by the senses, and they outweigh the metaphysics of morality, aesthetics and religion. There are no agreed criteria by which conflicting religious claims can be settled, and they are therefore a matter of personal preference. Morality thereby becomes largely a matter of taste or opinion, and moral error ceases to exist. For many teachers, there is a gulf between ‘fact’ and ‘opinion’, and collective worship is perceived to belong well and truly to the ‘senseless’ realm. Some schools believe that they should be uncommitted religiously, irrespective of those teachers who may hold Christian beliefs. This conflict consists of three themes – autonomy, equality and rights – the values that allow each to be whatever he or she chooses. Yet left unfettered this leads to anarchy, so a values system has to be imposed, defined in community and by community. And one can make the ‘broadly Christian’ directive relevant for all pupils, irrespective of their faith.

Hitherto, the values system around which society has cohered has been the Christian religion; children have been inducted by law since 1944. In recent years, headteachers, teachers and their unions have been objecting to the law, schools have been flouting it, and Ofsted ignoring it. And look to where education standards have fallen and children’s moral behaviour has plummeted.

And is it any coincidence that those schools which take the Christian daily act of collective worship seriously, and do it very well, are invariably those with the highest educational standards, yielding best academic results, turning out some of the most reasonable and most excellent contributors to society?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sarkozy: Faith equals Hope

It appears that not only is President Sarkozy prepared to challenge France’s cultural norms by publicly parading his model girlfriend Carla Bruni, but he is increasingly offending Enlightenment secularists by his frequent references to God, and confronting the very foundations of the Fifth Republic as he stands accused of violating France's separation of church and state.

Since 1905, religion has been relegated strictly to the private realm in France in order to prevent the Roman Catholic Church from wielding its power in the public realm. But President Sarkozy, who describes himself as a ‘cultural Catholic’, is mindful of the desires of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to resurrect an EU-Christendom with its inherent Catholic values, and hyper-aware of his 5-million-strong Muslim population (the largest in Europe) which is encroaching in few places more than in those car-burning suburbs of France. Le Président is making foreign policy speeches which stress France's own Christian roots and invokes whichever deity he deems necessary in order for France to strut about on the world stage a little more napoleonically than it presently does. He wants to be rid of the pervasive negative church-state separation, and wants to inculcate a positive one which ‘values the hope that faith brings and allows state subsidies for faith-based groups’.

And so when he hails Islam as ‘one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known’, nauseatingly describing Saudi leaders as rulers who ‘appeal to the basic values of Islam to combat the fundamentalism that negates them’, he gives succour and hope to France’s Muslims that, while their government is sufficiently secular to ban the hijab, it may become sufficiently Islamic to finance finance mosque building and expand state training for imams.

According to a speech M Sarkozy made in Rome's Basilica of Saint John Lateran, he sees himself as ‘someone who believes is someone who hopes’, and asserted: ‘It is in the republic's interest to have many men and women who hope.’

Hope in what, Monsieur Le Président? Allah or Jehovah? Mohammed or Jesus? There is only one divinity in whom one may find true peace and an enduring hope.

And is it not strange, Cranmer reflects, that at a time when the UK is becoming increasingly secular in expression, with intolerable pressures to disestablish the Church of England and banish Christianity to the private realm, that France is moving in the opposite direction. Alors, l’herbe est toujours plus verte…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The EU challenges faith-based education

Cranmer has received a copy of an EU report (2007/2093[INI]) entitled ‘Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child’, which emanates from the Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs. The ‘draftswoman’ is one Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou of the ‘Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’, so one may be assured that is drawn up with impeccable impartiality…

It is para.127 which is of particular interest, noting that this body:

Is concerned at the multiple violations of rights affecting girls from a migrant background; urges Member States to ban headscarves and hijab at least at primary school, in order to anchor more firmly the right to be a child and to ensure genuine and unenforced freedom of choice at a later age…

There are a number of observations which may be made on this paragraph, the most immediate of which is the singling out of Islam. While this may be rationalised, it is most unlike the EU to be rational manifest intolerance towards any particular faith, and especially not Islam, for that would render the EU vulnerable to accusation of ‘Islamophobia’. And yet it is only Muslim girls which the ‘drafswoman’ for the ‘Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’ is concerned to protect, while many Sikh boys are also obliged to wear turbans and karas, and Jewish boys might equally be ‘encouraged’ to wear a kippah.

The exhortation to ‘ban’ religious garments may be consistent with recent French legislation and Enlightenment values, but it runs contrary to the principles of liberty and tolerance which have developed in the UK over the last three centuries. And where a school has no uniform policy, such a move would also conflict with existing EU legislation on religious discrimination.

But the words in para.127 after the comma are of particular interest.

The inference is that it is a child’s right to freely choose their religion, and that such choice should be ‘genuine and unenforced’. Inexplicably, children should be liberated from enforced religion in primary school, but not in secondary school. Quite what authority this ‘draftswoman’ thinks a 12-year-old has over his or her parents which a 10-year old does not have has is unknown, but it is obvious to any reasonable person that children of all ages (and, incidentally, young adults) are vulnerable to religious manipulation and cultural oppression from other family members or ‘community leaders’.

But the most interesting implication of this paragraph is that it potentially undermines all faith-based education, for how could it ever be argued that a child at a Roman Catholic / Muslim / Sikh / Jewish / Church of England primary school is genuinely and without ‘force’ arriving at a particular expression of faith? And is there to be an EU directive to determine the 'genuineness' of religious expression?

Is there just a hint in this document that in order for a child to be a child, they should have no expression of religion, or at least not be subject to parental ‘encouragement’ to do so? And despite the focus of this document on Islam, the restrictions cannot be applicable to that faith alone, so there are certain to be implications for the UK’s faith schools. And where this leaves home-schooling is anyone’s guess, for it manifestly conflicts with the rights of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their own beliefs.

It is the contention of the Roman Catholic Church that:

The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive. Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all... (Dignitatis Humanae, #s 1,2,3,5).

But, once again, we perceive a developing EU initiative, shrouded in talk of ‘rights’ and exhortations of ‘enlightenment’, concerned with expressions of benevolence and the protection of the most vulnerable members of society. But the end result will be the diminution of civil liberty, a harmonised EU education policy, a uniform EU schools’ protocol, and a soviet EU process of secularisation to ensure a ‘neutral’ public space.

It is not, of course, neutral at all.

UPDATE

Cranmer received an unsolicted email from Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou MEP, which sought to correct his 'misinformation'. It may be found here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Israel and Jewish identity

Cranmer has received an abridged version of Melanie Phillips' article in the Jewish Chronicle (11 Jan) which is worth quoting at length, for it identifies succinctly Israel's most potent seeds of destruction:

‘Beyond the grandstanding over President Bush's visit to Israel this week, there is an even more important concern than over what America may be pushing it to do. This is Israel's own attitude towards its identity and history and, by extension, its right to exist at all.

‘Among the Israeli intellectual elite, the instinct for national self-destruction reaches near-hallucinatory levels.

‘A recent research paper by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, which wondered why unlike other armies Israeli soldiers did not rape women under their occupation, claimed that this was because IDF troops viewed Arab women as sub-human. This absurd piece of malice was awarded a teachers' committee prize by the Hebrew University.

‘Clearly, Nitzan should have interviewed Ha'aretz editor-in-chief David Landau, who was reported as telling US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a dinner last September that the Israeli government wanted 'to be raped' as it was a 'failed state' that needed a US-imposed settlement.

‘Such grand guignol flights from reason can only deepen respect for the strategic genius of Yasser Arafat. He understood that while Jews would unite against conventional attack, they wouldn't cope with the psychological pressure of being turned into international pariahs through a falsified colonial narrative of oppression.

‘But even he could hardly have foreseen the extent to which Israeli intellectuals would so completely invert their own history, and swallow the fiction that the Middle East impasse is over the division of the land and that Jewish possession of that land is illegitimate.

‘This series of untruths has now coalesced into an axiomatic assumption that Jerusalem must be divided, as stated by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview in the Jerusalem Post last weekend.

‘But as Dore Gold authoritatively documents in his important book 'The Fight for Jerusalem', the Jews have a unique and overwhelming claim to Jerusalem which is central to the unique nature of the Jewish state.

‘It is no accident, therefore, that this pressure to divide Jerusalem comes at a time when the Jewishness of Israel is being openly called into question. Olmert says that a 'two state solution' is essential to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. But the Arabs themselves have now ruled out a Jewish state altogether. Shortly before Annapolis, the Palestinians' chief negotiator Saeeb Erekat said they would 'never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity'.

‘Olmert insists nevertheless that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel as a Jewish state 'in his soul'. Olmert clearly possesses truly wondrous psychic powers, displayed even as members of Fatah associated with Abbas's own security apparatus were murdering two Israelis on a hike near Hebron.

‘The west believes that dividing Jerusalem is the fairest solution. But when were aggressors ever thus rewarded at the expense of their victims, even while they continued their century-old war as the Arabs are doing?

‘Why doesn't Israel put the record straight? Why doesn't it remind the world of that same world's conclusion back in 1920 that the Jews had a unique claim to the entire land of Israel, including Jerusalem? Why doesn't it recall how, when Jordan illegally occupied east Jerusalem until 1967, it desecrated Jewish holy sites, ripping up Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives to use them for latrines?

‘Why doesn't it tell the world that the Islamic claim to Jerusalem is not so much religious as political * and that as Gold states in his book, since the capture of Jerusalem is seen as the precursor to the fall of the entire west the division of the city would recruit untold additional numbers to the global jihad?

‘It doesn't do so for two reasons. First, it still fails to grasp that the real battleground is composed not of rockets and human bombs but of ideas. And second, much of its intellectual class has come to believe the mendacious propaganda of Israel's enemies.

‘In Israeli schools and on campus, there is widespread ignorance of Jewish history and of the indissoluble bond between the religion, the people and the land which constitutes Jewish identity. When Israel's Education Minister issues a textbook for Israeli Arab children that teaches them the Arab propaganda line that the 1948 War of Independence was a naqba, or catastrophe, something has gone badly wrong with the foundations of Israeli self-belief.

‘When the Israel government refuses to stop the Muslim authorities in charge of the Temple Mount from destroying countless excavated artefacts from the Temple in order to obliterate the evidence of the historic Jewish claim to Jerusalem, one has to conclude that Israeli diplomacy has morphed into pathology.

‘The real reason Israel doesn't fight the battle of ideas to defend Jewish history and identity is that increasingly it is repudiating them. The Arabs thus don't need to do much to bring about the end of the Jewish state. The Jews will do it for them.’

Cranmer finds much wisdom in the words of Ms Phillips, but none moreso than in the parallels which may be found with the present UK context. Consider:

In England’s schools and on campus, there is widespread ignorance of English history and of the indissoluble bond between the Protestant religion, the people and the land which constitutes English identity. When England’s Education Minister affirms a National Curriculum that eradicates Winston Churchill, teaches children that the British Empire was catastrophe, or that a parliament and self-rule for the English is racist, something has gone badly wrong with the foundations of English self-belief.

The real reason that Great Britain doesn't fight the battle of ideas to defend English history and identity is that increasingly it is repudiating them… EUrabia thus doesn’t need to do much to bring about the end of the English state. The British will do it for them.’

Monday, January 14, 2008

The first President of Europe

Europe has had its caesars, emperors, kings, kaisers and popes, and now, courtesy of the Lisbon Treaty, it is about to get its first president. And Cranmer prophesied years ago who this would be, and the Rt Hon Anthony Blair denied the aspiration shortly afterwards, but who would believe a politician when they are giving assurances that their humility surpasses that of all their colleagues?

Speculation of this aggrandisement has increased since Mr Blair sang the EU’s praises in Paris as France prepares to oversee the appointment process. In his most important speech since leaving Downing Street last June, addressing 2,000 supporters of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Blair said globalisation was eradicating traditional party lines and class distinctions and rendering old political remedies obsolete: ‘It's about today versus yesterday. Less about politics and more about a state of mind; open as opposed to closed,' he said, en français.

It was a fine interview for the post, as he insisted that the era of left and right was over, and the future was about an empire of values, not disparate and competing nation states:

‘Europe is not a question of left or right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness. Terrorism, security, immigration, organised crime, energy, the environment, science, biotechnology and higher education. In all these areas, and others, we are much stronger and able to deliver what our citizens expect from us as individual nations if we are part of a strong and united Europe.’

The post of President is due to be created by the EU’s 27 nation-grouping in the second half of 2008, when France will chair EU ministerial meetings. M Sarkozy has already identified Mr Blair as the candidate, referring to him as ‘one of the greats', and Mr Blair’s recent conversion to Roman Catholicism has been seen by many commentators as a precursor. The President will be crowned in January 2009, by which time he will probably have completed his term as Middle East Messiah Envoy, and brought lasting peace to the region.

M Sarkozy is clearly a No 1 fan of Mr Blair, describing him as an ideal candidate to run Europe: 'He is intelligent, he is brave and he is a friend. We need him in Europe. How can we govern a continent of 450 million people if the President changes every six months and has to run his own country at the same time? I want a President chosen from the top - not a compromise candidate - who will serve for two-and-a-half years,' said the French President.

And Cranmer is left thinking of a certain quotation by a certain previous president of the Council of Europe, Paul-Henri Spaak:

‘We do not want another committee. We have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass in which we are sinking. Send us such a man and, be he god or the devil, we will receive him.’

Or, indeed, have him foisted upon us.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cardinal seeks to silence journalist

While history tells of kings who desperately wished to be rid of meddlesome priests, Cranmer has learned of a priest who wishes to be rid of a rather meddlesome journalist. Attempts are being made to silence Damian Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of The Catholic Herald and commentator for The Daily Telegraph on his Holy Smoke blog. Apparently, Mr Thompson is to be silenced in order that he can no longer criticise ‘the hierarchy, Eccleston Square, inaction on the Motu Proprio, Church bureaucracy, or make suggestions on Cormac's successor, or criticise the dreadful Tablet’.

As may be gleaned from Mr Thompson’s latest book – Counterknowledge – he is not too keen on conspiracies, and yet according to Father Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalene Church in Brighton, the hierarchy is indeed conspiring to silence Mr Thompson. If private words are being had and secret meetings are being held between Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Papal Nuncio, the Barclay brothers (who are Roman Catholic), the owner and chairman of the Catholic Herald and the editors of two national newspapers, Mr Thompson would do well to re-appraise his aversion to the phenomenon.

The principal contention is that Damian Thompson is using his position(s) to undermine the authority of the Cardinal and other bishops who are not fully supportive of the direction in which Pope Benedict XVI is leading his church – in particular on his decision to reintroduce the Latin Mass – the Extraordinary Rite – and his more than direct challenge the ‘liberal’ consensus which has permeated since Vatican II.

Mr Thompson – whom The Church Times once called a ‘blood-crazed ferret’ (an insult which he appears to sport with pride) - is simply being loyal to his Holy Father. He wants proper liturgy and a Catholic theology which resonates with history, and it is his considered opinion that the English hierarchy are obstructing the Pope at every turn. And by injecting a little democracy into the theocracy, he is accused of dabbling with Protestantism (i.e., supping with the Devil) and derided for doing so. He has not quite nailed his 95 theses to the door of Westminster Cathedral, but he has done the internet virtual equivalent.

The Catholic Herald is invariably forthright in its views (readers of The Tablet may put it less politely) and, as Fr Blake observes, Damian Thompson ‘can be outrageous at times’, but that is indeed the function of a journalist in a free, open and democratic society. It is unacceptably manipulative of the Cardinal to try to gag The Catholic Herald and treat The Tablet as though it were the ‘tolerant’ and ‘enlightened’ voice of ‘authentic Catholicism’ in England, and attempts to do so confirm the suspicion that there is an undeniable epistemic distance between the hierarchy and laity.

For many, The Catholic Herald is the church’s Daily Telegraph: it is real, traditional theological meat. But The Tablet is the voice of the Guardianistas: it is nothing more than diluted milk; insipid, obsessed with 60’s hippy compromises and the trendy innovations of Vatican II. Cranmer finds these positions as mutually exclusive as many frequently accuse the Church of England of possessing, yet the Church of England genuinely attempts to be as broad as the Roman Catholic Church attempts to be catholic. But one thing is certain: the Archbishop of Canterbury has never sought to silence his journalistic critics (and they are legion), and neither has he attempted to gag the free press.

The accusations being levelled against Mr Thompson include all the usual labels which are invariably hurled when Christians disagree: thus he is being ‘un-Christian’, ‘hurtful’, ‘uncharitable’, ‘insensitive’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’ and so on. But such terms are the last refuge of the ignorant; those who possess neither the emotional strength nor the intellectual capacity to conduct an argument by rational and reasonable means, and so they close it down, resolving nothing, thereby further dividing the already fragmented and imperfect communion.

Whether Damian Thompson is a ‘blood-crazed’, self-obsessed, self-appointed defender of Catholic orthodoxy, or an intelligent and enlightened commentator with conviction and integrity, Cranmer would like to remind the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster that this is England in the 21st century, not Spain of the 16th, and Damian Thompson has every right to comment freely without interference from either Church or the State. And if the owners or editors of national newspapers succumb to such bullying, then that is newsworthy in itself, and Cranmer fully expects The Catholic Herald, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC and The Sun to take the matter up vehemently and vociferously.

Failing that, Father Ray appears to be a useful and reliable source of intelligence, despite his rather dim and patronising view of Protestants.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Year-Five Epiphany

This is the undeniable phenomenon to which The Times refers in its examination of the surge in late baptisms into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1958, non-infant baptisms accounted for just 5.4 per cent of total entry into the Church: in 2005 there were 20,141 ‘late’ baptisms, representing 30.3 per cent. The Church of England has also witnessed an increase in late baptisms (no doubt to the jubilation of the Baptists). Apparently, the mass Epiphany invariably occurs just at the moment when parents are seeking to acquire school places for their children. And the only way for the less-than-faithful to gain admission to the school of their choice is to play the system a little, in the hope that attending Mass, going to Confession, and the receiving of doctrinal instruction will be sufficient to get Chloe, Zach and Alice into these top-performing schools which, according to Ofsted’ ‘do better in terms of behaviour, social, moral and spiritual development and parental involvement’.

But the response of Graham Allen MP is to call for ‘a national debate about whether we really want to continue down the road of faith schools’. Essentially, he (and quite a few other Labour MPs) want faith schools abolished because they ‘undermine community cohesion and entrench disadvantage’. By this he means that middle-class parents move house in order to fall within a school catchment area, while the poor cannot. Yet people with the financial means have always used their wealth to better themselves, and that involves moving away from ‘undesirable’ areas. Is Mr Allen proposing state control of house moving?

It is typical of a Socialist to use such an important issue to propagate his desire for a bland Soviet uniformity, and conveniently ignore the fact that the principle of selection in education has been the greatest mechanism for social mobility the country has ever produced. And the hypocrisy has been evident time and again from those Labour MPs and ministers who preach the Comprehensive, multi-faith, multi-ethnic ideal, impose it on the masses, and then observe the warfare in classrooms, the irredeemably dysfunctional system, and the consequent poor results. And so they opt to send their own children to private, selective school, simply because they can afford to.

Mr Allen does, however, have a point when he observes: ‘Faith schools at the moment are mainly Protestant or Catholic. Other faiths quite rightly want similar provision. In an era when we are desperate for social cohesion, do we really want to sustain the current level of discrimination between people of different faiths, particularly when taxpayers are paying for it?’

This is an entirely rational debate, not least because of the implications for the National Curriculum and the 1944 and 1988 demands for an act of daily worship that is ‘broadly Christian’, and the provision of Religious Education, which has to prioritise Christianity. It is not inconceivable that there would develop different laws for different schools, with demands for co-religionist Ofsted inspectors to avoid accusations of ‘racism’. This would, of course, be unacceptable, but is indeed highly probable.

The Catholic Church defends its policy of defining Catholics by baptism and said that even where suspicions existed about parental motives, ‘it is not easy to remain a Catholic for long if you are not authentic’.

Hmm…

There would be quite a discussion between His Holiness and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster - not to mention between the editors of The Catholic Herald and The Tablet – of what constitutes an ‘authentic’ Roman Catholic. It would appear that it is entirely possible to be deluded for the entirety of one’s life either towards a BBC/Guardian/Vatican II/Tablet theology as opposed to the Extraordinary Rite/Telegraph/Catholic Herald theology. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe they are both part of the same ‘authentic’ church.

However, that aside, Cranmer is pleased to note that the light is not (yet) extinguished, for the Government has declared that it will make it easier for more state-funded faith schools to be established. Unfortunately, this does not have the support of Labour ministers, Labour backbenchers, Labour supporters, or that oracle of wisdom and discernment the National Union of Teachers, which helpfully notes that ‘the selection criteria of many faith schools discriminates against pupils from non-religious backgrounds’.

You don’t say.

Friday, January 11, 2008

666 - disestablishment of the Church of England

In a delightful ‘coincidence’ which will please theological numerologists, the House of Commons’ order paper listing motions for debate has allocated 666 to a motion calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, one of the signatories, said: "It is is incredible that a motion like this should have, by chance, acquired this significant number. This number is supposed to be the mark of the Devil. It looks as though God or the Devil have been moving in mysterious ways. What is even stranger is that this motion was tabled last night when MPs were debating blasphemy."

Well, Mr Russell, it may not be coincidence, for if the Lord knows every hair upon your head and every sparrow that falls, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he knows numbers within a House of Commons document. And the motion to disestablish the Church of England may very well be the work of an anti-Christ. Looking at some Members in the House, the possibility is rather high.

So, at last, another piece of the jigsaw helps us to solve the millennia-old mystery. The Beast was neither Nero, nor Hitler; neither the Pope, nor Tony Blair. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred, three score and six. It is now clear that the AntiChrist is not an antidisestablishmentarianist, and that will massively facilitate the process of identification.

House of Commons motions tabled by backbenchers very rarely get debated. They are normally tabled simply to gain publicity for a cause. But momentum for looser ties between Church and State is growing, as the support for the repeal of the blasphemy law illustrates. While the blasphemy law presently favours Christianity and the Church of England in particular, a High Court judgement in December linked the identification of blasphemy with the likelihood of causing civil strife. Since no attack upon Christianity is now considered likely to shake the fabric of society to such an extent, the laws of blasphemy are effectively obsolete.

Or are they?

If one of the criteria now adopted in the definition of blasphemy is the extent to which adherents are likely to protest violently, has the UK now adopted a default definition which favours Islam?

It is worth noting that the purpose of the historic law of blasphemy is often misunderstood. It is not to protect God; it is to protect us from divine displeasure.

It may, of course, be too late.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

‘Does Israel have a right to exist?’

‘This House Believes That The State of Israel has a Right to Exist’ is the motion due to be debated by the Oxford Union, and follows some other rather distinctly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish debates featuring the likes of David Irving and certain members of the BNP.

Cranmer would like the Oxford Union to consider a few topics for debate which might counterbalance its present obsession. How about:

Does Palestine have a right to exist?

Did Abraham choose Ishmael?

Was Mohammed a prophet?

Is ‘Islam’ really a religion of peace?

Communicants may care to suggest a few of their own.

They won’t take place, of course, because they are ‘racist’, while perpetual criticism of Israel and the Jews is not...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

An end to the something-for-nothing culture

At last, a policy from the Conservative Party emanating from the very foundations of common sense, designed to appeal to all unquestionably reasonable and fair-minded people, and to challenge the ‘work-shy’ millions who are content to lie in bed until midday and live off state benefits day in, day out, year after year. Under the next Conservative administration, people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance for more than two years would have to do 12 months community work.

The proposals are mainly aimed at the 68,000 on ‘Jobseekers' Allowance’ for more than two years and the 16,000 on the benefit for more than five years. And there were something around a million people claiming ‘incapacity benefit’ in 1997. Under New Labour, this has risen to more than 2.5 million, a million of whom are allegedly suffering from a ‘mental illness’ which prevents them from working.

Has New Labour really depressed a million people to the point of inaction and perpetual prozac?

Let us be clear, Cranmer has compassion, buckets of it, for it is a primary Christian obligation and inherent in the scriptural exhortations to love one’s neighbour, to care for the poor, and to weep with those who weep. But he has very little time for those who leave school at 16 with no qualifications, claim benefits, and then continue living off the state, prioritising the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol, and ten years later find themselves no further on, still living off benefits which have done them no ‘bene’ at all and rendered them ‘fit’ for nothing.

Scripture is replete with warnings of the consequences of not working. The consistent presupposition of the Book of Proverbs on this subject is that the person being addressed is indeed able to work. This would include most of us by far, but there are certain people who are unable to work (for whatever reason), and should not feel guilty for not being able to perform the duty described in the proverb. For them God has another word of wisdom (cf Prov 3:5f).

But working is essential to living and obtaining the essentials for life (eg 12:11a; 16:26; 28:19a). Work should be accepted as God's divine design (Gen 2:15; 2Thess 3:10), such that people who refuse to work reveal a lack of common sense in their judgment. Sometimes people refuse to do the job that they have because they are always looking for a better one (Prov 12:11b), but refusing to work can lead to death (21:25).

It will come as no surprise to Cranmer’s communicants and readers that he exhorts the Protestant Work Ethic and the theology of Calvin, for hard work brings a profit (14:23a); work done in a slack manner is as good as a piece of work which is later destroyed - both are valueless (18:9); slack work leads to poverty (14:23b), while diligent work leads to control of one's situation (12:24).

Work can be very rewarding (12:14). As time passes, a person who has worked wisely and diligently will find themselves rewarded by their labour as well as skilled at what they do with the result that people who are skilled at their work are sought out by others (22:29).

So work is good for the soul.

Well done, Mr Cameron.

Cranmer looks forward to more of the same.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Vatican: 10% of people are possessed by the devil

Okay, slight exaggeration. The Vatican’s actual assertion is that one in ten of the people said to be possessed by Satan actually are. But this is still a concerning number of Damiens in the world who have 666 tattooed on their foreheads. And assuming the ‘possession’ to be total (for why would Lucifer be content with dim half-lights?), the Pope is informing the world that there are literally thousands of incarnate Satans walking the earth.

Cranmer can’t help wondering where they all reside and where they work, though the Vatican gives a clue insofar as it specifies ‘exposure’ to ‘the media, rock music and the Internet’. As is well known, both Hitler and Stalin were into all three. Apparently, three signs that experts look out for in identifying those who are possessed are ‘an ability to speak languages that the possessed person does not know, the presence of superhuman strength, and an awareness of hidden or distant objects’.

But according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi: ‘Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession.’ Cranmer thinks this to be a very great pity, for the world certainly needs them. However, His Holiness is ‘drawing up plans to install a given number of exorcists in every diocese in the coming months so that “possessed” people could get prompt treatment.

Jolly good, that. Prompt treatment ensures a higher chance of survival.

And apparently His Holiness is also reintroducing a prayer to be said at the end of Mass to ‘St Mark the Archangel’, believed to be ‘the prime protector against evil’.

Curious, that, given that there is not one reference in Scripture that may give rise to such a belief, and its origin in Church tradition is also something of a mystery to Cranmer. But in any case, would not ‘the prime protector’ against evil be the Lord himself? Did Jesus appeal to 'Archangel Mark' when dealing with Legion? How can a mere archangel, a servant of the Lord, be the ‘prime’ anything?

The Vatican has its very own Professor Snape in the guise of Father Paolo Scarafoni, whose job it is to instruct students ‘in the art of recognising and expelling Satan’. Indeed, eager to spread awareness about the rising threat of Satanism, Rome's Regina Apostolorum University has opened the course up to anyone with a proven interest in fighting devil worship. Although there is no indication of the entrance requirements, present students include ‘doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers and youth workers’. One of the objectives of the course is ‘to stop such a delicate and difficult subject being viewed in a sensationalist way’.

Err…

Since when was possession by Satan not sensational? Who would want to downplay this manifest and present danger, and why?

And Cranmer can’t help thinking what the media would have made of this revelation if it had emanated from Lambeth Palace. The scorn and derision that would have been poured upon the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England would have been unrelenting, with doubtless Government ministers and Opposition spokesmen dismissing the pronouncement as ‘insensitive’ and ‘lacking any foundation in reality’. But the Vatican remains immune from such media onslaught, comfortably and uncritically perpetuating a bygone era of magic. And the Church of England, having endured both Reformation and Enlightenment, has learnt to take responsibility for its actions. Instead of apportioning blame on a poor innocent Devil, it can distinguish between magical thinking and murderous behaviour, and is content to assert that both Hitler and Stalin were psychopaths and murderous criminals.

According to Scripture, Satan appears as an angel of light (2Cor 11:14).. There is nothing about unlearned languages, superhuman strength, or detecting hidden objects. It is the plainest teaching of the New Testament that Satan masquerades as one who is pure, holy, benevolent, enlightened...

Any ideas?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bishop warns of 'no-go' areas for non-Muslims

With every statement of the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, Cranmer is more and more convinced of the need to appoint this man to the See of Canterbury. He talks intelligibly, he talks sense, and what he says is from the undeniable perspective of first-hand experience. His is not merely an ‘academic’ theology (one immersed, for example, in metaphysical distinctions about how Christ is constituted), but one in which doctrine has a genuine existential dimension.

His latest warning is that ‘Islamic extremists have created "no-go" areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter’. Having lived for many years in Pakistan, he is fully aware of the religio-political strategy of marking out territory and then proclaiming it to belong to the Dar al-Islam, and that ‘people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology’.

He goes to the very heart of the matter when he observes that the enforced ‘submission’ to this ideology - including that which is perceived through legal and political omission, or the perpetual propagation of a multi-faith, multicultural society - is making it ‘increasingly difficult for Christianity to be the nation's public religion’. And his concerns are shared by the General Synod, which has recently voted on a number of issues and concluded that Britain is being damaged by large-scale immigration. The overwhelming majority - 80 per cent – thought that the Government had not upheld the place of religion in public life, and 63 per cent fear that the Church will be disestablished within a generation.

Doubtless referring to the demands for the Adhan to reverberate over Oxford, and in the knowledge of the development of Shari'a courts in parts of the UK, the Bishop warns that ‘attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran’. And echoing the Old Testament prophets he decries the Government's response to immigration and the influx of ‘people of other faiths to these shores’.

Interestingly, the Shadow Home Secretary, the Rt Hon David Davis MP, has also accused Muslims of promoting a kind of ‘voluntary apartheid’ by segregating themselves in distinct communities and demanding immunity from criticism. He said: "Bishop Nazir-Ali has drawn attention to a deeply serious problem. The Government's confused and counter-productive approach risks creating a number of closed societies instead of one open, cohesive one. It generates the risk of encouraging radicalisation and creating home-grown terrorism." Unfortunately, he does not propose any policies to deal with the situation. Carping opposition without viable resolution does not constitute credible alternative governance.

Calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England have grown since research a few weeks ago showed that attendance at Mass has overtaken the number of worshippers at Church of England Sunday services. Unfortunately, the Bishop made no mention of the influx of Roman Catholics from Poland which has contributed to this state of affairs, mindful, perhaps, that as a convert from Rome, he risks accusations of bigotry.

But his father converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism, and this generational gap appears to give him greater freedom. And his comments have attracted the inevitable criticism from the the Muslim Council of Britain, whose spokesman called the Bishop ‘irresponsible’, suffering from ‘extreme ignorance’, and that ‘he should accept that Britain is a multicultural society in which we are free to follow our religion.’ He then asserts: ‘We wouldn't allow “no-go” areas to happen.’

It is in this final statement that the ‘extreme ignorance’ of the MCB is manifest, for ‘no-go’ areas have been developing for decades, and any kuffar who dare to walk in these areas do so at their peril. Even the police are providing these areas with ‘ethnically sensitive’ officers - ie Muslim police officers for Muslim areas - if only to avoid accusations of ‘racism’ should a Muslim need arresting, for God forbid that a white officer should now arrest an black or brown criminal.

But the wider reality is that the United Kingdom has always had religious ‘no-go’ areas. One only has to observe the experiences of Protestants who dare to walk in ‘Catholic areas’ of Belfast, or of a Roman Catholics who try to live in ‘Protestant areas’; or the antipathy expressed by Roman Catholic schoolchildren to their Protestant counterparts in parts of Scotland; or the abuse endured by Roman Catholic footballers who dare to play for ‘Protestant’ teams – the United Kingdom has been disunited along religious lines for decades, and these divisions endured for centuries before the Act of Settlement and the Act of Union attempted to end the strife.

If the lessons of history teach us anything, it is that human sympathy spreads outwards from individuals to families, then to extended families and friends, and onwards to form communities, regions and countries, as people discover common ties of kinship, language, culture and religion. God made the nations with diverse qualities, and these variations of national characteristics and cultures display a wonder of creation. The story of the Tower of Babel establishes that segregation occurs along these lines, and experience teaches that the nation state is the best way of preserving peace. All attempts to re-build a unified tower – be it in a multicultural, multi-faith Britain, or the diminution and subjugation of the nation state within European union - are doomed to failure.
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