Sunday, November 30, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Abortion

In what must be among the most inappropriate and insidious Christmas greetings ever, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), one of Britain's main abortion promoters and providers, is sending women and teenage girls (including those under the age of 16) a Christmas gift pack containing the morning-after pill and condoms. There are also festive leaflets urging them to stock up on the morning after pill in advance from a chain of abortion clinics.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has judged this a ‘despicable ploy’, not only because it threatens unborn children, promotes promiscuity, and undermines public health, but also because it ‘insults the child-centred meaning of Christmas’.

One might think that Christmas, when the world remembers the most important baby ever born, might be a time for reflection on the gift of life, the incomparable beauty and wonder of new birth, the importance of family and the innocence of childhood. Millions of pictures of the Madonna and Child are sent and received, and our thoughts are turned to Mary as an exemplar of faithfulness to God whom all nations call blessed.

By choosing such a life-destroying gift pack at this time of the year, BPAS insults the Christian faith and rides roughshod over religious sensitivities. It is as offensive as the 2004 campaign by Schering, manufacturers of the Levonelle brand of morning-after pill, who ran a pre-Christmas campaign entitled ‘Immaculate Contraception’.

But Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS, is not remotely concerned about such things. And she reveals her warped mindset and amoral worldview when she observes: “You don’t wait until you get a headache to buy your pain relief, why wait until you’ve risked pregnancy to get the morning after pill?”

How, in the name of God, can anyone equate a headache with pregnancy? How can a pill to cure a headache be remotely comparable to one which terminates life? The flippancy, the triviality, the contempt for life render Cranmer speechless.

The number of abortions carried out in January of this year compared with December last year was 25 per cent higher. The total number of abortions procured has exceeded 200,000 per annum for the first time since abortion was legalised in 1967.

All facilitated and positively encouraged by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, especially during Advent and Christmas.

Cranmer awaits their Ramadan and Eid gifts...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Carol singers banned for ‘health and safety’ reasons

Cranmer has previously noted the demise of Bonfire Night for ‘health and safety’ reasons, and the consequent loss this is to the nation’s Protestant Christian heritage. And for years we have heard of the ascent of ‘Winterval’, out of sensitivity to those of other faiths, and the joint issuing of secular-themed and religious-themed Christmas stamps, in order to placate the pagans and humanists.

Now, it seems, carol singing has been banned in a shopping mall in Hemel Hempstead, citing, again, ‘health and safety’, reasons.

For 20 years the Brownies have spread their festive cheer in the Marlowes Centre, aimed principally at the elderly and disabled. But this year there is a new tree and more mobile trade stalls, so the carols have had to be sacrificed.

It is increasingly apparent that ‘health and safety’ legislation is becoming a hazard to British customs, traditions and heritage. It contains the ‘catch-all’ regulations which can be zealously over-applied and exploited by those of the ‘liberal Left’ for distinctly illiberal purposes.

One wonders why the ‘mobile trade stalls’ were permitted to expand to such an extent that just 100 bodies in one area might block the fire escapes. Of course, Mammon is exalted. Will the police be limiting the flow of Christmas shoppers in this area to ensure the fire-escapes are not blocked? No, of course not.

Why not just ban Christmas?

It is, after all, a cause of much worry, stress and heartache, all of which must be detrimental to (at least) the health of the population.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The shame of Speaker Martin

It is reported that Michael Martin MP, Speaker of the House of Commons and guardian of its traditions and liberties, personally sanctioned the police raid on Damian Green’s parliamentary office.

Whatever the Prime Minister, Home Secretary of Home Office ministers may be saying, it is inconceivable that anti-terror police would have arrested a member of the Shadow Cabinet without the fore-knowledge of Ministers of the Crown. If they did, they have presumed an authority over Parliament, and rolled back the constitutional clock to the era of Cromwell.

Has Speaker Martin ever sanctioned the searching of the offices of members of Sinn Féin?

God forbid. That would be discriminatory and a set-back for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Has Speaker Martin ever sanctioned the searching of the offices of any Muslim MP?

God forbid. That would be discriminatory (or ‘racist’) and a set-back for community relations.

But Damian Green is neither Irish nor Muslim. And neither is he gay or disabled. He is an able-bodied, male, white, heterosexual Conservative. And they are fair game.

By colluding with this authoritarian, repressive government, Speaker Martin is complicit in the abuse of anti-terror legislation. He has thereby forfeited his right to hold the office of First Commoner in the Land. Doubts have been expressed about his political partiality in the past, and the news that he authorised a police raid on a member of HM Loyal Opposition is further evidence that he is incapable of being non-partisan and of defending the liberties and privileges of members of the House of Commons.

To hold Her Majesty’s Government to account is the very raison d’être of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. It is the role of the Speaker to not only facilitate this, but to defend it against external interference and presumed authority.

When King Charles I entered the House in order to search for and arrest five members for high treason, he was met by Speaker Lenthall. The Speaker did not grant the King permission to search the office of the five or betray them to the the investigating authority. When asked where these members were, Speaker Lenthall replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

Speaker Martin’s eyes are misted and his tongue is forked. And he certainly does not serve the interests of the House.

If he will not resign, there must be a confidence motion. Members on all sides ought to be very afraid of a man who presumes the authority to sanction arbitrary searches of private parliamentary facilities without their knowledge, and without regard for secret, sensitive, private and confidential papers which may routinely be found there.

It is time for Speaker Martin to go.

Damian Green’s arrest is an affront to British liberty

We were warned of the potential consequences for civil liberties of Labour’s anti-terrorism legislation, but were assured thee would be no abuse of it. The focus would be those who wish to mutilate and murder, those who prefer the bomb to the ballot box, those who might be tempted to fly an aeroplane into Canary Wharf crying ‘Allahu Akbar’.

But then came the ejection of Walter Wolfgang from a Labour Party conference, simply for heckling the Home Secretary. And then came the limits on democratic protest, especially outside the Palace of Westminster. And then came the freezing of the financial assets of Iceland, a sovereign and friendly nation. And now we witness the profoundly concerning arrest of Damian Green, a Conservative MP, who, it is reported, has been subject to interrogation and his parliamentary and constituency offices raided and searched by nine counter-terrorism officers (yes, nine. As if they have no real Islamists to worry about).

The Police State has arrived: a totalitarian regime in which even our elected representatives are subject to arbitrary invasions of privacy and random acts of intimidation. It beggars belief that police can enter Parliament and search a members’ offices. Presumably the Serjeant at Arms, having responsibility for security in the House, and the Speaker granted their permission. One wonders if such permission would have been granted to search the offices of a member of the Government. Moreover, one wonders of such permission has ever been granted to search the offices of those members of Sinn Féin whose hands really are bloodied with acts of terrorism.

The charge against Damian Green is one of ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in public office’. It is alleged that he received information from a Home Office whistle-blower on the parlous state of affairs within the department, especially pertaining to immigration.

This is a politically-motivated arrest, and it beggars belief that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary knew of it in advance. Is not whistle-blowing on government incompetence manifestly in the public interest? Since when has being in receipt of leaked information been an act of terrorism?

Or is it simply that being in receipt of information which may damage this Labour Government is a de facto act of terrorism?

It is axiomatic that there is freedom of speech in Parliament. The proceedings of parliament cannot be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself.

Perhaps it is time for David Cameron to grab the Mace in the House of Commons, and remind Labour of the limits of its power and where that power truly resides. Parliament is sovereign because Parliament belongs to the people. Parliamentarians are thereby granted privileges and additional liberties which, it has been found by experience, are necessary for holding the Executive to account.

Hundreds of MPs receive leaked information; it is intrinsic to the art of politics. Indeed, the recipients are various media journalist far more frequently than MPs. Are they all now going to insist on some sort of immunity before receiving their brown envelopes?

As this story unfolds, Cranmer simply wonders at the contrast between the treatment of Mr Green and the treatment of MPs and peers who were involved in the ‘Cash for Honours’ affair. They were merely questioned, and frequently in the comfort of their own homes and offices; Damian Green has been arrested, carted off to police station, incarcerated in a cell, and interrogated for nine hours.

One ought to be grateful Mr Green was not visited by Europol armed with a European Arrest Warrant.

One ought to be grateful Mr Green does not stand accused of interfering in or undermining the effective functioning of the EU.

But do not sigh too much with relief, for those days are coming.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christian police officer sacked after offering officers 'cure for homosexuality'

Meet PC Graham Cogman from Sea Palling in Norfolk. He has been sacked for misconduct.

When Cranmer was made aware of this by his loyal communicant Mr Recusant, he reflected on the usual concerns about the ‘rights hierarchy’ which is developing in the UK, in which all rights increasingly appear to trump religious rights, especially those concerned with homosexuality. It has been seen through the Sexual Orientation Regulations, the closure of Roman Catholic adoption agencies, the imposition of ‘Gay Pride’ marches upon firemen, and the proposed compulsory teaching of sex education in schools.

PC Cogman was apparently 'bombarded' at work by emails and posters promoting gay rights and events. ‘Gay liaison officers’ circulated an email urging officers to wear a pink ribbon on their uniform to mark Gay History Month. PC Cogman’s response to this 'politically correct' campaign was to send out emails to colleagues which quoted religious texts suggesting homosexual sex was sinful.

(Before Cranmer proceeds, may he ask his communicants what is ‘Gay History Month’? His Grace has never heard of it, and is most curious to know of its origins and which public bodies are ‘persuaded’ or ‘encouraged’ to promote it, how many comply, and at what cost?)

There were complaints, and he was advised by lawyers to admit a breach of the police code before a disciplinary committee. He was ordered to cease using the police’s email system for such purposes because he failed to show 'respect and tolerance' to fellow officers. However, following a further allegation that he used the internal communication system to circulate a link to an American Christian helpline which professed to cure homosexuals, he was sacked by Norfolk police.

The case has been taken on by the redoubtable barrister Paul Diamond, who defended Nadia Eweida after she was suspended by British Airways for wearing a cross, and also XX after she was suspended from school for wearing a chastity ring.

But Cranmer has a certain disquiet about this case.

Notwithstanding the manifest bias and blatant support for homosexual rights in the Norfolk police (indeed, it is manifest in society generally), it is reported that PC Cogman was ordered not to use the police internal communication system to for personal purposes.

He disobeyed this order.

While dismissal appears to be something of an overreaction, the Bible is clear that one must submit to authority, and that includes Ceasar. But PC Cogman says that the gay rights agenda made ‘being a Christian officer extremely difficult’.

Well, being a Christian anywhere is difficult, and it occurs to Cranmer – unless PC Cogman struggles in the area of his sexuality – that having to endure a few emails or pink and rainbow ribbons is utterly insignificant compared to what our brothers and sisters in the Lord endure on a daily basis in Israel, Egypt, Iraq – where the persecution is very real, and quite literally a matter of life and death.

Yet PC Cogman says: ‘I have to make a stand when things become so blatantly biased against me just because I hold a faith.'

One might consider the example of Jesus when he was presented with the woman caught in adultery. Cranmer has no doubt that he was also finding it a little difficult ‘because of his faith’, but his example was to show compassion and forgiveness. Certainly he encouraged her to sin no more, but he did not do so with condemnation which included the words 'inappropriate’, ‘thoughtless’ or ‘insensitive', as PC Cogman is reported to have done. And neither did Jesus use the occasion as an opportunity to quote those scriptures to her which are critical of adultery.

And Cranmer is equally sure that the Lord did not say to her anything like 'Love the sinner, hate the deed,' not least because for many sinners their sexual behaviour has become so much a part of their identity that there is no convenient distinction to be made: to hate the sin is to hate the sinner.

Jesus never promised that being a Christian would be easy, and the call to take up one’s cross is a daily one. To be crucified with Christ is a daily anguish endured patiently and silently by millions all around the world. PC Cogman certainly breached the internal email ban, but there is prima facie evidence that he also failed to treat his colleagues with ‘politeness, tolerance and respect, regardless of their beliefs, age, gender or sexual orientation’.

It is undoubtledly wrong that gay rights now trump religious rights, and of course diversity statements cut both ways, but for a professing Christian to set aside a direct order from a superior is unwise. And to continue using the police email system to communicate personal beliefs is indeed unacceptable. Certainly, PC Cogman may have been discriminated against, even harassed and bullied, but there are appropriate procedures in all organisations for dealing with such matters, and such procedures must be followed.

Having said that, Cranmer is sick and tired of politically-correct policing, and he just wishes they would get on with their jobs and stop obsessing about black and Asian quotas and gay-friendly training programmes. Perhaps the police might get over the pervasive mentality in which ‘diversity’ appears to trump ‘criminality’.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Woolworths and MFI go into administration

Cranmer did not grow up on pick’n’mix, but millions have enjoyed the wonder of Woolworths for nigh on a century. It has been a giant of the High Street; a great retail institution. As they call in the receivers, 800 stores are in peril, along with 30,000 jobs.

MFI might once have been the Ratners of home furnishings, but no matter how much they may have improved, the moment people stop buying and selling houses, they cease wanting new bathrooms and kitchens. And so the ‘credit crunch’ bites. MFI has 110 stores nationwide, and employs around 1000 people.

So another 31,000 people face the harsh reality and utter hopelessness of unemployment; a Christmas of insecurity, worry and woe.

Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you, Chancellor. You are doing quite a remarkable job of running the economy.

Right into the ground.

But could you please explain to His Grace why incompetent, inefficient banks are worth bailing out, but there are no plans afoot to nationalise Woolworths?

Why is the preservation of pick’n’mix not worth a few paltry millions of taxpayers’ money, when the banks have had hundreds of billions?

Why are the jobs of hundreds of banking executives worth preserving, despite their shoddy business plans, while thousands of humble shop-workers are forced to pay the price for Labour’s economic incompetence?

What is this Socialism that bails out the very wealthy and powerful financial institutions, but leaves the weak retailers to die?

What is this Socialism that sides with the might of Mammon while the poor face penury?

What is this Socialism that feeds the banking fat cats on lean and expensive meat, but leaves the workers to the dog-eat-dog world of the market?

Did Gordon Brown claim to have a moral compass?

It must be broken.

Perhaps Cranmer will buy him a new one for Christmas.

They are bound to be available in some closing-down sale somewhere. Or at least 2.5 per cent cheaper because of the reduction in VAT.

Gordon Brown sells the nation’s soul to Satan


Courtesy of Rory Bremner via Play Political, this video encapsulates everything that a religio-political blog might take ten thousand words to expound. The selling of one’s soul to Satan has been an enduring theme in literature, theatre and film, but perhaps nothing has surpassed the dramatic genius and poetic splendour of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

Versions of the legend emerged during the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era, and were concerned with the acquisition of supernatural powers in return for a pact with the Devil. One of the most widespread had its origins during the reign of the Emperor Justinian, and concerned a bishop’s steward by the name of Theophilus who renounced Christ and the Virgin Mary after being unfairly dismissed from his post, and in defiance of his bishop-master declared Satan as his lord. This, to Cranmer, seems something of an over-reaction. Fearful of the consequences, Theophilus prayed and fasted for forty days, and made confession of his sin. Mary heard this plea, and Theophilus died in a state of grace.

It was not until the 16th century - with its preoccupation and obsession with magic, witchcraft, sorcery and alchemy - that the legend attained cult status. An anonymous Protestant theologian published a work in Frankfurt-on-Main which became known as the German Faust book. The title page contains a warning for all politicians who pursue a ‘world of profit and delight, / Of power, of honour, of omnipotence’:

History of Dr John Faust, the celebrated conjuror and master of black magic: How he sold himself to the Devil with effect from an appointed time: What in the meanwhile were the strange adventures he witnessed, himself initiated, and conducted, until at last he received his well-deserved reward. Mostly collected and printed from his own writings which he left behind him, as a terrifying instance and horrible example, and as a friendly warning to the arrogant, insolent-minded, and godless men.

The play is politically perceptive and spiritually edifying for it shows the awful consequences of man’s deliberate commitment to evil with a view to gratifying his lust, ambition and pride:

Hell hath no limits, nor circumscribed
In one self place, but where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be;
And, to be short, when all the world dissolves
And every creature shall be purify’d,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.


Politicians above all would do well not to reflect on such warnings and curb their flippant arrogance. Power corrupts subtly, and manifests itself in the wilful, headstrong and blind tendencies of those who attain authority. To play politics with morality is sin; to abjure God is damnation.

As Gordon Brown has already sold the nation’s soul to the EU, all further treaties with the Devil are subject to EU scrutiny. But they would not particularly mind UK plc slipping down the credit league and being humbled and humiliated on the world stage. Incredible as it may seem, McDonalds is now deemed more credit-worthy than the UK, which is no longer ranked alongside the USA, France or Germany, but has been relegated to join Italy and Greece in the global financial league.

This Labour Government is now not only devoid of vision; it is bankrupt, morally and financially. National humiliation may be the judgement of God; the price one has to pay for unrighteous government.

Cranmer exhorts all his readers and communicants to submit to God, resist the Devil, and he will flee from you (Js 4:7).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Pre-Budget Budget – an act of gross immorality

It may be a spread of jam today, but the Government will want a whole jar back tomorrow. And it will want it with menaces. New Labour has just joined the odious fraternity of loan sharks, and they will terrorise the population with cripplingly high rates of interest and a pay-back schedule which will make collecting the usual 38 per cent APR look like bob-a-job week. To borrow £20 billion more today and demand repayment of an extra £40 billion tomorrow is not only immoral, it is an outrage. It is an affront to every hard-working man and woman in the country, and a slap in the face for all who seek to be responsible and frugal.

It was not so much a pre-budget report as an entire budget. And not only an entire budget, but an entirely leaked budget. There was once a day when chancellors resigned over such contempt for Parliament, but New Labour has held the legislature in contempt from the day it attained power: its haughty presidential aloofness has been one of its defining features. It leaks with impunity.

This pre-budget budget is pure Socialism; the most ‘left’ redistributive agenda the country has seen since the Old Labour of the 70s. In fact, the level of debt to be endured is actually greater than when James Callaghan was forced to go cap in hand to the IMF in 1976.

This was not a budget so much to kick-start the economy as one to put the Conservative Party at odds with itself. It was far more political than economic. While David Cameron is of the opinion that the country cannot afford such a loosening of fiscal policy at the present time, there are murmurings on the Conservative back-benches that tax-cuts are welcome in season and out.

But the joy is that there is now clear blue water between the two main parties in a way that there has not been since 1997 (and some would say since 1993). There is the blasé option of spending one’s way out of recession, or the responsible one of fiscal rectitude and budgetary propriety. The former simply mortgages our children; the latter faces the difficult issues and directly addresses the problem.

By stimulating the economy with a reduction in VAT instead of a cut in income tax, Labour are doing nothing to encourage prudent behaviour. When a government spends what it does not have, and guarantees the liabilities of weak financial institutions, they risk weakening the currency and causing an increase in interest rates, with all the consequent unemployment, recession, inflation and increased poverty. This is an undoubted moral issue, for people are reduced to hardship and depression, firms are condemned to closure, more workers to unemployment and more families to homelessness through unprecedented levels of repossession. The total number of suicides, heart attacks, divorces and mental breakdowns is never known.

This was not a pre-budget budget for recovery, but one to postpone the suffering of millions while the malignant tumour spreads. It was not the required treatment, not the prescribed medicine, and not the necessary invasive surgery.

One must pray the patient does not die, for resurrection may be beyond even the next Conservative administration.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A reduction in VAT is puerile politics and economic sabotage

The 'Golden Rule' has been ditched, and its remnants gilded with Keynesian spin. An imminent 45p rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000 spells the end of New Labour and heralds a return of the spectre of the 70s. The party has reverted to type, as Cranmer always knew it would. Socialism brings nothing but communal misery.

Labour is supposed to be the ‘party of the poor’. It professes to be concerned with social justice and alleviating the plight of society's most vulnerable. But it is nothing of the sort. While unemployment reaches 2 million, and is projected to head inexorably towards 3 million by 2010; while house repossessions increase by 12 per cent, and are projected to make tens of thousands more homeless over the coming year; while the income of the nation’s poorest falls in real terms against rates of inflation higher than the increases in benefits or salaries; while thousands of families face a Christmas of worry about mortgage rates; while pensioners freeze, unable to heat their homes adequately due to spiralling fuel costs, it is reported that the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have decided to reduce VAT from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent – the minimum permitted by EU directive – in order to ‘stimulate the economy’.

So, the chocolate bar in your Christmas stocking that would have cost you £1 will now only cost you 97.75p, which retailers will round up to 98p – that is, if they bother passing on the reduction at all. And if you buy quite few chocolate oranges, your savings could be as much as 10 or 15p. A litre of petrol might fall by a penny. Your bottle of wine might be 20p cheaper, or your average saving on a laptop might amount to £7.

This is paltry.

Cranmer is all for cutting taxes, but only when it is prudent to do so.

Reducing VAT at the present time is not only insulting to the intelligence; it fails to bring relief to the poorest in society in the same way as a cut in income tax (or a raising of the tax thresholds) would. And such a reduction in the burden of taxation would then leave people with more money to do with as they thought best. It would be tax relief to encourage individual financial responsibility. But the Chancellor’s ‘stimulus’ does not assist with personal debt repayment, and neither is it an encouragement to reduce that debt or to budget carefully for the future. In fact, it is designed to entice us to spend more, because the only people to benefit will be those who spend more. This ‘stimulus’ amounts to nothing more than more debt-fuelled growth, which is simply stoking those same high levels of debt which were the cause of the ‘credit crunch’ in the first place.

Cranmer is not remotely persuaded that retailers will go through a costly and time-consuming re-pricing exercise - especially so close to Christmas - or that businesses will be concerned to pass on such minuscule reductions for minimal gain to their customers. In fact, such a reduction in the turnover tax is likely to be pocketed by businesses, thus simply increasing their own profits.

As the nation’s debt reaches £100 billion, this impoverished Labour Government is bringing forward the Budget with a raft of announcements which will make next Christmas even more miserable, and the one after positively Dickensian (and not in the romantic sense).

What people need is security for the future, while these temporary measures simply white-wash over the nation’s crumbling finances and conceal the decay at the heart of Labour’s economic policy.

And the real worry is that a Conservative government, having won the coming general election on a narrative of ‘change’ and ‘hope’, will be faced with the harsh reality of balancing the books.

While Labour’s VAT reduction to 15 per cent will have little impact on people’s spending plans and will scarcely be noticed by the people, a Conservative VAT increase to 22.5 per cent in 2011 - to offset a budget deficit which is likely to be around £120 billion - will have considerable negative impact and will most certainly be noticed by the people. And neither will it be quickly forgotten – rather like VAT on fuel, or ‘Black Wednesday’.

And the thought of the next Conservative government constantly blaming the past Labour administration - while it may be justified and true - will simply become a tiresome mantra to the electorate.

This temporary tax cut is more about entrenching a client state of the permanently impoverished, permanently dependent and permanently eternally grateful to Labour for whatever crumbs are thrown at them. It is a tax-payer-funded subversion of democracy.

Is Gordon Brown simply stoking the nation’s debt and wrecking the economy simply to sabotage the prospects for success of the incoming Conservative administration?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

‘Tory lies’ about Hizb ut-Tahrir are ‘populist attempts to boost poll ratings’

Whilst it is doubtless true that all right-minded Conservatives are doing everything they can to ‘boost poll ratings’, it is not remotely likely that the strategy would include stirring sectarian strife or inflaming religious hatred. So when Hizb ut-Tahrir (‘Party of Liberation’) accuse Phillip Hammond MP of lying about their agenda on Question Time last Thursday in a ‘frantic attempt’ to boost the Conservative Party’s ‘diminishing ratings’, one may reasonably deduce that the lies emanate from Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Mr Hammond said Hizb ut-Tahrir is an organisation ‘committed to the murder of Jews’.

Hizb ut-Tahrir have responded that this has ‘no basis in fact’, and proceeds to deride David Cameron and his ‘young Turks’ (a rather ironic term in the present context) for their ‘relationships with Russian oligarchs’, and accuses them of jumping on the BNP bandwagon with their ‘anti-Muslim policies’ and ‘populist attacks on Muslims’.

One wonders how much time the representatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir have spent studying Islam, for their stated objective is a global Islamic caliphate, and, while there are important differences between the Shi’a and Sunni schools of theology on the origin and role of the Caliph (Imam al-Ummah), there is consensus that all citizens will live under Shari’a. The Caliphate – rule by Islamic clerics – ended in 1924 following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, but it had not exercised any real power since the thirteenth century. While Hizb ut-Tahrir professes to pursue a restoration through peaceful political action and intellectual engagement, others groups, like al-Qaeda, do so through force.

The problem that Hizb ut-Tahrir have is that there is that the concept of a Caliphate has a muddled and murky history, which is itself a cause of division between various schools of Islamic thought. None of the attempts to establish the ‘Rule of Allah’ on earth has succeeded, and all have caused bloodshed and led to the oppression of non-Muslims. The absolute power enjoyed by the Caliph leads to nepotism and dictatorship, which is invariably sustained by a corrupt army. Minorities are oppressed, and religions other than Islam are strictly limited or entirely prohibited, depending on their perceived level of subversion of the Islamic state.

While Mr Hammond could have phrased his criticism of Hizb ut-Tahrir a little more intelligently, his essential observation has historical validity. Jews have been slaughtered in the pursuit of a caliphate, and continue to be. And so have Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians. And where they are not slaughtered, they are dispossessed and driven out in the pursuit of the Dar al-Islam.

But Cranmer wishes to voice a concern:

The tendency of some sections of the media, some politicians and some political groups to portray Islam as a great military power or as constituting a considerable terror threat is absurdly exaggerated. In fact, Cranmer would go as far as to add this ‘fear’ to the others which have been hysterically induced in the masses, like ‘Bird Flu’, ‘Global Warming’, ‘Mad Cow Disease’ or the ‘Credit Crunch’. There is no easier mechanism by which governments may control their people and raise taxes than by inducing a perpetual state of fear.

The cultural challenge is manifest, simply because the mass migration of Muslims into Western Europe has created ‘ghettos’ of Muslims who are demanding increasing political and religious rights. There is a reluctance to integrate, and the ‘multiculturalism’ offered by liberal democracy is unfulfilling.

But this mass migration has also imported a strong and confident religio-political system at a time when Christianity has been diminishing in influence, morality has become relative, and politics has become insipid. The only way to address this is to end the notion of ‘multiculturalism’, place strict limits on immigration, and revive interest in the moral foundations of Christianity. While the first of these is being addressed - and by no less an individual than Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality - the immigration question still proves a thorny issue – for fear of being accused of being racist – and the Christian dimension is not on the agenda of any political party, for pretty much the same reason.

And so instead of applying thought and political effort to creative ways of reinvigorating the state with sociological concepts and morality which have tried and tested Christian foundations, the politicians are busy eradicating all notions of the Christian tradition, and inhibiting all expression of it from the public sphere.

It is not so much the idea of permanent conflict against the Islamists and heightened security which should be blamed for the erosion of our traditions and liberties: the abandoning of our Christian heritage is doing far more damage to society and the institutions of government. If we are at war with the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Qaeda, then we are fighting to defend our liberties. Yet what are our politicians content to make the casualties of this war? Our liberties.

Hizb ut-Tahrir ought to be proscribed on those grounds alone. It is antithetical to liberal democracy, and seeks to use its liberty to wrest liberty from all non-Muslims. Since Hizb ut-Tahrir cannot rationalise that, there is no place for the organisation or its adherents in the United Kingdom, and David Cameron has made that abundantly clear.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

US Intelligence: EU will be a ‘hobbled giant’ by 2025

Actually, EU Observer says that Europe will be a ‘hobbled giant’, but it never ceases to amaze Cranmer the extent to which Europe is becoming synonymous with the EU, despite 21 of Europe’s 48 nation states residing without its confines (22 if you include Vatican City, which could never, of course, ‘pool’ its sovereignty with the EU). While the EU may now constitute the majority of European states, 46 per cent have not been absorbed, harmonised or ‘normalised’ (yet).

But the United States National Intelligence Council (NIC), Washington's main intelligence body, forecasts that the EU will be ‘crippled by internal bickering and a eurosceptic citizenry’.

There needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this.

They further foresee that the EU will be plagued by ‘Eastern European organised crime’.

Gosh, they are perceptive, aren’t they?

And they also predict that the EU will be ‘kowtowing to Moscow after having failed at all attempts to wean itself from Russian energy supplies’. This continued dependence ‘will foster constant attentiveness to Moscow's interests by key countries, including Germany and Italy, who see Russia as a reliable supplier’ and could endanger the Union ‘if Russian firms are unable to full fill contract commitments because of underinvestment in their natural gas fields or if growing corruption and organised criminal involvement in the Eurasian energy sector spill over to infect Western business interests’.

Well, Dr Richard North has been excelling in this intelligence for years, without anywhere near the budget of the US Intelligence Agencies.

The report also envisages Europe's public services and welfare system threatened by the expense of paying for retiring baby-boomers, and foresees the demographic time-bomb of a diminishing population of working-age having to support a burgeoning population of pensioners. They diagnose ‘cutbacks to healthcare and pensions as the only solution’.

They missed crippling rates of personal and corporate taxation.

And they prophesy ‘infighting between member states with competing domestic interests and a European public alienated by a perceived democratic deficit’.

Perhaps ‘US Intelligence’ ought to rename itself ‘US Statements of the Bleeding Obvious’.

And yet they state that by 2025 the vision of the Founding Fathers will have been realised: there will be ‘a cohesive, integrated, and influential global actor’.

No there won’t. And this prediction is somewhat at variance with the others. It appears to Cranmer that US Intelligence is of the Nostradamus school of prophecy, pouring out couplets which may mean all things to all people, with a sentence, a word, a letter for the loyal disciples to cling to in the future as evidence of the impressive accuracy of the crystal-gazer.

They are, however, attuned to the ‘Islam’ question, noting that ‘integrating immigrants, particularly from Muslim backgrounds will become an acute challenge in a difficult economic climate’. By 2025, there will be very sizeable populations of Muslims in the Netherlands and France, with the potential for the non-integrationists among them to agitate for ‘local Shari’a’. Such events will lead to ‘narrow nationalism...as happened in the past’.

As happened in the past?

To what is US Intelligence alluding?

The possibility of the takeover of a member state by nationalist forces with a strong and charismatic leader, which yearns for a return to its age of glory, and struggles to restore its national pride, its independence, its liberty, its sense of identity, risking the possibility of conflict with the EU’s police force or army?

With that distinct possibility, staring into the abyss, Cranmer wholeheartedly concurs. He hopes US Intelligence have made their dossier available to the ‘European’ Commission.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Conservative and (Ulster) Unionist Party


It is not a merger, and neither is it take-over, and the details are yet to be agreed – not least the nomenclature – but it has been decided unanimously by the UUP Executive (with two abstentions) that the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party are to have an ‘electoral pact’ and will henceforth be in a formal ‘partnership’. The two parties are to remain distinct and separate entities, with their own leaderships, memberships and officers, but a new ‘Conservative and Ulster Unionist Joint Committee’ is to be established which will make decisions and agree policy by consensus.

Well, this is going to be interesting.

Cranmer made known his thoughts on this proposal when it was first mooted. And he agrees with Mr Cameron that there should be full Conservative representation in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom. In some parts of Northern Ireland there has been a dedicated organisation loyally beavering away for years. They have branches, associations, officers and field candidates, and fight very credible campaigns which have yielded some creditable results. And they have done so without reference to the Protestant/Catholic sectarian fray which has long blighted the Province’s politics and placed issues of Nationalism and Loyalism well above the bread-and-butter political issues of taxation, education, health, pensions or the economy.

With the addition to the Conservative fold of Jim Nicholson MEP and Sylvia Lady Hermon MP, the Conservative Party is about to become the only national party with representation in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom. This is indeed to be welcomed, and is something of great symbolic importance for the party. But one cannot ignore the fact that Sir Reg Empey has rather more to gain from this pact, and that the UUP is seeking to revive its electoral fortunes after being eclipsed (indeed, virtually wiped out) by the DUP in 2005. The UUP is hastily trying to respond to a moment of crisis and may well find this ‘partnership’ turns out to be just as detrimental to its interests as Iceland will find any rush to join the EU and the euro will be its long-term national interests.

The best political responses to desperate crises rarely emanate from the depths of depression and despair. It is rather like trying to write about love when one is hopelessly in love. If the best poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility, the most enduring political policies are forged in a context of enlightened and rational objectivity when iron can sharpen iron and all parties can see clearly.

Any formal Conservative-UUP relationship will have an undoubted detrimental effect on any future relations with the DUP. If Mr Cameron aspires to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, he ought to be cognisant (as Cranmer has previously said) of the fact that the DUP holds the office of First Minister in the Province, and that he will need to work proactively with the DUP to strengthen the Union and maximise Unionist representation. And in the event of a hung parliament (which, once again, is looking increasingly likely), he will find friendly relations with the 9 DUP MPs of far more use than any formal pact with the solitary one from the UUP.

It is one thing to talk of One Nation Conservatism coming to Northern Ireland, but quite another to persuade the Roman Catholic community that this ‘new political force’, as Owen Paterson calls it, will not be tarnished with Orange history. The UUP statement on the partnership says that the job of the Joint Committee will be to bring forward proposals on manifesto commitments and the branding of candidates, ‘ensuring that the heritage and appeal of both parties are respected’.

It is difficult to see what the UUP heritage is other than Protestant, Loyalist and Orange.

And it is difficult to see how ‘respecting’ a heritage which is irrevocably fused with the Orange Order will not be a stumbling block to the Conservative Party’s Roman Catholic voters, for the organisation is not known for its commitment to equality, liberty, inclusivity or the ‘celebration of diversity’. Indeed, voting UUP will be about as palatable to many Catholics as voting DUP would be for the vast majority of homosexuals (and just about as likely).

But Cranmer has a policy proposal for the Joint Committee to consider.

A promise of direct rule from Westminster would unite all unionists and would give David Cameron a landslide victory in the Province. However, Cranmer understands that Mr Cameron may find this unpalatable in a post-devolution era. In which case, the first joint manifesto of the Conservative and Ulster Unionist Party should offer a devolution settlement with a Northern Ireland Assembly under Westminster with absolutely no interference from Dublin and the total abolition of the encroaching ‘cross border’ bodies. There is, after all, no other part of the United Kingdom which is subject to such foreign interference (pace the EU).

As an aside, Cranmer looks forward to reading the Joint Committee’s manifesto pledge on abortion.

And Cranmer can hardly wait to hear from Sylvia Lady Hermon MP, who not only appears to have more affinity with the Labour Whip than that of the Conservative Party, but this 'Third-Way' pseudo-Socialist 'Blairite' is about to be foisted upon the loyal and true Conservatives of North Down.

Cranmer shall remember them in his orisons.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christians on the BNP list? How broad can a church be?

Cranmer could have made use of inverted commas, and dispensed judgement upon these ‘Christians’ or upon the ‘BNP list’, and even upon ‘church’ before even beginning this post. But there is something a little more disconcerting about the media furore surrounding the very public disclosure of the BNP’s membership list than that there appears to be a smattering of reverends upon it.

But let us deal with that first.

Five ‘reverends’ are listed as BNP members, and one is specifically identified as belonging to the Church of England. Another is identified as a member of the Assemblies of God, another is a Quaker, one is Evangelical, one a Baptist or United Reformed, and there is even a ‘practising Catholic’. Quite a few are described (presumably by themselves) as ‘Born Again’.

Just how broad can a church be?

While accepting that one’s self-categorisation as a ‘reverend’ or a ‘Christian’ or as having affiliation to any particular church does not necessarily make it so, the delusion is sufficiently concerning to merit a degree of scrutiny.

The BNP believes that the white indigenous population of the United Kingdom should enjoy greater rights over the immigrants; indeed, it espouses deportation and enforced repatriation of the non-white non-British, and has a decidedly un-Christian view of them.

The Lord taught not only that we must obey the commandment to love our neighbour, but also our enemy (Mt 5:43). This neighbour is plainly everyone. He told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), which the BNP might consider is an exhortation to set aside ethnic and religious differences in the expression of love and compassion. Further, if there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gal 3:28), then for Christians ethnic identity is subsumed to the notions of equality and all being one in Christ.

If Jesus were ministering to members of the BNP, he might just remind them that Asians are their neighbour, tell them the parable of the Good Muslim, and remind them that in Christ there is no white, black or brown, for all are one in Christ.

Cranmer shall leave matters of salvation to the Lord, but he shall say unequivocally that it is not possible to be serious about Christian discipleship or the Great Commission whilst simultaneously holding membership of a group which is antithetical to the concept of ‘church’. If eating food offered to idols (1Cor 8) might be deemed a hurdle to those who are weak in their faith, it beggars belief that an Asian Christian would perceive Christian BNP members as the embodiment of the love of Christ. The BNP efforts to establish the 'Christian Council of Britain' to ‘’represent Christian values and the Christian Heritage of the country’ is an affront to all that is Christian.

But...

There are now calls for the dismissal of all those who are identified as doctors, nurses, teachers or the police.

This is repugnant and smacks of totalitarianism. Indeed, the prospect of BNP members being elected to office is even being used as a reason to dispense with elections.

The United Kingdom is a democracy, the BNP is a legally-constituted political party: it operates within the law, and has a message which some find attractive and a sizeable majority finds repugnant.

But so does Respect, or Veritas (does it still exist?), or the DUP or Sinn Fein, and some unenlightened ones might even find Conservative policy repugnant.

But if those in the public services ought to be sacked for holding discriminatory views, should a Christian who believes salvation is to be found in Jesus alone be permitted to teach children? Should a doctor who believes homosexuality to be a sin be in general practice? Can a member of Opus Dei be Equalities Minister?

It is a cornerstone of liberal democracy that the personal-politico-religious can co-exist with the public-religio-political while being at odds with each other. The alternative, as demanded by some politicians of the Left and vast sections of the media, is for the thought-police to patrol our religious consciences and political opinions, to ensure that both conform to the prevailing religio-political zeitgeist.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama’s choice of church will be more revealing than any political policy

President-Elect Obama bestrides the narrow world like a Colossus, and all the petty politicians of the world are falling over themselves to be granted an audience with this demigod. They pray for the possibility of a phone call that might written about in the newspapers; they dream of photographs, and they are positively orgasmic at the thought of some film footage of a meeting with this man-god. It is not that all he touches turns to gold (which would really be useful at the moment), but that his political aura radiates a kind of divinity, and all who kneel before him to kiss his ring bask in the efficacy of his blessing.

President Obama promised much to many. It is the price one pays for being all things to all people. But his one consistent promise was change, of which he is the very incarnation. And he may well have transformed the image of America abroad, but his transformation will stop short of transubstantiation.

Although he was supported by the majority of America’s Roman Catholics, he shall not worship among them. There is the lovely little St. John's Church just across the park from the White House, which is known as the ‘Church of the Presidents’ and can trace a presidential lineage back to James Madison. And St. John's has a standing invitation: Pew 54 is the President's Pew, reserved for the nation's leader.

But this was the sanctuary of President George W Bush, and President Obama may not wish to hear from the same Episcopalian God as his predecessor, for he sent all manner of curses and plagues.

In truth, the President-Elect has been spiritually homeless ever since he severed his links with his mentor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago. This was the man at whose feet Barack Obama learnt the scriptures, at whose home he enjoyed fellowship, in whose embrace he prayed, by whose words he was married, and by whose hands the Obama children were baptised.

He exit from the stage is convenient for all manner of reasons. Not least because it permits the Rev. Billy Graham to play pope once again and preside over the coronation of another president. Actually, although this is possible, it is not likely as Dr Graham is ill with Parkinson's disease and other health problems. The prospect of the first black American president receiving the crown at the hands of a white man may have been a little unpalatable anyway. But Dr Graham remains America’s counsellor, pastor and god-father, and his theological views have from time to time been known to permeate more than a few presidential policies.

And so churches in Washington are falling over themselves to welcome the Obamas to their congregations. And the pressure is most keenly coming from those rooted in African-American culture and history. In his 2006 book ‘The Audacity of Hope’, Barack Obama wrote: ‘the historically black church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts, or that you relinquish your hold on this world... You needed to come to church precisely because you were of this world, not apart from it.’

So ‘believing without belonging’ is not an option for him: he has to go somewhere.

And the choice is bewildering:

There are the broad headings – the ‘Christian Right’, the ‘Born-Again’ variety, the ‘Evangelicals’, and these terms are not all mutually inclusive, for there are Evangelicals which are politically liberal or progressive. Black Evangelicals, for example, are overwhelmingly Democrat and identify with the poor and unemployed, but are conservative on issues such as homosexuality and capital punishment. In fact, ‘Evangelical’ is such a broad church it embraces groups as disparate as black Baptists, the Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites, Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists.

But President Obama is not really a Protestant Evangelical.

Unless he is speaking to them or dining with them.

When the bell rings, he transmutes into whatever he needs to be.

President Obama transcends labels and denominations, and will most likely ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ his theology to match the national mood. And yet he cannot easily church-hop, so it is worth looking at the chief political features of each theological strand, for these will have implications for the United States' role and image in the world.

The three contemporary streams of American Protestantism (‘Fundamentalist’, ‘Liberal’ and ‘Evangelical’) lead to very different ideas about what the country's role in the world should be.

The Fundamentalists tend to be pessimistic about the prospects for peace and security, and perceive the world order as an unbridgeable gulf between the sheep and the goats. They, of course, are the sheep. The goats are anyone who does not like America. Liberals tend to be more optimistic about the prospects for world order, and they perceive the common humanity ruminantia of the sheep and the goats. The Evangelicals occupy the via media.

The Fundamentalists are not only sceptical about social reform; they are hostile to the idea of a world order based on secular morality and on global institutions such as the United Nations. There is no compromise to be had with terrorist regimes, and no cooperation with governments that oppress churches, forbid Christian proselytising, or execute apostates. For the Fundamentalists, the UN is the seat of the Antichrist, Islam is a religion of death and destruction, and the demise of George W Bush hastens the final conflict and the Day of Armageddon.

President Obama shall not fellowship with them, for they shall remind him of Sarah Palin.

For the Liberals, the Bible is not literal narrative, but metaphorical and relative. All people of all faiths are united by their common humanity. The Unitarian Church, introduced to the United States in 1794 by the English scientist and theologian Joseph Priestly, is of this school of theology. It seeks to combine theism, materialism, and determinism which Priestly believed would lead to a proper understanding of the natural world which would promote human progress. He was lauded by Benjamin Franklin and was also a significant theological influence on Thomas Jefferson, although both presidents attended Episcopalian services when they went to church.

Liberals dispense with ‘original sin’ and tend towards universal ethics and entertain the Christ in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Atheism. There is a kernel of ethical truth in all people, all religions, and secularism. This optimism positively embraces the prospects for a peaceful world order and about international organisations such as the UN. Liberal Christians have frequently perceived such institutions as the partial fulfilment of the kingdom of God. The Liberal Protestant tradition has influenced such presidents as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Foster Dulles. They are typified by their environmentalism and involvement in human rights organisations like Amnesty International. They are also separated from Roman Catholics by their support for abortion and gay rights, and alienated from many Jews by their decreasing support for Israel.

President Obama may fellowship with them, for they are ecumenical and inclusive.

Evangelicals share common roots with Fundamentalism, but their ideas about the world have been heavily influenced by the optimism endemic to the United States. They have a history of ‘soft Calivinism’ and are most comfortable with the teachings of John Wesley. The largest denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention (16.3 million members), and this is followed by the African American churches (which include the National Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention of America, representing around 10 million members). It includes the Pentecostals, the Assemblies of God, the Lutheran Church¬ and a few ‘para’ organisations, such as the Campus Crusade for Christ, the Promise Keepers, and the Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Their world may be divided into sheep and goats, but each goat has the possibility to become a sheep. Salvation is available to all, and billions of perishing souls are worthy of great national effort. They will work with Roman Catholics and Jews on issues such as abortion, though are more sceptical of working with Muslims. They not only dedicate their lives to help poor and needy, they see it as the task of America – the light on the hill – to proclaim the gospel and bring lost souls to Christ. But they are pragmatists and can fuse most aspects of US culture with the practice of their faith and belief in moral progress. They expect revival and look forward to the return of Christ, but are less obsessed than the Fundamentalists with the identity of the Antichrist.

The growing influence of evangelicals has affected US foreign policy in several ways, not least the issue of foreign aid and human rights. Evangelical influence also affects US support for Israel. George W Bush appointed Evangelicals to his policy and speech-writing teams, and it is noteworthy that his presidency has seen a 67 per cent increase in aid to Africa, including $15 billion in new spending for programmes to combat HIV and AIDS. Evangelicals do not, however, follow blindly the human rights and humanitarian agendas crafted by liberal and secular leaders. They have made religious freedom a central focus of their efforts. President Bush introduced the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, establishing an Office of International Religious Freedom in a somewhat sceptical State Department.

President Obama is not likely to fellowship with them, for fear the ‘light on the hill’ be misinterpreted as a moral crusade.

Within these broad Protestant threads is a plethora of denominations, and President Obama could choose to worship with the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, or the United Church of Christ. And he will find elements within them all which are antithetical to his policies.

Or he could eschew them all, and go to the gym every Sunday, just as he has done throughout his campaign.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baby Peter and the incompetent adult world which failed him


Much has been written, much has been speculated upon, more is being revealed, and even more will doubtless be made known in the coming months.

But what we do know is that Peter’s mother and father separated; their marriage broke down, inflicting upon this child the most formidable of hurdles so early in his life. The mother then found another partner who had a brother, and there is mention of a penchant for knives, Nazi memorabilia, and animal cruelty. It seems that one of Baby Peter’s male role models was known to torture defenceless creatures, breaking their bones, battering them senseless in rather the same manner as Peter himself suffered. And then Peter was placed under the scrutiny of Haringey social services, who were - shall we say - somewhat divided on what was best for the child. There were some 60 points of contact, 60 opportunities to pursue an alternative course of action, but they decided to leave Peter with his mother.

The child was taken to hospital on a number of occasions with a variety of bumps and bruises, all of which his mother casually explained away. She said he was a child who bruised easily and who was clumsy. The police were not happy with this, yet they did not press the matter. Members of Parliament were written to about the shortcomings of social services child protection in Haringey, and ministers were warned. But they passed their letters on to dutiful civil servants, who do what civil servants do best.

But while all these adults manifestly failed this baby boy, Cranmer is incredulous at the appalling performance of the paediatrician who inspected Peter just two days before he died.

This child was found to have a broken back, eight broken ribs, numerous bruises, cuts and abrasions, including a deep tear to his left ear lobe which had been partially pulled away from his head. There were severe lacerations to the top of his head, including a large gouge which could have been caused by a dog bite. He had blackened finger and toenails, with several nails missing. The middle finger of his right hand was without a nail and its tip was also missing, as if it had been sliced off. One of his front teeth had also been knocked out and was found in his colon. He had swallowed it.

Jesus wept.

How in the name of Christ could a paediatrician not notice that this poor baby was suffering and in agony? Yet it is reported that a full examination was not undertaken because the child was ‘cranky’.

Well, most children in hospital might reasonably be expected to be ‘cranky’, and any medical practitioner who fails to carry out a full examination merely because a child is ‘cranky’ ought to be sacked.

This beautiful 17-month old boy had the briefest of lives, and it was evidently a life of loneliness, torment and misery. One cannot begin to imagine the pain he endured, the tears he cried, the yearnings in his little heart to be loved and cared for. And one cannot comprehend the deepest desire in one so young that he might crawl back into his mother’s womb, and curse the day he was born.

And where was God throughout all this?

He was right at Peter’s side, feeling every blow, every bruise, every broken bone. And God wept Peter’s tears, and lived every minute of Peter’s loneliness, and lay at his side in the depths of despair. God knows what it is like to lose a son, and the son knows what it is like to be forsaken by a father. The cup of suffering cannot always pass. The cross is the open wound of Christianity which forever asks ‘why?’. God’s silence, the hiding of his face, the eclipse of God, the dark night of the soul, the death of God, hell: these are metaphors for God-forsakenness; they are attempts to describe the abyss, the sinking into nothingness, the emptiness, the hopelessness.

But he died that we might live.

Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’

Rest In Peace, Baby Peter.

The kingdom of heaven is yours.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Priest excommunicates those who voted for Barack Obama

One could not quite imagine it here. It is simply not, well, English, or even British. Excommunication belongs to bygone era. Good grief, if the Rt Hon Tony Blair QC is not deserving of excommunication, Cranmer is not sure who is. Yet Mr Blair was welcomed into the Roman Catholic fold with open arms – no penance, no apology, no regret.

But in South Carolina a Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that ‘they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama’.

Excellent.

Cranmer cannot wait for a priest or bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK to threaten to excommunicate those who vote Labour at the next general election. While Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has hinted at his displeasure with the present regime, he would not dare go so far as threatening excommunication.

Yet Labour has done more in the past decade to erode the Christian foundations of this nation than any monarch or prime minister in centuries. And all in the name of ‘equality’. Labour has become intolerant of and antithetical to some of the most fundamental Christian beliefs. It fails to protect the unborn child, it advocates experimentation on human embryos, it legislates for same-sex partnerships, forces Catholic adoption agencies to close, and tries to force faith schools to take students who do not adhere to that faith.

Labour shows itself to be consistently contending against the faith. Ergo, according to the reasoning of the Rev Jay Scott Newman, voting Labour may constitute a sin.

Pope Benedict XVI himself recently reiterated that Roman Catholics in politics must be ‘coherent’ with the faith they profess. He recommended that they act with moral rigour and work passionately for the common good.

In a democracy, all Catholics are involved in politics. And so Fr Jay Newman declares that those who voted for Barack Obama are effectively supporting his beliefs on abortion, and so they are complicit in murder and guilty of sin.

He writes: "Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

And so they are excommunicated until such time as they have done penance for their sin.

This is clearly a matter upon which Rome is divided. While vice-president-elect Joe Biden has been excommunicated in some parishes, he finds a warm welcome in others. Doubtless the same is true of Nancy Pelosi. They believe what they want to believe, and misrepresent the teachings of their church with impunity.

The Rev Jay Scott Newman is a brave priest indeed, not merely for contending against the political zeitgeist, but also for confronting the majority of America’s Catholics, for, notwithstanding Barack Obama’s beliefs on abortion, he was supported by 54 per cent of them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bishop of Lancaster: ‘Educated Catholics have sown dissent and confusion in the Church’

Those pesky, intelligent, university-educated Catholics are to blame for the crisis in the Church and the growth of secularism, according to the Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, the Catholic Bishop of Lancaster. They dare to exercise their cerebral faculties; they dare to question; they dare to hold an opinion which may be contrary to that of their priest, bishop or pope. Just who do they think they are to delve into the epistemological mysteries of Church teaching? And who do they think they are that they dare to hold a view on who ought to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at Westminster?

The Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue is the bishop charged with addressing the crisis of the diminishing faithful and the closure of much loved parish churches. Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, representing a drop of 40 per cent since 1963, but it fell further to 960,000 in 2004. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years, from 4,545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005.

And the Bishop’s conclusion is that mass education is causing the decline in Mass attendance. He said: ‘graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church's teaching they are "hedonistic", "selfish" and "egocentric".’

And in particular, it is the ‘influential Catholics in politics and the media’ who are ‘undermining the Church’.

To whom is the Bishop referring?

Tony Blair? Mark Thompson? Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay? Edward Leigh? Ann Widdecombe? Luke Coppen? Clifford Longley? Catherine Pepinster?

He is, of course, careful not to name names, and Cranmer thinks it may be none of the above. He specifies those who have been ‘compromised by their education’ which he said had a ‘dark side, due to original sin’.

It is curious that the Bishop singles out mass education as being infected by original sin. There could, of course, be no such virus in the seminaries or among the holy élite who are charged with bringing the eternal truths of Vatican II to the ignorant masses.

Bishop O'Donoghue’s remedy for the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain appears to involve stamping out this mass education because it has led to ‘sickness in the Church and wider society’. He explains:

"What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history - resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people's lives. However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism. Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalises God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him. It shouldn't surprise us that the shadows cast by the distortion of education, and corresponding societal changes, have also touched members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, even in the Church we find hedonism, selfishness and egocentric behavior."

It is the Catholic graduates in particular who are guilty of spreading lies and misinformation about the liturgy and doctrine of Vatican II because they have been ‘most exposed to the intellectual and moral spirit of the age’. And they are abusing their positions in politics and the media by ‘causing confusion and discord in the whole church’. Indeed, they have ‘corrupted the faith of those who have not gone to university’.

Bishop O'Donoghue’s reasoning can lead only to one conclusion. England must return to government by a priestly caste, to the days when the Bible was in Latin, not English; to the era when the Pope, his cardinals and bishops decided the content of canon law and the message came down to the laymen, and only when the Latin text was translated into the vernacular by the dutiful parish priest were the masses enlightened. Let those who are chosen by God do the leading. Let the uneducated remain uneducated, and let the poor remain poor. God forbid that lay Catholics should have access to a university education. Their radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism might even be corrupted by presumptuous manifestations of Protestantism.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UN appoints Saudi Arabia to lead on religious tolerance

As if further proof were needed of the ineptitude, hypocrisy and perverse morality of the United Nations, their conference on religious tolerance was presided over by none other than Saudi Arabia.

This is the Islamic kingdom that tortures ‘apostates’ and executes those who convert from Islam; the Islamic kingdom that bans all Bibles and demands that visitors display no symbols of other faiths; the Islamic kingdom that forbids the public practice of other religious faiths; the Islamic kingdom which has essentially no separation between religion and government; the Islamic kingdom whose citizens enjoy little religious freedom; the Islamic kingdom which bans the celebration of all religious festivals except Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha; the Islamic kingdom which itself denies ‘the right to practice one's religion’ and falls foul of the principles of religious freedom enshrined in the UN Charter.

This is the kingdom which even limits the practice of Islam to that of a school of the Sunni branch of Islam as interpreted by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, the godfather of Wahhabism which advocates a return to the practices of the first three generations of Islamic history. This, of course, was Islam at its most enlightened, tolerant and benevolent.

A nation that oppresses its religious minorities cannot have the moral authority to lead a conference which purports to be concerned with religious tolerance. The Islamic kingdom does not manifest any and is therefore not qualified to preside over the dialogue. In fact, one Saudi national who serves as director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs is of the opinion that Saudi Arabia is ‘the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia’.

Notwithstanding this inconvenient reality, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said of the inter-faith meeting: “The values it aims to promote are common to all the world's religions and can help us fight extremism, prejudice and hatred."

And he has the support of the General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto, a (former) Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua who is co-chairman of the conference. He said: “We're not here to talk about religion... We're here to talk about tapping our innermost values and putting them at the service of the world's neediest people.”

Excellent.

A UN conference on religious tolerance which will not talk about religion and which is presided over by one of the world’s most intolerant nations.

The United Nations is morally bankrupt. It may never have been conceived as an organisation of saints, but one might expect admission to a community of sinners to at least be predicated upon the notion of practising what one preaches, and honouring those who are faithful to its aims and objectives.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Baby P, Haringey, and the hypocrisy at the heart of Government

When two over-paid ‘comedians’ at the BBC phoned an elderly man and pestered him with expletives and abuse, the Prime Minister demanded that the BBC take action.

And so the Director General Mark Thompson did take action. There were suspensions, public reprimands, and the high-profile resignations of senior staff. Cranmer noted how Parliament might learn from the BBC.

And Gordon Brown was content that justice had been done, and public confidence at least partially restored.

Then a woman and her partner murder their 17-month old baby after an appallingly brutal series of attacks upon the infant, which included a broken back, fractured ribs and extensive bruising.

No-one at Haringey Council has been suspended, and no-one has resigned, for it is asserted that ‘proper procedures’ were followed.

But now it transpires that Government ministers were warned of the failings in child protection procedures in Haringey as long ago as February 2007. And they did nothing but pass the buck.

Come on, Prime Minister.

Let us hear of suspensions and sackings, reprimands and resignations.

How else will public confidence be restored in the Government’s ability to protect the nation’s children?

Or is the Ross/Brand affair somehow more morally repugnant and politically unpalatable than the murder of Baby P?

Prince Charles (King George VII) to be known as Defender of Faith

It is a curious coincidence that Cranmer was contemplating only yesterday the plans afoot to introduce multi-faith prayers into Parliament, and today The Daily Telegraph reveals that the Prince of Wales is ‘planning a symbolic change when he becomes King by taking the title Defender of Faith to reflect Britain's multicultural society’.

The royal title ‘Fidei defensor’ - usually translated 'Defender of the Faith' - was bestowed by Pope Leo X upon King Henry VIII in 1521, in recognition of the King’s book ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ which constituted the ‘Henrican Affirmation’ of inter alia the sacrament of marriage and papal supremacy. While the King was originally defending the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church against the Protestant ideas of Martin Luther, when the Reformation hit England and Henry was excommunicated, the title was revoked for Henry’s attack upon the Catholic faith. It was bestowed again upon King Edward VI by Parliament in 1544, and has since become the title of the Monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

And Prince Charles has decided to omit the ‘the’.

What’s in a word?

Well, quite a lot when that word is the definite article.

‘Defender of Faith’ is a theological world apart from ‘Defender of the Faith’. It is nice to profess to be a fusion of the cherry-picked best bits of all religions, to be perfectly in accord with the postmodern multi-faith zeitgeist. But it is not possible to defend a generalised faith when that faith is a plurality of mutually-exclusive theological propositions and conflicting dogmata. And does he not also feel obliged to be King to those of an atheist persuasion? In what sense are they accommodated in his new 'inclusive' and 'unifying' title?

Of course, the idea of a multi-faith coronation has been floated before, and it was utterly rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury (yes, he said something that was comprehensible, orthodox and dogmatic). He spoke of the ‘integrity’ of the Coronation ceremony, and the uniquely Christian moment of the anointing with holy oil.

It is not remotely likely, therefore - at least for as long as Rowan Williams is Archbishop of Canterbury - that Prince Charles would be permitted to do as he pleases with the Coronation ceremony. After all, it is Parliament that chooses the Monarch; it is no longer the Monarch who makes demands upon Parliament to change the law to accommodate his or her idiosyncrasies. If King George VII is not happy with the titles he shall inherit, he is welcome to abdicate in favour of King William V.

And Cranmer would like to respectfully remind Her Majesty the Queen that she swore at her Coronation in 1953 to uphold ‘the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel, maintain the Protestant reformed religion established by law and maintain and reserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England’.

So if your Majesty would care to nip this multi-faith profanity in the bud, Cranmer would be most appreciative. And if there is any more talk of the Church of England accommodating the next King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in his desire to swear his Coronation Oath upon the Qur’an, the Guru Granth Sahib and the Bhagavad Gita, then Anglican Orders shall indeed be absolutely null and utterly void.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Multi-faith prayers for Parliament

Cranmer uncovered a plot over a year ago to undermine the Anglican foundations of Parliament with a multi-faith mish-mash of puja, salah, prayers, meditations and incantations.

It seems his article was prophetic, for there are indeed ‘plans to end the dominance of the Anglican faith at the daily opening of Parliament’. Instead, it is intended that a plethora of gods would each take it in turn to receive the prayers of the politicians in an approach which is to be ‘modelled on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day’.

God help us.

Why Parliament – one of our greatest institutions – would wish to model any of its practices upon those of the BBC – one of our most inept – is quite incomprehensible. Until, of course, one considers that both are concerned with managing decline in an era obsessed with image.

Parliament’s own website hints at the change as the ‘Prayer’ section says: ‘there is currently no multi-faith element’. ‘Currently’ is ominous. The proposed change will involve a rotational approach to daily prayers. On Mondays, the Christians will invoke the name of Jesus; on Tuesday the Jews can do YHWH; on Wednesday it will probably be Allah – just to get the monotheists out of the way first; on Thursday the Hindus can have Krishna – unless they prefer Vishnu, Brahma or Shiva (possibly more apt); Friday the Sikhs get Waheguru; and the Buddhists, as ever, will not really be bothered.

It is convenient that Parliament sits for five days and the six ‘great world religions’ conveniently condense to one each day. Unless, that is, the Buddhists begin to make demands, in which case there will need to be a six-day rolling timetable.

But this whole notion is fraught with difficulties and bodes ill for religious harmony. For which expression of Christianity will be manifest on Mondays? Anglican? Orthodox? Roman Catholic? Scottish Presbyterian? Baptist? Methodist? And how will time be apportioned between Orthodox, Masorti or Reform Judaism? Will consideration be given to Sunni, Shi’a and Sufi sensitivities, or to the Hindu denominations of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism?

And what happens to the Jedi Knights? How could Parliament justify alienating the stated faith (according to the 2001 census) of hundreds of thousands of British people?

The Committee of Peers who are examining the plans include Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Rana. This is the sort of trendy development that comes as a consequence of abolishing all those peers who could trace their lineage back to the 16th century and beyond, to when the prayer traditions of Parliament were established. The whole fabric of Westminster is Christian: the faith is intricately woven into the traditions and practices of Parliament, and it would be a perverse and destabilising act of vandalism to abandon the settlement.

In the House of Lords, prayers are led by a senior Bishop of the Church of England (Lord Spiritual). Prayer in the House of Commons is presently read by the Speaker's Chaplain, and the form of the main prayer is as follows:

"Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed.
Amen."

Cranmer is persuaded that increasingly there will be less need in politics for those with degrees in law or economics, and that there will be more jobs for those with advanced degrees in religion. They will be needed to advise on how to neutralise the concerns of Catholic voters; they can help convince fence-sitting Jews that you are a true-blue friend of Israel; they can persuade the Muslims you really are a friend of Palestine; they can warn you against seeking the endorsement of contentious clerics of all varieties. In short, the ‘faith and values guru’ will be of more use than a dozen lawyers or economists. The religious-imaging specialists will know every important pundit and have the email address of every influential imam in the land, and they will become indispensable components of political campaigning.

In the coming years, all parliamentary candidates, not to mention hundreds of would-be peers or senators or whatever they are to be called, will call upon the services of the theologians.

But none shall be Anglican.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bishops should have banned Lisbon 'No'-vote Catholic newspaper

Cranmer has received a missive from one of his most valued Roman Catholic communicants on matters Irish, and they concern a little spat between prelates and politicians, the sort of which entertains His Grace no end.

The ‘Alive!’ Catholic monthly newspaper carried an article which said a ‘No’ vote for the Lisbon Treaty was a vote for God. One only usually hears this sort of pronouncement from the brethren over the pond, and it appears to have been a little lacking in nuance for some politicians, who are strongly of the opinion that it should have been banned from churches.

Banned?

There was a time when the Church suppressed the truth and silenced dissent, but now one looks to the more robust ‘right-wing’ Roman Catholic publications for a defence of liberty and truth.

The TDs and Senators on an Oireachtas Committee told Cardinal Seán Brady the ‘Alive!’ newspaper ‘confused and offended worshippers trying to make up their minds on the issue’. Members of the ‘Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union’ (is there a funded committee on Ireland’s future outside the EU?) also said Catholic Bishops ‘should have called for a definitive “Yes” vote instead of releasing a statement that was broadly supportive of the referendum’.

To general consternation among the Europhiliac politicos, the ‘Alive!’ newspaper ‘was freely available in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral for several weeks during the national debate’.

What an unacceptable blasphemy. What an appalling manifestation of heresy. What an abomination before the higher purposes of the omnipotent divinity which resides in Brussels. How dare a cathedral peddle such propaganda ‘freely’.

Cardinal Seán Brady worked in Rome for 20 years, and says he ‘believes passionately in Europe’.

This is encouraging, for Europe most certainly exists.

Indeed, it would be a little concerning if the Cardinal did not believe in a geographic entity, for the evidence for its existence is a little stronger than that for the Immaculate Conception or transubstantiation.

But The Cardinal undoubtedly has a point when he observes that ‘the aspirations and visions of the founders of the EU may have been suffocated by layers of bureaucracy in recent years’. Dr Brady asserts that ‘the EU actually promotes “a common evil” rather than a common good’, and this is manifestly a little unpalatable to those in the Republic desperately working towards a ‘resolution’ to the present ‘stalemate’.

Yet Cardinal Brady is a voice crying in the wilderness, and there is no shortage of religio-political forces which are seeking to isolate and silence the meddlesome priest. The ‘Catholic attacks’ on the EU are simply not acceptable: not only are they misplaced, but it is asserted that the EU ‘has never threatened the place of faith in Irish life and politics’.

So Dr Brady is delusional to talk of the absence of God in an ever-increasingly secular Europe, and is positively hyperbolical to talk of the EU’s ‘anti-family, anti-life and anti-Christian decisions’. Of course there is absolutely nothing in any EU law, directive or in its human rights agenda which would interfere with the Republic’s banning of abortion, the fact that the state broadcaster tolls the Angelus Bells at 6.00pm every day (this is the Catholic call to prayer Shhh! Don’t tell the Muslims), and nothing would ever encroach upon church control of the vast majority of Ireland’s schools.

According to The Guardian: ‘In Cardinal Brady's universe there is a simple black/white distinction between the good religious world and the very bad, nasty secular one. In his and the minds of other senior figures in the Irish Catholic church the historic crimes of the 20th century – the Holocaust, the gulags, the Great Leap Forwards, Year Zero – are merely the toxic by-product of European secularism. Of course, this ignores entirely the role of both Catholic and Protestant theology in the antisemitism preceding the Shoah or sectarian slaughter from the Balkans to Ulster.’

Unsurprisingly, The Guardian appears to be a little muddled on the issues. But then distinguishing between black and white has never been its forte, except, of course, between the good world of Socialism and the very bad, nasty Conservative one.

Yet Cranmer is taken with the Cardinal, most especially for his pronouncement that ‘the EU actually promotes “a common evil” rather than a common good’.

Let us today contemplate this, and also the limits of what Christians might do to limit the evil, for it indeed flourishes when good people do nothing.
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