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September 19, 2010

Comments

Charlie

Over the last couple of years we've had quite a bit of the 'we're socially liberal but fiscally conservative' schtick from the British right. Including Tony Blair, who often went on about how wonderful it was that citizens in the UK could have sex with whoever they wanted ... basically, as long as the proles worked hard and played by the rules for the best part of the week, no one in government would object much to what they did in their time off.

I wonder if this value set isn't now changing, or at least acquiring a new mode: listening to Charles Moore on the radio this morning, it was suddenly obvious that Catholicism has become the choice of those for whom the Church of England isn't sufficiently assertive as a moral arbiter. This isn't necessarily to do with women priests or gay marriage or any specific; the basic issue is authority. This group of rightists - for whom Newman is a pioneer - desires there to be an authority with respect to all beliefs. Newman writes about garbage like transubstantiation; the point is that it's basically a test of intellectual obedience, and he wants there to be such a test. For these people, the Anglican church simply hasn't stepped up to the plate like it should have done; it's been far too modest and concerned with humble stuff like practising what you preach, when what's wanted is that someone just does some telling. The Vatican sees a straightforward opportunity here, and they aren't being any too subtle about it, it seems.

Richard J

it was suddenly obvious that Catholicism has become the choice of those for whom the Church of England isn't sufficiently assertive as a moral arbiter

Is that a real change, though? Certainly seems to have been a motive for most of the high-profile 20th century literary converts I can think of.

Charlie

Suddenly obvious to me. I'm slower than some.

But I do wonder if the issue hasn't gotten clouded by the specifics, in that there's a sense of 'authority' in which it only matters that some people do the telling and some get told. What the telling is constituted of doesn't matter. Hence gay marriage isn't an issue as gay marriage; I suspect that for converts from Anglicanism, the Catholic church could ignore the issue of gay marriage completely so long as it preaches something that's unpalatable and difficult for some.

jamie

Ah, yes indeed. So the Obedience Imperative replaces the Respect Agenda and dovetails nicely with the Treasury View. That answers the question I asked in the post I just made on the subject.

Richard J

Your comment about transubstantation's bang on, though. I've always felt it to be some kind of macho SAS-style initiation test for bookworms - if you can convince yourself that something so self-evidently bonkers is the truth, then you can, in all senses, believe anything.

ajay

It's been interesting to see that the Telegraph's natural antipathy towards large, unaccountable, overbearing, corrupt bureaucracies run by foreigners (eg: the European Commission) is so easily overridden by its instinctive affection for large organisations of considerable age run by old men in peculiar clothing (the House of Lords, the Carlton Club, the Brigade of Guards).

Alex

The thing about the literary Catholics was that they had advisory, rather than operational, authority - literally in Evelyn Waugh's case. It wasn't anything that was going to get implemented. The political spectrum was either Tories (theoretically militant Protestant, in practice secular) or Labour (in practice secular, even if a lot of its support are Methodists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus etc on their time off).

I do think that Catholic Tories are possible, more because key moralising voices are of that persuasion than anything else.

Darius Jedburgh

Newman "didn't believe in miracles outside nature"? Where did you hear that?

ejh

I think Charlie's on the money. The points about transubstantiation are interesting enough but he's got the big picture right: this is about the people who think we need to be obedient and not question things, finding the vehicle by which they would like this to be achieved.

There's obviously all kinds of other elements (Catholic art and aesthetics, a liking for piety etc) but that's the main point. It doesn't matter a damn whether or not most Catholics vote Labour. What matters is that the Church has authority vested in it not by man or by man's interpretation of the Bible, but by God, because they say so. And they want to say so.

jamie

Darius: In RI, from Brother O'Shea, some thirty years ago. Dimly recalled, I must say.

redpesto

it was suddenly obvious that Catholicism has become the choice of those for whom the Church of England isn't sufficiently assertive as a moral arbiter

This was pretty obvious when Widdecombe jumped ship. You could even argue that she left politics because even the Tory party (part from the conference crazies) was buying that schtick, especially after she went 'zero tolerance' re. drugs, only to find half the Shadow Cabinet had been former tokers.

redpesto

Correction:

This was pretty obvious when Widdecombe jumped ship. You could even argue that she left politics because even the Tory party (part from the conference crazies) wasn't buying that schtick, especially after she went 'zero tolerance' re. drugs, only to find half the Shadow Cabinet had been former tokers.

Tom

My dad, who has an interest having attended the former St. Philip's Grammar School attached to the Oratory, summed up Benny's visit to his home town with the phrase 'of course, Newman was a nance'.

On Alex's point - there were always a lot of right wing Jews in Labour for the simple reason that there were a lot of anti-Semites in the Tories. This changed completely, of course, with the advent of a certain small town Methodist. In that sense, Baroness Warsi Doing God may well attract members of other faiths of a conservative disposition, and is thus a simple vote-grabbing exercise aimed at disaffected Labour voters.

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