Tony Blair has completed his long anticipated conversion to Catholicism.Now, that's putting it mildly! I don't doubt the sincerity of Blair's desire to be Catholic, but he and the Church Catholic have been poorly served by ignoring the several elephants in the chapel and downplaying the extent to which his position on several issues put him outside the pale.
The former prime minister joined the faith at a service in a chapel in Westminster, after years of speculation that he would convert after leaving Downing Street.
Mr Blair, whose wife Cherie and four children are Catholic, met Pope Benedict XVI on an official visit in June - his third trip to the Vatican in four years.
Now a Middle-East peace envoy, he was reluctant to convert while in office because it could have caused a potential conflict with his role in choosing Church of England bishops.
His views on abortion, gay rights and stem cell research were also at odds with Catholic teaching, and his parish priest Fr Timothy Russ commented that he had “some way to go” on important moral issues.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has welcomed Mr Blair into the faith. He said: “For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion."Frankly, the whole thing leaves me speechless.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has also wished the former Prime Minister well in his spiritual journey: "Tony Blair has my prayers and good wishes as he takes this step in his Christian pilgrimage."
Damien Thompson comments:
Yesterday the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster received into the Catholic Church a politician who consistently voted in favour of abortion and, as Prime Minister, refused to countenance any reduction in the time limit for “terminations”. In the eyes of the Church, he has the blood of innocents on his hands.
Don’t ask me for an explanation: I simply don’t understand. Has Tony Blair changed his mind about abortion? If so, why has he not said so publicly?
I repeat: I do not understand what has happened. Can anyone enlighten me?
Edited to add:
I'm thinking that maybe my initial reaction doesn't do sufficient justice to the power of the Holy Spirit; I pray that the grace of Christ may work within Mr Blair. May he be a holy and faithful member of the Church.