On Tony Blair’s and My Own Roman Catholicism

When I posted my thoughts and opinion on Tony Blair’s conversion to Roman Catholicism,
the last thing I expected was for it to generate a controversy and
sharp disagreements with one of my “integral” buddies, or any of my
readers for that matter. I guess that’s what happens when you have a
blog as a megaphone. You post an opinion on a sensitive matter, be
prepared to be challenged. Ah, the perks and perils of being a
passionate blogger.

I’d like to put this issue behind me already. So in this post, I hope to make myself clear and set the record straight.

Matthew Dallman posted a follow up comment on my original post. He questions the ethics and morality of my intention. And I quote:

“I’m arguing, given that you have your opinion (that it is in your words
replusive, politically expedient, insincere), that the quality of your
opinion dictates that you should keep it to yourself, and not air it.
For to do so, in my view, is unbecoming, disrespectful, the height of
hubris, and an example of poor ethics, and poor morality.”

[if you want to read the rest of Dallman’s objection, here’s the link to his comment.]

Fine. Dallman is entitled to his own opinion, of course. But I don’t
play by his rules of ethics and morality. I don’t see anything
unethical or immoral with my original post. Me and Dallman don’t see eye to eye on
this one. So I would no longer attempt to convince him and defend
myself. I’ll just leave it at that.

I apologize to Dallman if I’ve offended him in anyway in my follow up post. But I think I’ve explained my reasoning very clearly in that post as well.

I still stand by my original post. I can respect and criticize at the
same time. But this time, instead of responding directly to Dallman,
allow me to reflect on my own intention.

First, let’s look at this objectively.

Originally, I questioned the political intent
of Blair’s conversion to Roman Catholicism. One of the main reasons why
I even bothered posting my opinion about it on my blog is that, Blair’s conversion is historic in secular Britain.
Before I even posted my opinion on my blog, it already generated tons
of opinions from news sites and blogs all around the world. That’s how
connected we are.

Case in point: Check out the links below.



So you see, it’s fair game to react on Blair’s conversion due to his significance as a public personality.

Now let’s look at the political significance of Blair’s conversion. Here’s a quote from The Spectator.

“To critics within the Church, Mr Blair was — as one priest puts it —
‘the most anti-Catholic Prime Minister of modern times’. Others,
especially Evangelicals, go further and describe his policies as
broadly anti-Christian. He has legalised homosexual civil unions and
gay adoptions. He has championed stem-cell research — and with a
fervour that contrasts starkly with his friend George Bush’s opposition
to such research. He voted against lowering the abortion limit from 26
weeks to the present 24. His credentials are those of the perfect
secular liberal. All this makes it baffling that he should now choose
to join the Church that has so often attacked New Labour’s legislative
programme. His friend Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has been an
outspoken critic, but Mr Blair has, apparently, been unmoved.

“Joining the Catholic Church is not for the doctrinally fainthearted.
The convert must first make confession of his serious sins. Next comes
the Rite of Reception which includes the declaration: ‘I believe and
profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and
proclaims to be revealed by God.’ Ann Widdecombe says she had struggled
with this sentence before being able to convert herself. ‘So either
Tony Blair will perjure himself on a massive scale, or he has genuinely
repented. But we can’t send a message that we accept people just
because they used to be the prime minister.’”

Now, do I believe that Tony Blair has “repented” and now accepts
the authority of the Catholic Church without question? I doubt it. But
I will leave it to him to say it for himself, if and when he publishes
a memoir
. Too bad they don’t do God in Britain.

Here’s another possible political implication. Tony Blair’s wife Cherie was quoted saying:

“Mrs Blair made her position explicit in an article two years ago in
which she confessed to having ‘doubts’ about some of the Church’s
teachings. ‘But I have been taught that you should stay and try to
change things. It’s like the Labour party in the 1980s. I wasn’t happy
with the way it was going, so I tried to help change it from within.
Luckily, we won that battle.’ For all the breathtaking
presumptuousness, one cannot fault her ambition. Today: Westminster.
Tomorrow: Rome.”

So here’s another speculation: Is Tony Blair’s conversion a
strategy on their part to “change things” within the heart of the
Catholic Church (i.e. The Vatican)? I don’t know about you, but though
I don’t question Cherie Blair’s personal faith, her statement sounds
very political to me. I wish them good luck.

Now on to my shadow

I respect Blair’s choice of faith. It’s his choice and his alone. Aside
from his personal faith and other possible political reasons,
Blair converted to Roman Catholicism because of his kinship and love for his wife and kids. I sympathize with that. For the record, I respect the personal faith and for kinship reasons.

My “repulsion”
to Blair’s conversion has more to do with my own repulsion to the Roman
Catholic Church (as a mythic religion) than with Blair’s right to
convert to any religion. Blair’s conversion triggered my own personal shadow with the Church. It also reflected my own projection on Blair as a progressive world leader of a secular
nation. Since I’m still technically a Roman Catholic (of the
non-practicing variety), in a sense, Blair and I are on the opposite
sides of the same boat. Allow me to share my own personal story…

I’m Roman Catholic not by choice, but by virtue of the religion of my
parents and my country of birth. I didn’t choose to be Roman Catholic.
I grew up in a Catholic country wherein it’s customary to profess
belief at a very young age. I had my first communion when I was 8 years
old. I was too young to understand what I was getting into when I
uttered the (Nicene) Creed. But I did remember “believing” most of it. I no longer believe in it. I’ve long outgrown my own mythic belief as a Catholic.

So, how come I didn’t convert to other religion? Well, because I don’t
resonate with any other religion. And besides, for me, converting to
another religion is just like going from one box to another. I’d rather
not be bounded by another box which I’m not very familiar with,
socially or culturally. But to be honest, I have more affinity with
Buddhism than with any other religion.

So, why not convert to Buddhism
then? Well, because, for me, Buddhism is really *not* a religion.
It’s more of a philosophy, a way of life, a guide for ethical living, a personal “spirituality.” But I
don’t feel like identifying myself exclusively with mythic Buddhism, its
dogmas, and its mythic practices.

So, why not profess Atheism then?
Well, because I don’t see myself purely as an atheist. My philosophy is
more like agnostic Buddhist.

But why stay as a non-practicing Roman Catholic then? Ah, truth be
told, it’s more for family, friends, and loved ones. I guess I’m guilty
by association when it comes to religious politics of fictive kinship. Then so be it.

Now you see the shadow part of my reaction to Blair’s conversion?

That said, I stand by 100% and take full responsibility for my original post on Tony Blair’s conversion to Roman Catholicism. Thanks to Dallman, I am now more conscious of it objectively and subjectively.

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