Early on Sunday morning, I lent half an ear to part of a programme called Sunday on the Beeb. It was ... if this is the right word ... being 'anchored' this week by ... if I heard aright ... one Emily Buchanan.
The lady sounded perfectly charming ... despite the fact that English is apparently not her first language. I do not hold that against her one little bit! One slip as an example for you: she said that somebody whose book she was reviewing "has weaved together ...". Not, of course, at all a terrible error. When she has settled down in our country, I am sure that she will get the hang of the English Language and speak it far better than most of us "cradle British".
I was ... seriously ... rather more upset by some other features of the programme, which I suspect are the fault of those who put the programme together, and not of Ms Buchanan herself. She was dealing with the tragic death of an MP called Sir David Amess, who sat for a constituency in my native Essex. Being a fellow Essex Man makes me feel protective towards his memory, quite apart from the fact that he is a fellow Catholic.
His Catholicism caused, I felt, some embarassment.
After a death, and a fortiori after the death of somebody horrifically knifed by a possible terrorist, our custom is to say nil nisi bonum de mortuis.
This has meant that the majority of the commentariate has skated with embarrassment round Sir David's strong opposition to Abortion.
But things went even further in the Sunday programme. Buchanan asked whether the fact that he was a Catholic "made any difference" to the service he gave to his constituents of other faiths.
Perhaps I am being over-sensitive here. But it did seem to me that this rather leading question was meant to be taken in the sense "Did his Catholicism make him less fair to non-Catholic constituents?" rather than "Did his Catholicism make him an even better MP to all his constituents, including non-Catholics?"
Yes ... perhaps I am a bit unfair ... mention was indeed made of the influence of Catholic Social Teaching on his work ...
But, even more strangely, comment was sought from the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford.
I do not blame her Ladyship for this. She made very clear that she had only recently taken over her diocese and did not know Sir David. She kept repeating phrases such as "What I have heard is that ...". It would be totally unfair for me or anyone to criticise her. But ... why could Sir David's own Bishop, the Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, Bishop Alan, not have been given a voice? Or, if he was unavailable, the local Catholic pp, Fr Jeffrey Woolnough (a Mirfield man), who featured on a brief clip the previous evening, speaking very well and and pastorally and movingly during a Requiem at S Peter's Catholic Church.
If a prominent Anglican died in circumstances calling for episcopal comment, I very much doubt if the commentariate would go running to a local Catholic Bishop unless there were a very special reason (for example, if the two knew each other particularly well).
Finally: I do not find it easy to feel happy about the (immensely revealing) reasons the police have offered for refusing to allow Fr Woolnough to administer the Church's Last Sacraments to Sir David. They amount to an ignorant assertion that such things do not matter. This sort of disdainful behaviour does little to enhance the reputation of the police for respect towards religious people of whatever religion or culture. And this is a time when the reputation of the police could do with quite a lot of enhancing. When, in the early Seventies, I was a curate in a rough area of inner-city South London, police and clergy found it possible to respect each other and their respective roles.
It would be so nice if we could see just a trifle less of what can look like Anglican Imperialism; and Beeb insensitivity; and police arrogance.
Cardinal Nichols, by the way, spoke on TV the previous evening with his customary sure-footed grace and sensitivity. Tactfully, respectfully, he alluded gently to the Methodist Church on whose premises Sir David was murdered.
Cuius animae propitietur Deus.