19 October 2021

Sir David Amess

 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.


PDLeck said...

All MPs have a 'background' and that must influence their behaviour as MPs. I hope. and trust, Sir David's Catholic Faith made him a better MP for ALL his constituents.

I don't suppose the police had time to allow the priest to give Sir David the Last Rites. Did he remember to bring his DBS certificate with him? Was there time to hold a safeguarding meeting? Would there have been time to carry out a risk assessment and then get a senior officer's approval? A man was dying so we couldn't possibly allow a man dressed in clerical garb, which he may have been wearing as a subterfuge, to go anywhere near a dying man with some olive oil.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The gentleman could have hidden behind the Jebbie generate dodge- "I am personally opposed..."

Who is responsible for the personally-opposed Catholic politician?

* On September 27, 1960 at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington DC, Father Gustave Weigel S.J. (naturally) delivered a speech that gave moral cover for countless putative Catholic politicians (Kennedy, Cuomo, Pelosi etc etc etc ) to be considered acceptable, if not principled, to declare that they are personally opposed to _____ (fill in the blank) but that they do not want to force their religious beliefs on others who disagree with them.

Weigel surrendered what was left of the Catholic Church's remaining moral order in society and were the AmBishops quick to correct him?

Come on...

The AmBishops copied his speech and delivered it to every Catholic in every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in America.

Weigel said (Paraphrasing) that a Catholic politician led a "double life" because he worships as a private person but is also a man of law which is of practical consequences and is the product of no philosophy or theology.

Well, so much for Christendom then...

* Ppg 592-596 "John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and The American Proposition; How the CIA/s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church" David A Wemhoff.


armyarty said...

There remains in Britain a strong element of Anti-Catholic bigotry, that is often invisible, or at least very subtle, to those who do not know what to look for. From snide comments about Mrs. Fitzherbert (or Hanover!) posted at the National Gallery, to willful misstatements about Queen Mary I, so wrongly called "bloody," it is pervasive. It is usually veiled, but it is very real.

This animosity toward the Church is odd, because even though it is pervasive, and of long standing, radical Protestantism has never taken deep root in England itself,- as opposed to Wales and large parts of Scotland, where it has. It owes its existence to the fact that for generations, Englishmen have been taught to hate all things Catholic.

Despite the horror so carefully inculcated in England for all things Catholic, there seems to be an instinct for the ancient faith among the people at large. They may have been taught slanderous tales against the Church, and been lead to believe that there is such a thing as "monkish ignorance", It never quite takes hold of the whole of the national consciousness.

Yet it persists. To hear that a man was denied the last rites by the police is proof that we are still despised in many a quarter.

I would venture to predict that in another twenty years, the only functioning part of the C of E as a recognizably Christian body will be that part of it that maintains a recognizable level of belief in Catholic doctrine, morality and practice.

Buckle13 said...

On the unpleasant subject of political assasination would you review the requiem Mass of President John F Kennedy which is available on YouTube? https://youtu.be/kPXSwoTcL0g

vetusta ecclesia said...

I suspect that on these matters the police are plain ( culpably) ignorant. Sadder is that there has not been a stronger reaction from Catholics over the refusal of last rites. I fear too many, poorly catechised, don’t think it matters much. After all the Pope is always on about mercy , less so about the Church’s sacraments of mercy, which are , of course, in rather rigid form.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

And yet not a word about the underlying cause for this crime and for an avalance of other evils afflicting England (Rotherham as the emblem of it all): the church-supported barbarian invasions by the Third World, the destruction of the English nation's natural identity, and the presence of these aliens as the fuel for pathologizing and criminalizing the entire history of England, effectively making the native peoples strangers in their own and only homeland. Not a word.

Colin Spinks said...

Requiem aeternam dona eo Domine.

I share your misgivings Father about the coverage of this dreadful occurrence in our woeful excuse for national media. I think you are right to feel affronted by the question of Faith making "any difference" to the work of a public servant. It was clear that the presumption was any such difference would be a negative one, that such "superstitious" views can only hold one back from offering service freely to all people in need. Where are the religious commentators to challenge this scandalous presumption and say, as they should: "Whilst of course we all, through human weakness, fail to help those in need as much as we should, it remains central to the Church's teaching that we continue to offer that help to all regardless of creed, colour etc etc". Another very revealing aspect was the 'analysis' of the police's refusal to allow administration of the Last Rites. Even those arguing the Priest should have been let in appear to have missed the point: their criticism was based around such platitudes as "It's what he would have wanted", "He had a basic human right to this (quaint) ritual". Doesn't this display a fundamental ignorance about the nature of Catholicism and indeed religion in general? Religious observances such as the Sacraments, including Extreme Unction, are not just nice things we like doing to make us feel comfortable, nor are they exercises in asserting our "rights", they are simply what the Church DOES in response to the loving example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Forbidding such observances is not a denial of a man's rights, it is a denial of his very essence.

Requiescat in pace.

Roger Sponge said...

Spot on Father.

I am curious as to the apparent lack of Catholic representation at St Margaret’s of the Commons to “celebrating the life of” Sir David. I saw the AoC speaking, but neither the Cardinal or Bishop of Brentwood.

Did they speak or lead a prayer?

Peter said...

Father, don't you know that abortion, paid for by the taxpayer, is now an essential service in "Western Civilization". Just try not to think of the blood and guts.

Banshee said...

It could be argued that since Amess was martyred, the Last Rites would be just icing on the cake. But somehow I don't think that's what the police meant....

Susan, TOF said...

I fully agree, Fr. Hunwicke. We have heard of this dreadful murder here in the States, and of Sir David's exemplary life and devotion to living the teaching of the Church, and to his vocations as a good Catholic family man and representative of his constituency.

It seems to me that asking the input of an Anglican bishop, in place of Sir David's own bishop, is a very rookie error of judgment, unworthy of a professional journalist working for an organization of the caliber of the BBC. I suspect that the reporter, and perhaps the audience, are so lacking in knowledge of two of the major Christian denominations of the UK that no one questioned this.

As for the local police not permitting a priest to administer the Sacrament of Anointing, or Last Rites, this is inexcusable and horrible. I am so glad that a Catholic bishop is taking immediate action to be sure that this *never* happens again.

Warmest Franciscan blessings, and grateful appreciation to you for your holy vocation - Susan, TOF (Third Order Franciscan)

Banshee said...

Re:armyarty's comments above -- Well, obviously I don't live in the UK, but I can't even imagine that one episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures (with the evil nuns) ever being aired in the US, much less as a "kids' show."

I mean, even if you do takebacks later, and say, "Oh, they were space aliens! And mind control! And they really weren't evil lesbian nuns attacking the nice Anglican lady!"

It was really disgusting. And especially given that the showrunner was from Doctor Who fandom, and knew perfectly well that the K-9 and Company novelization was Terence Dudley's big "Anglican patrimony" story, including the T.S. Eliot churchyard thing that was cut from the TV script....