Thursday, 3 March 2011

Should your Bishop tell you how to vote?

I have always believed that the Church should play a part in politics but only so far as issues concerning faith and morals are concerned; abortion, euthanasia, IVF, these are all valid issues that our pastors should stand up and lead us on in our stance as to where we place our particular "cross".

But I am not so sure about a general sweeping directive as to which political party we should support. In fact, I am very unsure about such a move. I remember back in the 1980s when I still put myself and my family through the pain of NO Sunday Mass celebrated by a rather pompous curate who gave sermons on the teachings of Ghandi and whom, rather spectacularly, one Sunday, told us that, as Catholics, it was our duty to vote for Labour. I tackled him on this subject (among many others) but got absolutely nowhere, but in those days, I tried so very hard to make allowances for such nitwittery. Now I don't bother, age has its compensations.

But now, the Bishops of Wales, bless them, have put their oar in the water with regard to today's electoral vote as to whether the Welsh Assembly should have law giving powers or whether it should remain subject to the Whitehall rubber stamp.

"After me now - all vote YES!"
Now let me say that I do understand the frustration of my Welsh friends who feel that all that they do has to be approved of by English men and women. But then, in England, we also have Welsh MPs who vote and debate on subjects of intense Englishness. Fairness? What has fairness got to do with anything?

Let us put on one side for a minute, this notion of partisanship, of England versus Wales or, vice versa! What I am concerned with is the right of a Bishop to advise his flock as to how they should vote. Forgive me, but Bishops have been remarkably silent over things such as Homosexual Adoption (they have let go the Catholic Adoption Agencies lest they or someone very close to them might be had up before the beak on charges relating to sticking up for one's faith). The Bishops have been somehat invisible when it comes to prayer groups outside abortuaries, of leading petitions regarding euthanasia or allowing the elderly and infirm to die for lack of hydration in hospital. But they are pretty good at joining pop stars and B list celebs at their partying in Switzerland or St Trop or wherever (that is rather snide of me but it is true).
So I do get a little peeved when I hear things like the Bishops of Wales (Regan of Wrexham who is long past his sell by date and Burns of Menevia) together with Mgr Bob Reardon who is sitting on the pyre that is the Cardiff Archdiocese who have, apparently issued a statement that was read out at Masses in Wales last Sunday, telling us mindless morons, that it is our duty to vote for law giving powers for the Assembly - pause for deep breath!

I have some knowledge of the internal workings of the Assembly - it is not for the faint hearted or for those who are in the process of digesting a meal. I recall (pre Assembly days) when the Welsh Development Agency was in full swing, of meeting their top honcho in Japan. He had no concept of the geography of West Wales and even less knowledge of the economic situation. That evening, at a VIP party given in our honour in Tokyo, he fell off his chair (next to me) totally inebriated. A few months later the Western Mail exposed him as being the highest paid member of the WDA staff ( c. £250,000 pa) with an expense account of £25,000 per quarter to boot. That is a sort of metaphor as to how I see today's Welsh Assembly - a gross waste of money and not fully compos mentis as to where it is going. So why give it more power? It's not as if it was a good democratic decision in the first place. It slipped into being like a phantom pregancy that, in the ninth month suddenly came to fruition to the surpise and astonishment of all.
Is half way through Mass an appropriate time and place to give advice as to where one should place one's cross? Is it the role of the Bishop (or Monsignor) to tell us where we should give our loyalty?
No, of course it isn't but, apparently, the Catholic masses (as opposed to the Masses) are brainless numbskulls who very much depend on pastoral letters to tell them what to do.
If only Monty Python was still running they would find such rich material here!


  1. Is this statement available anywhere online (I suppose not, knowing the our dear Catholic Church in Wales...)? Alas (and alack) I forgot to pick up my copy on leaving Mass last week (possibly because I was still seething because the Homily had been replaced with a talk about gift aid...). Anyway, I had no troubled conscience thanks to that oversight (not that I would have had at any rate) placing my cross in the 'no' box.

  2. Mystra - apparently not but it is reported in the Welsh media if you Google it.

  3. I broadly agreed with the statement by the Welsh Bishops, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable because it wasn't a "cut and dry" issue for Catholics (some Catholic friends are rabid nationalists, some are diehard unionists) and I worry then that if there was a vote for womens' rights for example, would the Bishops speak out - and might I vehemently disagree with them? After all, I am deeply uncomfortable with the "right" of lay people to distribute Communion and that #seems# to be OK with the Bishops.

    So, I would say an "OK" to the statement in and of itself, but am left just a tad uneasy in that it could set a precedent.

    After all, not so long ago the Church may have opposed the UN (especially some of its morality) yet in latter years the UN seems to have had a 'political' imprimatur from the Vatican.

    After all, having Welsh laws passed in Wales can be no bad thing ('democracy' and all), but Wales will probably always have a socialist slant, and if the abortion laws are liberalised here then the Church will have to steam in!

    What fun.