Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Is there a 'Collaborationist Catholicism' at work in England?

After this post was written, and after several bloggers (Ttony, James Preece and John Smeaton) had taken Francis Davis to task for his appalling treatment of Fr Leon Pereira and his championing of Jon Cruddas, Davis removed all the relevant posts from his blog The Principled Society.. What he needs to do in fact is to issue a full apology to Fr Pereira on his blog. Justice and charity demand it.

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Let me begin by defining my terms. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism', I do not mean the kind of Catholicism which one might have witnessed under the Vichy Regime - the government led by Marshal P├ętain in France from 1940-1944. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism' what I mean is a Catholicism which behaves towards civil power like the Vichy government behaved towards the Third Reich. I mean a kind of Catholicism which thinks that 'resistance' is futile, naive and 'not very constructive'. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism' I mean a kind of Catholicism which would praise its own kind for being conciliatory - not like that nasty American Catholicism which is so divisive. By a 'Collaborationist Catholicism' I also mean a kind of Catholicism whose adherents very often give the impression that they secretly agree with some of the key values of their political overlords, no matter how hypocrtical this makes them.


I ask the question because I, like James Preece and Ttony, have been surprised at the defence given to the egregious Jon Cruddas by Francis Davis. Though Davis has taken down his CV from his blog, he is according to other sources a Fellow of Blackfriars, Oxford [UPDATE: apparently, so a source informs me, he is no longer so], and he even sits on a HEFCE Panel. What, then, does he think he is doing by indulging in this sub-critical attack on Fr Pereira?

But let me come back to my point: is this not a sound example of 'Collaborationist Catholicism'? Fr Pereira bucks the conciliatory trend which Davis would prefer Catholics to take. Davis never makes clear quite what glorious achievements the conciliatory action of Jon Cruddas has brought about. Personally, I have my doubts; just take a look at his voting record. One wonders if Cruddas has ever thought of thinking for himself at all. He appears not to have bothered thinking for the unborn in any discernibly Christian way.

And one must wonder why Davis comes to Cruddas's defence with such cringe-making enthusiasm. A perusal of Davis's blog shows he has been championing Cruddas's cause recently, but then never does he provide any evidence - it bears repeating - of what is so miraculously beneficial about the service Cruddas renders to his country. It is intriguing that Davis thinks Cruddas is an example of an MP defending justice 'in extremely trying times'. Could this be a reference to Cruddas's support for the squalid Iraq war, or perhaps for his vote against the requirement for children born through fertility treatment to have a mother and a father?

Yes - the Collaborationist Catholic says - all you r├ęsistants are naive fools. You should look to how successful and close to power Jon Cruddas is and marvel at his wonderous star. Because look what Cruddas has achieved by being so close to power: he has consistently voted with his party! And, in any case, Cruddas is a fighter for justice, as all the unborn children in this country will no doubt agree.

Truly, this is 'Collaborationist Catholicism' - craven before corrupt authorities, happy to cover its collaboration with the mantle of constructive conversations, delighted to label as hopelessly naive those who believe in firmer resistance, and entirely, utterly, callously careless of what it loses by being so conformist.

4 comments:

Lazarus said...

Can't understand why blatant disregard of fundamental teachings by politicians seems to be thought of as something to be passed over in silence. Clearly there are prudential questions about what the reaction should be, but something needs to be said and done if a Catholic MP is regularly ignoring the Church. Does Cruddas think that collaboration will achieve the best results in the end? (A perhaps understandable view -after all, Vichy did have something to be said for it whatever our final judgment on its collaboration.) Or does he simply think he has a conscientious right to make up Catholic doctrine as he pleases?

Toby said...

Slightly tangential, but here are some comments I wrote to a friend following a lecture by Chris Patten that I attended. Had I known of the term at the time I would have described his thoughts as the perfert example of "Collaborationist Catholicism". I definitely agree that the mindset you describe is alive and well in most of the Catholics in senior positions in public life.
Lord Patten on “Private Values, Public Duties: some of the dilemmas of policy-making”
A few of my observations from his talk:
(i) Patten spoke of what a credit it was to the Catholic Church and to a lesser extent society that there was no a great outcry about Catholics such as himself and Mark Thompson holding high-ranking public positions.

This struck me as begging the question why the National Secular Society and the British Humanists are not full of outrage. Given their outrage prior to the Pope's visit, surely, one possible answer was that if you are not living Catholic values authentically in your work then you are doing their work for them. You become exactly the sort of Catholic they want us to be: those who worship in private and leave it at the door of the Church and then abide by secular values in public. That way we can all agree that God has no place in the public arena and therefore given that as a Catholic all your views are informed by your faith they can be dismissed unless they agree with the secular view. That way the religious viewpoint becomes neutered in the public sphere.

(ii) He said that in his experience the moral decision was normally the most expedient.
I thought that the patron of the society which he was addressing, St Thomas More, might have something to say on this one! The Oath of Supremacy would certainly have been more expedient for More, unless martyrdom was his aim! Abortion is certainly more expedient that the difficulty of bringing up a child that was not planned, I would dispute though whether it was the moral decision.

Toby said...

Sorry for length - prev post cont:

(iii) He spoke about being guided by his inner moral compass on difficult issues without referencing the Church's teaching on these issues.

Phrases like this and "do what my conscience tells me" tend to cause me a bit of a shudder now when I think how I used to interpret them. Before I was given a proper understanding of what a informed Catholic conscience was by Fr Alexander Sherbrook at St Patrick's Soho, I had a wonderful inner moral compass which was unfailingly accurate in guiding me towards whatever I fancied doing at any particular time.

(iv) As example of living his faith in public policy making he spoke about how he sought to get capital punishment abolished in Hong Kong and yet how he supported abortion for women's health reasons and in cases of rape.

Being against capital punishment for the guilty, but for it in certain circumstances for the innocent unborn strikes me as being an entirely contradictory position. Furthermore, he didn't even seek to reconcile the variance in his position with that of the Church which he holds himself out as being a high profile member of and seemed to actively endorse a pick 'n mix attitude on important moral questions.

(v) Talking re population in the third world, he said that Catholic aid agencies were in terribly difficult position and that he hoped that nuns and other workers were given all the necessary support when faced with difficult decisions about contraception and that it was impossible to ignore the fact that in the poorest countries the birth rate was above those in the developed world and serious thought needed to be given to this.

Well quite, but sadly on the last point he would not have us look to our own contraceptive mentality and culture of death, but would rather foist our failed experiment upon countries with booming populations and a respect for (in spite of the difficulties and inexpediencies) life. Despite speaking earlier of colonisation as being negative, perhaps he though we should make this one final act. Rather than look to the teaching of the Church his attitude of do what you "feel" is right makes life more difficult for the nuns and other aid workers: they shouldn't have a difficult decision to make on contraceptives, they should just follow the Church's teaching, but high profile dissenting Catholics force a decision that never should have to have been entertained upon them.
I think he verges on being that sort of professional Catholic who does very well by his association to the Church but unwittingly can cause great damage. Still, I do hear that he helped get the funding and organisation of the Papal Visit back on track in the lead-up; a not insignificant achievement.

Queen of Puddings said...

Stop press! Davis has deleted both of his 'post cancellation' posts. No mention of Fr Pereira remains on his blog.

(Lucky I read them last night!)

Well done Brian!