Tuesday, 15 September 2009

L'Osservatore: effusive interview with Tony Blair

Back in May, I wrote about an article in L'Osservatore Romano which was astonishingly favourable to Barack Obama, saying among other things that he is not a pro-abortion president. (See: Criticism of L'Osservatore Romano builds.) Yesterday afternoon's Italian edition continues the trend with an interview with Tony Blair that even the Guardian describes as effusive.

A few blogs have picked this up from the Guardian article - including John Smeaton, SPUC Director who gives the list of Tony Blair's anti-life record: voting for abortion up to birth, and personally championing destructive experiments on human embryos to give just two examples. For the full list and other links, see: Vatican newspaper should not have given Tony Blair an easy ride.

The Vatican website carries the Italian text of the full interview. I expected that the question of abortion might have been ignored. In fact there is the following scarcely believable exchange (my translation):
[Giulia Galeotti] More generally, do you believe that in modern democracies, a politician has the right to speak in the name of his faith - declaring himself, for example, against abortion because it violates the fifth commandment - or does he on the other hand have the duty to be quiet about his personal beliefs?

[Tony Blair] I have always held that people have the right to speak. I have greatly insisted on this in Great Britain. Also because these are issues about which people feel strongly, that are important for them. People think differently about these matters, and if a person believes something that is absolutely central for him, he has the right to speak about it.

[Giulia Galeotti] Turning to you, has anything changed since your conversion in your personal life (for example, as a father), in your political activity in Great Britain, or in your new role on the international scene?

[Tony Blair] As a father, there was only continuity. My three oldest children, now grown up, were practising Catholics (and still are, thankfully). We had them baptised, they studied in Catholic schools - and Leo still studies in a Catholic school - and they continue to be Catholics. The faith has always been an important part of our life as a family. In this sense, then, my conversion has not changed things. As far as English politics, I have personally tried to keep out of it since I left Downing Street. Finally, concerning my international commitment, obviously my faith makes me particularly sensitive and attentive with respect to some specific issues. Think of the Middle East. [... Holy Land... Africa... fighting malaria... the environment and climate change... Tony Blair Faith Foundation ... inter-religious dialogue.]
A follow-up question perhaps? How about:
"Sorry, Mr Blair, when I said “turning to you”, I was also wondering whether your own stance on abortion had changed since your conversion?"
In fact, Galeotti lets Tony Blair off the hook completely. Incidentally, it is troubling to see L’Osservatore so oblivious of the fact explained eloquently in Pope John Paul’s Evangelium Vitae, that politicians have a "grave and clear obligation" to oppose laws legitimising abortion, not simply as a matter of personal faith or because of biblical teaching but because abortion is an "unspeakable crime" against the natural law which no human law can claim to legitimise.

Later, on, there the following exchange:
[Giulia Galeotti] As the father of four children, what do you think about the role of the father? How do you see the future of fatherhood in the world of today?

[Tony Blair] In the first place, I think that fatherhood is a role to face with responsibility and without arrogance. However good or intelligent I might have thought I was, I always found that being a father was something extremely difficult. And I still think this. Secondly, I obviously also hold that the father is a crucial figure in the family, and that he is fundamental for the growth and the formation of the child. In the third place, I believe that in some ways the idea of the family is recovering. Also in this field I hold that religious communities and the Church have a role to play. Certainly, families have their problems, families break up; something that I fear will continue to happen. But I have always thought that the direction of the Church in family matters was useful. Let's be clear: it takes commitment to make a marriage work. and I believe that it also requires fatherhood. But I really think that among the great changes that are also happening in social life, it is necessary to rediscover that fatherhood is a responsibility and a necessity.
Again, perhaps a supplementary question might be suggested:

"But Mr Blair, with your full and active support, your Government legalised homosexual civil unions, and your Government’s equality legislation made it compulsory for adoption agencies to be open to accepting homosexual couples as adoptive parents. As a result, there are many children whose lack of the crucial figure of a father is due precisely to your own policies. Other children for the same reason do not have a mother. In a speech to the gay campaigning organisation Stonewall, you said that you gave a little skip of joy at the first gay civil partnership – is that part of the recovery of the family? And when you say that you think the father is a crucial figure in the family, are you not contradicting your own government’s advice to schools saying that they should not presume that children are brought up in a heterosexual home because this is heterosexist? Is it perhaps the case that you say one thing to gay organisations and another thing to the Vatican newspaper?"
Sad to say, the bland answer by Tony Blair on a question massively affected by legislation which he publicly and enthusiastically supported, is allowed to go unchallenged by L'Osservatore Romano.

"L'Osservatore Romano"? It seems that when it comes to Tony Blair (and Barak Obama), a better masthead might be:

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