Spinning against the Vatican

Sir Stephen Wall's long and distinguished civil service career has included spells in the diplomatic service, James Callaghan's Press Office, Private Secretary to David Owen when he was Foreign Secretary, and later to three successive Foreign Secretaries (Geoffrey Howe, John Major and Douglas Hurd). From 1991 to 1993, he was Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, John Major, responsible for Foreign Policy and Defence. He was also British Ambassador to Portugal (1993-1995), Permanent Representative to the European Union (1995-2000), Head of the European Secretariat in the Cabinet Office and EU adviser to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair (2000-2004).

In June 2004, Sir Stephen (a practising Catholic) left the service and worked for four days a week as Principal Adviser to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a post he left in June 2005. (There was an interesting background article in the Daily Telegraph in September 2004.)

Damien Thompson (Cardinal's former aide savages Vatican) reports on an article by Sir Stephen in this week's Tablet: Rendering unto Caesar. (The article is listed as being "free" and was available the other day but now requires you to register at their site - something you may or may not wish to do.)

The article is a classic piece of spin. It accuses the Church of "moral absolutism", ignoring the moral absolutes enforced by anti-discrimination law and invokes the "teaching of Jesus" against a harsh Church that punishes sinners by invoking the civil law. It could be that this is the Blair machine's answer to the Spectator article I mentioned the other day. I wonder though, if it is part of a wider campaign to promote a "very British" form of Catholicism of which Mr Blair would be an important figure. Since leaving public office, Sir Stephen has publicly criticised Blair's decision to go to war with Iraq. That does not mean that he disagrees with his "style" of Catholicism.

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