The lack of interest shown by the daily papers in live
Christians has been vividly shown by the defenestration of Ruth
Gledhill from The Times (Press, 16 May), but it
still was a shock to find how easy it is for dead ones to make the
front of the Telegraph. All they need do is to await
resurrection in a safe Tory seat; then, when it is threatened by
development, their fate is front-page news.
"The Church of England has announced its opposition to the
Government's HS2 proposals after warning that the line will
desecrate thousands of graves and shatter the peace along the
£43 billion route.
"The Archbishops' Council, one of the Church's most powerful
bodies, has said it is opposed to the line because human remains
will not be 'treated in a decent and reverent manner'."
Of course, this is nonsense: as soon as proper arrangements are
made for the reinternment of exhumed bodies, the Church will drop
its opposition - but it will do very nicely as a Monday-morning
splash for the Telegraph. A cynic might think that the
ascent of property values towards the stratosphere is something
almost as sacred as the bodily resurrection, and somewhat easier
for the Telegraph to believe in. But if the HS2 line will
disrupt both, let's not quibble about the details.
The Times, meanwhile, gave its Friday front page over
entirely to the fate of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who has been
threatened with flogging and death in Sudan for the supposed crime
of apostasy (News,
This is a campaign that stands more chance of success than does
appealing to the finer feelings of Boko Haram in Nigeria, which may
explain why it has driven its mass kidnapping right off the front
pages. I wonder what price the Sudanese government will exact for
releasing her in the end, as it probably now will.
The Times also ran a leader demanding that all
civilised countries shun those that use the barbarous forms of
sharia: "This cruel and archaic form of jurisprudence is not a
requirement of modern Islam. It is not practised in Turkey, Bosnia
or in many other countries where Muslims are a majority. But in
those countries where such laws are in force, the human
consequences are appalling. It is time for governments that endorse
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make its
implementation a goal of foreign policy and a condition both of aid
This can hardly do any harm, but the real problem is that most
of the countries where things are really dreadful are either in no
need of our aid and support, because they are floating on oil, or
else - like Pakistan - places where our national interest seems to
demand collaboration with their repulsive secret police.
At this reflection, the liberal imperialist will feel a twinge
of nostalgia for the days when it was so much easier to be
high-minded, since, whatever happened, we had got the Maxim gun,
and they had not. It is a pity that we did not find the demands of
justice entirely compelling even when we had the means to enforce
Not all parts of the Roman Catholic Church have hoisted in Pope
Francis's ideas about modest living. After the Archbishop of Newark
and Cardinal Dolan of New York (Press, 30 May), the
latest prelate to place an unusual interpretation upon modesty is
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, until recently the Secretary of State at
According to a delightful piece by John Hooper in The
Guardian, he has denied indignantly that he is building a
700-square-metre apartment for his retirement on top of one of the
Vatican buildings. It is only 350 square metres, and he will share
it with a staff of three nun-housekeepers. That seems surprisingly
few to keep such a large area clean.
But the most delightful touch is his defence against the charge
that it is selfish. He has paid for it with his own money, he
says,and, besides, someone else will have the use of it when he
dies. So not only is he defying the present Pope's strictures on
living simply: he is ensuring that an unending line of successors
can do so, too. As they say, the Vatican thinks in centuries.
The Telegraph had a still more delightful story of
money and the simple life from India, where a revered guru, His
Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, has entered a state of meditation
so profound that his followers have popped him in the deep freeze.
Western medicine would say that he was, in fact, dead, after having
had a heart attack, but what does Western medicine know?
In particular, it would appear that Western medicine is unable
to grasp the subtleties surrounding control of the guru's property
empire, worth £100 million. His wife and son are now suing his
followers tohave the body defrosted, and indeed cremated. Then they
want to know about the money.