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Church’s lead still only light green

08 May 2015


THE GUARDIAN, at least, was pleased with the decision of the Church Commissioners to disinvest from some fossil fuels. The paper is serious about the subject because the outgoing editor, Alan Rusbridger, believes it is important and interesting. So there has been a great deal of coverage and agitation about what is meant to turn into a global movement in time for the Paris summit.

Damian Carrington's report played up that aspect: "Earlier in the week, the Vatican called for a moral awakening on climate change, ahead of an encyclical from the Pope, which is expected to be one of the most influential interventions in a year that ends with a crunch UN climate summit in Paris. With Methodists, Quakers, United Reformed, Presbyterians and many other denominations across the UK and the world taking action on climate change by selling off their investments in coal, oil and gas, the question is how great an impact will the moral authority conferred by religious groups have?"

I couldn't find any mention of the story in the right-wing press, which suggests that it hasn't got far enough yet. Either that or there has been something else going on to distract the attention of the propaganda machine. I'm sure there was some other domestic political story this week but am hoping to have forgotten it by the time you read this.

The Independent had a deliciously phoney environment story: "A third of Catholics would go green if Pope Francis makes statement on climate change." This turned out to be a survey commissioned by CAFOD, which found that three-quarters of Roman Catholics felt a moral obligation to help the world's poorest. I do wonder about the other quarter - but also what the corresponding figure for Anglicans would be.

The third who were prepared to "go green" would make an effort to drive less, or to recycle more. Even granted the success of these efforts, there will be quite a lot more required of us in all sorts of areas that have no obvious connection with the environment.

SOME coverage of the very disturbing reports from Birmingham of intimidation in the wake of the Trojan Horse schools scandal. Both the Mail and The Guardian reported Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, telling a conference in Liverpool: "Trojan Horse has not gone away. Those of us who were involved, we knew it was the tip of the iceberg.

"We still have dead animals hung on the gates of schools, dismembered cats in playgrounds. We have petitions outside schools, objecting to teachers teaching against homophobia."

According to The Guardian, she said that a death threat had been made against her on Facebook saying: "Any headteacher who teaches my children it's all right to be gay will be at the end of my shotgun."

reported a campaign in Pendle to get Muslims to vote Labour by a WhatsApp chain message purportedly from a Sufi Sheikh (who denies the story). This comes in the wake of the decision overturning the election of Lutfur Rahman on Tower Hamlets Council, partly on the grounds that he arranged for 101 local imams to endorse him in a Bangladeshi paper. This violated a 19th-century law against "Spiritual Influence", used then against Roman Catholics in Ireland.

BUT standards are slipping there. The Guardian reported the case of Fr Francis Kelleher, a hospital chaplain in Cork, who has just been jailed for four years for trying to put - I almost wrote "the fear of God" into his nephew, by whom he was being sued.

But Fr Kelleher eschewed spiritual influence. Instead, he hired three men from the Continuity IRA, he kept up a campaign of threats, among them death threats, for six months against his nephew. According to The Irish Times,the man who put him in touch with the thugs and negotiated the fee of €4000 was someone in the habit of visiting the hospital with a "religious relic".

Neither the IRA men nor the mysterious intermediary with the relic seem to have appeared in court.

AND in southern Sweden, Dr Jan Johannesson has resigned as head of orthopaedic surgery in Kalmar Hospital after announcing on Facebook that from now on he was refusing to treat Christians.

He had earlier posted that he was "an anti-theist" who would "put himself in the front line with a baseball bat to fight against any conscience clause", and that he believed "Christians have an inner demon which can damage and insult me." This Dawkinsian puerility was meant as satire.

It casts light on the status of Christianity in Sweden both that he thought he could get away with it and that, in the event, he couldn't. He's still working as a doctor. He is still, presumably, treating Christians as well.

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