American catastrophes . . .
April 29th, 1865
THE two most startling catastrophes of the American civil war have been crowded into the history of a single week. Lee has surrendered, and President Lincoln has been assassinated.
The capitulation of General Lee was a bitter but obvious necessity. Compelled to abandon Richmond and Petersburg, with Grant pressing on him in his rear, and with Meade, Ord, and Sheridan threatening his flanks and advance, the continuance of the struggle with a force not exceeding 25,000 men, pitted against six times their number, would have been sheer madness, and could only have resulted in a downright butchery. For once in a way, a Federal General seems to have risen to the occasion. General Grant’s terms were magnanimous, such as a chivalrous commander would proffer to a conquered antagonist whom he respected, and General Lee did well to accept them. . .
The Federals will be egregiously mistaken if they suppose that Englishmen, whether partisans of the North or South, will differ in their judgment upon the hideous atrocity which has hurried Abraham Lincoln to a violent death, and has left his Foreign Secretary on the brink of the grave. We should blush for the cause we have supported from first to last, if we could suppose that the Southern Government and people were implicated in this dastardly murder; and we ask the Northerners, even in their paroxysm of grief and indignation, to believe that the nation which turns out statesmen like Davis and Mason, and Generals like Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and armies like those which have fought and conquered for four long years past, is incapable of complicity in this barbarous and cowardly assassination.
Is it possible that there can be a mistake in the date given in the telegram, or are we to understand that it was while in his box at the theatre on the evening of Good Friday that Mr Lincoln was struck down? We are afraid that was the case, and that it was merely a poignant illustration of the laxity which prevails throughout the Union. . .
. . . and a murder solved
AFTER the lapse of five years the mystery of the Road murder has been solved and the assassin of a helpless little child lying in his cot is found, self-revealed, in Constance Kent, his half-sister, the strangely calm and self-possessed young girl of fifteen, who twice baffled the dull tactics of the London detectives. From that period to within a week back, she has been the inmate of a religious house, at first on the Continent, and latterly at the home of the Sisterhood in connexion with St Paul’s, Brighton.
It is not for us to probe the remorseful agonies of the weary years she has passed with a terrible load of guilt weighing upon her night and day, nor do we pretend to say how far the Catholic system as applied to individual souls may have brought about this tardy reparation, the confession of her guilt, the surrender of her life to the stern demands of justice. Whatever she may have revealed to Mr Wagner, under the inviolable seal of confession, all we know is that she has voluntarily confessed her crime and placed herself at the disposal of the law, the guardian of the life she has cruelly destroyed. . .
April 7th, 1866
HE MUST be a cold-hearted Churchman indeed who does not feel as a personal loss the removal of the revered John Keble, the saintly minstrel whose tuneful strains wedded to purest melody the holiest teaching of the grandest truths of the Catholic faith. Dying as he did when his labours in the fallow season of the Church had borne abundant fruit in a glorious harvest-time, he cannot be said to have gone unrewarded to his rest; while there is a strangely happy fitness in the circumstance that he who was the latest champion of the cardinal verity of the Real Presence should have fallen asleep on Maundy Thursday. R.I.P.
Synod or Conference?
September 28th, 1867
THE Pan-Anglican Synod — or shall we call it “the Lambeth Conference?” — is now in session, and it is very unlikely that we shall have any authoritative declaration of the results of its deliberations for a week or two. The one point upon which Churchmen are anxious to be satisfied is as to the attitude of the Bishops in regard to the Colenso question.
Taking the programme of the Synod, it is obvious that the discussion of this one point could alone give any value to the decisions of the Bishops. The first resolution hints at it not indistinctly, and if in deference to the wishes of Dr Colenso’s advocates, on the episcopal bench and elsewhere, that vital question is shelved, Churchmen will hardly care to protest against the derisive sneers of his advocates in the Times and the infidel press. It is childish nonsense to debate about the worth of letters patent and the authority of metropolitans in the abstract, when the whole subject is raised in its most practical form by a heretic who holds letters patent, has defied his Metropolitan, and has created a disastrous schism in his quondam diocese.
If the Colonial and American Bishops cannot deal with that question, they might have spared themselves the trouble of journeying to England to consult with a body of prelates who have already declared in Convocation that they have no particular opinion upon the question whatever.
Tait means trouble
November 21st, 1868
DR TAIT is not the man for the Primacy. He is a prelate of narrow sympathies as well as of questionable orthodoxy, and it is to be feared that he will use his influence in the future, as in the past, to advance the Puritan and Broad Church sections at the expense of the High Church party.
He will be, as he always has been, at issue with the Convocation over which he will have to preside, and there is very little doubt that he will invite Parliament to deal with Church questions independently of its sanction or concurrent action. It is nothing less than the enthronement of active Erastianism in the very post wherein it should be most resolutely withstood.
It will be no slight comfort to his lordship that he is succeeded in the See of London by a prelate as narrow-minded and as relentlessly hostile to Catholicity as himself. Lincoln will be a gainer by the removal of Dr Jackson, but we are afraid that bad times are in store for the diocese of London. . .
July 22nd, 1870
NOW that the Ultramontane party has consummated the crime which it has been plotting for more than half a century, and has endeavoured to raise into the rank of Divine revelations a dogma, which, as all its principal abettors are quite aware, is a lying and destructive figment, it is worth while to consider some of the results, both intended and probable, which appear to flow from it.
That the whole Infallibility scheme is a joint Jesuit and Italian plot, everyone knows. It means for the former a fortified position in every Roman Catholic diocese in the world, and the certainty of being able to make their case good against all resistance. It means for the latter a return of the old days of appeals to Rome, and countless treasures pouring into the laps of the officers of the Papal Courts and Boards. But in the face of all this looms the enormous peril of total shipwreck. The “Vatican Folly” has yet to be tested by the Catholic world, and is more likely to go down to posterity with the heretic Synods of Rimini and Sirmium than with Nice and Chalcedon. . .
General Gordon — dead!
February 20th, 1885
VERY serious news was received from the Soudan yesterday. According to the Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph at Abu Klea, the Mahdi left Khartoum with from 40,000 to 60,000 men and many guns for Metammeh. Our troop abandoned Gubat on the 14th, and retired to Abu Klea, which, however, they will soon have to leave. Yesterday the 1st Battalion of the Guards departed for Suakim.—Some faint hopes were for a time entertained that the report of General Gordon’s death might prove unfounded, but subsequent intelligence has left no real doubt upon the matter.
September 25th, 1896
A MORE inopportune moment for issuing his Bull on Anglican Orders the Pope could hardly have chosen. . . The Bull leaves us, in fact, where we have always been, and, if we regret its appearance, it is because it has barricaded one of the roads to Catholic Reunion, and has committed one portion of the Church to the sacrilegious act of repeating a Sacrament which may not unconditionally be repeated without profanity. The Church of England may have her faults, but that one, at any rate, cannot be laid to her charge. . .
May 25th, 1900
THE relief of Mafeking, after a seven months’ siege, was scarcely more eagerly prayed for by its beleagured defenders than by those who awaited in every part of the Empire the joyful news that help had at last reached them. It was not, as foreign critics sneeringly remarked, that we attached strategic importance to that far-away little town on the veldt; neither was it because we were morbidly jealous for our prestige that we felt a passionate concern for Mafeking’s safety and hailed the arrival of the relief column with unmeasured joy.
What really moved us to the inmost depths of our so-called phlegmatic natures was the spectacle of almost unexampled pluck and endurance presented to the world by Colonel, or Major-General Baden-Powell, as we must now call him, and his famine-stricken garrison.
Scarcely less should we have been moved if a like gallant defence had been made by men of a foreign race, though we may be pardoned for feeling some pride in the rare achievement of our own countrymen. For we feel confident that in distant days, when the record of this War is read as ancient history, it will be acknowledged that a little band of men of the British race performed at Mafeking a feat worthy to rank with the most gallant feats of arms recorded in the world’s annals. . .
Queen Victoria’s faith
January 25th, 1901
AT LAST that supreme loss has fallen upon the Empire which had so long been delayed that we had almost refused to realize its growing imminence. The Empire and the world are alike in mourning. The voice which carried supreme weight in the councils of Europe is silenced; the Sovereign who has won from her people an affection and a reverence to which we can find no parallel in history, has passed from them, full of years and honour, to be to them and to their children an imperishable name, an almost sacred tradition. . .
We have not far to seek for the secret of her power, of the affection which she inspired, of her wisdom in ruling. It lay in her entire devotion to God, in her reference of all action to Him. The form which her strong religious instinct took was not, we need hardly say, one which we should consider at all adequate. The Evangelical traditions of her childhood, the Latitudinarian influence of the Prince Consort, the supposed interests of the Scottish Establishment, the Protestantism of Archbishop Tait — were all adverse to her apprehension of the Catholic aspect of Divine truth. . .
A greater tolerance of the Catholic movement, against which her influence had formerly been cast, was evidenced by her action in several directions. Notably, the improvement in the memorial services at Frogmore, the frank acceptance of explicit prayer for the departed in the funeral of Prince Henry of Battenberg, shewed that in one particular the Catholic faith had at last brought to her its consolations. . .
Causes of the War
August 7th, 1914
IT IS much to feel, as we can do in complete sincerity, that hostilities have been forced upon us against our will. The sternest critics of the present Government must bear tribute to the untiring persistence with which the Cabinet as a whole and Sir Edward Grey in particular have striven to avert this calamity, while the whole-hearted endeavours of the King in the same cause have enthroned him yet more firmly in the hearts of his people.
Every step which did not actually endanger our national honour has been taken. Precedent and the formalities of diplomacy were laid aside. But, as time passed, more and more convincingly the truth was borne home that the European situation was not the result of mere drift, or of chance factors suddenly framing themselves into a crisis, but rather the ultimate and designed product of a long-matured scheme.
Probably enough the German Emperor and a large proportion of his subjects had no desire for war. They, however, became the tools of the Junker party and of that spirit of aggressive militarism which has gained an increasing ascendency of late years. Internal unrest and the desire to divert attention from the growing force of the Socialists may also have been material factors in hastening the crisis. Brought about by deliberate planning, no concessions on our part which could be made without impossible sacrifices would have availed to counteract it. . .
July 26th, 1918
THERE have been several rumours of the Tsar’s death, but there is now no doubt that he has been murdered by the Ural Regional Council, whose action has been approved by such government as exists in Russia. The murder of a king is always tragic, by reason of the fall from the majesty of a throne to the circumstances of a common assassination, but the Tsar’s reign had been tragic throughout.
The representative of a belated ideal of autocracy, which he had announced his intention of maintaining, the ex-Tsar had no qualities which would have fitted him for such a rule as that which he nominally wielded. Unstable and superstitious, ill-informed by those whom he called to his councils, swayed by the Tsaritsa and Rasputin, the reins of government slipped from his hands, and, if the Revolution had not anticipated it, a palace revolution would probably have dethroned him. . .
Germany needs watching
July 4th, 1919
ON SATURDAY last, the fifth anniversary of the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, the war which began from that event was brought formally to an end at Versailles. The Peace Treaty containing the terms imposed by the Allies was signed by two German plenipotentiaries, Herr Müller and Dr Bell, second or third-rate statesmen, but apparently the best whom the German authorities could find for the occasion. . .
How long the peace, which was proclaimed on Wednesday with due pomp and ceremony by his Majesty’s heralds in London, will continue will depend on the unremitting efforts of the nations which have been wantonly attacked to maintain it. Nothing is more certain than that, the moment those efforts were relaxed, the Germans would resume their hostile activity. For it must be remembered that there is now added to their former propensity for war a burning desire to revenge that humiliation which they had to endure in the Gallery of Mirrors. . .
No class conflict
May 21st, 1926
ONE interesting feature of the [general] strike was the wide popularity of the varsity and public school volunteers. Indeed, these young fellows made things go in a way that the undergraduates of the Victorian age would never have contrived. Think of the humour and high spirits with which they controlled the dense crowds on the Tube platforms.
“Keep smiling!” “Nice seat for you in the next train!” “Jump in and hear the nightingale sing in the Hampstead Garden Suburb!” Everybody laughed and everybody had a good word for the joker. The undergraduates of the Victorian times — and, indeed, later — had too much self-consciousness to have managed matters like this.
So long as we have young fellows of this sort, limited in vision perhaps, but prodigal in good nature, all attempts to stir up class war will be failures. No foreign country, America least of all, could supply in an emergency hundreds of smiling young men, brave enough to face stones and to laugh at the stone-throwers, and skilful enough to drive a motor omnibus along the Strand at mid-day without disaster.
A united Europe?
September 13th, 1929
PARIS regards M. Briand’s scheme for a united States of Europe, untroubled by frontiers and custom houses, as an idle dream. Pertinax, of all French journalists the most truculent, sneers at Geneva, where, he says, there are fewer sensible men than the just in Sodom and Gomorrah. Italy, too, in its present mood of super-nationalism, has no mind to surrender any of its rights to expand, to tax, or, may be, to conquer.
Mr William Graham, the President of the Board of Trade, whose successes both at the Hague and Geneva have been notable, though they may have been less spectacular than those of his colleagues, has made the sane suggestion that there should be a tariff peace for two years — that is to say, that the nations should agree not to increase import duties during that time.
The proposal is statesmanlike. If a tariff norm, never to be exceeded, were once accepted, there would be a great chance that it might be regularly reduced. Meanwhile, the English Imperialist newspapers persist in the suggestion that Great Britain can have no place in a united Europe, and that her mission is to be the centre of an Empire, divided by the seas, but united in language, tradition and ambition.
Blame the banks?
August 14th, 1931
THE Prime Minister has returned hurriedly to London. His principal colleagues have been summoned to meet him. Bankers have been called into consultation. There is talk of a three-party conference. The Government has suddenly realized the magnitude of the financial crisis. The Budget must be balanced! But how?
We, of course, have no pretension to approach intricate financial problems with any more than the common knowledge of the observant layman. But it is permissible to express misgiving at the obvious increasing influence of the bankers. No Chancellor of the Exchequer has been in closer touch with Threadneedle Street than Mr Snowden, and Mr Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, with his mysterious comings and goings, has become perhaps the most powerful man in the country.
The banks are directly responsible for financial policy since the War, for the pledge for American repayment, for the maintenance of the gold standard, for deflation. Their first concern has been to preserve London’s position as the paramount money-market of the world.
But certain questions may reasonably be asked. How far is the policy, dictated by the banks, responsible for the nation’s present troubles? How far are the interests of finance and commerce identical? . . .
That Mrs Simpson
December 4th, 1936
IN HIS speech on the Coronation service, the Bishop of Bradford has unwittingly set the heather on fire. . . The Bishop has explained that what he had in mind was the fact that, to all outward appearance, the King seems to live entirely indifferently to the public practice of religion. But this was not what the public reasonably supposed was intended.
For months past, in newspapers on the Continent and in the United States and in the Dominions, there have been daily references to the King’s private life. These have not been merely vulgar, sensational gossip, but categorical statements in responsible journals, that King Edward intends to marry an American lady, Mrs Ernest Simpson. Serious comment has been printed in American religious weeklies, and public statements have been made by American Bishops. We had knowledge of all this when we wrote last week that the King “lives in the glare of publicity, and for him there is no escape from constant circumspection, self-sacrifice and self-control.”
Until this week the British Press has maintained a complete silence on this most distressing subject. The silence has, of course, been self-imposed, but the German papers have daily gibes at Great Britain’s “so-called free Press”.
Silence is no longer possible. The country now knows that Mr Baldwin has informed the King that the Cabinet cannot approve the proposed marriage. If the King persists, the Cabinet would be compelled to resign. In the circumstances, the Labour Party would certainly not attempt to form an administration, and, with world affairs in unparalleled confusion, the British Empire would be faced by a devastating constitutional crisis. . .
Munich and ‘Nazi-ism’
October 7th, 1938
FROM the beginning we have considered the international crisis from the point of view of the Christian realist. We have been guided by two convictions. The first is that a modern war, with its ghastly scientific contraptions for destruction and slaughter and all the inevitable consequences, would be the most awful misfortune that could happen to humanity. Our second conviction is that evil is not to be destroyed by evil.
In his Church Congress sermon, that we report this week, the Archbishop of York repeated that the basic principles of the Totalitarian State are fundamentally anti-Christian. Nazi-ism is brutal and ruthless. It means material and spiritual slavery for the people subject to it.
But we do not believe that Nazi-ism can be destroyed by British and French bombs dropped on Berlin and Dresden. And that is what modern war means. In the crisis, nothing has seemed to us so menacing as the super-sentimentality of the bellicose. Earnest young men have written to the New Statesman declaring their readiness to fight, provided that they are assured that German cities will not be bombed. No such assurance could be given. If it were given, it would not be kept.
It is, therefore, because we believe that no good thing could come from war, and that most good things would inevitably be destroyed by it, that we applaud the Prime Minister’s success in at least postponing war. . .
Seriousness in war
September 8th, 1939
THE Government’s decision that theatres and cinemas must be closed for the present has been denounced by Sir Oswald Stoll and Mr Bernard Shaw. Sir Oswald Stoll, the proprietor of places of entertainment, is charmingly ingenuous. He declares that it “is not logical to close theatres and cinemas and to open churches”.
To this it may be pointed out that churches are not run for profit, and that because, at a time like this, men and women should not be encouraged to giggle at Hollywood gangster films, is no reason why they should not be allowed to gather together to pray.
As Miss Dorothy Sayers says: “For the great body of Catholic Christians, whether of the Roman or Anglican Communion, it is not a mere question of ‘keeping up one’s spirits’; it is a paramount moral duty to attend Divine Service on days of obligation. Further, services of obligation are held in the daytime, when the task of removing people quickly to shelters or getting them home again is easier than during the hours of evening performances.”
Mr Bernard Shaw, who in his amazingly vigorous old age feels it his duty always to be against the Government, according to the tradition of his Irish birth, makes the silly suggestion that the Government’s policy means that “we should all cower in darkness and horror.”
The fact is that, until the danger of massed aeroplane attacks on English cities is destroyed, it is imprudent for large numbers of people to be collected in one place. The second fact is that, far from cowering in terror, the Government invites all British citizens to work of national importance that will more than fill their leisure time. This is a deadly serious hour. Despite Sir Oswald Stoll and Mr Shaw, the British people are meeting it seriously. . .
Depths of evil
April 27th, 1945
REPORTS from the front state that the troops would be furious if there were V-Day celebrations before the killing was done. And if that is how they feel in Europe, what of those out East? And the lot of the Fourteenth Army, which has now leaped half-way down to Rangoon, is happy compared with that of prisoners of war in Japanese power.
The British and American public are at the moment being subjected to a powerful barrage of propaganda to din into their heads some idea of the filth and wickedness to which Nazism has stooped. Very many people are not only horrified at the pictures and news stories they buy every morning; they even protest they are indecent. But these are the brutal facts of the secular twentieth century in which the individualism of the sixteenth has found its consummation — overthrow of restraint, moral chaos, imposition of the caprice of man in place of the law of God, and terror to enforce what justice will never commend.
These are the facts from Europe, where the German race is famed for its orderliness and, above all, its cleanliness — even the incinerating ovens are scrupulously clean. But what on earth can be the picture from the East? There the Japanese are not, even on the material plane and in the most secular context, the peers of the Huns. By comparison the Germans are civilized and the Japanese just savages. So the Prime Minister, in lately deprecating premature conviviality, was voicing, as he has done so often, a right sense of decorum and decency.
August 10th, 1945
THE Japanese nation was given an ultimatum which it rejected. Accordingly a single atomic bomb, with a blasting power equal to that of two thousand of the eleven-ton bombs carried by the RAF, was dropped on the Honshu town of Hiroshima opposite Kure.
Four square miles of the town were obliterated in an instant, and some two or three hundred thousand men, women and children were massacred in the explosion. Since then, Nagasaki has been hurled after Hiroshima into the pit of dissolution. Anglo-American destructiveness has certainly put Attila and Jenghiz Khan in the shade.
Mr Churchill in inimitable language has pointed the moral. “This revelation of the secrets of nature,” he wrote while still in office, “long mercifully withheld from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in the mind and conscience of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe they may become a perpetual fountain of world prosperity.”
In short, man beats the stars; man beats nature; but can man beat himself? The message of Jesus Christ is that only by the power of the Almighty, revealed first in nature, then by the prophets and finally in the Incarnation, can man beat himself, or, as the psychologist may prefer to put it, sublimate his immoralities. Meantime the atomic bomb should be outlawed as soon as possible by general agreement, like poison gas. . .
Partition of India
August 29th, 1947
A HEAVY censorship has been maintained in India as to the extent of the riots in the border regions of the Punjab; but sufficient news has reached England to shock profoundly those who had hoped that partition might be achieved without bloodshed. The Sikhs form the one racial and religious minority in Pakistan which is capable of causing permanent embarrassment to the Moslem majority.
Among those who have led the revolt against the decisions of the boundary commission are several former officers in the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army. At Amritsar their leader, a former village schoolmaster, Master Tara Singh, has attacked with equal vehemence the State of Pakistan, the Moslem religion, the Boundary Commissioners, and the British officers in command of the Boundary Force. The Sikh rioters have been opposed with an equally ruthless violence by the Moslems; and while Moslem refugees are streaming towards Pakistan from the Eastern Punjab, the Government of India is mobilizing planes and trucks in order to evacuate Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan.
The disregard of human life and human suffering which both sides have shown in the conflict makes ghastly reading. It is characteristic of Lady Mountbatten’s energy and courage that she should immediately have left Delhi for the Punjab riot area.
Apartheid based on a myth
March 4th, 1949
IT IS true that the critic is often ill-informed and that his constructive suggestions are usually impracticable. Lord Halifax used to tell Americans that the further a man was from India the easier its problems appeared; and the same is true of any land. The racial problem in South Africa is exceedingly complex and clearly has no quick or simple solution.
What is quite certain is that Dr Malan’s blundering and tragic policy of apartheid is not a solution at all and leads straight to the abyss. The African did not get very much political encouragement from the United Party, and now he is to lose even the meagre advantages he had.
Yet, on the lowest level, it is plainly impossible for two and a half million whites and their descendants to keep indefinitely in a condition barely distinguishable from helotry nine million blacks and their descendants. If Dr Malan were anxious to create Communists among the coloured population of the Union, he could hardly have chosen a better course; and a recent by-election has given some indication of his success in this direction. So far and so far fatally has the Union travelled from Cecil Rhodes’s old policy of equal rights for every civilized man south of the Zambesi.
To speak of a philosophy behind the policy of apartheid were to do it too much kindness. It draws such justification as it can find from the fallacy that there is some profound biological difference between the European and the African. On this point Dr Malan and his supporters might profitably consult the published conclusions of an elaborate study of the American Negro initiated some years ago by the Carnegie Corporation. It shows that the reputed biological inferiority of the black man is a myth. . .
Mr Graham’s mission
March 12th, 1954
SOME Churchpeople have written to us asking for a lead about Mr Billy Graham’s Greater London Crusade. It may be that they conceive the Harringay meetings as a unique event, on which the Church must make up her mind. If so, this is a fundamental misjudgment. Mr Graham’s campaign is in line with all the gospel missions which have drawn crowds of the curious and the devout to hear evangelists such as Torrey and Alexander or Moody and Sankey. His approach is as sincere as theirs, as attractive — and as limited.
The difference is that it is all a little larger and a little more public than usual. It is larger because a microphone pinned to a tie can command the attention of twelve thousand people, whereas the human voice unaided cannot reach more than a tithe of that number of hearers. It is more public because a great deal of financial support has been given by faithful adherents to launch the campaign in England. All this is natural in an age where events are put on a hugely magnified screen.
The campaign, we believe, deserves neither condemnation nor thoughtless enthusiasm. Mr Graham has a message, a method and a doctrine. His message is identical with that of other freelance evangelists — the sinful state of the natural man, and the free salvation won by Christ. His method is little different from the penitents’ bench. His doctrine is closely associated with fundamentalism. His appeals and the songs which accompany them are essentially subjective; and there is no mention of the grace of the sacraments.
Mr Graham is preaching part of the gospel: it must be remembered that it is only a part. . .
Macmillan left to clear up
January 18th, 1957
THE choice of Mr Macmillan for the premiership in preference to Mr Butler came as something of a surprise to many observers. . . The new Cabinet which Mr Macmillan has chosen contains fewer changes than had been expected. This, with the fact that the Prime Minister himself (perhaps unlike Mr Butler) was entirely identified with Sir Anthony [Eden] over Suez, means that Sir Anthony’s resignation does not necessarily involve any substantial change in Britain’s foreign policy. It also means that the new Government cannot expect to avoid any responsibility for clearing up the manifest mess left by the humiliating failure of the Suez intervention.
In this, as in many other ways, the new Prime Minister has a very difficult task in front of him. The threat to British lifelines in the Middle East has still to be met. The Anglo-American alliance has to be repaired. At home, millions of people, who in the past have voted Conservative, need persuading that the Party has something better to offer to the middle classes than an ever-falling standard of living. . .
September 27th, 1957
BOTH the English Archbishops have now issued pronouncements on the Wolfenden Report. The Archbishop of York comes down plainly in favour of the Report’s recommendations, and hopes that they will be soon embodied in legislation.
In defence of the proposal to remove homosexual offences (committed in private between consenting adults) from the list of crimes, His Grace argues that the status of a crime rightly belongs to acts which, besides being sinful, “inflict direct injury on the rights and persons of other people, or imperil the community.” Many will find difficulty in following a logic which seeks to exclude homosexual acts from this category.
The Archbishop of Canterbury agrees with the firm distinction drawn between sins and crimes. He seems to incline to the view that either all sins committed in “the sacred realm of privacy” (adultery and fornication, for example, as well as homosexual acts) ought to be criminal offences, or none. But His Grace adds that “if the law can do anything, without undue interference, to strengthen the moral stamina of the people, it ought to do it.”
That is the precise ground on which many people feel that they must deplore the Wolfenden recommendation. However, it is a very good thing that the Archbishop of Canterbury should have forcibly reminded the nation that, “whatever the criminal law may say,” homosexual offences, and both the life and the use of prostitutes, are sins against God.
June 21st, 1963
THE question of a new Prime Minister (soon, by all the signs, to be Leader of the Opposition) is not the only thing left in the air by the result of Monday’s House of Commons debate, when a significant number of Conservative abstentions in the voting showed clearly how unhappy the Party is.
All the details of the Profumo affair revealed in the debate pointed to the need for a drastic overhaul of the security services at all levels. Nothing less can re-establish public confidence. If, as seems certain, there is to be another official enquiry, this should be its aim.
The underlying moral issues brought to the fore by the scandal received scant attention in the Commons. There has been a justifiable public and Christian reaction against the marked tendency, in more than one quarter, to indulge in self-righteous condemnation of other people’s sins, and also against the ambivalent behaviour of sections of the Press which cry in one breath for a moral reformation and, in the next, pay vast sums to give prurient publicity to the reminiscences of criminals and prostitutes. Christians, both those in public office and private individuals, should shun the striking of pharisaic attitudes like the plague.
At the same time they must not and cannot lose sight of the fact that the conduct of national affairs ought not to be a mere matter of political management and expediency, but should involve the vision of greatness and the pursuit of ideals by which alone a nation can, under God, be great. . .
Two US Presidents
November 29th, 1963
IT IS hard to recall any assassination in human history which in itself threatened more incalculable results. There has been the deepest possible sympathy for the murdered President’s family in their agony, and an almost overwhelming sense that not only a great people but the whole world had lost, in John Kennedy, a great and good man who will, above all, be remembered for the sincerity and courage with which he strove to bring his deeply felt Christian convictions to bear effectively on the problems and perils of his times. . .
The Federal authorities may be relied upon to conduct the most searching investigation into the failure of the security arrangements during President Kennedy’s visit to the State of Texas, long known for its liking for violence and only recently in the news for physical assault on a distinguished national figure, Mr Adlai Stevenson.
On top of the elementary failure to put guards in high buildings on the President’s route on the fatal day, there has come the inability of the police to keep alive the man accused of the assassination. His murder in police headquarters at Dallas has invited the sinister asumption that there were those who thought it more convenient that he should not survive to stand trial and tell the truth, perhaps, of what lay behind the crime of which he stood accused. . .
Whether all the murderous racial violence which has disfigured the Southern States in recent months led directly to the President’s murder is not known. But there is no doubting the indirect connection. . .
April 27th, 1973
THE past week has seen, day by day, the miasma of scandal and suspicion grow deeper and murkier around the hapless President of the United States and his immediate entourage at the White House.
The probing of the so-called “Watergate affair” by official investigating bodies in Washington, while as yet far from complete, has proceeded far enough already to convince many people that the President’s personal position may in the end be to some degree compromised, if only because he will have laid himself open to the accusation by his political enemies that he has displayed gross incompetence by failing to pick reliable and honest men as his chief assistants.
Nobody can yet tell what the final denouement of this odd affair will be, so far as Mr Nixon himself and his Republican Party are concerned; both seem certain to suffer loss of political prestige and public confidence. But they will not be the only losers. The most serious aspect of the business is that the reputation of the United States may be damaged throughout the world, and its power for good thereby diminished.
January 4th, 1974
“A BITTER necessity” was the description used on Sunday by the Minister speaking for the Government, Mr James Prior, for the compulsory three-day working week now imposed on most of British industry.
The Government is emphatic that the miners, by deliberately reducing the output of essential coal, which supplies seventy per cent of the country’s energy requirements, and the railway drivers by refusing to run trains normally to shift coal to the power stations, have indeed left the country with no option but to conserve fuel stocks by this draconian restraint on industry; the alternative, it is argued, would be so rapid a decline in coal reserves that civilised life (sewage disposal and water supply, for instance) would be quickly threatened.
Labour politicians and the trade union leaders most involved have angrily retorted that this is untrue, that there are ample coal stocks, and that the Government is simply seeking to stir up public opinion against the miners.
Whatever may be the precise position, there seems no doubt that the action of the miners is creating an industrial crisis of horrid proportions. Often in the past the coalminers of Britain have proved not only their heroism in facing danger, but their unquestioned patriotism too. It is sad that they now seem, temporarily, to have lost sight of the truth of Shakespeare’s aphorism that “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” They have proved their strength and monopolistic power in the body politic. Restraint in its use would add immeasurably to their stature and reputation in the whole community.
First woman PM
May 11th, 1979
THE spectacle of Mrs Thatcher on the doorstep of Number 10 repeating the best-loved prayer of St Francis of Assisi probably did not bring tears of repentance to the eyes of many Christian Socialists. But she is there, probably for five and possibly for ten years. Since Labour’s share of the poll in this general election was the lowest since 1931, for all practical purposes in the near future the main hope of Socialists must be that the Conservatives will, after all, choose to conserve a good deal of Socialism. . .
It would appear that what the country has voted for is a moderate Conservatism, mainly because that seems the road to prosperity within the free world. Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet looks to be rather more moderate than her personal views are; and not only his fellow-Anglicans are glad that Lord Hailsham is back as Lord Chancellor.
While the Church Times naturally has a soft spot for its former news editor, Mr Heath, we attribute his absence from the Cabinet to personal rather than political reasons. We are glad to see his lieutenant, Mr Walker, in the Government, and the sensible Mr Prior at Employment. . .
July 24th, 1981
SINCE the Royal Family is the most popular of all British institutions, all the turning-points in its life mean much to many people. A rather nervous humour attempts to indicate some detachment from the commercialism, snobbery and sentimentality inevitably surrounding these occasions, but the humour is usually a half-concealed sign of underlying seriousness and respect; for anyone who cares about Britain sees that the royal phenomenon — so extraordinary in the world of the 1980s — deserves to be taken seriously.
Because Prince Charles and his bride have immense responsibilities on their young shoulders and a considerable slice of the future ahead of them, their marriage is appropriately an occasion for reflections which would normally be out of place at a wedding.
They will make their vows in holy matrimony next Wednesday according to the rites of the Church of England. Many of the vast numbers watching the service, particularly their own contemporaries, will be struck by the contrast between the solemnity of these vows and the divorce rate. Lady Diana’s own childhood was darkened by the shadow of her parents’ separation, and not even the Royal Family has been spared the tragedy of divorce in recent years.
Despite the recent decision by the General Synod to pave the way for some marriages in church after divorces, it must be the heartfelt prayer of all who belong to the same Church as the Prince of Wales and his bride that the example of their faithfulness “till death us do part” will be a glorious gift to the nation and to the world. Such a gift will certainly be welcomed; for, despite the divorce rate, the general attitude in this country to marriage is not at all cynical. . .
This prince, his wife and any children they may have will need to provide a model of domestic bliss over many years to come if they are to satisfy the hopes of the nation. Despite all the permissiveness in British society, the odd truth — dramatised in 1936 — is that the Royal Family is permitted only to be exemplary. . .
Women deacons (plus?)
March 6th, 1987
THE size of last week’s General Synod majority in favour of the preparation of legislation to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood came as a surprise to many. But it was not so surprising that the House of Bishops should have persuaded fellow-members that this legislation ought not to provide for the dismemberment of the diocesan and parochial system by the official recognition and financing of a Continuing Church. . .
The same feelings which inclined some non-partisan members to back the Bishops on this occasion might well move them in the future to back the idea of postponing action until a larger consensus had been achieved. And, since last week’s debate showed that there is still deep passion in the hearts of the opposition, and last week’s voting showed that many (including eight bishops) could not even bring themselves to vote in favour of the preparation of the necessary legislation, the ordination of women as priests even in the early 1990s remains distinctly unlikely — unless the composition of the Synod is changed drastically in the 1990 elections.
Will opinion continue to move in favour of women priests despite this probable delay? The influx of female deacons is likely to have some effect in at least acclimatising churchgoers to the sight of women in dog-collars. But a good deal of the answer seems to depend on how the opposition reshapes itself in the next few years. . .
Cue Bishop Barbara Harris
September 30th, 1988
PEOPLE who went to church last Sunday fearing that the Anglican Communion was about to fall apart could have rested easy in their pews. No such immediate disintegration is likely — despite the announcement last weekend that a woman has at long last been elected a bishop in the United States.
The news of the “first woman bishop” has in fact been so long expected that, when it finally broke, it had almost a sense of anti-climax. But of course a rash of public statements has come in its wake. These have followed predictable patterns, with traditionalists breathing gloom and doom and supporters of women’s ordination uttering cries of delight.
Obviously the translation into fact of what had hitherto been mere probability adds a new dimension to the arguments that have been raging throughout the year about the effect a woman bishop would be likely to have on the cohesion of the Anglican Communion. But we suggest that it is unnecessary to be too alarmist too soon.
As the Church Times remarked only last week in an editorial dealing with this very issue — and forecasting the possibility of the Rev. Barbara Harris’s election — Anglicanism has had long experience of encompassing diversity; and it will be the task of the newly-appointed Eames Commission to explore ways of minimising the extent of any possible inter-Anglican rupture. . .
Terry Waite — free!
November 22nd, 1991
TERRY WAITE’s is a paradigm of the Christian life. His chief concern from the beginning has been for other people than himself. Those other people have not been humanity in the mass; they have been specific human beings. He has been fully seized of the Christian perception that every human creature is equally precious in the sight of God; as Lord Runcie said on BBC television news on Monday night, Terry Waite saw people as being at the mercy of impersonal forces, and he knew that this destroyed justice and humanity.
He chose to use his gifts and opportunities to deliver individual sufferers from one impersonal force in particular: the rivalries of Mediterranean nations, expressed in the imprisonment without term or trial of randomly taken innocents. . .
Early in 1987 Terry Waite showed his repentant self-renewal by attempting his most dangerous venture yet. At this point the level of impersonal wickedness was too much for him, and he was himself taken prisoner. The captives he set out to free he found himself joining; and he was not allowed even the comfort of their company for four whole years. . .
Terry Waite has shown that it is possible to witness to Christian belief and standards in the most testing of afflictions. His example has strengthened millions in their Christian service. The Christian community in the United Kingdom welcomes him home with joy and pride.
Ireland: sanity restored
October 21st, 1994
A TOUCH of sanity begins to return to daily life in the United Kingdom. In London, the Prime Minister can cover the 400 yards from Downing Street to the Commons on foot instead of in a bulletproof car; the small tyrannies of terrorism begin to lift. In Belfast, terrorists who favour Northern Ireland’s continued union with Britain feel sure enough that nationalist terrorism is over to follow the IRA ceasefire with one of their own.
Twenty-five years of random killings have come to an end, which is a comfort, and they have achieved nothing, which in a sense is another. Violence has not paid. The most it has done is assist the slow realisation in devotees of each Northern Irish cause that devotees of the other are not going to change. Nationalists (mostly Roman Catholics) will never accept a revival of the old Northern Ireland, run by unionists on a simple majority; unionists (mostly Protestants, a term which in Ireland includes Anglicans) will never accept absorption into an unchanged Roman Catholic state to the South. British absence makes no difference. . .
May 9th, 1997
THE British public is not always impressive. Last Thursday, though, it was. For one thing, it voted: 31,372,549 people — 71.3 per cent of the electorate — cast their votes, 44.5 per cent of them consenting to be governed by the Labour Party. Besides the overall result, there was other pleasing news: the high number of women MPs, proving conclusively that fielding a woman candidate will not harm a party’s chances; the collapse of the far right, polling a derisory total of 48,745 votes, spread between 84 candidates; and the extraordinary events in Tatton, where two political parties agreed to withdraw their own people in favour of an anti-corruption candidate, a journalist, who then won, after a swing of 45 per cent.
Most impressive, though, was the expression of what the Bishop of Oxford calls below “a mood . . . a new spirit” in the country, that somehow goes beyond the narrow self-interest which the election campaigners were careful not to dent. Moods and spirits cannot be easily quantified on pollsters’ clipboards, but this new sense is, at heart, a belief that the country will be better and more fairly governed by the Labour Party. Those captured by this mood, and they can be numbered in their millions, expect that the lot of the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the young will be improved. When they voted, they were not, in short, thinking of themselves.
North and South confer at Lambeth ’98
August 14th, 1998
DURING the homosexuality debate, the Southern axis was fully in control. They had managed to get the original motion changed, and extracted an apology from Bishop Duncan Buchanan for not consulting properly. They had done a deal early Wednesday morning with Dr Carey to secure his support for the Archbishop of Tanzania’s amendment that homosexual practice was contrary to scripture. In return, they calmly let several amendments fall.
They successfully fought off a wrecking procedural motion. They scored a couple of bonus points, closing a possible loophole for the liberals; and they swung a convincing majority of the bishops behind the final resolution, preventing the sort of split vote that would have undermined the result. If they had managed to keep Bishop Chukwuma away from Richard Kirker and cameras, it would have been a day of unalloyed triumph. . .
What was missed at this Lambeth Conference was the degree of sympathy felt by Western bishops towards those from the South. This was not simply the growing influence of Evangelicalism in the West, but a genuine appreciation that the voice of Anglicanism did not have a sufficiently strong Southern accent. . .
Responding to terror
September 14th, 2001
A CHOICE between two tasks faces the United States, once it has cleared up the immediate aftermath of the New York and Washington attacks. It can work to make the US a safer place, or it can raise its sights to the safety of the world. A little reflection will show that the tasks are essentially the same. . .
It will be hard for the US government to resist the temptation to spend billions of dollars on internal security measures, to augment its costly “Star Wars” anti-missile defence shield. But it should use that money to transform its economic relationship with the rest of the world. It will find that this helps to demolish its image as the “Great Satan” of imperial, Zionist capitalism.
Some will argue that this is a very roundabout approach to national security, but the principle is a sound one: easier to stop the firing of the gun than to catch the speeding bullet. Better to put compassion at the heart of globalisation than the rapacious materialism that ferments resentment. . .
A failure of democracy
June 20th, 2003
THERE is no doubt about this, at least: we must rejoice with the Iraqi people that they are free from the brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein. In the mad logic of the US and British invasion of Iraq, it is somehow fitting to apply a post hoc justification for a pre-emptive war. The challenge now is to apply the lessons learnt in this episode to future conflicts elsewhere in the world, and in order to do that we have to work out what the lessons were.
The danger is that the US and British governments will conclude that a little refinement to their public-relations operation is all they need to smooth their path to the next target. For this reason, the parliamentary investigations into the claims about weapons of mass destruction can have great value, despite their encouragement of score-settling.
It is becoming increasingly clear that there was dishonesty in the run-up to the war. True, even Mr Blair’s unkindest critics have acknowledged the sincerity of his belief in the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. But the trouble with conviction politics is that those with the conviction can be tempted to use unscrupulous methods to persuade others to their cause. Consistently strong public opposition, encouraged by church leaders, meant that Downing Street used ever more desperate measures to manoeuvre the country towards the war policy that Mr Blair (and President Bush) believed to be right.
Here was a failure of democracy: not a government consulting its electorate, but one that knew it did not have popular support and disguising the fact. . .