Two weeks ago I read in The Tablet that bishops in some parts of western Canada were instructing their clergy that they were not obliged to give “Last Rites” or say Requiem Mass for individuals who opted for “assisted dying” – recently legalised in Canada. I find this not only distressing but bizarre.
London for me, since I was a teenager, has always been an oasis. I first came to the city as a 16-year-old. My parents had met in London and married here before returning home to raise their family. My mother had always explained to me that the sectarianism of Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s was not to be found in London.
I hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not have any trouble at customs on the way back from meeting the Pope in Rome. The Most Revd Justin Welby had been given a replica of the head (The Times called it the “handle”, which doesn’t sound right) of the crozier of Pope St Gregory the Great, the man who sent Augustine to England to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
An American friend of mine once declared despondently that the United States was still an experiment, and it was too soon to say whether it was working. If he was right, the current presidential election may turn out to be its critical moment.
One of my least favourite questions at dinner parties is the dreaded: “What do you do?” Perhaps it is just the circles I move in, but most people I encounter don’t know what theology is, and are quite likely to think that I said “geology”.
As much as I disagreed with most of what the late Christopher Hitchens had to say about religion, on the 1 October 2009 he and I were in furious agreement.
The headline in The Observer on an interview with Robert Harris, the author of the new thriller Conclave, read: “MPs should elect the Labour leader as cardinals elect the pope”.
“Meet people where they are” is one of those phrases that, for some reason, makes me cringe. It seems too much like an overused sound bite to have any real value behind it.
Is there a scientific element in the current crisis of the British Labour Party? A touch of chaos theory perhaps? Or something genomic – what biologists call an “antagonistic gene” – which causes the party every 30 years or so to fall into the political equivalent of a civil war?
By today we should know whether Jeremy Corbyn will be replaced as the Labour leader. If the polls are right, he will return with a landslide. But regardless of who wins it is unlikely to bring to an end the civil war that is engulfing the main opposition party.
I was very rarely angry as a teacher. But one thing that got through my defences was overhearing my pupils comparing intelligences. They love to discuss who is cleverer than who, as much at university as at school. With the proposals for a revival of grammar schools, it seems the game has become a national habit.
I am finding myself increasingly baffled and, frankly, annoyed by an apparently growing tendency among European Christians to envy the restricting rules of other faiths. Surely what is particular to being a Christian is that we are free from such law: we have the unique privilege of not being obligated to give offence. Why aren’t we celebrating it? Rejoicing, praising, trumpeting it?
Might two current industrial disputes, one involving junior doctors in the NHS and the other train drivers on Southern Railway, be related to the fictional prewar reminiscences of a butler in a large country house?
The physical entity of the Vatican sometimes reminds me of Gormenghast, the rambling castle gripped by iron traditions, imagined by that flawed genius Mervyn Peake. Things happen there because they have happened like that before. Two despatches from The Vatican brought details from the now changing scene.
Can there be a more contradictory jumble of emotions than when a tyrant’s subjects learn of his demise? Many will feel relief, and perhaps jubilation, over the disappearance of their oppressor. But they may also be fearful over what happens next. Before long, some may even succumb to dictator nostalgia.
I’ve never wanted to see habited and veiled Catholic nuns more in my life. At French beaches. In droves. Religious liberty is not about any particular religion; it is about how Western secular pluralistic democracies enshrine the rights of their citizens to the free exercise of religion and, rightly, to defend others’ rights to have no religion at all.
I have long thought describing the month of August as the “silly season” of politics was itself one of the silliest political clichés in the lexicon. Did not the Great War break out on 4 August 1914?
I read with interest a story recently about a father who is attempting to sue his son’s private school for £125,000 after he achieved just one GCSE. On the surface at least, it sounds rather concerning.
The French ban on the burkini was summed up by a picture of armed policemen standing over a middle-aged woman on a beach at Nice until she took off her long-sleeved over-shirt (since she wasn’t even wearing a burkini) and revealed her bare arms.
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