Saturday, December 22, 2007

Former PM becomes RC ...

... Tony Blair Converts to Catholicism.

Three years ago, I reviewed Philip Stephens's Tony Blair:The Making of a World Leader. Here is part of what I wrote:

Blair is openly and seriously religious. "If you want to really understand what I'm all about," Blair once told an interviewer, "you have to take a look at a guy called John Macmurray. It's all there. "

An Oxford philosopher, Macmurray (1891-1976) was a personalist, holding the view that what is real is the personal, that the characteristics of personality - consciousness, freedom, purposefulness - are also the fundamental characteristics of reality itself. For Macmurray, religion is fundamental to human life and the essence of religion involves the creation of community. This, Blair has said, makes "sense of the need to involve the individual in society without the individual being subsumed in society. "

In an essay he wrote in 1993, Blair declared that the Christian faith is about "the union between individual and community. . . . The act of Holy Communion is symbolic of this message. It acknowledges that we do not grow up in total independence, but interdependently. " Sounds almost as if Jesus is Blair's favorite political philosopher.


  1. Frank, I raise absoluely no question over Mr. Blair's faith ..... but I do wonder at the timing of this conversion ..... he may have wrestled with this for a long, long time ..... yet the conversion comes only after he steps down from public, elected office.

    Let me point out, I speak from the other side of the door (that one with the theses nailed on it) from you and Mr. Blair ..... but I honor any individual with the courage to step forward and proclaim themselves a child of Christ.

  2. I think Blair for all practical purposes has been a Catholic for years - it is rumored that Pope John Paul II gave both him and his wife communion on one visit. I think this was just pro forma. I certainly have no doubt about the authenticity of his faith.

  3. Anonymous12:48 PM

    Though I sign this as Anonymous, it is only because I am too stupid as to be able to figure out how to sign on using my name, which is Roger Miller. As a former Episcopalian (who became former only out of apathy, not out of any doctrinal concerns), I wonder if Blair's conversion has anything to do with the controversies roiling the Anglican Communion, specifically the western branches, of which the Episcopal Church is the American one? Its not-so-slow crumbling is occurring over the issues of allowing same-sex marriages, openly gay clergy, and acceptance of homosexuality, which are also affecting the Church of England, Blair's previous church. Is this his way of taking sides? I ask only to add to the discussion, not to condemn. I cannot know what led him to it, I can only add "Godspeed."

  4. Good queation, Roger, and good to hear from you. I don't think it has anything to do with those controversies. I think it has more to do with the guy mentioned in the quote from my review, John Macmurray, who I believe either studied with or was at least influenced by Max Scheler, on whom Pope John Paul II wrote one of his two doctoral dissertations. Both Scheler and Macmurray were personalists. Personalism may be roughly defined as the philosphical position that states the fundamental reality is personhood. As Blair has said of Macmurray, "I ... find him immensely modern... in the sense that he confronted what will be the critical political question of the twenty-first century: the relationship between individual and society."