In the wake of the passing of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, a number of curious reactions have been seen. The secularists at large were genuinely scared by the possiblity of an ammendment which would mitigate the equality and diversity principle of the bill. I still suspect their anxiety was manipulated as a strawman of opposition, but their reaction was genuine ... and sinister of course. None of them have apparently reflected on what a bossy, dictatorial piece of legislation it is.
The CES has done an ostrich job, plunging its head firmly into the sand of soft reassurances, and kicking some of it up to obscure our vision. When you're looking for precision, don't count on the CES. When they say that, 'SRE in Catholic schools will be rooted in the Catholic Church’s teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons, what exactly does that mean? The framers of the bill are saying that it cannot mean teaching that the Catholic way is the only morally viable way. In other words, the framers of the bill are imposing relativism by dictat ... in a realisation of that famous dictatorship of relativism! Now, when I last looked, such a position cannot possibly be 'rooted in' the Catholic Church's teaching'. Call me picky, but there you have it.
And then there are the specially written Collect prayers circulating on the internet to pray for the hierarchy of England and Wales - so noticeable by its silence in recent days - to be replaced!! Feelings are strong, compromise is the last thing on people's minds, and there have been some able comparisons of the CES's policy of mute wiggling with the Catholic Church in Germany in the 1930s.
I think there is no doubt that the bishops cannot, must not, pussy foot around any longer. This bill is deeply perverse, even from a secular point of view. What would they have done if a bill had been passed which imposed on them the need to teach racism as a morally viable option in Cathoolic schools? And the thought that the CES goes along with it during this, the sordid twilight of New Labour, screams complicity.
That said, I think we must be careful. The CES might appear to go all goggle-eyed at Ed Balls, but we must not let that fact turn us into victimisers of the hierarchy. The law of charity comes first in any case. And, we must not behave towards them as if they are democraticaly elected representatives accountable to us for their least action. They are minsters of God, and that is a different thing; it is not only functional, it is sacramental. They sit, as it were, in the seat of Moses. Still, pragmatically speaking, victimising them will only create sympathy for the position which (if the CES are anything to go by) they are about to adopt. We simply need cold, calm analysis and full reporting to Rome if, over this coming weekend, they create the impression that this ammended bill is acceptable.
One can speculate whether they have done nothing because they know the bill will not become law under this government. We can ask ourselves if they have elected silence as their strategy, though why generals in the field would do that is quite beyond me. We can wonder if some of them would not like to see New Labour kicked while it is so very, very down. But let us wait. If they or their spokesmen back the Ballsian fudge, we will know the ad limina is already a dead memory. We will also be in a fine position to make this clear in the dicasteries of Rome.
What we actually want right now of course are bishops with no Balls. But, frankly, dumping Balls is going to take some guts.
My Lords, you are in our prayers. I hope to God you will not be in our correspondence, until, that is, we are able to tell you that your courage has made us strong.