It’s been gratifying to see Mr Tony Blair’s extended farewell tour come a cropper at its very climax, with the outgoing prime minister meeting Pope Benny in the Vatican. This had been spun as hugely significant, with Mr Tony widely expected to announce his conversion to Catholicism, and even speculation that he’d be fast-tracked to deaconhood. However, since the official diplomatic communiqué reported a “frank exchange of views” – code for a blazing row – it seems likely that the meeting went something like this:
Mr Tony: Your Holiness, I’d like to become a Catholic.
Pope Benny: Think on, matey.
It is further reported that Benny got stuck in over the Iraq war, abortion, stem cell research, gay adoption and generally Mr Tony leading the most anti-Catholic government since Victorian times.
Though I disagree with him about most things, I have a lot of time for Benny, who’s a top intellectual and one of the most interesting theologians of our time – if you haven’t read his new book on Jesus, it’s well worth a look. Mr Tony, on the other hand, is a brilliant salesman who has never given the impression of being very thoughtful. This is a problem for the potential convert. While Mrs Tony, as a cradle Catholic, has more latitude to get away with flouting Catholic doctrine, the prospective convert is expected to show some interest in said doctrine. And, while there have been acres of newsprint about Mr Tony’s intention to convert, nobody seems to know why, except for the convenience of his wife and kids, he might want to do so.
With that sort of woolly outlook, maybe it’s better if he stays in the C of E. And high fives all round to Benny.