The Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints
I hope there's room for me.

Welcome all - especially Mancunians.

Hello anybody lost in the blogosphere. Welcome to the ruminations of a politically left of centre, Man United supporting, blues loving, history-fixated, Catholic wanderer. Be warned, I am a bit of a curmudgeon.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

February 6th, 1958

Post-Levenson, News International learns nothing.

On Friday, 7th December, the Sun newspaper carried an article under the headline "Killer Psycho Holds Jail Priest Hostage" and goes on to relate that Kiaran Stapleton, who is serving a Life Sentence for the callous shooting to the death of Indian student Anuj Bidve in Salford, had "asked to speak to the Chaplain in confidence after secretly fashioning a weapon", apparently because of losing an appeal against his 30 year tariff.
The story goes on to claim "...once they were alone he pulled [the weapon] on the terrified priest. The brute's unsuspecting victim frantically hit a panic button to alert guards".
The problem with this story is that, from the headline onwards, it is untrue - Kiaran Stapleton didn't ask to see the Chaplain to speak in confidence (that wouldn't have been allowed anyway), he hadn't manufactured a weapon, the priest wasn't terrified and he didn't hit a panic button, be it frantically or otherwise. Oh, and he wasn't taken hostage.
The truth is more mundane, less dramatic and the prison officers are too professional and quick off the mark to allow something like this to happen. The Prison Service statement, ignored by the reporter, was much more accurate: "A prisoner attempted to assault a member of the chaplaincy team during worship" - it was all over in seconds.
What disturbs me about the account in The Sun is that it was what the prisoner will have wanted to make himself more notorious and the journalist, a Richard Moriarty who seems to specialise in this sort of story, has added to the notoriety that the prisoner craves, fed by an untrue account from those close to Mr Stapleton.
The story was quickly picked up around the world and the inaccurate account was reported before the true story could get out.
This caused further hurt to the family of Mr Bidve and to the family of the Chaplain in question who were utterly convinced he had been brutally assaulted and, not able to contact him due to the weather damaging the 'phone line, were left in a state of panic and worry.
After the Levenson Inquiry Report, one would have hoped that The Sun would have learnt to be more concerned with accuracy - the sad thing is, the Chaplain has been left more upset about the article than about the event it purports to recount.
I believe less and less what I read, or listen to, in many of the media outlets - I suppose Mr Moriarty is looking forward to writing a book that will join the rest of the Manchester gang dross that fills the bookshelves of WHSmith.

The Second Reading has passed - now comes the pressure!!!

Now that the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill has passed its Second Reading and gone to committee stage, watch for those who voted against (or abstained on) the Second Reading to become the focus of vitriol - especially those from the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches.
22 Labour MPs and 4 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the Bill whilst 16 Labour MPs and 7 Liberal Democrat MPs abstained. Not all those who abstained or were absent will have been opposed to the measure but, given the stated position of some of them, it would seem likely that the majority are.
There is already a list of the MPs on the New Statesman website and a comment about the "Pope checking the lists", I feel that the ones checking the list will be those who wish to bash those who voted against rather than in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill.
A large number of the MPs do appear to be Roman Catholic but there are other names who appear who are not and, indeed, would not be considered necessarily religious.
As someone who is firmly on the left of the party political spectrum, it gives me great encouragement to see that others are willing to question both the hasty legislative process which has been brought to bear on this matter (no Green Paper or White Paper) which has no mandate from the electorate and also to challenge the libertarian political drive which seems to lie behind this and so much other legislation.
As with the MPs who have voted against from a religious background, it is because of my faith that I became involved in politics and I find it constantly fascinating that those who claim faith but then allow their politics to redefine it become no different in their voting patterns to those who have never claimed be driven by anything other than a libertarian approach to politics. So you will have an MP, such as Mark Menzies (Conservative MP for Fylde), arguing that he can hold the Catholic view on marriage and vote for this Bill, as if the Church's teaching is somehow divorced from the world in which we live.
I have been involved in several conversations with people in favour of this legislation who say they can't understand how somebody who holds the views I do on politics in general can be "so homophobic" about this. When did it become homophobic to hold that marriage is between a man and a woman? Of course, I point out to them that my views in this case are consistent with all my other beliefs which, interestingly, they also don't share. My opposition to: the increasingly vengeful nature of our nation's Criminal Justice system; the appalling effects that the benefit cuts are having upon working people whose pay is so low that they have to rely upon others to help pay their rent - even with housing benefit - for often badly maintained private flats; the constant prejudice visited on Gypsies and Travellers with laws being passed to make their traditional lifestyles even harder to live; the easy racist language used against foreign workers in our country; the petty-minded 'Little England' mentality when any discussion is had about the EU (which I have my own problems with, but not in a kneejerk way); the appalling effects that the constant interfering with the NHS has had upon patient care and the morale of NHS workers; the scapegoating of poor families in rundown areas as being the authors of their own misfortunes, despite constant investigations showing this to be untrue. I could go on but won't.
My point is that many of those claiming to be liberal on this issue are among the most illiberal when it comes to almost every other policy.
As with abortion, I can state clearly that my views on marriage would not be different if I did not have my faith, I believe that these are matters that can be intellectually formed within and without a faith community. I suppose the biggest fight we have on our hands is that against those who will assure us that they will fight for our right to hold our views but oppose us whenever we try to argue for them in the public sector - needless to say, a position that does not obtain for themselves.
So, to those who voted against this Bill, and those, like Stephen Timms (Lab, East Ham) who abstained but spoke against the Second Reading, I offer encouragement and thank them for their courage. It is because of parliamentarians like them that I still have hope for our political system.