From the ashes of Communism…

Reading the Daily Telegraph yesterday, I came across an extraordinary story. The headline says it all:

Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.

Read the full story at the paper’s website here. What can one say about this? To be sure, I do not know which is more surprising – that Gorbachev is a Christian or that he has a particular devotion to St Francis of Assisi. One would expect a Russian to be devoted to one of the tougher saints, let’s say, the likes of Ignatius of Loyola or Ambrose!

Having said that, I am very surprised that Gorbachev has anything to do with specifically Catholic Saints at all. It is rare that I hear of any positive interaction between the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox, to which the last leader of the Soviet Union belongs. Maybe, just maybe, Gorbachev could be a positive influence here. At any rate, I am sure his prayers will be.


Judicial Sloggers in Italy

Gamesmanship at the crease – in the form of sledging – recently came under close scrutiny when Australia found that it could not take it as well as it has traditionally given it. 

Now, gamesmanship before the law – in the form of lying – is receiving similar attention after the Court of Cassation in Italy ruled that it is acceptable for a woman to lie about having an affair in order to protect her honour. The full story is at BBC On-Line here.

You might have thought that in having an affair, the woman had laid aside her honour, but the judges disagreed. How has this come about? Well, Italy may be the Catholic heart of Europe, but she is also the country of the bella figura where giving a good impression of oneself is regarded as being not just a good thing to do but necessary. Perhaps this blinded the judges to the implications of their ruling.

Or, it may be that these judges are, well, a bit mad, for as the BBC article points out, they are they same judges who once said that a woman who wore tight jeans could not be raped as they could only be removed with her consent.

Whatever the truth of the matter, let’s just hope that the cuckold never asks the judge why he is so fat… 

Short, and to the point

When it comes to official documents, the Vatican is as good as any other body in writing them in dryasdust language. Very rarely, if ever, are they written to please the eye as well as the ear. Having said that, however, one can only admire the following question-answer method as used by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. For example,

First question: Whether the Baptism conferred with the formulas «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier» and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer» is valid?

Second question: Whether the persons baptized with those formulas have to be baptized in forma absoluta?


To the first question: Negative.

To the second question: Affirmative.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 1, 2008.

Instead of giving long winded and, ultimately, evasive answers, wouldn’t it be good if Governments were forced to use a similar format for questions regarding its policies? It would certainly give ministers something to think about.

A Matter of Money

Zimbabwe and China are both alike in iniquity yet while the British Government tries to find a way of banning the Zimbabwean cricket team from touring England (BBC On-Line report here), the Prime Minister gets ready to travel to China to watch the British Olympic team compete in the Beijing Olympics. And without a shred of irony, a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport says, “We should not let international sport become a propaganda tool for dictators.” Oops.

Cricket at the Crossroads

The Recusant Cricket Club would be remiss in its duty if it did not take heed of cricketing developments in India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has set up the Indian Premier League – a franchise league playing Twenty20 cricket. The full story is at BBC On-Line here.

Everyone will have their own opinion about Twenty20 cricket. Personally, I abhor it and make no effort to listen to any matches that turn up on the radio. Not that they do very often, except in one minute reports during football programmes. So, I ignore the reports instead. 

Cricket for me is about the four or five day game; county and Test level. The (international) one-day game is to be tolerated, but no more. It takes away the technique and makes the game a glorified slug-fest.

Thus, the idea of the county game being diminished by a franchise Twenty20 tournament is abhorrent to me. To make matters worse, it looks like the franchises would follow the awful practice of giving their teams names that have no relation to the area. In my own beloved rugby union, we have the Sale Sharks. I have heard that the north west is a hard area, but never of sharks prowling the area.  

So, goodbye Gloucestershire, hello Gloucestershire Grim Reapers. Maybe they will play with scythes and not bats. Goodbye Middlesex, hello Middlesex Marauders. Presuming, of course, that the county association is not ditched altogether.

If the IPL is taken up in England, it will be the next biggest sell-out after the sale of all cricketing TV rights to Sky TV. For the sake of all that is good and holy and five days long, I urge readers to reject the IPL and all its off shoots.

Kind Hearts and Minarets

Recently, I was told about the Anglican bishop of Oxford who said that a local mosque ought to be able to sound the call to prayer on Fridays and the question was asked whether this is something we should approve of.

At first glance, the answer seemed to me to be ‘yes’. After all, we live in a country which – the established Church notwithstanding – does not favour one religion over another. Christian churches have the right to ring their bells every Sunday, so surely mosques ought to have the right to make their call on Fridays.

However, as I was mulling over this issue the other day, I began to wonder whether I was not approaching it from the wrong angle, that is to say, from the point of view of the country, instead of the community.

According to the national centred view, the basis on which we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the mosque comes from the top, that is, from the Government of the day. Thus, if the Government believes it right and fair that mosques should be afforded the same right as churches, then so they must.

But is it really right and fair that the Government should have this final say? Surely the better course would be for it to delegate (so far as is reasonably possible) all local decisions to local authorities; including the issue of how to deal with the transmission of sounds that are liable to affect the community.

Therefore, if the community is likely to be disturbed by the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, it is right and fair that the local authority has the right to say ‘no’ to it even if the Government believes the reverse.

But what about the Muslims themselves? I would suggest that in this matter, the principal of fairness lies with the community (represented by the local authority) and not with the particular group within that community. If it were otherwise, particular groups would simply end up doing their own thing to the detriment of all.

For the above reason, while I respect the Bishop of Oxford’s chosen stance, I think that not only may one disagree with the right of mosques to broadcast their call to prayer, but one may do so and – far from being unfair – actually be fair for one is, of course, a member of the community that will be affected by the broadcast were it to take place.