I’ve just attended a very stirring talk at the Oratory, given by Charles Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph and the official biographer of Margaret Thatcher. The talk was organised by the Friends of the Ordinariate. The hall was heaving with people, and it was standing room only.
The defining characteristic of the talk was Charles Moore’s memories of Thatcher and the factors that coloured her religious beliefs. Thatcher’s father denounced Catholicism as ‘spiritual totalitarianism’, but Moore insisted that, ‘she had none of her father’s animosity to Roman Catholicism’.
Moore reminisced about a ‘perplexing’ time when he and Thatcher were both Godparents to the same child. Moore asked Thatcher if her twins had been Christened, and she replied, ‘oh, yes, but without the water’. Moore concluded, ‘she had no interest in sacraments’.
Moore and Thatcher did make a journey together to Rome for a meeting with Pope Benedict. Moore pointed to the fact that Thatcher was, at the time, losing her mental faculties, and that he said to her, ‘isn’t it marvellous that we are going to see Pope Benedict?’ which he said, ‘was more to remind her that this would be happening’. Thatcher asked him, ‘what does one say to a Pope?’
In a crowd that big, there were probably a few who did not revere Thatcher, but the first female prime minister is dead, and while Charles Moore was clearly very fond of Mrs T, there was not one boo, hiss or sigh from the audience. In this company, it would have been seen as downright rude to make a snide remake about the first female prime minister who passed away recently.
At the Oratory talk, the audience was mainly comprised of former Anglicans who are still drying themselves off from swimming across the Tiber. There was a lot of date comparing, ‘I became Catholic on this date. Cheers!’ It was an atmosphere of celebration as fizzy wine was pouring into glasses and the tingle of chinking glasses filled the air.
I confess that I like former Anglicans (and Anglicans) because, in my experience, they hold true to certain values of Englishness such as good manners, minding-their-own-business, integrity, tact and honour.
Charles Moore, who himself is a convert from the Church of England, spoke frankly on the Ordinariate: “wholly Catholic, but representative of a different tradition”
“The Ordinariate is not just a case of bishops making a lot of former Anglican priests work jolly hard”
Reflecting on the fact that the Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, has a Roman Catholic spiritual director, Moore said, ‘previously that would have prevented him from being Archbishop of Canterbury’.
At the Q and A, I put my hand up a few times, and had quite a challenging (maybe even obnoxious) question: did Thatcher’s tempestuous relations with Northern Irish Catholics shake her relationship with the Catholic Church?
I’ll have to read Charles Moore’s account of Thatcher's life to find out if he answers this question.
|Charles Moore signing copies of his biography of Thatcher in St Wilfrid's Hall. June 13 2013|