The Anglican Church will learn, I hope, the harsh lesson the Catholic Church has finally begun to understand, that to interfere too much in the daily minutiae of political debate is to produce a contradictory, confused and ultimately meaningless flood of well-intentioned platitudes. There comes a time when what is said is simply ignored or rejected. The present Pope is indeed experiencing this- He is not necessarily saying the wrong things- he is simply reaping the whirlwind set in motion by his predecessors and his world-wide congregation has tired or what he is talking about.
It is really better to keep quiet.
Today, Archbishop Justin Welby condemns the government for reneging on a decision never taken, namely to accept 3000 children as refugees to the UK. Of course, I warmly encourage our councils and our country to open their arms to these children and to refugees of all ages, but I recognise that there must always be a difference between what we want to do and the way we allocate the resources we have available.
Last year, about this time, the Archbishop made an extraordinary statement that it was not racist to complain about migration. I thought he was utterly wrong then and I still think so now, but his pronouncement today seems to be completely contradictory. The only logical conclusion is that, in the absence of a credible opposition in the House of Commons, the Archbishop has taken it on himself to play the role so resolutely abandoned by Jeremy Corbyn. Sadly, this is not the office to which the Archbishop has been appointed.
This is what he said last year:
He said that to be anxious about “one of the greatest movements of people in human history” was “very reasonable”. He added: “There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” This was noted to echo the claim that “it is not racist to impose limits on immigration”
At the time, there was a good deal written about the difference between a refugee and a migrant, though in fact that distinction is a legal one, requires a lengthy process, and is rarely established at the border.
But this is what he said this year, today:
“Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children.
“Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us.”
“I very much hope that the Government will reconsider this decision, and work with church groups and others to find a sustainable and compassionate solution that allows those most in need to find sanctuary in our country.”
I agree with the sentiments he expresses but his own U-turn is astonishing. Ironically, the Coventry Telegraph headlines its article on this subject: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises U-turn on child refugees scheme. Something here about the pot and the kettle!
Leave the talking to someone else.
There is an opportunity to question the Government’s decision, my Lord Archbishop, but not with this dodgy track-record. It is simply unbelievable and it cheapens the debate.