Friday, 10 April 2009

Times: Tony Blair urges Catholic Church to rethink views on homosexuality

Thursday, 9th April 2009; by AFP

Former British premier Tony Blair said the Catholic Church needed to rethink its attitude towards homosexuality, as it is out of step with ordinary church-goers, in an interview published yesterday.

Mr Blair, who converted to Catholicism after leaving office in June 2007, cited a "huge generational difference" as the key to Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to homosexuality.

A poll of the congregation at a Catholic Church on a Sunday would reveal how liberal those in attendance were, he claimed.

"We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith," Mr Blair told Attitude magazine, a publication targeted at gay people.

During Mr Blair's premiership, Britain enacted legislation introducing civil partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples legal recognition of their relationships, allowing them the same rights in areas like work, pensions and inheritance as heterosexual couples.

Asked about the Pope's comments on homosexuality - he has in the past suggested that it is as much of a threat to the survival of humanity as climate change - Mr Blair replied that "there is a huge generational difference here".

"And there's probably that same fear among religious leaders that if you concede ground on an issue like this, because attitudes and thinking evolve over time, where does that end?

"You'd start having to rethink many, many things."

He added that if a Catholic congregation at a church on a Sunday were to be polled, "you'd be surprised at how liberal-minded people were".

"I think on some of these issues, if you went and asked the congregation, I think you'd find that their faith is not to be found in those types of entrenched attitudes," said Mr Blair.

He formally remained a member of the Church of England while Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, but attended Catholic services with his family in that time.

He once admitted to the BBC that he toned down religious talk while in office for fear of being considered a "nutter" and his spokesman Alastair Campbell once stated: "We don't do God."

Since leaving office, he has founded the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to combat religious extremism and promote understanding between the world's religions.

He is also Yale University's Howland Distinguised Fellow specialising in faith and globalisation.

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