Where Tony Blair Puts His Faith

(photo: CNS/Reuters)

It received little press attention, but as the Daily Blog reported earlier this week, Msgr. Michel Schooyans, a human-rights expert, recently made some strong criticisms of Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation.

Speaking May 1 at the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Msgr. Schooyans said Blair’s foundation — which the former British prime minister set up last year to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions — actually aims to remake these religions and use them to expand “new rights.”

The result would be to reduce those religions “to the same common denominator, which means stripping them of their identity,” Msgr. Schooyans said.

The 79-year-old priest, who is emeritus professor of philosophy and theology of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, said the new system of international law favored by Blair’s foundation will have to be “imposed on the world religions in such a way that the new ‘faith’ may be the unifying principle of global society.”

This new “faith,” Msgr. Schooyans argued, promotes policies that include “gender equality,” the “empowerment of women” and improvement of “maternal health” — phrases frequently utilized by the international abortion lobby to advance its agenda. “We know very well what these expressions cover and imply,” said Msgr. Schooyans.

Furthermore, Msgr. Schooyans, who is a member of three pontifical academies, warned against the foundation’s support for the Global Ethic Foundation, which is strongly backed by dissenting Swiss theologian Hans Kung. He said its “global ethic” cannot be realized “except at the price of sacrificing religious freedom, of the imposition of a ‘politically correct’ interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, and of the sabotage of the natural foundations of law.”

Blair’s foundation, Msgr. Schooyans continued, is sending the world back to “the time of Hobbes, if not of Cromwell.” As a consequence, “Religion is emptied of its distinctive content, its doctrine; nothing remains but a residue of morality, as defined by the Leviathan.”

In response to Msgr. Schooyans’s trenchant criticisms, a spokesman for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation told me it was “definitely not looking to discover or create a lowest common denominator among faiths,” but that it was “seeking to encourage humanitarian action based on certain values which the great faiths share.”

Interfaith dialogue, the spokesman said, “can enhance the capacity of believers to understand their own faith better when they see it through the eyes of someone of another faith.”

The spokesman referred to a speech Blair made in London’s Westminster Cathedral last April, in which he said his foundation “will expressly not be about chucking faith into a doctrinal melting pot.  It is not about losing our own distinctive faith. It is about learning about, living and working with others of a different faith.”

Yet when Tony Blair comes out with statements, as he did last month, that the Pope should “rethink” the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, then it seems he is less interested in learning about other faiths (including his own), and more in trying to change them to fit his own vision and ideas.

So for all its noble pretensions, Blair’s “faith foundation” appears to have little foundation in any faith beyond that of relativism and liberalism. If that is so, then like liberalism in general, its long-term future can only be in doubt.