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Blair's stand on abortion could derail his plans to convert to Catholicism

UK Daily Mail | June 23, 2007
GORDON RAYNER

Tony Blair's support for abortion could derail his plans to convert to Roman Catholicism, prominent members of the church have warned. Mr Blair is meeting with the Pope at the Vatican today.

They said his parliamentary votes in favour of terminations at up to 24 weeks were "totally unacceptable".

And they insisted that the Prime Minister must prove he has renounced his liberal views before being accepted into their church.

Sources in Rome suggest he hopes to raise the subject of his intended conversion at the meeting.

Mr Blair's plan to switch from the Church of England has been an open secret for years. His wife Cherie is a Catholic and their four children have all been brought up in the faith. When he quits Downing Street next week, Mr Blair is expected to begin his spiritual journey under the guidance of Father John Walsh.

The Royal Air Force chaplain has been saying mass at Chequers for the past four years.

However, one senior Catholic priest told the Mail: "There will be an out and out scandal if he is received into the church without making a public pronouncement that he has changed his mind on such issues as abortion, embryo research and civil partnerships for homosexuals.

"He must accept the teachings of the Catholic Church in their entirety.

"He can't just ignore the bits that don't suit him or cross his fingers behind his back when he is received into the church."

Damian Thompson, editor in chief of the Catholic Herald newspaper, said: "There will be substantial Catholic opposition to Blair converting, given the fact that he defended keeping the present time limit on abortion."

Dr William Oddie, a leading Catholic commentator, said: "His personal views seem much closer to Anglicanism than Catholicism, so I think there will be a backlash if he decides to convert.

"It is much harder to get into the Catholic Church than to be born into it. And if he is received into the church he will have to swear that he believes in everything the Catholic Church stands for."

Mr Blair is unlikely to make an official announcement of his decision to convert because it would raise questions as to why he had not acted on his convictions sooner.

Father Walsh is understood to have agreed to prepare him to be received into the church, which usually happens around Easter.

As long ago as 1996, Mr Blair was taking communion at Catholic ceremonies, until the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, told him not to.

Mr Blair's reported response - "I wonder what Jesus would have made of it" - was cited by some Catholics as evidence of his "total lack of understanding" of the ways of their church.

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