Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mon Nov 20th
After a satisfying morning getting a number of letters written, plus my features for various newspapers, and with a mountain of washing hanging on the line, and some housework achieved, I ate some soup and listened to the news. It was reported that an employee of British Airways had lost her appeal concerning her right to wear a small cross round her neck while working for the company. I fleetingly reflected that here was another example of a British institution displaying a now-routine anti-Christian approach (it's so daft! British Airways has the Union Jack as its logo - which has a cross as its centre and core!!). I thought: well, there is nothing I can do, and we are all getting rather tired of these idiotic debates.....Then about half an hour later the phone rang. Sky TV News: would I come and debate about this employee of British Airways who has been banned from wearing a cross.....

Changed from comfortable stay-at-home clothes into something more suitable. No time to tackle hair properly. Train to Waterloo. I am not usually so nervous any more about TV interviews, but this one was to be with Polly Toynbee, the militantly anti-Catholic, anti-Christian columnist on the Guardian. Felt slightly sick with nerves and had to rush to the ladies' at the station and then again at Westminster Bridge (Deo Gratias for St Stephen's Tavern, with a nice cloakroom!). and then again on arrival at TV studios.

The illuminated Houses of Parliament in the glow of a darkening Autumn tea-time are just fabulous, almost ethereal. SKY TV has its studios at Millbank, so I walked down past St Stephen's entrance, and that statue of Richard the Lionheart, which gave me courage. I've done this walk literally hundreds and hundreds of times, and at one point was doing it daily, when I worked at the House of Commons. Today it looked at its most glorious, and there, flying out into the cold wind from the top of the high Victoria Tower, was the Union Jack, with the Cross at the heart of it.

St Edmund Campion was tried at Westminster Hall - still there, just as he knew it - after being horribly tortured, and he gave a ringing defence of the Catholic Faith, so why should any of us be remotely fussed when all we have to do is live and defend the same faith in ease and comfort?

The debate didn't go too badly. Made the obvious points : wearing a cross is standard part of our tradition, why the fuss, get a life. Britain has been Christian for more than 1,000 years - heck, almost 2,000 years as the Faith first came here during the Roman Empire, the same Empire into which Christ himself was born.... surely the cross has a place, as of right, in our common life? The Toynbee got a bit rattled and went on and on....she wanted to see no Christian symbols anywhere in public life, no prayers in Parliament, no formal place for the Church, religion should be completely private.....

Asked for a final word, I said I didn't happen to be wearing a cross myself, but I did have this small medallion depicting not Christ, but his mother - I held it up briefly - and would give it to Miss Toynbee as a gesture of goodwill.

She wasn't happy. As we put on our coats afterwards I said "That was a genine offer - here's the medal" and she said no, thanks, it was v. kind of me but.....

If anyone feels like sending a Miraculous Medal to Miss Toynbee in place of the one she didn't want to accept from me, she works at The Guardian.

Collected bike from SPUC headquarters where I had left it on Sat - so it was useful that I was in London today after all, nice arrangement of Providence. Bought an Advent Calendar at the CTS bookshop - they have some beautiful ones - to send to my sister in New Zealand. Also bought L'Osservatore Romano, which I rarely read but which had some nice pix of the H. Father so looked somehow reassurring. Bought large cafe latte and settled down to read. Felt more settled and ordinary. I really don't like TV debates.


mrsdarwin said...

Dear Mrs. Bogle,

As an American reader, I had to write you to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your accounts of Catholic life in England.

Several years ago when my husband and I were students at Franciscan University of Steubenville, we spent a semster abroad and were able to visit England and Wales at Triduum time. On Holy Thursday we were in Cardiff. Worried that we'd be unable to find a church for Mass while visiting a nearby castle the next day (we'd both been raised on tales of the poor persecuted English Catholics), we stopped in at the bookstore of St. David's Cathedral and asked if there was a Catholic Church in Caerphilly. The ladies running the store were incredulous and told us that there were five Catholic churches in Cardiff alone! They obviously thought that we were too cute, even if we were silly American students, and spent a great deal of time in discussing whether or not our accents were at all similar to that of the actor who'd played an American in a sketch on their local morning show.

That evening we attended Mass at the Cathedral, and someone must have remembered us, because we were asked to bring up the gifts for the Holy Thursday Mass. We were a bit embarrassed about walking down the main aisle of the cathedral in our dusty coats and travelling boots, but now the experience is one of my favorite travel memories.

Your blog is a pleasant reminder of all the good work Catholics are doing all over the world. Please keep it up -- you're such an encouragement to me!

Cat Hodge


Anonymous said...

Good for you! Thank you for being prepared to give your time to be the voice of reason on TV.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Joanna! The thought of Mistress Toynbee being inundated with Miraculous Medals is a comforting one.

Anonymous said...

I think I remember reading that Sikh employees are permitted to have their bangles visible because it would be difficult to conceal them. As if they couldn't slide them up their arms, under their shirts!

The main problem is that Christians are that in name only and really don't care enough about their faith to protest the oh so polite, legal persecution of Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for doing what the rest of us would shy away from. We love our faith but seem embarressed to defend it. Having said that i can imagine Ms Toynbee would be the sort to eat many of us alive. But we've got the Holy Spirit on our side, who has she got.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Toynbee wasn't as vitriolic towards Muslims over the whole viel debate a few months ago. Can't think why


I suppose she would deny the right of Pope Benedict to visit Turkey as well.

Anonymous said...

Instead of sending her a medal (I have no idea what horrors they might face in her custody) I think I'll just send off an email informing her that I will keep her in my prayers that the Mother of God might lead her to the true faith.

Brendan Allen said...

Yes, but the big advantage of live TV is that it is broadcast live, so they can't subsequently take what you said and selectively edit it and twist it.

Monica said...

How dreadful to learn from today's Daily Mail that the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury availed himself of upgraded and privileged treatment by BA on his BA flight to Rome to see the Holy Father. What a contrast with the comments of his confrere in York.

While I wouldn't advocate using the Crucifix as an exemplar of gesture politics, I was attracted to a suggestion that the BA employee wears a three foot high Cross which, of course, could not be concealed by her clothing.

The secularism of this country is truly worrying. Where is the true Christian leadership?