The Blairs challenge the Pope over gay sex and condoms

As a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, Tony Blair must know that Lent is a period for repentance, quiet reflection and taking stock. Which makes it all the more curious that the former Prime Minister has chosen the holiest time of the year to take on the Pope, of all people, on the position of the Catholic Church in today’s society.

Mr Blair began last month with an article insisting political leaders needed to “do God”. Then, last week, he directly criticised Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican for their “entrenched attitude” towards homosexuality.

But while his words were applauded by gay rights campaigners, Mr Blair sparked a withering response from leading Catholics by comparing the Church with a political party that needed its own Clause 4 moment to change with the times.

And now, Mr Blair’s wife, Cherie – one of Britain’s most prominent Catholics – has also directly challenged Pope Benedict. In an interview with The Times of Malta, Mrs Blair described the Pope’s assertion that condoms worsened Africa’s Aids epidemic as “rather sad” and said the scientific evidence refuted his view. In Malta to publicise her autobiography, Speaking for Myself, she said last week: “We do have to understand that there is concern about promiscuity. But there’s also a real concern about saving lives and I absolutely believe, and scientific evidence shows, that condoms do save lives. Therefore, when there’s a choice between endangering and not endangering life, we should also choose life.”

Defending the right of Catholics to use contraception, she added: “I think it’s a matter of personal conscience in the end. I don’t feel bad about making those choices and I don’t feel the Catholic Church feels bad about me making those choices.”

Mr Blair, in his interview with the gay magazine Attitude, said: “Organised religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changed circumstances.

“You can either A: hold on to your core vote, basically, say ‘Look let’s not break out because if we break out we might lose what we’ve got, and at least we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s keep it’. Or B: you say ‘Let’s accept that the world is changing, and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out’.”

The apparently coincidental attacks on the Vatican from a couple who have done everything to court both Pope Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, have raised eyebrows. Mr Blair’s fiercest critics say it is typical of a man who believes he is God to try to lecture the Pope. But while many would find it difficult to disagree with the Blairs’ remarks on homosexuality and contraception, the ex-prime minister’s comparison of Catholicism with a political party has caused widespread bemusement, even among supporters.

Since leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair has created an inter-faith foundation, become a familiar figure in the Holy Land as the quartet of international powers’ Middle East envoy, and, two Christmases ago, converted to Catholicism. He already attended mass regularly with his family and he took communion with Pope John Paul on the eve of the Iraq war. In a Radio 3 programme on faith, broadcast on Friday, Mr Blair said his religious faith was a “comfort” to him at all times, before risking controversy by adding that a “single day” did not pass by without him reflecting on the Iraq war.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all