IT is an odd thing about our muddled age that despite the fact that communism has heen finally exposed for the sham that it is, extremism is still far more acceptable if it is on the left rather than on the right.
Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone are really sound men at heart, while Enoch Powell and even the relatively moderate Norman Tebbit are considered a menace to the democracy that we hold dear. The Militant Tendency is viewed with much more sympathy than the National Front.
Communism has, of course, always been regarded by the so-called thinking classes in Britain as more fashionable and chic than fascism. It is quite in order for a politician to have been a communist as an undergraduate, not so hunk) dory for him to have been a fascist. In the thirties it was almost a snob and class matter: English public schoolboys joined the reds: elementary schoolboys threw in their lot with Sir Oswald Mosley.
What holds in secular affairs also holds to a large degree in the modern church. Leftie priests and theologians are given more rope and tolerance than those on the right. The Latin massers, for example, always had a harder time of it than the Catholic marxists.
Archbishop Lefebvre is a typical case in point. So far as
am concerned he became in the end an ecclesiastical crackpot and prisoner of tortured logic, but for some in the church he was a peril not for his theological views but for his
right-wing politics. If Lefebvre had embraced liberation theology with his fight for Tridentine purity he would have had a more sympathetic ride.
What was always paradoxical to me, in the very early days of his rebellion, was how those church radicals who always argued for the supremacy of conscience when it concerned birth control, free speech and the like, were not prepared to give Lefebvre the benefit of the doubt. In fact when he began his revolt, as Christopher Monckton pointed out on this page last week, he was making some particularly valid points concerning the old and the new liturgy.
But, sadly, extremism got him in the end, just as it got Musky who had not started out as a political recruiter of nasty thugs. Lefebvre's language eventually descended to almost barrack-room level and his behaviour into schism.
He is a warning to us all. His life should make the far left and right of ecclesiastical diehards examine their consciences, particularly on intellectual arrogance and splitual conceit. If we are to have extremism in the church let it be if the variety espoused by Cardnal Suenens — extreme moderaion.
POLITICS is beconing less and less formal, even floppy. The world's statesmen now slope around with one hand in their trouser pockets. baring the Gulf crisis when Preident Bush was delivering the most awesome warning to Saddam Hussein he did it with one hand in pocket. I could swear that I saw John Major gulf), of the same offence when speaking outside No. 10.
He is a great hand-in-pocket man. When next you see him on television coming out of his Downing Street residence notice how he guiltily withdraws his hand from his pocket when coming into public view.
He is obviously aware that it is a practice that does not add gravitas to his office. Maggie Thatcher was lucky. She did not wear trousers (only metaphorically) and always had a bag to swing.