Politically incorrect religion: the PM and the two covenants

The wedding of Theresa and Philip May at her father's church in Oxfordshire. mrs May's father, the Rev. Hubert Brasier, stands second right with Mrs Brasier, by then confined to a wheelchair.

The wedding of Theresa and Philip May at her father’s church in Oxfordshire. Mrs May’s father, the Rev. Hubert Brasier, stands second right with Mrs Brasier, by then confined to a wheelchair.

Giles Fraser – a left-wing but pro-Brexit Anglican vicar – has recently drawn attention to the religious background of Theresa May, newly appointed Prime Minister.  It is well known that Mrs May is a vicar’s daughter. Less well known (as Fr. Fraser points out) is that her father was on the most extreme Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England.  This carries politically incorrect implications that Fr. Fraser chooses not to discuss.

During Mrs May’s childhood her father – Fr. Hubert Brasier – was successively vicar of two countryside parishes near Oxford: St Kenelm, Enstone, from 1959 to 1970; and St Mary the Virgin, Wheatley, from 1970 until his death in 1981.

In her appearance on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in 2014, Mrs May chose as one of her eight records the hymn ‘Therefore we before him bending’.  As Fr. Fraser writes in his Guardian article:

Now this really is a fascinating choice. First, because no one who wasn’t a proper churchgoer would ever have heard of it. And, second, because it betrays the enormous sacramental influence of her high church father. Benediction, the worship of the blessed sacrament – or “wafer worship” as Protestant scoffers often describe it – is pretty hardcore Anglo-Catholic stuff. That’s why she was named after a 500-year-old Catholic saint. As time goes on, this background is bound to shape her ministry – and yes, that’s how she will think of it.

During her Desert Island Discs interview, Mrs May recalled:

“a hymn which sometimes, if my father and mother and I were alone in the church, we would just kneel down and sing …’Therefore we before him Bending'”

There is a reason why this hymn would have been sung by the vicar’s family in the absence of the congregation: this particular hymn (known to Roman Catholics down the centuries as Tantum ergo) is theological and political dynamite!  It is sung during a service formally known as ‘Benediction of (or with) the Blessed Sacrament’‘.

This service is seen by the more Protestant (‘low church’) end of the Church of England as illegal: earlier in the last century there would sometimes be legal action taken against Anglo-Catholic vicars by parishoners if Benediction was introduced into their church. Very likely this was the reason for Fr Brasier singing this service in private with his family. Certainly the current website of St Mary’s, Wheatley, does not suggest that it is today an exceptionally “high church” parish.

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - the service celebrated privately by Theresa May's family during her childhood - was once seen as 'illegal' in the Church of England

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament – the service celebrated privately by Theresa May’s family during her childhood – was once seen as ‘illegal’ in the Church of England

Several decades later a wider issue is raised by the words of the Tantum ergo (written by the great scholar St Thomas Aquinas in the mid-13th century).  Latin being a very precise language, there is no room here for modern liberal fudging: St Thomas writes that we venerate the blessed sacrament – the body and blood of Christ – as we celebrate the transition from the old covenant (between God and his ‘chosen people’, the Jews) to the new covenant (between God and Christians).

The English words of the hymn sung by Theresa May and her family are obscure, but the Latin original is clear: et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui.  The ancient document – the old covenant – gives way to the new rite, represented by the substance of Christ’s body and blood in the form (the ‘accidental’ appearance) of bread and wine.

Cedat is the important word here: the Latin verb cedere meaning to surrender, yield, or give way – as in English to cede territory after a war, to concede in an argument, or indeed to succeed – as Prime Minister May has succeeded David Cameron.

Modern, liberal Catholic spokesmen have sometimes argued that the old covenant with the Jews remains in force alongside the new covenant sealed by Christ’s death and resurrection. Ironically Fr. Brasier’s old parish at Enstone includes the village of Heythrop – which was the original base of Heythrop College, London University’s specialist theological college founded by the Jesuits.  Modern tutors at Heythrop – such as former principal Brendan Callaghan – have been in the forefront of those arguing that the divine covenant with Jewry remains valid. Pope Francis recently insisted that the Church “recognises the irrevocability of the covenant and God’s constant and faithful love for Israel.” He added: “it is clear there is an inseparable bond between Christians and Jews.”

Yet if Prime Minister May truly believes the words of the hymn she sang as a child – the words she chose to take with her to the BBC’s putative desert island – she cannot believe this, any more than she could believe that David Cameron retains Prime Ministerial authority alongside her.

This raises a contradiction for Mrs May, who has identified herself very strongly with the Zionist bandit state of Israel – whether through conviction or political convenience, one cannot tell.

In April 2015 (as Home Secretary) Mrs May addressed Britain’s largest Zionist youth movement in a speech celebrating the 67th anniversary of Israel’s foundation, a catastrophe known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

Mrs May explicitly referred to commemorating Yom Hazikaron, the day on which “We remember the sacrifice of those who fought to achieve and protect that independence.”

This means most notably those Zionist terrorists who died fighting against British forces and Arab civilians during 1945-48, and includes those who were executed for atrocities such as the murder of Lord Moyne and his driver Lance Corporal Arthur Fuller.

How can an educated person at one and the same time believe in the words of St Thomas Aquinas in the Tantum ergo – the traditional teaching of the Christian church down the centuries – yet at the same time celebrate the creation of the State of Israel as a fulfilment of the old covenant with Jewry, which had – according to that Christian doctrine – been abrogated?

How can a British political leader publicly “remember the sacrifice” of Jewish, anti-British terrorists as though they were heroes?

Perhaps for an aspirant Prime Minister any heresy, any betrayal, any hypocrisy is conceivable for the sake of personal ambition.

New Prime Minister Theresa May, alongside Sir Eric Pickles (chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel) declares "I am a Jew"

New Prime Minister Theresa May, alongside Sir Eric Pickles (chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel) declares “I am a Jew”

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