Wobbly Welby has cornered the market in empty apologies
We live in the age of apology. This is not a reference to the quintessentially British habit of apologising to the person who bumps into you but to the politically motivated non-apology—the ridiculous virtue-signalling, leftist habit of apologising for the past and the sins of one’s ancestors.
It has even bred an academic discipline—scholars of the public apology whose conclusion surprise, surprise, is that it has made the apology meaningless.
Phoney Tony and Chillax Dave are to blame. Tony Blair, the once consummate PR man, took it upon himself to apologise for the slave trade and the Irish potato famine (though not for the Iraq war). Dave tallied up an even more mouth-watering selection—for the economic crisis no less, Section 28, Bloody Sunday, the Hillsborough victims and the Amritsar massacre in India of 1919.
“When we blame ourselves,” Oscar Wilde noted, “we feel that no one else has the right to blame us.” Indeed. In modern politics strategic apologies are motivated by the speaker’s attempt to change how others perceive him; a weak man’s way, you could say, of keeping your relationships with critics intact.
Now we’re blessed with an Archbishop who has taken on this holy mantle of contrition chic. Just before “Wobbly” Welby ascended the throne of Canterbury, his predecessor, Rowan, the Grand Druid of Long-windedness, had offered a hand-wringing apology to Charles Darwin of blessed memory for the Church of England’s initial rejection of his theory of evolution. Since his consecration, His Piousness the Grand Panjandrum of Canterbury has managed to apologise to most of the Church’s secular critics as well as to its entire vocal victim group discontents therein.
His Piousness the Grand Panjandrum of Canterbury has apologised to most of the Church’s secular critics as well as to its entire vocal victim group discontents.
He has apologised (for the Church’s ‘persecution on the grounds of sexuality’) to ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’ and for ‘the hurt and pain they have experienced by the Anglican Communion over the years.’
If that wasn’t enough virtue-signalling for his incumbency, he hasn’t been able to resist taking on the evils of history. He (just) avoided apologising for the Dresden bombings. He cried mea maxima culpa before 700 ‘wimmin’ vicars at St Paul's Cathedral and apologised for the ‘scars’ and ‘hurt’ to the campaigners of women’s ordination and ‘for my own part in that hurt.’
With Christian Unity Week on the radar and his abhorrence of anything divisive (from the free market to Brexit), another apology opportunity has offered itself—the Reformation no less. Yes, our division and despair creating prelate has found another wrong he seeks to put right—that all time biggest division of conscience ever—the schism between then Catholic and Anglican Churches that dates back 500 years to the Reformation and the turning point in British history.
It must be healed and Welby has hit on the very way to do it. We must repent of it—the Reformation no less! What could be easier? What a clever way to placate the Romans. Without having to worry that by ordaining women priestesses or bishopesses he has forever severed the slender thread of fading hope that linked Canterbury with Rome. Never mind that his progressive ‘beliefs’ have even driven Anglican clergy out of the C of E into the arms of Rome.
By this trick of the cards, Welby can happily put to one side the fact that every single modern teaching (or lack of it) and practice of the C of E—on homosexuality, abortion, and contraception and women priests—has been utterly divisive. Rome shudders! And, so too, would the Reformers! So too, does anyone with any understanding of the history of freedom of conscience, toleration and free speech that the Reformation uniquely heralded.
Does Welby not understand the gravity of an apology? Does Welby not know the original meaning of the word apology?
‘The Reformation had been accompanied by a revolution, one in which a book that had been imprisoned in Latin had become accessible in the everyday language of the English people,’ writes Gordon Campbell in his magisterial work on the King James Bible. Is Welby apologising for being able to read the Bible in his native English? Or is he apologising for the revolution that ushered in the printing press along with the liberating doctrines of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and Sola Gratia?
Does Welby not understand the gravity of an apology? Or does he think an apology is like the modern prayer of confession in the Church of England’s Common Worship where the congregants no longer confess that they are ‘miserable offenders’ but instead say a mild, ‘oops, sorry’, every time they sneeze or spill a drink?
An apology is meaningful only when the victims are identifiable as a distinct group, continue to suffer harm and are causally connected to the past injustice. Who, on earth, are the current victims of the Reformation? The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster? Or the Polish and Filipino immigrants who now fill the pews of Roman churches in Britain and ensure their survival? Or is Welby in keeping with his left-wing ideology of victimhood canonising a new caste of Reformation victims?
Does Welby not know the original meaning of the word apology? In the New Testament “apologia” is a speech in one’s defence. St Peter uses this word when he writes to the suffering Christians to always be ‘prepared to make a defence (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1Peter 3:15). Christians, even when persecuted, were to offer an apologia and not an apology for their faith. “Wobbly” Welby is doing precisely the opposite.
If he hasn't learned anything about an apologia from the Apostle Peter, he might learn something about an apology from P G Wodehouse. That wonderful creator of Blandings Castle stuck his pipe in his mouth and pounded these words on his typewriter as he wrote in The Man Upstairs: ‘It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.’
(Originally published in The Conservative Woman)