Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 6.6.21

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’ 

Detailed info on Galicia and Pontevedra city here.  https://thoughtsfromgalicia.com

Covid 

This is a must-read – long – article on the question of the origin of the virus. And this is a second one. If the link isn’t accessible, please tell me and I’ll C&P the article later today or tomorrow.

These are said to the the latest Covid rules in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Croatia?

Talking of Greece . . . 

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Here’s the latest development in the war between Madrid and some regions over Covid restrictions. I confess to having given up trying to understand it, in favour of just relying on the Voz de Galicia to tell me what we’re allowed to do in our street. Or possibly the entire barrio.

When I first came here 20 years ago, it was commonplace to hear “The weekend begins on Friday. Meaning midday for many folk. More recently, I’ve heard ‘Thursday’ (night?) substituted for ‘Friday’. But not for the electricity companies, of course. Their weekend rates begin midnight Friday, I think. Or maybe 23.00.

Talking about when I arrived here . . . Back then, the Great Flax Case of 1999 was still fresh in the memory. An article I read yesterday caused me to ponder whether the infamous level of corruption among Spanish politicos was any lower these days, 20 years on. I do wonder. The article was about the prosecution of the ex President of the Valencia region, who’d saved at least €6m euros from his salary/income and sent it too Andorra.

Repopulating bits of Spain. Fancy a whole village to yourself?

Portugal

The UK

Is Johnson not a jellyfish but Britain’s first Catholic PM? See the article below. 

China

See the above Covid articles.

The Way of the World 

Good questions: Do the commissars who police the language of everyone not have even the remotest capacity for forgiveness? Are they not capable of overlooking the indiscretions and the witterings of youth? 

Good reply: It would seem not. Right now we are in the grip of an absolutism which would do credit to the old Soviet Union, or indeed Torquemada. Not only must you agree with everything we say, but you must always have agreed with it before we even said it. Wrongthink can stretch all the way back. Everything you have ever said will destroy you.

Inside the crazy world of NFTs, where $69m has been paid for a piece of digital artwork? 

Finally . . . Quote of the Day

A bore is a person who, when asked how he is, tells you. Must strive to remember that.

THE ARTICLE 

Is Johnson Britain’s first Catholic PM? What would have been unthinkable only a generation ago appears to have been confirmed by last weekend’s wedding  Ben Macintyre

When the Pope arrives for the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, he will be greeted by a British Catholic prime minister and his Catholic wife. A generation ago that would have provoked an outcry. A century before that, riots. Anti-Catholicism has been deeply embedded in this country for more than 400 years but almost overnight it has evaporated from a cause to die for into a shrug, as exemplified by a prime minister who has now apparently decided to think of himself as a Catholic, but who technically may not be one, and who doesn’t worry much either way.

Last weekend Boris Johnson married Carrie Symonds, amid great secrecy, in a Catholic ceremony at Westminster Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic Church in England. He was baptised a Catholic, his mother’s faith, and is officially a parishioner of the cathedral. Their son Wilfred was baptised there last year by the same priest who officiated at the wedding. That appears to make Johnson Britain’s first ever Roman Catholic prime minister. But as always with this prime minister, there are complications. At Eton, he was confirmed as an Anglican. He has often voiced equivocal feelings about monotheism, pointing to a mixed ancestry that is Jewish and Muslim as well as Christian. Johnson says he thinks about religion “a lot”, but that it would be “pretentious” to suggest that he is a “serious practising Christian”. Of his own indistinct faith, he has observed. “It’s a bit like trying to get Virgin Radio when you’re driving through the Chilterns. It sort of comes and goes.” That remark either originated with, or was appropriated by, David Cameron. It is the subtler Tory version of Alastair Campbell’s injunction: “We don’t do God”.

Some Catholics argue that while he might have undergone Anglican confirmation at school, Johnson remains Catholic in the eyes of that church. Others claim he needs to be formally readmitted. “He’s an Anglican unless and until he is received into the Catholic Church, which would in his case require the sacrament of confirmation,” tweeted the Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh. Then there is the ticklish issue of bishops. Under the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, it is technically unlawful for a Catholic prime minister to advise the Queen on appointments to the Church of England, including bishops. (If Johnson were Muslim or Hindu, this would not be a problem.) Finally, there is the prime minister’s complex past. Twice divorced, with at least one child born out of wedlock, he was nonetheless permitted to marry under Catholic rites. According to canon law, Johnson’s two earlier marriages took place outside the Catholic Church and are therefore invalid: as far as the Catholic authorities are concerned, this is not Johnson’s third marriage but his first. That has come as a surprise to countless other divorcees who have been refused marriage in a Catholic church without a formal annulment.

However, the most remarkable aspect of all about the nuptials is that nobody has raised a single objection to the fact that Johnson either professes to be, or is, or may be, a practising Catholic. For a country steeped in centuries of anti-Catholic prejudice, that is an astonishing historical watershed. Ever since the Act of Supremacy of 1534, anti-Catholic feeling has been fed by the fear that the Pope could seek to reimpose religious and political authority through his Catholic allies, France and Spain. Virulent anti-Catholicism gradually abated over the centuries, but like British antisemitism it persisted, unacknowledged, coded and tenacious.  In 1978, amid rumours that Prince Charles might marry a Catholic, Enoch Powell thundered: “It would signal the beginning of the end of the British monarchy. It would portend the eventual surrender of everything that has made us, and keeps us still, a nation.”

While the burning of Guy Fawkes’s effigy on November 5 has been all but shorn of its religious symbolism, the idea that Britain might be led by a Catholic remained anathema to many in the latter part of the 20th century. Writing in this newspaper in 2007, William Rees-Mogg recalled that in the recent past “in politics, a Roman Catholic prime minister was unthinkable, and a Roman Catholic lord chancellor was actually illegal”. Tony Blair attended Mass as prime minister but did not formally convert to Catholicism until he left office. Even that led to some ecclesiastical raised eyebrows. There were good political reasons for keeping his personal faith under wraps as prime minister, including the delicacy of Northern Ireland negotiations and his party’s position on abortion, but it provoked suspicion that Blair did not “do God”, as his spin doctor prescribed, except secretly, and with a Catholic deity.

Some see Johnson’s church wedding as signalling a new spirituality, perhaps prompted by his own brush with mortality during the pandemic. Others see a deft political gambit to divert attention from the Dominic Cummings farrago. But most people are simply uninterested in which God, if any, Johnson worships. That very indifference raises an intriguing constitutional question. A member of the royal family is no longer required to renounce the succession if he or she marries a Catholic, but under the Act of Settlement, ours is a Protestant monarchy and no Catholic may ascend to the throne. If we do not mind that a Catholic now runs the country, why should we care if a Catholic monarch rules it?

Johnson’s white wedding in Westminster is proof that faith is no longer an issue of concern in politics, least of all to the prime minister himself, for whom religion is another opportunity for a joke: Catholic Schmatholic.

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