Thursday, April 10, 2008

An argument too far.

I see that the Archbishop of Wales is reported as saying that to be against a law making Parliament for Wales is "immoral". Now, I agree with much of what the Archbishop says about devolution, and I defend his right to say what he believes, as long as its clear he is speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of his Church. But I don't believe he is right to describe the position of those who disagree with his opinion as 'immoral'. In fact, I find the use of this word by someone who, in general, shares my opinion as unhelpful to the cause.

This issue has blown up today because the first Legislative Competence Order has just been approved by Her Majesty. The Assembly will now be able to pass laws (or 'measures' as they will be known) in the subject area included in the LCO. This blog has consistently argued that the procedure that has just been concluded is ludicrously complex, and beyond the preparedness of the vast majority of people to invest the necessary time in to understand.

It would be far more transparent and accountable if the National Assembly had law making powers in those areas that are devolved. I agree with Archbishop Morgan that the current legal processes are "tortuous and convoluted". Later this month I will be speaking at a Conference arranged by the Institute of Welsh Affairs arguing this case. Perhaps Archbishop Morgan will be there making the same argument. But I would not dream of claiming any higher morality for my opinion over those who disagree with me. I will respect those who disagree and try to change their opinion by logic and argument.


Normal Mouth said...

It is a very strong word to use, particularly as he seems to be saying that the immorality arises because the nation of Wales is demeaned by the current arrangements. That is a deeply ideological stance to take.

Immorality to my mind would be a system of governance set up with the intent of causing or perpetuating the things that we regard as unjust or wrong, e.g corruption, arbitrary power, inequality. The Archbishop needs to demonstrate that intent in order to make the charge stick.

Otherwise, he is merely cheapening what should be a very powerful charge.

Anonymous said...

A very High Churchperson using very High Rhetoric!

I recall that during the Goodway years in Cardiff Dr Morgan was Chair of the Council's ethics committee.

I don't recall him ever using the same comments during that time??

Liberation Society Man said...

Barry Morgan is entitled to his view on an issue. But should is view carry more weight than that of the man of the man in the street? The Anglican Church is in a unique position in Wales because it was disestablished. Those who campaigned for the change in the law wanted to ensure that the Anglican Church was no different from any other in Wales. Unfortunately the press seem to be treating the present Archbishop of Wales who has very strong views on a number of non religious issues in a different way from other religious leaders. No one would probably invite,for example, the leader of the Baptists in Wales to give his or her views on devolution. Unfortunately for the Archbishop his use of the word'immoral' in a short radio interview does not help the arguments for greater powers for the Assembly. It also gives the unfortunate impression that those who might not support the Archbishops's personal views are somehow therfore 'immoral' by implication. Barry Morgan should perhaps be given a book on European history in the inter war years where he will read of the unhappy experiences of Catholic priests who played an active part in politics in Italy, Austria and Germany. Austria even had a Chancellor who was a priest in the 1920s and the Catholic Centre Party was led by a priest when Hitler came to power. Both men were a disaster for democracy in their respective countries Perhaps Barry Morgan should concentrate a little more on the continued decline of religion in Wales. Not even more powers for the Assembly can do much about that.

penlan said...

I think someone should gently whisper in the Prelate's ear that he is making an ass of himself.Perhaps as an old Chapel boy,we were taught a different version of morality.In the old Soviet Union,dissenters were not imprisoned but sent to mental homes on the basis that they had to be insane not to see the benefits of communism.I am sorry but I see a parallel in a Prelate describing democratic politicians as immoral simply because their lawful political views are different.There used to be an old saying that party politics should be kept out of the pulpit.It strikes me as wise.

Anonymous said...

good to hear from Barry Morgan, but what about hearing from the other Morgan, Rhodri on this subject, Glyn.

By the angry backlash to his comments he has obviously made a good sound argument that needs a public response by the political class, although we know it wont be it will just brushed under the carpet as usual and Barry Morgan dismissed as sounding off again.

If Labour and Plaid Cymru want law making powers they should be out in the Country making a strong case for it and building on the support there already is for a Scottish style parliament, being so timid about it gives the anti devolution people the room to keep arguing against it.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

This 'bridge too far' - where is it? How much will it cost? Do we really need it? Can we paddle across? Will London even listen to us?

Oh, it's the Archbishop.

Don't worry, London's 'a bit busy just now', so if you can leave your address and phone number London promises to get back to you.

alanindyfed said...

It is good and commendable that the Archbishop speaks out where others fear to tread. There is much that is immoral in society, so much that it is difficult to know where to begin, and we need these outspoken individuals to make a stand where one is necessary and appropriate. As with the Archbishop of Canterbury his words my be questioned or his meaning or emphasis misinterpreted but the public needs to wake up to what is going on around them, where we are heading and why the past needs to be re-examined in the light of an unbiased review of Welsh and British history. Immorality began centuries ago and it continues into the 21st century. It is up to those alive today to restore justice and equity to a damaged nation.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, people are quick to ascribe the Archbishs comments to people/politicians as opposed to the system of government he was ACTUALLY referring to! He did not say that people who favoured the status quo or who were against a law making Parliament were "immoral" as Glyn and Penlan seem to be implying. That certainly isnt the sense of his comments as reported on the BBC news website...unless I have missed something that was said on the radio.
Lets be careful how we interpret this stuff eh!

Glyn Davies said...

NM - Agreed.

Morgan - You rightly identify the problem. Once the Archbishop describes the current political settlement as 'immoral', it is legitimate to ask why he has prioritised this issue above others for such unique condemnation.

lsm - Personally, I have no objection to the Archbishop expressing his opinion - as long as it is accepted that it is his opinion and not that of the Church.

penlan - I've no objection to the Archbishop telling us what he thinks. All I object to is his description of a political settlement supported by many people (perhaps a majority) as immoral. He can describe it as wrong, but not immoral. Coming from an Archbishop, this is a deeply emotive word.

anon - I agree with you. The reason that I do not now think a referendum is certain to succeed if held before 2011 is that there has been so little public enthusiasm for a Yes vote from politicians that would make a difference.

alan - You're not addressing my post sufficiently directly for me to know whether I agree with you or not. I approve of the Archbishop 'speaking out' as you put it, and with strong opinions, but the context suggests that you think the Archbishop was justified in using the word 'immoral' to describe a constitutional settlement arrived at democratically, and I do not think he was justified.

anon - what's the difference? The present settlement which he, and I, and others, find confusing and tortuous and a recipe for constitutional conflict is unwise and several other things, but it is not immoral and those who support it are not immoral either.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn - I agree with you that the Archbishop should, if he hasn’t already, make it clear that he is expressing his opinion or that of the church. If the later 'we have a problem Houston' as this, at least arguably, is not a religious/moral issue. Unlike creating human-animal cells (by the way, haven't any of you guessed that this technology can't be used to actually cure anyone of anything - there's no law to actually insert these monster cells into human beings. To build organ banks will allowing the cells to divide beyond the proposed limit. We are on a very slippery slope and frankly, we will pay a price and it won't be a pretty Polly one.

Anonymous said...

At least he expresses an oppinion and gets debate going and thats more than we get from the people who should be engaging in debate.
He is the leader of a very powerful lobby here in Wales.
I am not one who would mix religion and politics, but Wales has a history of that path.

Anonymous said...

The Archbishop of Wales has a long history of getting involved in politics. A lot of Anglicans are deeply unhappy with him. He is a very unpleasant man and should go.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I don't know the Archbishop, having only met him when we were both being interviewed, so have no idea what he's like.

VM, Chris and others - Personally, I have no problem with his involvement in politics - and I admire people who offer genuinely held opinions, even when I disagree with them. The reason I was inspired to object to his use of 'immoral' in the context of this issue is that, in general I agree with his devolution standpoint, but think that implying that our opponents position are 'immoral' is both wrong, contemptuous of democracy and self defeating.

alanindyfed said...

Politics and religion are a part of life and act as a focus and binding force. Without these and an understanding of spirituality life has no meaning and no purpose. Muslim clerics are well aware of this and know that spirituality, religion and politics are an essential part of the fabric of existence. This is part of the reason why the West is considered decadent. It also accounts for the moral disintegration of society where we appear to have lost our way, along with our humanitarian values.
Sometimes strong or emotive words are necessary to awaken people from their torpor. At least they appear to provoke a debate!

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I just don't want the Archibishop to dilute himself on issues that can back fire and more specifically take something away from the very good points he is making on human-animal hybrid cells. It's important to focus on the really important stuff, jmhv.

Anonymous said...


On your last point You may be confusing Barry Morgan with Archbishop Peter Smith RC of Cardiff. He was the one that spoke about stem cell research. I don't think I have heard Barry Morgan ever speak about ethical issues such as abortion,stem cell research. Or for that matter, the break down of the family. That all can be seen as immoral. but devolution. Give me a break!

Liberation man: You have a valid point about the 1930s. Yet what about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller who opposed the Nazi tyranny. I would suggest that Barry read more Karl Barth!

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Thanks Morgan! I got those two mixed up! It is such an important issue (this hydrid monster technology), I am glad that there was an Archbishop in Wales willing and committed to raising this ethical issue. I fear for the UK now, what have we done.

Glyn Davies said...

alan - all true, but it does not justify the Archbishop of Wales claiming that an opinion that happens to be different from his is 'immoral'.