Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter LXI


"Rastafarianism A Valid Religious Experience"

The Daily Telegraph 19 January 1982

The Daily Telegraph of 19 January 1982 carried a report on a document published by the Catholic Commission for Racial justice.

The President of the Commission is Bishop Leo McCartie of Birmingham. This Commission has recommended that Catholics should allow their premises to be used by Rastafarians, who smoke cannabis as part of their religious ritual. This bizarre sect is spurned by the overwhelming majority of West Indians. Its members wear their hair in "dreadlocks" (it cannot be washed or cut). They wear woolly hats. They worship the late Emperor of Ethiopia. They believe that Jesus was black and have a great veneration for the late Duke of Gloucester.

At a news conference in London, Bishop McCartie explained that:

"For instance, Rastafarians often lack places to meet; and Christian churches could consider allowing Rastafarians use of their premises... While we accept that Rastafarianism is a valid religious experience and way of life, there are obviously things in it which are not acceptable at the moment in this country, because of the law," the Bishop said.

Bishop McCartie, in reply to another question, agreed that Rastafarians looked on cannabis smoking in their ritual as an equivalent to the Christian Communion Service.

The question of cannabis posed a dilemma, the Bishop said. The Catholic Church did not condemn the smoking of cannabis as sinful as it did not condemn the use of alcohol or smoking cigarettes.

Note that the Bishop has no objection to Rastafarianism on the grounds that it is a false religion; the only problem is a conflict with the law as it now stands! I wonder whether, if it were pointed out to him that traditional Catholics often lack places to meet, he would consider allowing us to use Catholic premises? Somehow I doubt it. I doubt whether he would extend his tolerance to us, even if we stopped washing our hair and wore woolly hats.

In his last book, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain spoke scathingly of the many Catholics today who "kneel before the world." He was referring to their tendency to ape the attitudes and mouth the platitudes espoused by the contemporary Liberal establishment in the hope of appearing "relevant." The enthusiasm of so many American bishops for unilateral disarmament is a case in point. I am sure that Bishop McCartie imagined that his advocacy of the Rastafarian cause would bring many an approving headline and laudatory editorial in the secular media. I was encouraged to see that what comment there was in the secular media treated his statement in a derisory fashion.

It should also be noted that Catholic West Indians would find the statement of the English Bishops' Commission unspeakably offensive. Where they are concerned, the worst fate that can befall any of their children is to abandon the true Faith to join the Rastafarian cult.

Chapter 60

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