Volume 3, Chapter
"Rastafarianism A Valid Religious Experience"
The Daily Telegraph 19 January 1982
Telegraph of 19 January 1982 carried a report on a document
published by the Catholic Commission for Racial justice.
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:
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.
in reply to another question, agreed that Rastafarians looked
on cannabis smoking in their ritual as an equivalent to the Christian
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.
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.
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.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109