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Dr Welby could teach PM a thing or two about honesty

By Alf McCreary

Published 16/04/2016

Candid admission: the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a success of his life despite a difficult start
Candid admission: the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a success of his life despite a difficult start

The past week has highlighted the role of fathers in more ways than one. The Prime Minister made a dog's dinner with his reaction to the leaked Panama papers which revealed that his father had established an offshore tax haven many years ago.

Apparently Cameron Snr had done nothing wrong, but David Cameron was slow to speak out and ended up by publishing his own tax returns - followed by those of other senior Cabinet figures.

This led to a rash of tax revelations in Scotland, Stormont and elsewhere, even though most people could not care less about politicians telling them: "What a good boy (or girl) am I!"

In the same week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, taught the Prime Minister how to handle difficult news, and with style.

It was confirmed by DNA tests that Dr Welby's natural father was not married to his mother, but was in fact a senior aide to the late Sir Winston Churchill.

The archbishop's stepfather was a whisky salesman with a difficult personality, and the young Justin Welby did not have an easy childhood.

However, he made a success of his life and, in one of the great Christian affirmations of his time as archbishop, he confirmed that his real identity lay in Jesus Christ. Game, set and match to the archbishop.

His mother was no less impressive. Instead of hiding from the media, she issued a full-on statement indicating that she and Selby's natural father had indeed gone to bed, but in a haze of alcohol, and that their contraceptive measures had not worked.

There's not a lot more you can add to that, and at 86 you don't particularly care what people say about you either way.

Archbishop Welby also did a considerable service to those born out of wedlock by demonstrating that such a difficult background, which used to be a huge stigma, is no longer a handicap to achieving your ambition.

Even so, Justin Welby would not have been elected Primate 40 years ago, when a child born out of wedlock could not have become an archbishop. Thankfully our society is much more tolerant, though my hackles still rise swiftly when people refer to someone as 'illegitimate'. How in God's name can any innocent child, or adult, be an 'illegitimate' human being?

Above all, Archbishop Welby showed how important it is to give a direct answer to a direct question, and people respect that. They do not respect our politicians, and others, who duck questions with clever language and think that we actually believe them.

How often have you heard them ignoring an interviewer's questions, or football managers who never see a blatant foul by their player, or a press release from an institution which claims that its ugly ducklings are swans, or people who embellish history to accommodate their own 'truths'.

Such people outsmart themselves, which is why politics and so many other institutions in our society are held in such disrepute.

There is a world of difference in 'speaking out' like Donald Trump who antagonises people, and Archbishop Welby who wins friends and influences others by speaking out with integrity and dignity about something which many would want to sweep under the carpet.

We all could all learn from him, in an age when so many people are tempted to try to duck the issue they least want to confront.

Belfast Telegraph

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