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Sun Jul 10, 2016, 07:05 AM


Is Tony Blair Going to Hell? We Asked a Catholic Priest

By Charlie Gilmour
July 8, 2016

Hell, as we all know, is a place of everlasting pain: crows peck out your eyes for eternity and demons floss their fangs with your immortal soul. It's probably just a made-up thing to scare kids but, in a world that often seems to be suffering from some sort of justice deficiency, fairy tales can be comforting.

Despite the scathing assessment of the Chilcot Report – an investigation into the Iraq War which was published this week – former Prime Minister Tony Blair is unlikely to face human justice for leading Britain into a conflict that left as many as one million Iraqis dead . The International Criminal Court has admitted it has no power to prosecute him. Even so, for Blair, a devout Catholic, could it be a case of "out of the frying pan and into the unquenchable lake of burning sulphur"?

I called up Father Martin Newell, a Catholic priest and peace activist, to find out.

VICE: Hello Father Newell. What do you have to do to get sent to hell these days?
Father Newell: It's not as simple as that. Catholic teaching says that hell exists but we're not sure that there's anybody in it. People can repent of anything and hopefully they do. God's mercy is infinite. We all depend on God's mercy. We're all sinners. We all do things wrong. There are very serious sins – mortal sins – certainly: murder, for example. We can talk about the invasion of Iraq being mass murder. A sin like that, unrepented, would mean that you are effectively in hell. Obviously lying about something as important as the reasons to go to war, for example, would be a massive offence against truth.


Ben Griffin & Fr. Martin Newell


London: Priest jailed over anti-war protests
Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:34 pm.
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Ash Wednesday protest at MoD: 'Choose Life'
Catholic Priest Fr Martin Newell, was today sentenced to 28 days in prison for non-payment of fines arising from numerous nonviolent peace protests against war and war preparations.

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court this morning (15 March) Fr Martin told the court that for “for reasons of faith and conscience” he would not pay fines of £565 that had been imposed following protests against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the UK’s use of armed drones and Trident nuclear weapons system.

Fr Newell said: “Jesus taught us to love not just our neighbours but also our enemies. He showed us by his life and example how to resist evil not with violence but with loving, persistent, firm, active non-violence. It was this revolutionary patience on behalf of the poor and oppressed that, humanly speaking, led to him being arrested, tried, tortured and executed by the powers that be. The acts of witness that resulted in the fines I have refused to pay were a form of conscientious objection. Refusing to pay them is a continuation of that objection. It is a privilege to be able to follow on the path that led Jesus to the way of the cross and resurrection.”

Fr Newell, 46, is a member of the Passionist Order. He currently works with homeless refugees at the London Catholic Worker, and is planning to move soon to start a new project in Birmingham. He was born in Walthamstow, London.

Letters/cards and messages of support can be sent: Martin Newell, HMP Wandsworth, PO Box 757, Heathfield Road, London, SW18


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