St Alfonzo’s pancake breakfast

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If there’s one thing I find fascinating about Pope Benny, it’s not his theology – although his writings are impressively crunchy, and his book on Jesus in particular is well worth your time – but how he’s developed his own political style since taking over as Pontifex Maximus. JP2’s rock ‘n’ roll papacy was always going to be a hard act to follow, and not a great deal was expected of Benedict, partly because of his natural reserve and partly because he’d spent so long holed up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith acting as JP2’s theological enforcer. Those of us who take an interest in these things may have noticed that, while Wojtyła was rooted in a very Polish mystical tradition – which reminds us that Catholic Poles are not as far removed from Orthodox Russians as they might like to think – Ratzinger’s background was firmly in the German rationalist school. But like I say, that’s a matter for theology aficionados.

Over the last few years, though, we’ve got a better idea of Benny as a political operator. This doesn’t always come through in media coverage – especially in Britain, where Catholicism usually only features in the news in relation to abortion, an issue that’s infested by Catholics pretending not to be Catholics (the ProLife Alliance) and non-Catholics pretending to be Catholics (‘Catholics for Choice’). Church politics as such doesn’t get much intelligent coverage, which is perhaps why Benny’s establishing himself as a reformer has gone largely unremarked.

More important, though, is a conceptual fallacy whereby most commentators equate reformism with liberal reformism. It seems impossible to grasp that one can be theologically orthodox – and if you aren’t theologically orthodox, you won’t get to be Pope in the first place – and still be a reformist. In fact, Benedict has racked up quite an impressive track record of cracking down on malfeasances in the Church although, in his characteristic style, he isn’t very ostentatious about it.

Take a look for a moment at this atrocity:

focaccia

Now, you will probably be saying to yourself, “What are those guys doing waving around a naan bread on a giant pair of BBQ tongs?” This is a Corpus Christi procession in the Austrian city of Linz, and is supposed to be the bit where the Host is paraded on a monstrance. In fact, it isn’t a naan but a focaccia, although I’m willing to bet focaccia is still an illicit substance. What were they thinking? “Hmm, we’ll just get some bread-type stuff and stick it on the end of these tongs – it’ll do just as well…” That’s the sort of muddled thinking one would expect from the C of E, but more of them later.

Benedict, of course, is a great enthusiast for raising the overall liturgical standard – although in the German-speaking lands he may have his work cut out – and apparently the Austrian bishops’ ears were burning after the Focaccia Incident became known. But the disciplinarian aspect goes well beyond slapping down instances of liturgical silliness. Luke Coppen lists quite a number of significant moves, in an article worth quoting at length:

Consider the following incidents, most of which have been widely reported but are rarely linked together:

The Maciel affair: In May 2006 Pope Benedict took the highly unusual step of ordering one of the world’s best-known priests to retire to a life of prayer and penance. His decision followed a Vatican investigation into allegations that Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, was a sexual abuser who had fathered at least one child.

Investigating America’s seminaries: Not long after his election Benedict XVI oversaw an apostolic visitation of seminaries in the United States. The investigation was inspired by the clerical sexual abuse crisis of 2002 and covered all schools of theology as well as college-level seminaries, houses of formation, and academic institutions that form future priests.

Scrutinising American female religious orders: The Pope has also ordered a wide-ranging investigation of American women religious. The apostolic visitation of institutes of women religious in the United States, which is currently underway, covers approximately 400 apostolic religious institutes of women and approximately 59,000 women religious. It is likely to lead to a shake-up of American female religious life.

Deposing the leader of an African Church: Earlier this month Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo of Bangui, the most senior Catholic cleric in the Central African Republic (CAR). The resignation followed a visit to the CAR by a papal emissary, Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, in March. It is widely thought that the Pope requested the archbishop’s resignation because he tolerated priests keeping mistresses.

Calling for a thorough accounting of abuse in Ireland: Also this month Pope Benedict called for a profound examination of the state of the Irish Church following a damning report into “endemic” abuse in schools run by religious orders.

Crisis talks with the Austrian bishops: And this week Pope Benedict held an emergency meeting with the leaders of the Austrian Church. The gathering followed the appointment and subsequent resignation of Gerhard Wagner as auxiliary Bishop of Linz and reports that priests in senior positions in the diocese live with mistresses. The Pope reminded the bishops of “the urgency of going deeper in the faith and the integral fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Church” – a coded message that the Austrian Church is in serious need of reform.

These events together show the determination with which Pope Benedict is confronting the gravest scandals in the Church today. They have all had considerable publicity, but nevertheless have not created the perception that Benedict XVI is a bold reformist pope.

So why, despite the accumulating evidence, is Pope Benedict not regarded as a reformer intent on ridding the Church of wrong-doing?

Some suggest it’s because in mass media terms a “reformist pope” can only mean a pontiff who takes a progressive stance on hot-button issues such as priestly celibacy, contraception and women priests. They argue that the kind of reforms Pope Benedict is pursuing – enforcing celibacy, cracking down on liturgical abuses and investigating radically progressive American nuns – simply don’t fit the existing media stereotype.

There is some truth in that. But there are other factors at work:

1) The geographically disparate nature of the reforms makes it difficult for observers to connect them together;

2) Many of the investigations are carried out in strict secrecy with severe ecclesial penalties for anyone who breaches confidentiality. This means that neither media nor the wider Catholic public ever know precisely what is going on.

3) Pope Benedict rarely mentions the investigations in public and, if he does, speaks in coded language that only those already in the know will understand (see, for example, his ad limina address to the bishops of the CAR where he discusses the need for reform of the priesthood).

I think Luke makes a persuasive case there. To reiterate, anyone expecting a liberal Pope endorsing the nostrums of the Guardian or Channel 4 News is likely to be waiting a very long time, but it’s well within the abilities of a traditionalist Pope to shake things up, root out abuses and tighten standards all round.

But the big news of the moment is, of course, this new Apostolic Constitution that’s aimed at disaffected Anglicans. I’m still not sure what to make of this, whether it’s an utterly brilliant manoeuvre or it will turn out to be completely pointless. But the thrust of the matter is the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate under which umbrella Anglicans will be able to accept the authority of Rome whilst maintaining their established practices. This has already been given a trial run on a smallish scale in the United States, where there are quite a few traditional Anglicans who are deeply pissed off at the heretical modernist leadership of the Episcopal Church USA and have despaired of trying to coexist within the same organisation. What the Personal Ordinariate amounts to is something that was considered by the late Cardinal Newman, the establishment of an English Uniate Church, equivalent to the various Byzantine-rite formations within the RCC, or indeed the Lebanese Maronites. (Although previous pontiffs may well have thought the Maronites more trouble than they were worth, the same way English Tories came to look on the Ulster Unionists.)

It’s at times like this that I turn to Damian Thompson for some pithy observations. I have my worries about young Damo, not least his recent foray into Mussolini territory, but he knows his religious onions and is particularly good on the C of E. Quoth Damo:

The truth is that Rome has given up on the Anglican Communion. With one announcement, the Pope has given conservative Anglicans a protected route to union with Rome – and promised that, even once they are members of the Catholic Church, they will be offered a permanent structure that allows them to retain an Anglican ethos…

The Vatican would not use the phrase, but this is very close to the setting up of a “Church within a Church”. Yet that is not as unusual as it might seem: Eastern-rite Catholics have their own liturgy and church structures, and in America a small number of ex-Anglicans use service books that borrow from the Book of Common Prayer.

In point of fact, Benedict is offering traditionalist Anglicans more than the Canterbury communion has felt able to do. Within the C of E, the usual procedure has been to spend years debating these issues in General Synod and then to come out at the last moment with some convoluted proposal for a “third province” or “flying bishops” or suchlike. Now, there’s a firm offer from Rome about a long-term haven. What’s also interesting is the diplomacy surrounding this. There have been noises from the C of E about how poor old Rowan wasn’t told until the last moment, and this is a terrible snub. There have also, not coincidentally been critical noises from what one might term the Cormac camp within the English Catholic hierarchy. Actually, reports from Rome stress the high regard Benedict has for Rowan – I suspect the secrecy had at least as much to do with keeping the Bishops’ Conference out of the loop. Benedict will be aware that possibilities for a move of this type in the early 1990s failed thanks to the ecumenists in the BC; he will also be aware that for this gambit to work, the defectors would have to be offered something outwith the authority of the BC. Hats off to our modern Machiavelli.

And yet, and yet. These Anglo-Catholics can be awkward customers. Of those who’ve converted in dribs and drabs over the last wheen of years, many have got a hell of a culture shock – expecting some romantic world of incense, Latin and purple robes, they quickly discovered the actually existing Catholic Church in England was full of guitar-strumming, jumper-wearing priests in concrete churches. Besides, if you’re all that attached to Anglican liturgical forms, there is an outlet that can do them for you wholesale, and it’s called the “Church of England”. I can well imagine some of these High Church AngCats reacting with horror on being told they would have to ditch the Roman Missal and use the Book of Common Prayer instead.

It’s also objected, and there’s some truth in this, that those who were most likely to convert have already done so. It is also the case that quite a few of the AngCats have come to enjoy toddling along to General Synod and getting angry at the modernists, and would miss all the rows. On the other hand, there was quite a warm (if guarded) reception from Forward In Faith, and perhaps some less likely suspects might be attracted.

The departure of a lot of traditionalists would at least ease the factional situation for Rowan, although the conservative evangelicals in the C of E aren’t going anywhere, and nor are the extreme modernist trendies. But, in the end, what other options are there for the Anglican traditionalist? The Canterbury communion looks less welcoming by the year; the small Continuity Anglican formations in various countries have failed to take off; and the Eastern Churches, who could have done long ago what Benedict has just done, have been sleeping on the job as per usual. Benny has, in effect, told the Anglican traditionalists that they have to piss or get off the pot. Now they have to make their choice.

By the way, this affair has piqued the interest of our old bugbear, Titus Oates of the National Secular Society. Titus writes:

Of course, in a strictly secularist sense, the NSS should not concern itself with the internal machinations of religious organisations. If the Pope wishes to stab the Archbishop of Canterbury in the back (in a wholly ecumenical sense, of course) then that’s nothing to do with us.

Titus then, of course, goes on to fulminate at length about something he’s just said he’s not concerned about.

But wait a minute. The state is involved in this. We have an Established Church, the head of which is also the head of the State. So when the Roman Rat plays such a comprehensively dirty trick on Rowan Williams, we all have to consider whether there are constitutional implications.

Well, there aren’t. The Established Church remains the Established Church, regardless of the comings or goings of its personnel. But that doesn’t deter our friend:

Since the Holy See is at once both the government of the Catholic Church and also of the State of the Vatican City, any bishops who sit in the House of Lords who decided to opt for Rome would owe allegiance to the Holy See, which, when wearing one of its hats, is a foreign government.

Ah, it’s the old dual loyalty canard. Titus, as we know, is deeply concerned about Catholics getting into Westminster, lest they start wearing cloaks and funny hats and plotting to blow up King James. He seems less keen to level the dual loyalty charge against Jewish parliamentarians, which is probably sensible.

In other words, because there’s an established church at this end and a church-state at the other, the constitutional implications could be enormous. If half of the Church of England is going to end up under the Vatican umbrella, then can it really remain “by law established”?

Look, this is really quite simple. Those Anglicans who opt for the Personal Ordinariate leave the communion of Canterbury and enter that of Rome. It doesn’t effect the Established Church at all on the constitutional level. If Titus is attempting to argue that Anglo-Catholics defecting to Rome will, by some mysterious osmosis, turn England into a Papist theocracy, I must confess that his logic is too subtle for me.

In his anxiety to keep the “Anglican Communion” intact, Rowan Williams abandoned his own humane, liberal instincts and threw in his lot with the worst elements of bigotry within his flock. They have now rewarded him by conniving with the “Holy Father” to pile on the humiliation.

Is this humane and liberal Rowan Williams the same Rowan Williams upon whose head Titus and his mates heap abuse on a regular basis? I believe it is.

The Catholic Church in Britain is dying on its feet. And rightly so. The Church of England is already on life support, but it continues to twitch.

I suspect some wishful thinking here, but go on…

Both institutions provide a playground for some of the most gruesome and horrible people you could ever wish to meet (particularly if you are a child).

There is, you know, a reason why Catholics feel a deep anger about abuses such as were detailed in the Ryan report. That is because of the breach of trust involved, and because the guilty parties acted in contravention of the ideals of the faith they were supposed to be representing. But Titus doesn’t understand, or care about, that anger. What is more, people who loudly proclaim that celibacy is perverse and sexual libertinism praiseworthy are not best placed to attack people who fail to abide by a vow of celibacy. And again, if Titus is really shocked at homosexual priests who have a liking for teenage boys, perhaps he should speak to his pals in OutRage! who want to lower the age of consent to fourteen, which at a stroke would decriminalise much of what he’s complaining about. Or is it only immoral when clergy do it?

They argue endlessly and violently over which bell to ring and which language to say their prayers in.

Evidently our friend hasn’t heard of the vernacular Mass.

They spend their lives bowing down to the bones of a dead girl and pretending that a biscuit is actual flesh and that wine is really (that is, literally) blood.

Nor does he understand the doctrine of transubstantiation, or what the veneration of saints is all about.

And yet, throughout history, the Vatican has managed to convince those in highest authority that it is entitled to unique and unquestioned respect. Politicians and diplomats bow down to these monsters and let them get away with murder (quite literally sometimes). Whatever corruption the Vatican is involved in (and it has been involved in every conceivable immorality in its time) no-one in high secular authority (the UN, for instance) dare point the finger and ask for an explanation.

Where does the UN come into this, pray tell?

Through forming alliances with some of the worst dictators and tyrants the world has ever seen, the Vatican has managed to gain for itself a small patch of land where no international law can intrude, where no inspections take place, where no questions have to be answered. And from that protected base it stretches its poisonous tentacles around the world.

Aha, now I get it. Evidently our Mr Angry has been reading the collected works of Dan Brown on his holidays. No UN inspections can take place in the Vatican, lest they discover that neutron bomb guarded by heavily armed Opus Dei monks, while Pope Benedict cackles maniacally and strokes a white cat.

We need to ensure that the bigots and reactionaries that infest those few acres in Rome do not get a grip on Britain.

Perhaps you could form an alliance on this issue with the DUP. Although Iris Robinson’s views on homosexuality might be too ripe for our friend.

I always thought the great thing about atheism was that it was about personal freedom and you didn’t need anyone to advocate for you. Perhaps that explains why I get wound up by evangelical atheists, and keep wondering why people like Titus don’t just get themselves a hobby. In any case, religious people may feel reassured that they aren’t the only ones who get doughheads representing them – militant secularist rationalists can be as moronic as anyone else.

Rud eile: I know some readers are dying to hear my take on what’s going on with the Swips. There may be something on this in due course, but for the meantime Red Maria has the scoop.

Rud eile fós: I don’t do Search of the Week as a regular feature any more, but I just want to give a shout out to the punter who came here googling “George Osborne in school uniform”. That’s an image that’ll take a while to shift…

29 Comments

  1. October 26, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Yes, but none of this changes the salient fact that the Holy Father is the dead spit of Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars movies.

  2. Mark P said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:41 am

    You know, a few paragraphs into this I started thinking “Oh dear, he’s been reading Damian Thompson again.” Next time you feel the urge, go and have a cup of tea and a good lie down instead.

    Reformer is a funny old word, meaning as it does practically anyone who does practically anything any speaker or writer approves of. In Benedict’s case, he’s certainly a reformer, from the point of view of the dominant Conservative wing of the Roman church. If you are a left wing American Nun, I suspect it looks rather more like a set of counter-reforms.

    The Maciel issue is definitely an exception, but it isn’t like he had much of a choice – Maciel couldn’t be protected once the situation started to become more widely known. I suspect a few Jesuits may feel some slight, unworthy, amusement at the Legion of Christ coming a cropper so spectacularly however. The Legion was more than a bit obnoxious in trying to create a “like the Jesuits were before they became a bunch of pinkos, although without all book-learnin'” image for themselves.

    if Titus is really shocked at homosexual priests who have a liking for teenage boys, perhaps he should speak to his pals in OutRage! who want to lower the age of consent to fourteen, which at a stroke would decriminalise much of what he’s complaining about. Or is it only immoral when clergy do it?”

    This is seriously ill-judged, even as a rhetorical jibe.

  3. goldeneskalb said,

    October 26, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Damian Thompson rather overestimates the amount of Anglicans who will come over, I think, and it’s gotten into how he’s written about this. 200 priests worldwide is a number that’s believable.

    Anyway, two factual points:

    1) In England the Anglo-Catholics who are in Forward in Faith’s wing (particularly the Anglo-Papalists) either use the Novus Ordo mass (i.e. the one used in most RC churches, the “Ordinary Form”) or take Common Worship (the CofE’s very flexible current book of liturgy “supplementing” the BCP, since Parliament can go against a new BPC, as the CofE discovered in 1928) and make it as Roman Catholic as possible. They have very little interest in BCP-style liturgy made to conform to Roman Catholic doctrine (as seen here with the Book of Divine Worship). It is mainly about how easily priests (whether current or splinter Anglicans) will be able to come over as priests, particularly the married priests. I think the BCP Daily Office might be something these priests would be attached to (someone far more admirable, Dorothy Day, found the BCP Daily Office more suitable than the RC options), but Anglo-Catholics in England generally haven’t been using the BCP since the beginning of the 20th century, preferring Cramnerized translations of the Roman Missal (the situation is different in the Anglophilic commonwealth Anglicans, particularly North America). Now, all of this might have been a display of party loyalty by those Anglo-Papalist priests within the CofE (there’s a lot of this in Anglo-Catholicism, scrutinizing the liturgy to figure out the priest’s sympathies) and they might discover an abiding love for the BCP Romanized that they’ve kept hidden, now that they don’t have to prove that they are Catholic priests unfortunately separated from Rome. Personally, while I can see the problem of being a married homophobe and misogynistic Anglo-Catholic priest with halting acceptance of women and LGBT coming along in the CofE, I cannot imagine sticking around if I had their views. I think it’s also a High Church Tory distaste for all the Irish and Poles hanging around actual RC churches. Their whole congregation probably won’t go with them. If only it were all recusants…

    2) The Eastern Orthodox, particularly the Antiochan Orthodox, have been very busy doing something like what the Vatican proposed for decades, but they never get as much press. Since the Orthodox have married male priests, that part has not really been an issue (anything higher on the hierarchy requires being a monk). It’s called the Western Rite. You can do Orthodox versions of the liturgies in the BCP and the Tridentine mass.

    Also I agree with Mark P about your “seriously ill-judged” “jibe.”

    I do enjoy the blog, particularly when you’re stirring the pot and defending the coherence of conservative religious perspectives, although I think you sometimes step into the red shoes of Pope Benny too much and make comments about the leader of the the Episcopal Church in the United States being heretical. Anglicans are notorious for being “soft” on belief (as a Marxist, even a hopefully nuanced one, I know the soppy liberalness that pervades in most of the mainstream churches can even externally be seen as somewhat ridiculous), but the American Episcopalians are making changes to traditions regarding gender and sexuality. They have not rejected Christian creeds. Considering that Anglicanism has always played loose (cf. the 39 articles) around the core (for example, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) as part of it’s Lutheran-Calvinist compromise, it’s all that is to be expected. The number of divorced figures among the clergy and hierarchy of the misogynistic and homophobic splinter Anglicans should also be noted (considering Jesus spoke against divorce but not against gays or women priests). I’ve heard that at the last general convention, the Episcopal Church did vote down a resolution affirming Christ’s uniqueness, which is a bit sad for a Church to do (since people are voting on what the Church teaches, not personal beliefs and doubts), but its leadership is certainly not heretical beyond the way Anglicans have always been heretical.

  4. Phil said,

    October 26, 2009 at 8:09 am

    people who loudly proclaim that celibacy is perverse … are not best placed to attack people who fail to abide by a vow of celibacy.

    …and this is just incomprehensible. Why not?

  5. ejh said,

    October 26, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Nor does he understand the doctrine of transubstantiation, or what the veneration of saints is all about.

    Well, I have a fair old idea what both of these are about and they are both of them, not to put too fine a point on it, ludicrous and superstitious nonsenses. They are of course discussed and believed in by many deeply humane and highly intelligent people, but that doesn’t demonstrate much more than that theology tends to be the practice of taking absurd and irrational starting points and trying to travel somewhere better and more thoughtful.

    Rationally and scientifically both doctrines are utterly indefensible: it’s actually quite important to insist on this rather than always have this rigmarole of “the critics don’t really understand what the theology is all about”. It’s a bit too much of a smokescreen sometimes.

    Oh, and please, give the Dan Brown stuff a break, eh? At least until people you want to criticise actually cite him?

    I think Luke makes a persuasive case there

    Well, I’m astonished that the Catholic Herald should write a piece saying how great the Pontiff is and how the only reason people don’t realise it is because the Pope’s just too damned modest about it. Well knock me down. (And yes, i know you will sometimes find coded criticisms of the Holy Father in the Catholic Press, brave and independent thinkers that they are.) However, if one looks for substance in this long list of Papal reforms, one is liable to find more substance in the aforementioned foccacia.

    Meanwhile we might remind ourselves that far from being and admirable, reforming, progressive institution, the Catholic Church is rather the opposite, finding its voice mainly when women’s rights need to be opposed and finding its allies mainly on the Right.

  6. Phil said,

    October 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Benny has, in effect, told the Anglican traditionalists that they have to piss or get off the pot.

    Somebody put away the bingo cards.

    Anyway… what irritates me about this whole thing is that, as far as I can see, it’s all about the women and the openly gay. They’re doing more than Cardinal Newman ever did to break up the C of E, and they’re doing it in the cause of willies – a topic on which Jesus was notably reticent.

    It’s Rowan Williams I feel for – appointing someone who was both socially liberal and theologically conservative, and a genuine intellectual, must have seemed like a master-stroke. I think the fractiousness of the Anglican Communion has outgrown the issues which purport to justify it, and consequently got beyond the point where anyone can reverse it. Although ironically, as you suggest, this move of Ratzo’s might actually slow it down a bit, just by reminding everyone concerned what the stakes are.

    I think you should leave the NSS alone, it can’t be good for your blood pressure. I thought I’d seen about enough when I got to the bit about “the Roman Rat” – you can take the pamphleteer out of the Prods…

  7. skidmarx said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Titus then, of course, goes on to fulminate at length about something he’s just said he’s not concerned about.
    But wait a minute. The state is involved in this.

    So he gives a reason for his fulmination.
    The Established Church remains the Established Church, regardless of the comings or goings of its personnel.
    And that’s an eternal truth is it?
    Perhaps that explains why I get wound up by evangelical atheists, and keep wondering why people like Titus don’t just get themselves a hobby.
    And yours is …?

  8. Martin Wisse said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

    And of course, the age of consent has little to do with the abuse of a postion of trust and power that’s involved with a priest getting busy with his choir boys…

  9. McGazz said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I always thought the great thing about atheism was that it was about personal freedom and you didn’t need anyone to advocate for you. Perhaps that explains why I get wound up by evangelical atheists, and keep wondering why people like Titus don’t just get themselves a hobby. In any case, religious people may feel reassured that they aren’t the only ones who get doughheads representing them – militant secularist rationalists can be as moronic as anyone else.

    As an athiest, I completely agree with this.

  10. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I always thought the age of consent was all about protecting kids from predatory adults. And yes, it’s precisely the abuse of trust that is the issue, which is why Catholics are absolutely right to be angry about it.

    No, reading the NSS is definitely not good for the old blood pressure. I should really stick to more measured fare, like the Protestant Telegraph.

  11. prianikoff said,

    October 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Just thought I’d post a link to Jacques Hébert’s 1790 article
    “Fuck the Pope”

    (for information purposes only you understand)

    http://www.marxists.org/history/france/revolution/hebert/1790/pope.htm

  12. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    On reflection, and this is probably a warning against blogging when feeling cranky, the crack about Tatchell was probably ill-judged. At least, I can see how it would come across as homophobic, which certainly wasn’t the intention. Really, what I had in mind was Sanderson’s immense bad faith in wagging a self-righteous finger at people who have failed to live up to a standard that he himself doesn’t believe in.

    To come back on skidmarx, I’m dismissive of the church and state argument because, in constitutional terms, it’s a non-argument. The C of E is established by law. That establishment isn’t dependent on how much of its base it retains. If 10% of Anglicans defect to Rome tomorrow, Rome doesn’t thereby inherit 10% of the C of E’s legal status. The Establishment is indivisible, whatever Charlie Windsor may think.

    I do actually feel for poor old Rowan, who’s arguably one of the best churchmen of his generation and a genuinely good bloke. It’s just his bad luck he’s saddled with trying to lead this bloody awful organisation that doesn’t want to be led and is probably beyond the point where anyone could lead it. I wouldn’t wish his job on anybody.

  13. ejh said,

    October 26, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Really, what I had in mind was Sanderson’s immense bad faith in wagging a self-righteous finger at people who have failed to live up to a standard that he himself doesn’t believe in.

    Just one more thing….has Sanderson himself, to your knowledge, expressed any view on the proposition to lower the age of consent?

  14. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Hmm. The nemesis of loose argumentation strikes again.

  15. Phil said,

    October 26, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    wagging a self-righteous finger at people who have failed to live up to a standard that he himself doesn’t believe in.

    Still not getting this. I don’t believe in celibacy myself; I think it’s a bad practice which has been known to be undertaken for bad reasons and to have bad consequences. And one of those bad consequences is the expression of sexual desire in secret, within relationships characterised by confidentiality and power. The fact that believers in celibacy also denounce those sexualised relationships is well and good, but it doesn’t affect my belief that celibacy itself – the belief in celibacy itself – should bear part of the blame. Nor do I see why it should affect it.

  16. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Well, it’s an ascetic practice which is supposed to seal off your clerics from worldliness. Not necessarily a higher path, but a more rigorous one. Personally, I have a sentimental preference for the old Byzantine practice where parish priests are actually expected to be married and celibacy is restricted to monks (also bishops, who are recruited from the monasteries). But I do understand the rationale behind it even if for various reasons it doesn’t work out well in practice.

    I’m also wary, when it comes to clerical abusers, of implying that celibacy made them do it. Whatever their psychological situation, ultimately you’re talking about people who made bad choices.

    It’s the hyper-aggressive and hyper-righteous finger-wagging that winds me up the most, though. If you take Peter Tatchell, who I like a lot more than I do Sanderson and most of whose causes I’d be happy to support, sometimes you just end up thinking “Well, fuck the oppressed gays of Russia if that’s your attitude.” Not the most honourable reaction of course. As for the NSS, they may have had a useful function in the 1870s, but all their important causes were won decades ago and this overheated “ZOMG! The theocrats are taking over!” might be mildly amusing if it wasn’t couched in terms that make Paisley look like an ecumenist.

    • Dan said,

      November 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

      When did you last read Paisley? His brand of anti-Catholicism has nothing whatsoever in common with the perfectly ordinary secularism of the NSS. But obviously some people would rather nobody discuss religious power-seeking and abuse.

      All the NSS’s important causes were won decades ago? Which were those? Blasphemy law was only abolished the other year. The Church of England is still established. Religious education is still discriminatory and sectarian religious schools proliferate.

      You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?

      Dan

    • Dan said,

      November 1, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      “If you take Peter Tatchell, who I like a lot more than I do Sanderson and most of whose causes I’d be happy to support, sometimes you just end up thinking “Well, fuck the oppressed gays of Russia if that’s your attitude.” Not the most honourable reaction of course. ”

      No, in fact completed dishonourable and contrary to every progressive principle of solidarity. If ever we needed an example of simpering useful-idiocy, that was it right there. Heaven forbid that anyone should wag their finger at repression and abuse. So unattractive!

      Dan

    • Dan said,

      November 1, 2009 at 8:20 pm

      “sometimes you just end up thinking “Well, fuck the oppressed gays of Russia if that’s your attitude.” Not the most honourable reaction of course.”

      No, in fact completely dishonourable and a cowardly betrayal of every progressive tradition of solidarity. But heaven forbid that anyone should wag their finger at abuse and repression. How unattractive! Really, if you’re looking for an example of the worst kind of simpering useful-idiocy, that’s it right there.

      Dan

  17. moofaeTAE said,

    October 27, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I recommend focaccia with jalepen/os.

    I don’t get the reformer comment, either. I will have to ask some left wing nuns I know in America about that. Hard to imagine Palpatine as a reformer, unless it’s at building the next Death Star more efficiently.

    I don’t think your jibe re age of consent laws was wrong at all, btw. Other than though, I feel lost.

  18. ejh said,

    October 27, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Among the useful functions of the NSS is that they provide non-religious services in areas which had always been reserved to religion: funerals, for instance. One of my late uncles’ funerals was undertaken by the NSS, and was much the better for it, give how intrusive and inappropriate it feels if somebody know to be anon-believer dies and yet a cleric does the funeral nonetheless.

    I’m also wary, when it comes to clerical abusers, of implying that celibacy made them do it. Whatever their psychological situation, ultimately you’re talking about people who made bad choices.

    You are, but fucked-up people make bad choices. Do be wary of “providing explanations is providing excuses” territory.

  19. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 27, 2009 at 8:21 am

    how intrusive and inappropriate it feels if somebody know to be anon-believer dies and yet a cleric does the funeral nonetheless.

    Yeah, been to a few like that. Obviously there’s a place for secular celebrants and such. I would still be much less annoyed by the NSS if they were led by nice, easygoing atheists rather than permanently angry men with a taste for sub-Paisleyite pamphleteering. At least they would better reflect what most atheists are like; but I suppose you have to be an enthusiast to take on that sort of work.

  20. October 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

    […] … an anderen Orten und bei anderen Themen zeigt sich der Vatikan weniger konziliant, wie Splintered Sunrise […]

  21. Dave Semple said,

    October 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    A rolicking read, though I think one of us gives too much credit to Titus Oates on his “no inspections” malarkey. Personally I should like to see the Vatican forcibly opened to archaeological inspections with the intent of determining whether the reports of (specially selected, Catholic) archaeologists about Peter’s Tomb are at all correct. Mayhap this is what Oates is raving about?

    As for where the UN fits in, buggered if I know.

  22. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I think Fr Dougal had it right when he called the Pope “the lad who lives in an art gallery”. An inspection team from Cash In The Attic maybe, but the UN? Sometimes I let my rhetoric run away with me, but that’s on another level.

  23. ejh said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Tax inspectors perhaps?

  24. October 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    […] sort of topic that the political left tends to find very interesting. So I was very pleased to see Splintered Sunrise tackling the issue. Although Splinty’s understandable irritation with the National Secular Society gives those […]

  25. December 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

    […] Splinty can be whilst being devastatingly accurate, and in command of so many facts right down. The Catholic Church, or the nature of Anglican politics, for example. Splintered Sunrise is also a first class […]


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