Monday, October 06, 2014
Not Cowards but English
I was asked to take part in a radio programme which was broadcast on Thursday night on Radio 4 about the Synod. I spent a pleasant quarter of an hour talking to the producer/researcher (?) 'off the record'. I think he said he had spoken to thirty or so clergy who like me had misgivings about the whole thing, as well trends within the Church but none of us were willing to speak 'on the record'.
My initial reaction was, 'aren't we a lot of cowards' but on reflection I think we are just English. We are used to muddling through, we like muddling through, it iis a cultural thing, that is why we don't even have something as vulgar as a Constitution. The only cleric who did speak, not that I actually listened that closely, was that quintessential Irish Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who I love but who like the horse trader he is set out his usual string of elderly windy nags.
What I really am beginning to resent are men with 'ideas' (Francis' ideologues?) but who never seem concerned about Christ or the Gospel or holiness or ultimately Eternal Life, who turn the Church into a debating chamber. I hate their squabbles, I detest their clever solutions. The spiritual life is about muddling through, the muddle is the wound of concupiscence, I just wish we had men who recognise the muddle for what it is and point to Christ as our hope but no, it is about clever schemes to deal with the previous clever schemes that have got us into the mess we are already in. Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician?
Naturally I am jaded by the recent events in my own diocese but after only a week I detect attitudes have changed, hurt has moved from our ex-bishop, let me simply say he should not have been appointed, pray for him. I blame the good old magic circle, which in reality is more like a web and it is the spider in the middle who will I suspect will be the ultimate recipient of anger. What stinks is that it is about all power, and factions and so very little about Christ. In future I hope the Nuncio actually makes sure he asks such simple questions as: do you believe? and, are you willing to follow the discipline of the Church? A question I suspect which was of little concern in the Venerable English College and other seminaries, and amongst senior prelates for decades. The preferred question was: do you belong to my faction? As Pope Francis might say it is about 'careerism', that is on the days on which he doesn't show favour to yet another careerist, but it is so endemic in the Church, the poor man can't avoid it. Incidentally, yes, we all knew about the rumours but consoled ourselves that they were only rumours. We trusted those who appointed him, we trusted Cormac our former bishop, the then Nuncio, Archbishop Puente and Rome.
I think we English actually find politics, including Church politics, rather distasteful - which is why we have had so many foreign (Scottish) Prime Ministers: Cameron, Brown, Blair, Hume, MacMillan, even why we have tended to import foreign monarchs Germans, Scots, Welsh. Yes, yes I am being frivolous, my tongue is definitely in my cheek but I think there is something very English in despising public controversy and thinking those who take part in it as being just short of beneath contempt, which is why we eventually dismiss and despise our Prime Ministers like inept servants.
The politicking and partisanship of the Synod seems distasteful to my sensibilities, public squabbles are for foreigners not for the English. South Americans might well have revolutions, North Americans their powerful capitalit barons with unlimited political influence, Germans their putsches, Italians vendettas, but we English just like to muddle through.There is something grossly unpleasant about dirty washing being seen in public or Cardinals behaving like fish wives and washer women or worse still, bragging about their influence and whose ear they have in their back pocket - that is the ultimate crime for us English which some have never learnt - but that is the nature of a Synod and of most clerical gatherings.
Standby for a great deal more of wrangling, daftness, and horse dealing but ultimately in the final document the Kasperite and anti-Kasperite faction will have reach some kind of agreed statement in the final Synod document. In some cases the medicine can be worse than cure and the big question is can the Church's leadership hold it together or will unity be so damaged that we end up as some kind of federated Church, much like it looks as the once United Kingdom will become under the Cameroons or the Milibanders.
Fragmentation is in the air!
And while mud wrestling goes on in public what really matters is going on in back rooms with sleight of hand by worldly men.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake