Once again the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic abuse scandals cross over. This time, Rowan Williams mentions the Irish abuse scandal in a Radio 4 interview (yet to be aired, so leaked by someone?) and gets raked over the coals by Irish clergy (really?)...
Dr Williams said: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was
saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down
the street wearing a clerical collar now.
"And an institution so
deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly
losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the Church, it is
a problem for everybody in Ireland."
made his comments about the scandal in an interview to be broadcast on
BBC Radio 4's Start the Week programme.
Now that doesn't seem like a terribly inflammatory thing to say. It's an acknowledgment that the recent scandals have made life very difficult for Fr. Paddy Average on the street in Ireland. "Suddenly losing all credibility" seems to me to be a) quite obvious and b) a comment on the Irish Catholic church as an institution and its leadership, not every single Irish priest personally.
Despite that human perspective, the ABC gets castigated, to the point where he ends up apologizing for remarks that haven't even been broadcast yet...
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his "deep
sorrow" for any difficulties caused by his comments about the Catholic
Church in Ireland.
His claim that the Church had lost all
credibility because of its handling of child abuse by priests was
criticised by both Catholic and Anglican clergy.
I've said before that Williams seems to be a really great guy who is just out of his depth on the international stage. He zigs when he should have zagged and zags when he should have zigged. He made a very pertinent observation here and should have stuck by it, not allowed himself to be bullied by the very people who are responsible for the scandal in the first place (and plenty of others piling on, of course.)
I mean, come on, who doesn't believe that the Irish Catholic church (and quickly becoming the worldwide Catholic church) hasn't lost all credibility? I can just see all those Archbishops and Cardinals putting their hands over their ears going, "La la la la la la, I can't hear you!"
The church has enough of a problem staying relevant to people's lives without alienating the average person-in-the-street deliberately. And by relevant, I don't mean hip, avant-garde or anything like that (which in their own way are irrelevant to the average person anyway). No, I mean relevant in that it can be a useful and even necessary part of daily life - like supermarkets and telephones. The vast majority of people, particularly in the UK, don't attend church. Most people just don't see that the church has anything to offer them. They see church as being populated by people not like them.
This isn't helped by the fact that a large part of the church clings to an ancient view of how society ought to work. Whether it's a biblical era perspective of societal life or a 15th century view, it doesn't really matter - much of the church in general sees some version of "the past" as an ideal that has been lost and needs to be refound and restored, rather than a mere amusing way-point in human societal history. See, for instance, the Rev Angus MacLeay, vicar of St Nicholas in Sevenoaks, Kent.
The church's vicar is Angus MacLeay, 50, a married father of two who
is a leading member of the evangelical group Reform, which is opposed
to the appointment of women clergy.
The group has produced a
leaflet, called 'The role of women in the local church', which uses
Biblical quotes urging them to 'remain silent' and informing them
'wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.'
section of the leaflet, quoting Corinthians, said: 'It would seem that
women should remain silent in the public weighing of prophecy or if
their questions could legitimately be answered by their husbands at
Another, referring to a passage from Ephesians, said:
'Because of the order and purpose of their creation, wives are to
submit to their husbands in everything in recognition of the fact that
husbands are head of the family as Christ is head of the church.....
'This is the way God has ordered their relationships with each other and Christian marriage cannot function well without it.'
"Bring back 15th century marriage!", they cry. Do they want 15th century sanitation and medicine too? I suspect not.
"A woman's place is in the home, just like biblical days!", they shout. Are they willing to give up their Range Rovers? Bet not.
Note that this piece was published in the Daily Mail - one of the more bombastic conservative oriented newspapers - not a good sign for Reform if the Mail is on your case...
By all accounts, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams is a smart man. But he's also indecisive. Or maybe it's just that he unrealistically wants everything to work out perfectly in an imperfect world. Regardless, there are different kinds of smart, and perhaps the academic kind isn't really the best kind that's suited to the realities of the ambiguous world.
There are three major issues in the news the last few weeks that have dominated the Anglican scene.
the long-running saga of gay American bishops and Canadian same-sex liturgies.
the wooing of conservative Anglo-Catholic Anglicans by the Roman Catholic church.
the "let's kill all the homosexuals" Ugandan legislation.
The first is well documented through the last six years, with endless energy expended on finger-wagging at the Episcopal Church (less so the Anglican Church in Canada). Now that a second openly gay bishop has been elected (not yet confirmed or consecrated, but 99% sure that it will go through), and a woman at that, the finger-wagging and pronouncements of dire consequences have been elevated yet again. (Don't even get me started on the blind eye that is turned to the gay CofE bishops and the "don't ask, don't tell" hypocrisy that exists right under his nose.)
For the second matter, it seems that despite the Archbishop's bending over backwards to accommodate Rome over the years, they feel under no such obligation to reciprocate - catching him entirely by surprise with their offer to take a bunch of priests and parishioners off his hands. Diplomacy and accommodation is nice, but not so great when you get taken advantage of. He's lucky they didn't steal his lunch money too. In his own words to the church:
"I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the Apostolic Constitution itself and its code of practice in the coming weeks."
The final matter is the most serious, for the largest number of people, and being the most heinous violation of any kind of universal human rights. And yet this is the one issue where Williams refuses to take a public stand. Oh, he will say that he is negotiating in private, because:
"...speaking out publicly to this effect could indeed, as he says, have
the opposite effect to that intended. It would almost certainly be seen
as white-led colonialism of the worst possible kind, as a misguided
attempt to impose western liberal values upon traditional African
culture." Ruth Gledhill, in her new "suck up to the ABC" mode.
Hmm, as if Africans hadn't killed enough Africans the last few decades. At some point they can't keep blaming it on the after-effects of colonialism.
The(event) raises very serious questions not just for the (some) Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the
Communion as a whole.
Guess which event this is about?
Yes, you are indeed correct (sorry, no prizes - it's too easy) - it's the first one - the most minor in the grand scheme of things, but the only one he seems to feel requires an immediate and censorious response.
Thanks for playing, Archbish, but maybe it's time to go back to Hogwarts. I hear the Defense of the Dark Arts position is open again...