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+Rowan and +Benedict

I was moved as I watched the Pope and Archbishop together, both at Lambeth Palace and then in the Abbey. In the sense it was their vulnerability which affected me: two brilliant, shy men drawn from their studies into the ruthless glare of cynicism both in society and church, offering themselves in Christ for the life of God’s world.

Neither can win at least in a worldly sense. Benedict speaks from power, the power invested in his job description. For that he is derided and made personally responsible for the breakdown of priestly morality certainly encouraged by the breakdown of public morality in the Western world beginning in the sixties. This is neither excuse nor absolution. Abusing children is a frightful deed. Its root is neither in heterosexuality nor homosexuality but simply in perversion which probably would not have evaporated were RC priests permitted to marry. The question remains as to what drew men with such a perverse attraction into priesthood? Mind you, hovering in the background is another question. Does vocation to priesthood inevitably include a vocation to celibacy? Enough said.

The Pope is assailed for his use of perceived power. His assertion of a consistent religious moral standard, using “moral” in its precise sense, offends not only church haters, who obviously have their own problems, but all convinced that everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own way.

The Archbishop has no power. He is assailed for not using a power he doesn’t possess. He is blamed for tolerating sections of Anglicanism who mistake the spirit of the age for the Holy Spirit and never “test the spirits” safe in the conviction that God blesses their causes and anoints them as prophets. +Rowan is assailed by others for tolerating the tepid face of Anglicanism, worldly-wise, moderate and reluctant to confront wickedness. +Rowan is assailed by those who in temperament and conviction although not in affiliation are Roman Catholics of a rather dated vintage, or Evangelical Protestants of a stridently sectarian brand.

Yet God has called both men to serve the church at a time, in the West, where its path seems to lead to Calvary again, to rejection and suffering. Their willingness to face this journey with quiet determination should be an inspiration. The only power left to us is the power of the Crucified’s presence in hope of resurrection for the church and the world and society into which God places his Church.

3 Responses

  1. I, too, was very moved by the Westminster Abbey service. One could see a bond between them. They both have so much to offer the Church. I fear their voices will only be truly heard and appreciated once they are together in the great cloud of witnesses.

  2. The question remains as to what drew men with such a perverse attraction into priesthood?

    I think it was essentially a supply and demand issue. Once you eliminate those who are interesting in having a healthy, monogamous, heterosexual relationship from the pool of potential candidates, the abusers became a much larger proportion of the remaining population in the pool. Combine that with a need and desire to actually get candidates through ordination into positions, and the unawareness of the potential problem brewing and I think you have a situation that was going to turn out badly. I really have to place the blame squarely at the feet of an a priori insistence on the celebrate priesthood at a time in history when the idea of a healthy, adult sexual relationship as the norm was emerging.

  3. This is a lovely piece, Tony, thank you. I responded to the scenes of the two men together with similar feelings.

    Bruce Robison

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