Taking Positions

I have been away for the weekend, notably being at our Council of Advice meeting in London. Despite the strike in the port of Calais, I planned an alternative route thanks to my ferry company allowing passengers onto ships at Dunkerque. The roads were well policed from the point of view of parked lorries (trucks) and desperate folk trying to get to England by any means possible. So, I was able to get to the port and be put on a ship in very good time and with much less waiting than I expected.

It wouldn’t break any confidences to mention a reflection that came up between us. There are so many issues in our world and in the Churches on which many people do take harsh positions, like so many single issues – instead of trying to see the whole.

Every day in my e-mail, I find so many links to articles, always about the same subjects: women bishops in the Church of England, legislation allowing same-sex “marriage” (as opposed to the Sacrament of Matrimony) and communion for divorced and remarried people in the RC Church. The subjects go on and on. Couldn’t the RC Church get some two-bit dictatorships going, governed by greasy Latino types in military uniforms and moustaches, chewing on  Havana cigars and sending all those “liberals” to the torture chambers and firing squads? They did it before, and the Pinochet affair was quite messy, to say the least.

There is no constraining power as some of our single-issue people would like. Modern politics has nothing to do with Christian churches. Islam has jumped into the breech in some countries. That is another problem. Even the idea of trying to influence the public space seems as ludicrous as the image of the roaring mouse!

So I find it best to avoid these “positions”. Many of these matters concern civil law in western countries and people who have nothing to do with churches. Frankly, who cares if two men or two women want to get a registrar’s office wedding and presumably stay together for some common purpose? It is indeed better for churches like ours not to be licensed for marriages that are both civil and sacramental. People who want to get married go and contract a civil union like we do in France, and then be sacramentally married in church at the discretion of the priest and according to the norms of canon law. A priest has the right and duty to refuse to marry a couple for reasons of canonical impediments, even if they are civilly married. Of course, things are different in America.

Things can be explained when one avoids the “single issue” mentality of our increasingly polarised, intolerant and violent world. Common sense is a rare commodity these days. This is one reason why I like this blog to be a place for intelligent discussion without readers becoming angry and taking everything personally. We live in a world where many people do things we believe to be wrong, and we can’t do anything about it, other than pray for those we believe to be sinners. We are all sinners ourselves.

The more I get together with my Bishop and brothers in the priesthood, together with the wonderfully devoted lay people also on the Council, the more I am uplifted by this experience of the Church’s communion. The Church is chiefly sacramental and mystical, but is also built of friendship and human empathy. Long may it continue, and long may we shine as a prophetic witness for the future of Christianity!

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