Apparently, the English Catholic Diocese of Hallam has on its website advice about how to behave in pagan places of worship ... which pagan cult objects to bow to, for example. This has caused some degree of negative interest.
The advice may very well have been set up without the knowledge of the Bishop. Since I can't find it on the website, it may very well have been taken down by now; quite probably in a proper exercise of the Bishop's episcopal diligence.
The phrase used in this advice was that these ritual gestures "show respect to the host community". This does, of course, provide a rationale for dissociating the gesture from its idolatrous implications by redirecting it away from idolatrous cultic objects themselves and towards the people to whom we might wish, very naturally, to show proper human respect.
Whether ordinary Christian people ought to be troubled with such semiological incoherences seems to me debatable. Still, perhaps we should not get too hysterical about this. The Hallam situation is, it appears to me, a great deal less scandalous than the "Earth Mother" devotions in which, according to reports, Cardinal Ravasi has taken part. And one recalls the disturbing action, reported and uncorrected in his Wilkipedia entry, in which Vincent Nichols in 2009 is said to have offered flowers to Hindu deities in a Hindu temple in Neasden. (Yes! There really is such a place, even outside the pages of Private Eye!!)
But I do still feel a residual unease about the Hallam situation. Somebody ... probably a local 'Interfaith' clerical enthusiast with some titular dignity in the local curia ... must have been responsible. If so, I think it is fair to ask questions about the degree of appropriate Christian formation of such an individual.
Christianity, the lineal descendant and successor of the Judaic Covenant, is still committed to the principled and unrelenting monotheism of the Hebrew prophets. And, most particularly, the principle of refusing reverence to pagan cult objects was deeply branded into our Christian consciousness during the periods of violent persecution which our Martyrs endured in the centuries before the Peace of the Church.
An apparent assumption that the natural desire to be courteous to our partners in interfaith dialogue renders this monotheistic consciousness 'out of date', seems to me to demonstrate an extremely shallow degree of integration into our own Christian identity on the part of an individual concerned.
To be continued.