18 December 2017

"astonishingly unimpressive and tricky"

This is the analysis by Peter Hitchens, a well-known journalist (an English Anglican of Marxist origin), of the Management of the Church of England. It was elicited by a Report, written by a very distinguished barrister (of Polish Jewish extraction), dealing with the trashing, on minimal evidence, of the reputation of George Bell, an Anglican bishop. Bell had been highly regarded hitherto because of his support of the German Protestant opposition to Hitlerism, and his subsequent condemnations of the Allied blanket bombing of German centres of civilian population. But a single female complainant had made accusations of sexual abuse, several decades after Bell's death. The Church of England adopted its normal modern fall-back positions: panic and incoherence.*

"Astonishingly unimpressive and tricky" is undoubtedly a fair description of your modern Anglican bishop. Managing an institution in terminal decline is an unattractive proposition, and, in a fallen world, it is not surprising that it gets left to third- and fourth-rate men and women. Hence the Careys and the Welbys. And they got to be Archbishops of Canterbury!! Even poor Sentamu managed to collar the See of S Wilfrid! An influential Anglican blog has commented that "it is time for a fundamental debate about what is wrong at the highest levels of the Church of England". Well, that would lead us not higher but deeper down, to where lies the root problem.

Ours is a culture in which it is impossible to avoid the immense chasm which has opened up between those for whom inherited patterns of sexual morality still retain a normative status; and those who (either out of an instinct for organisational survival or out of a notion of what "the Holy Spirit" is calling for) believe in an accommodation with the Zeitgeist. Adopting either premise can mean that a man will suffer a lifetime of abuse and calumny. First- and second-rate men naturally assume they can do more good, and live more agreeably, in less exposed positions.

So the third- and fourth-raters to whom Management does by default fall waste their time in pursuit of compromises "which everybody will be able to live with".

I have not been in full communion with the Catholic Church in England and Wales for long enough to know how generally true such things may also be of Catholic bishops. I am not encouraged by the fact that (as far as I know) no report has been published revealing who knew about Kieran Conry's womanising before the baloon went up; and whether they had read a media report of it before his Consecration. And now, of course, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is no longer available to answer questions.

*To be fair: the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral here in Oxford did not behave like that. And analysis of the Carlile Report has suggested that the major faults lie with the central Management of the C of E rather than with the Diocese of Chichester. Of course, the hooha will die down over the Christmas and New Year Holidays, and I think we can confidently assume that no resignations will follow. Back to business as normal! ... er ...


vetusta ecclesia said...

Have you reference for the media report on Conry before consecration?

Thomas said...

During the podcast on Martin Thompson's Holy Smoke blog dealing with the book "The Dictator Pope", there is a segment that discusses a perception that PF is 'Peronist' because he appears encourage to opposing groups and individuals around him by turns and to affirm seemingly contradictory positions depending on who is seeking his approval at the time. Whether that is true or not I don't know, but I found it both revealing and alarming that one of the expert commentators on the podcast defended such an approach to ecclesiastical leadership by suggesting that this is pretty much the job description of being a bishop!

Sue Sims said...

Damian Thompson, rather than Martin T.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Christian Order first published details of Conry's behaviour. The implication since then is that the ignored complainant was made the Bishop of Portsmouth. CO is a 'hit and miss'. The editor writes utter tosh but he writes it brilliantly. I guess he must be an Australian of Irish extraction.