"Well", I indignantly thought, "how can I be responsible? I'd never even heard of the woman until now".
For some 36 hours, the first, and the most obsessive news item, had been the suicide of a woman who had for years (I now know) been involved in programmes such as Strickly and, most recently, Love Island. Her suicide appeared to be a national tragedy; the outpourings of love towards the defuncta had been universal and, it seemed to me, extreme. I suppose this was the Meejah village mourning one of its own; and, for people who had in fact known her, the grief was natural enough.
But I rather got the impression that among the grief-smitten were some who had not themselves known her ... except, of course, via the (spurious but seductive) intimacy of the screen ... but who needed to feel that they had known her. It reminded me of the occasion at Lancing when one of the students was found drowned in her parents' swimming pool; a 'shrine' appeared at the back of the Chapel with messages attached. One of these was from a youth who wrote that he had never actually met her, but now felt as though he had known her. People do like to crave admission to and to feel part of a popular tragedy. As we learned temp. Dianae Spencer.
But I had never even heard of the Love Island woman. Yet here was some cutie telling me that we are all ... which includes me ... responsible for her tragedy. What rubbish ... .
Perhaps not totally rubbish; after all, in society there is a great network whereby, with varying degrees of immediacy, we are all mutually co-involved. No man, indeed, is an island. My wife wondered when a homilist had last reminded his hearers that suicide is a sin. She has a point. Perhaps we clergy should preach more and more often about specific sins ... not, of course, that we will reap any more comforting a harvest than accusations of being sin-obsessed and insensitive. (I used to denounce Abortion ... but not more than two or three times a year, lest my hearers might come to think I was preoccupied with just one issue. I'm not convinced I was wrong; if one gets that sort of reputation it blunts the message anyway.)
So ... should I have watched an episode of Love Island and then, if it seemed to me that it encouraged promiscuity, denounced it?
One of the themes of 'PreLent' ... of these Gesima Sundays ... is that we are corporately involved . Which is why we profess our corporate sinfulness on account of which we are corporately (so the ancient Mass texts remind us) afflicted by the Almighty. Septuagesima (what Byzantine habits would probably name Adam Sunday) spoke of the origin of Sin; Sexagesima (consider the readings and homilies in the Divine Office) was Noe (Noah) Sunday -- reminding us of the corporate punishmen inflicted upon a corporately sinful society. (Quinquagesima, of course, will be Abraham Sunday.)
Coresponsibility, then. Fair enough. So be it.
But there is still a bit of me which says: too assertive a declaration that we are "all responsible" for everything may blunt the awareness we ought to feel of a special responsibility for the things which are a lot closer home. I mean tragedies which happen to those we know, to those who are part of a more immediate community; to family members. There is a very real risk that what everybody is responsible for becomes in reality something for which nobody is really responsible, except as an easy emotional trip.
Are we capable of the fine distinctions which may be needed?!