If the Churches want attention, they’d better speak for humanity

If you want an exhilarating meditation on death, read Philip Larkin’s Aubade, rather than the Pope’s mumbo jumbo about the magisterium.
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die…

But like Terry Pratchett I’ve a sneaking sympathy for the Anglican Church and wary respect for the Roman Catholic variety at its best. But why is it that in some of the biggest ethical issues of our time, the churches rely on their fading authority and custom and practice rather than rigorous exegesis?
Despite perfect storms over AIDS and child abuse, the Pope has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing as he upholds the Catholic church’s ban on open gays – as if he doesn’t meet and work with them every day. We’re supposed to be in awe when we’re solemnly told Church thinks in centuries when it comes to faith and morals. But it took the Pope about five minutes to have a tilt at Harriet Harman’s new equality law.
I’ve some sympathy with Clifford Longley’s point on English Catholic protests against the impact of gender equality on their adoption services, but only because it damaged a valuable pastoral service. There must have been a better way. Turning to Anglicans, Archbishop Sentamus’s contribution after Terry Pratchett’s moving and witty plea in last night’s Dimbleby lecture to legalise assisted death was to make a silly point about the standard polling sample of 1,000 not speaking for 61 million people. The Archbishop of Canterbury makes regular pleas for religion’s place in society to be better recognised.

I don’t believe we are living in a secular society, and I don’t believe that we are living in a deeply religiously divided society. I believe we are living in a society which is uncomfortably haunted by the memory of religion and doesn’t quite know what to do with it, and I believe we are living in a society which is religiously plural and confused but not therefore necessarily hostile.

He might stand a better chance of being heard if, on the some of the biggest issues, the Churches didn’t rush in with “No,no,no” and wrestled with these great themes like many of the rest of us, in respecful humility.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London