The Catholic crisis is damaging inter-church relations. Does anybody care?

The Vatican may be terrible at PR but it may be more politically adept in a corner than its critics give it credit for. The refusal of the Pope to accept the resignations of two minor players who may be guilty by association has a certain train of logic to it. The Irish Times followed the train in both directions, one with a theologian saying it would be better if all Irish bishops quit (but where would that leave the outspoken Archbishop of Dublin?): the other accepting the logic but concluding that mass resignations would ” collapse the system.” We may assume that the Primate is now safe on the throne of St Patrick  for some time to come.

By drawing a line at the cliff edge, the Pope is challenging the faithful to pull back from the abyss. I would make a wild guess that many will, while others will just quietly creep away – to the Church of Ireland or secular limbo.

An urgent priority now should be to avoid widening the rift  with Protestants. I recently listened to one of the most ecumenically minded Church of Ireland rectors imaginable excoriating the Pope for his recent encyclical bracketing the ordination of women with child abusers but exempting clerical criminals from the excommunication he would impose for the very idea of  ordaining women.

Warming to his theme, the rector added that consideration should be given to boycotting the Pope’s visit to the UK next month. “Deeply insenstive to bracket the two.  I don’t buy the idea that the Vatican was just bad at PR. They knew what they were doing,”  was his gist.  This is a sentiment Paisley would applaud. It only goes to show how deep the offence the Pope is causing by  persistently relying so narrowly on Catholic apologetics.

Presumably the rector’s outspokenness would give his episcopal superiors a fit. The C of I Abp of Dublin preferred to support his increasingly isolated Catholic counterpart Abp Martin against the Abp of Canterbury when Rowan Williams blurted out that the Catholic Church had ” lost all credibility” over the child abuse scandal. Williams is also bruised by what he sees as Vatican opportunism in seeking to capitalise on the Anglican split over ordaining women bishops.

Down the decades the Church of Ireland in the Republic thought it politic to adopt the cringe position in order to survive in independent Catholic Ireland. But times have changed dramatically. They should get off their knees and join northern counterparts in straight talking – while giving support to Martin and great numbers – probably the majority – of the Catholic laity. Do they fear being misunderstood as Paisleyites? Probably. But as ever, misunderstanding comes from a failure to speak clearly with charity.

Speaking  in a common language is needed to boost languishing ecumenism in the face of the Catholic hierarchy’s chronic loss of credibility with its own people – an aim which is opposite of Paisleyism and other forms of die-hard Protestantism. The time is ripe – indeed long overdue – for a new social mission from all the churches to encourage a more cohesive society.  For as long as they exert influence, this should be their preoccupation.. While the clerics are locked in casuistry, it’s up to the laity on all sides. We are all protestants now.

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  • joeCanuck

    Utter hogwash; despicable.
    You condemn Turgon for “attacking..” and then go on to do the same to him, insulting his religion to boot. I’m beginning to think you are a troll, given your other pronouncements.

  • Munsterview

    That boy is bright !

  • Munsterview

    Took the trouble to talk to him afterwards at some length, I could have used a few more choice adjectives to describe the man and his traits but ‘ stupid ‘ is not one of them !

  • HeadTheBall


    I was interested recently to see an interview with a senior Orthodox churchman re the Latin/Greek divide. He was reasonably OK with Papal authority, the “Filioque” clause, etc but what really fired him up was the sack of Constantinople (1204). And we think history goes back a long way in Ireland.

  • Greenflag

    “What Would Jesus do.”

    From what we know of the man’s character he’d probably have gone to the funeral .

    Brian Walker is not being attacked by everybody . I’d guess that 90% plus of slugger’s readers agree with him . What’s the harm in going to a mass or a service for a few minutes even if it’s part of a ‘religion’ with which you or I personally don’t or never could follow ?

    What’s wrong with showing community solidarity at a time of grief for a friend ? What’s wrong with appearing to recognise the other as a fellow human being once born just like yourself destined to die ?

    I’m sure Christ would have called you a hypocrite if he were around .

    It never bothered me going to a funeral service or mass for a friend or relative no matter what their religion . Dust to dust and all that . There are no fine theological semantic points discussed among the dead !

  • Greenflag

    JC , the same rationale has been used to prove Jesus was a Jew and also an Italian . I had’nt heard of the Strabane incarnation but I’ll take your word for it .

    The world jury on this matter seems to have decided on the Jewish candidate being the winner by eh popular acclaim and historical faction.

  • Greenflag

    Just as well you believe that grace alone will save your butt from hell’s fire . Christian charity and tolerance towards your fellow prods obviously won’t 🙁

    Your eh ‘infallibilty’ in re of christianity and moral matters has an almost papal ring . Do you by any chance wear a red hat with corners ?

  • joeCanuck

    ..would be…
    Shurely you jest; the world is full of hypocrites.

  • Greenflag

    ‘the reasons were the same as those behind. the first crusades in Southern France.’

    Breaking up the lawless Celtic Church was about the Archbishop of Canterbury getting his hands on any Irish offerings making their way to Rome so that he could get a ‘cut’ /fee/ regular income from the funds destined for the Pope .

    The English Pope who permitted the Norman Henry II to claim to the Lordship of Ireland was none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury’s brother. The doctrinal miniutae were just a smokescreen as they are today . It was all about getting hands on whatever loot was going !

  • Munsterview

    Not quite. I have been involved in these studies for half a lifetime, several trips to Southern France, Renne-le Chateau church, Monsieur etc.
    as well as discussing these matters with specialized scholars of the period.

    There was much more happening here than mere territorial acquisition or ‘getting hands on loot’ Look at how Celtic Church influence was systematically eradicated from monastery after monastery in the Rhine valley for the same reason !

    The systematic dismantling of the Kingdom of Desmond had the same genesis, it was done by the same forces. Behind the histories and beneath the surface of things apparent there has been a much longer battle conducted without let up across the centuries and events in Ireland are but one part of that manifestation.

    Off thread however and a specialized field of study!

  • John East Belfast


    To some extent you have allowed your own thread to be blown off course by introducing doctrinal differences and the reaction to them.
    However those differences have been around for hundreds of years.

    The Cuurent Crisis is all about the Pope turning down the resignations of two Bishops one of whom at least had his actions described in a state report as “inexecusable”.

    Those reports did not make pretty reading and how anyone could turn down such a resignation is beyond belief.

    Hence to non catholics at least the Pope has shown himself to be totally out of touch with public feeling and apparently above earthly powers.

  • Turgon

    I have not made any comment on whether or not I would attend a funeral mass or any other such service. I have given no view on it. I have defended the right of someone to do what they want re this. I have also defended the right of the Catholic Church to give communion only to those whom it wishes to. I have opposed Walker’s arrogance for it is him who has condemned not attending a funeral mass and also the RCC not giving anyone who wants communion.

    Please do not tell lies about what I said.

  • Alan Maskey

    Is your main quibble that a sognificant percentage of High Church Anglicans are selling out to Rome? If so, what of it? They are on that side of the house in any event and moving over might clear the air a little bit. It seems to me that evangelical Protestants are always in protest mode. Most people just do not care about religion; they are too busy watching Big Brother and following the tinsel celebrities to care.
    John east Belfast: Good to see you so concerned about the travails of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
    Here is a good article about the Larry Murphy case, dragging in Ian Paisley Jnr among others. It puts the anti priest and other hysterias into perspective, hopefully much better than I did.
    I remember when Bishop Casey was exposed for having a bit of sex. People close to said fair play to him, she must have been a really fine piece of stuff in her day. Secularists preened themselves and sang songs about him as they got drunk. But a Free Presbyterian minister was interviewed. His response was both considered and charitible.

  • Big Maggie


    A theological expert [sic!] got back to me with the answer that the transformation is a metaphysical rather than a physical one – the still wine maintains all the physical properties of fermented grape juice, but has metaphysically been transformed into the blood of Jesus Christ. The mind boggles.”

    LOL. I took your advice and poured my husband a glass of Ribena yesterday evening. “What’s this?” he asked in disgust.

    “It still Ribena,” I said, “but metaphysically it’s become a fine Chateau Neuf du Pape.”

    For some reason he wasn’t amused :^)

  • Turgon

    Alan Maskey,
    You completely misunderstand. The only thing I dislike here is ecumenicists trying to claim that it is more holy or more righteous to be an ecumenicist.

    I am not a Roman Catholioc. I disagree with their views on a number of issues most critically on the means of personal salvation. However, I respect that the Catholic Church has a different position. I think they are wrong but who knows I may be wrong. The athestists may be right in the end: though of course then none of us will know seeeing as we will all be dead.

    What really bugs me is ecumenicists suggesting that it is morally superior to be ecumenical and criticising Protestants who chose not to attend mass and the Catholic Church for not giving non Catholics communion. Walker has done both of those in his usual high handed and arrogant fashion and has now fled the field of debate. I am pointing that out.

  • Turgon

    Alan Maskey,
    You misunderstand. My only quibble here is the ecuminists trying to proclaim that ecunimism is more morally correct.

    I am not a Roman Catholic, I have significant disagreements with Roman Catholicism on the means of personal salvation. However, Catholics clearly have the absolute right to their position. They may be right: we will have to wait and see. The athestists may be right: again we will have to wait and see; though since we will then all be dead no one will know.

    My complaint is that Walker has denounced Protestants for not attending funeral mass and the Catholic Church for not allowing non Catholics to take communion.

    I regard Walker’s position on this as breathtaking arrogance and that is my only real complaint here.

  • Turgon

    Sorry for double post: I thought it had failed to send

  • Alan Maskey

    Ok Turgon, gotcha. Well, you are taking an honest stand and I guess that is what people should do. But is not a case of horses for courses? The rites of High Church Anglicanism are, on the surface, akin to the RC rites

    RC organisation is also quite different from your evangelical form: centralisation v decentralisation. It is not hard to see the faults with both systems.

    If we look at religion from a business point of view, then defensive mergers make sense.

    One of the good things about Mr Walker’s thread and your comments is that we have Protestants looking at the RC church with critical eyes but avoiding the stock cliches secularists use. That is a good thing.

  • The ship is essentially already sunk and all this is merely “arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Unlike that earlier debacle, the Vatican is steaming head on into an even bigger and far more damaging debacle. Ages-old secrets that expose Rome’s oldest lies are now freely available to all. The timing for this is not merely coincidental!

  • Rory Carr

    Whether or not Alan Maskey understands Turgon it is Turgon himself when he writes that, “My only quibble here is the ecuminists trying to proclaim that ecuminism is more morally correct.”, who misunderstands the moral imperative that drives ecuminism and it is not that it feels itself to be morally correct but rather (and more simply) that it is more civilised. And it is this drive towards a more civilised interaction between and tolerance of those of differing faiths that finally begets a higher morality than all the centuries of theological nit-picking.

    Those who would avoid attending at services of a different church, whose theology they oppose, in respect of neighbourliness and friendship for fear of being thought hypocritical would be better to sing hallelujahs of praise to that great gift, hypocrisy. Three cheers for hypocrisy, say I. It is the very lubricant of human interaction and without it the friction between us soon ignites. How the hell any man could survive in marriage if he were to be unhypocritical when asked by his wife to comment on her new dress or hairstyle defeats me, so what in the hell is so goddamnawful about being a little hypocritical every now and then to please a neighbour whose son or father has died?

    Reading the cooments on this thread has been at times exsperating but at least it has been blessed as ever by Pippakin whose response to Alan Maskey with, “Dont misunderstand me, the Virgin Mary is one of those I have time for…”, brightened up my morning. I am quite sure that the Blessed Mother feels the same way about you, Pips.

  • Greenflag

    Munsterview ,

    I’m sure there was a lot more going on . Power consolidation -hierarchical control , centralisation , belief uniformity and of course the ‘loot’ . In deference to your expertise in the subject I’ll amend my last sentence to ‘It was partly about getting hands on the loot ‘

    The RC Church in the middle ages was a vast institution which controlled both people and rulers to a degree which is impossible to imagine in today’s world . The closest comparison might be with the Ayatollahs of the Extremistans of the east . That said the RC Church was also a force for ‘civilisation’ and the promulgation of knowledge and know how while at the same time being the god appointed censor of what ‘knowledge’ was safe to release to the people .

  • Greenflag

    Fair enough Turgon . My apologies if I have condemned you to the hot zone inadvertently by misinterpretation . I forgot that as well as Christ the ‘humanitarian ‘ there is also the somewhat more vindictive Jehovah (the cruel God ) lurking in the background for all those who stray one iota from the ‘word’.

    Obviously you take your faith very seriously which is perhaps why you see Brian Walker’s comment as ‘arrogant’ . As a non faith person I see BW’s comment as actual ‘practical’ christianity and for me what’s much more important -practical humanity . In the NI context ‘ecumenism’ despite it’s inherent theological cul de sacs for the denominationally rigorous and unbending -is generally probably a good thing . While I can’t understand those who would NOT attend a funeral mass or service for a Catholic or Presbyterian or Anglican or Jewish friend , colleague etc I would not claim moral superiority for those who do but I would credit those who do them with more practical humanity .

    I of course respect the right of those who refuse to attend any ceremony or rite which they believe would be inimical to their future prospects of eternal salvation . I feel a certain sympathy for those whose strength of belief would take them to that point for I too was once brainwashed ;( . Unlearning is tough and its a never ending process but highly recommendable .

  • Greenflag

    RC ,

    ‘How the hell any man could survive in marriage if he were to be unhypocritical when asked by his wife to comment on her new dress or hairstyle defeats me, so what in the hell is so goddamnawful about being a little hypocritical every now and then to please a neighbour whose son or father has died?’

    Jehovah would’nt like it . Jehovah would much prefer a very high divorce rate as wives/husbands of all faiths and nations run away from each other and the unvarnished TRUTH .

    Common sense Rory will not get you past the pearly gates particularly if Jehovah is on gate and vetting duty . With JC or his Momma you might sneak in in view of your charitable and humanitarian instinct.

    As my mom used to say ‘ Only children and fools always tell the whole truth ‘ 😉

  • pippakin

    Rory Carr

    I am so bored with your little vendetta.

    I have no doubt you know Mary was almost certainly not a virgin and Mary Magdelene was definitely not a prostitute. The hatchet job on her was so successful that another name for brothels used to be ‘magdelenes’.

    So yes I do have time for both women, and fyi the ‘Great Mother’ is also one of the manisfestations of the Goddess.

    My fault, and I do recognise it, is I always think everyone knows the truth. Silly of me because I really should remember you lurking in the ether and explain in greater detail. Again, I must apologise, I really cannot help it I just find you so forgetable.

  • joeCanuck

    I know we all like like to think that our mothers are perfect but she got that one wrong. Children start lying very shortly after they learn to speak. They learn from those around them, you see.

  • Greenflag

    ‘If we look at religion from a business point of view,’

    Why would you look at it any other way . It’s an extremely profitable business for top performers . Selling an intangible non existent product to people for large sums of money (when added up over a lifetime of contributions ) and they can’t even complain about non delivery of the product until they are dead ?

    Beats money for old rope anyday 🙁

    Fraudsters and pimps most of them 🙁

  • Greenflag

    I know Joe and I don’t claim ‘perfection’ for her but as the adage says ‘Out of the mouth of babes etc ‘ and she may have been partially wrong 😉

    ‘Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?” “Because white is the colour of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.” The child thought about this for a moment, then said, “So why is the groom wearing black?”

    A six year old son asked his grandma
    “grandma when we get to heaven, do we have to stay there?

    A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to “honour thy father and thy mother,” she asked “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

    Without missing a beat one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill.”

    A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion. The first student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David.”

    The second student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is a Rosary.”

    The third student got in up front of the class and said, “My name is Tommy. I am Methodist, and this is a casserole.”


  • Rory Carr


    How could you? I compliment you and you see that as part of a vendetta. I am at a loss.

    As to, “I have no doubt you know Mary was almost certainly not a virgin”, I cannot see how you can know that I can know any such thing. I never met the woman in my life, much less conducted a gynaecological examination upon her. The status of any woman in that regard is no concern of mine.

  • joeCanuck


    One of the perils of the internet. No body language to convey whether someone is being sincere or sarcastic.
    I thought and think you were sincere.

  • Rory Carr

    Joe thinks you were sincere, and so do I…

  • Rory Carr

    B/b cut me off!

    No need to be a gynaecologist, or even as intelligent as I am sure you think you are, just a nodding acquaintance with the facts of life would be sufficient.

  • Alan Maskey

    Turgon: May I ask your denomination? FPC? Methodist?

    I am sure as the Holy Father visits Scotland, John Knox’s crew have been given plenty of tickets, almost all of them they will not use. I would much prefer if he went to an Old Firm game but FIFA might frown on that kind of thing.

    I think the Holy Father is a bit like Adams. In fact, that would make for a good compare and contrast essay. One difference, among many, is that Adams has a more efficient PR machine. Also, when Adams speaks ot his American flock, he keeps the numbers down and the admission prices up.

    The problem for my beloved church is few Popes can be all things to all men (and women). Richard Nixon said he would have made a good Pope but he was a Quaker.

  • joeCanuck

    few Popes can be all things to all men (and women)

    Nope, but a few can fool some of the people all of the time.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Richard Nixon said he would have made a good Pope’

    So instead of Watergate we’d have had Vaticangate 35 years ago instead of today .Perhaps Tricky Dicky could see the benefits of infallibility plus the safety from being impeached that the Papacy offers . A job to die for and in apparently !

  • Munsterview

    Interesting material on your links !

  • Munsterview

    In my personal experience few people cease to be Catholic or C of I, they just drift out to the margins but do not have sufficient motivation to formally break with their childhood faith.

    Presb and Baptists etc are a different matter, it is an in or out situation, passive members are pressured to make up their minds and no grey areas.

    One of the strangest experiences of my life was to take care for a few weeks of a Northern Protestant Ex minister form an extreme christian group who had lost his faith. We competed for the same public speaking street pitch, when I was finished he usually came on with a ‘fire and brimstone’ response to all I had just said.

    The new minister supported his family but treated the man even in his own home as if he was not there and dead. He was ostracized by the whole community ( admittedly not very large ) who would not even salute him, yet this had been his entire life since ‘saved’ at twelve.

    It was an eye-opener……. if this was how one of their own community was treated, it was some insight to their understanding of christian charity!

  • Munsterview

    Relative to the ‘Loot ‘aspect, when next passing through Buttivant in Co Cork ( if you are so doing) slow down at the Southern end of the town and look out for a small grey stone tower.

    It has been three since earliest English times and was manned by Papal tax collectors, Italians directly employed by the pope, it was for quite a while the furtherest European outreach directly under papal control.

    Motor way tolls are nothing new!

  • hell I’d take Nixon over Razi any day of the week. Ok so he’s a Quaker but at least he wasn’t a …. well you know

  • Greenflag

    Ok so he’s a Quaker

    And Hitler was a practicing Catholic ?

    Quakers are pacifists . And I would imagine that many Quakers would have more than doubts about Mr Nixon’s ‘practice’ of the tenets of his inherited faith .
    Nixon was a better President than he’s given credit . He did manage to end the Vietnam War , start the Space Shuttle program, and opened up China as well as trying to bring in Universal health care in the USA along the lines of the UK’s NHS .

    Ironically he was opposed in Congress and the Senate by Edward Kennedya fact which Kennedy later regretted .

  • Alan Maskey

    No I don’t know. Is that the level of your contribution, snide little remarks.
    Accuse the Pope of something and back it up. Otherwise STFU, little man.