The question discussed by BBC NI religion presenter Will Crawley of whether the Irish Presbyterian moderator should attend on the Pope reminds me of the stern warning issued by the Skibbereen Eagle in west Cork in the 1850s, Skibereen has its eye on the Czar.” Not many outside Skib noticed until the headline became a cute byword for inflated self importance.
But it sure takes you back to the old days. Paisley can’t resist reliving the glory of those flour sacks at the back the crowd in St Peter’s Square and his distant roars at JP2 from some where in the middle of the vast European hemicycle, like a bit player in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
On the surface, the ever burgeoning abuse scandal gives more credibility to Protestant objections to Rome than ever – until we’re reminded of how Protestant pastors with their unique hotline to God can somehow get it tangled with their own egos and become more papal than any old man in the Vatican. Try Pastor Jone’s ego for size.
So here we go again. Or do we? Today’s Pope is an easier target than the reformer John XXIII. But if the Vatican and the hierarchies have rolled back from the momentous days of the early sixties, the laity certainly haven’t. That’s the message of the Indy’s poll of Catholic attitudes to change. Perhaps there’s a lesson for future Popes and some political leaders – that they’ve become no more than totem poles people dance around occasionally, while most of the time they get on with their own lives.
Of course the Moderator should attend, more out of respect for his Roman Catholic -co-religionists, than for the Pope himself.
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