Don’t go back to the bad old days

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