Action Alert!

ecumenism & counterfeit compassion

By Diogenes (articles) | Nov 28, 2006

I was especially edified last week to read that the Church of England and the Catholic Church had agreed to stand together against the negative effects of materialism and in favor of care for the environment. Prior to the meetings that forged the new consensus, the C of E had been in favor of the negative effects of materialism and the Catholics were against care for the environment. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever situation may have obtained in the past, the key point is that industrial polluters and mega-yacht merchants, e.g., now face a vastly more formidable opponent. "These folks may not agree on the contents of Schori's ciborium," mutter the bad guys, "but they form a united front against disposable diapers! I'll have to tread carefully from now on ..."

Two years ago, Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables remarked, "It is clear that the irreconcilable contradictions in Anglicanism can no longer be disguised by the mask of inclusive language and jolly photo-calls." Jack those contradictions up to the ecumenical level -- where they're considerably more intractable -- and it appears that jolly photo-calls are the meat and marrow of the business.

The photo above was taken at a 2004 launch ceremony at which the Archbishop Rowan Williams and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor were the star attractions. To raise awareness for affordable housing (of which both men are in favor) and to demonstrate solidarity with the homeless (for which both men feel compassion), they pretended for the cameras to be "taggers" and spray-painted "+Rowan" and "+Cormac" on the Housing Awareness Wall -- you know, just like Crips and Bloods in da hood. Many a stovepipe hat-wearing capitalist and many a tattoo'd gangsta felt hot tears of elevated awareness well up in the corner of his eyes. And when +Cormac actually shook the mittened paw of a coincidentally well-placed dosser ...

... why, there wasn't a dry seat in the house.

Those of cynical temper may complain that homelessness in London, unlike Calcutta, is not primarily an economic failure, and that a grinning archbishop's vandalizing a plastic tarp indirectly reinforces the social irresponsibility and passivity that do create the misery. The same cynics, more ungenerously still, may deplore the fact that senior clergymen should be trotted out like pop musicians or football stars to pull off a publicity stunt -- a stunt that's part of a lobbying effort (re-distribution of public resources), and aimed less at small acts of Christian charity than large disbursements of government largesse.

Following the cynics, the carpers might further point out that the proven remedy for homelessness is a stable family life; indeed, the data show that, in First World nations at least, if you and your father are both married to your first wives, the chances of your receiving public aid are tiny and the chances of your being homeless virtually nil. The churches, moreover, are in the best position of any social institution to reverse the trend toward family collapse -- not only by encouraging marriages among their members, but by using their moral authority to combat social ills that weaken marriage: easy divorce, premarital promiscuity, abortion and contraception, and various nuptial counterfeits such as cohabitation and same-sex unions. But fighting these battles in public creates fierce opposition; it takes the guts to face a hostile government, hostile media, and a sizable percentage of hostile clergy and laity. The real path to solving homelessness is a tough one. How much easier to pose for the cameras tossing tax-funded marshmallows to grateful bachelors!

It may be objected that one of the common projects to which Canterbury and Rome committed themselves was precisely that of a healthy family life. This is true. However, inasmuch as C of E permits its clergy to partake of same-sex unions, the notion of "the family" this joint effort will defend is so elastic as to be -- how can we put it? -- ecumenical.

Yet it would be churlish to end on a note of despair. The photo below caught the attention of the Church Times, which featured it in its bi-weekly caption competition. The CT's winning entry and the runner-up (below) show that there's still a place in the British heart for inter-faith collaboration.

Primate. The New Fragrance for Men.
-- Robert Titley

You're the scholar, Williams: how many g's in "bugger"?
-- Mary Roe.

Your turn.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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  • Posted by: - Aug. 17, 2010 8:33 PM ET USA

    Dang, Diogenes! You made me spit coffee all over my keyboard again.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 17, 2010 1:08 PM ET USA

    Spot on!