Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Less Correct Than I

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 30, 2005

... With sunnier Faith, with more unclouded Brow
Brilliant ARCTURUS did the Fates endow:
Who cried, as joyfully he bound his Sheaves,
"What I believe is what the Church believes!":
Yet some might find it matter for Research,
Whether the Church taught him, or he the Church.
Corpus had trained him Reason's Truth to doubt,
And Keble added Faith, to do without.
"What matter whether two and two be four,
So long as none account them to be more?
What difference whether black be black or white,
If no officious Hand turn on the Light?
Whether our Fact be Fact no Man can know
But, Heav'n preserve us, we will treat it so!"

The liberal Anglican theologian Rev. A.E. Rawlinson ("Brilliant Arcturus") was thus gently spoofed by Ronald Knox -- himself still an Anglican in 1913 -- in his tour de force "Absolute and Abitofhell." In his courteous and self-satisfied skepticism Rawlinson serves as a harbinger of the post-Christian academic churchman. When the desire not to offend turns into self-congratulation at not giving offense, not only does the love of truth vanish, but it is replaced by a positive hostility to truth claims. And a religion without truth claims gives us -- well, ask the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The debate over sexuality could be described either as "The Churches of the 'North' are tired and confused, losing evangelistic energy," or "The Churches of the North have been made aware of how much their life and work has been sustained in the past by insensitive and oppressive social patterns, with the Bible being used to justify great evils," [Dr Rowan Williams] suggested.

Translation: The Bible was wrongly used to extol imperialism, therefore it's probably wrongly used to condemn sodomy.

On matters of what the Church required in its ordained leaders and what patterns of relationship it would explicitly recognise as revealing of God, the Church was not persuaded that change was right. "And where there is a strong presumption against change, a long consensus of teaching in Christian history, and a widespread ecumenical agreement, it may well be thought that change would need an exceptionally strong critical mass to justify it."

Translation: Let's not ask whether buggery is God's will or not but talk about PROCEDURE. The sad fact is that ECUSA acted in anticipation of the majority vote required by statute for the abandonment of divine law.

The invitation to provinces to reconsider their actions was not to say that there were no issues to be resolved, no prejudice to be repented of -- because there was unquestionably much of that. "It is not to reject the idea of an 'inclusive' Church or to canonise an unintelligent reading of the Bible. It is to say that actions taken in sensitive matters against the mind of the Church cannot go unchallenged."

Translation: Those Africans are homophobic bigots -- no question -- and all right-thinking people understand that Infertility is the Future. But we all have to play by the rules, and that means Gene Robinson and his pals can't buck the majority until we succeed in stacking the deck in their favor.

The Archbishop warned of the dangers of passing judgement, of looking to others to repent, of "a deadly lack of self-knowledge", and of the constant danger of "the easiest religious technique of all, the search for the scapegoat" .

Translation: Just to prove how impartial and evenhanded I am, let me equilaterally condemn the practice of passing judgment (as the homophobes have done), calling others to repent (as the homophobes have done), the deadly lack of self knowledge (as the homophobes exhibit in presuming to defend the faith), and the totally reprehensible Search for the Scapegoat (no further explication needed).

A learned and charming man, Williams is the archetype of the thoroughly bogus bishop, playing the pantomime role of a reluctant statesman with a kind of Gilbert & Sullivan recklessness. The hardest part of his job, as far as I can tell, is pretending that the intermediate pacifying measures really matter to him. He calls for unity, but seems to regard the divorce as inevitable, and acts as if his main concern is to avoid giving offense to those who will write the future article on him in the Oxford History of the Christian Church. Look at his roster of reprimands. The conservatives receive scoldings with real moral wallop (prejudiced, insensitive, oppressive, judgmental, eager for scapegoating). The liberals receive scoldings for failure to adhere to protocol. It's not hard to see where his heart is, yet it's sad to reflect that there are serious, believing, good-willed Christians out there who still think that he's playing for the same stakes that they are.

I'll leave the last word to Ronald Knox, who, in the pastiche mentioned above, finds the rowanesque tendency in embryonic form in an earlier Archbishop of Canterbury:

... When, on his Throne at Lambeth, Solomon
Uneasy murmur'd, "Something must be done,"
When suave Politeness, temp'ring bigot Zeal,
Corrected, "I believe" to "One does feel."
He wished the Bilge away, yet did not seek
To man the Pumps or plug the treach'rous Leak,
Would let into our Ark the veriest Crow,
That had the measliest Olive-branch to show.
Who has not known how pleasant 'tis to sigh,
"Others, thank God, are less correct than I"?

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