"You Must Read This Very Important Announcement..."
|The Tablet makes the cherubim cry|
That said, it would be nice, what with this being an ostensibly free country, for me to choose to wear a crucifix to work if I wanted to and not to have to hide my Catholic identity, nor to be ashamed of it, like some 1950s homosexual passing himself off as a regular heterosexual guy at work just so that he doesn't lose friends, respect or even his job.
My how the tables have turned. You would have thought that the LGBT community might stick up for the liberty of Christians to be able to wear a Cross - a symbol so entwined with the concept of religious identity - but we're yet to hear Ben Summersgill of Stonewall make that link between the struggle for societal recognition of unjust discrimination against homosexuals back then and the more recent unjust discrimination against Christians for something so simple as an outward display of identity. Oh the stigma and shame of being a Christian! When will we be allowed to be treated with respect like every other minority? The Queen must breathe a daily sigh of relief that she doesn't have a real job. If anyone out there has a rebellious streak that leads them to behave like an outsider, a subversive, someone who tramples on society's prejudices and treats them with the contempt they deserve, someone who goes against the status quo of society and respected cultural norms, then may I suggest you start wearing a crucifix to work now, whether you are a Christian or, indeed, not. You can imagine people on tea break: "Hey, who's the freaky guy with the Cross?", "Oh, that's the new admin guy, Gary. I think he might be one of those religious types", "Really? Nutter...", "Yeah, stay away from him....Weirdo alert!"
Well, I went to an evening Mass at a local Catholic Church today and Providence supplied me with a stunner. Today, as we know, there was a very important Pastoral Letter from the President and Vice-President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales. In what amounted to a very well reasoned, impassioned and understandable response to the Government's proposals to introduce Same-Sex Marriage to the United Kingdom, Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith provided parish priests with a golden opportunity to defend natural marriage against the Mr Tickle-esque arms of the State. Following the advice of the Bishops Conference, all parish priests had to do was to read out the Pastoral Letter and maybe provide a copy of the excellent response at the back of the Church to be picked up by parishioners, while encouraging them to sign the petition organised by the Campaign for Marriage.
Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Well, at the parish Church I attended this evening, it would have been easy enough, but for the fact that the parish priest was clearly rather taken with the article by Fr Timothy Radcliffe published in last week's edition of The Tablet. The priest did read the pastoral letter as part of his homily and he did encourage his flock to sign the petition for the Campaign for Marriage. However, the parish priest was so taken with Fr Radcliffe's article that when he was saying goodbye and God bless to his parishioners after Mass, he was standing there with a big batch of photocopied drafts of Fr Radcliffe's article and distributing them to each and every leaving parishioner. I've made my personal thoughts on that article quite abundantly clear on this blog and there is no need to repeat them.
All I'll say is this: The pastoral letter from the Bishops was very good. It was also rather long. It might have been a good idea for this parish priest, instead of handing out an article which defends marriage while praising same-sex unions, rather to hand out copies of the pastoral letter from the Bishops Conference, since then his parishioners could mull it over at home, digest it, learn some of the arguments in defence of marriage and discuss it with their friends. Unfortunately, having read the pastoral letter as part of his homily, the parish priest dishing out Fr Radcliffe's Tablet article might give parishioners the impression that even though the Bishops thoughts on the subject were very important, that this article by Fr Radcliffe was a 'very important announcement' as well.
I don't know. Maybe its Almighty God's way of telling me to 'chill out' or be more humble, or something, but, more than anything else, I just thought that whatever you think of Fr Radcliffe's article, for a priest to start dishing it out at the end of Mass instead of the substantially longer but excellently argued pastoral letter of the Bishops Conference, was really rather odd. Congratulations must go to Fr Radcliffe, though. It looks like he has many priests who admire his considered and 'nuanced' style of writing so much they want to distribute it to as many people as possible. Funny. Why didn't they do that with Summorum Pontificum?