Saturday, April 3, 2010

Canterbury VS The Vatican: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams seems to be willing to engage the Vatican on Christian ethics. Something he hasn't experienced much of lately from the Vatican.

I would imagine the following might be something of a payback, as well as a legitimate observation on the part of Rowan Williams.

Anglican leader: Irish church lost all credibility
By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer

LONDON – The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility because of its mishandling of abuse by priests, the leader of the Anglican church said in remarks released Saturday. A leading Catholic archbishop said he was "stunned" by the comments.
(Probably not quite as stunned as Archbishop Williams was when Benedict laid the invite to conservative Anglicans on his doorstep.)

The remarks released Saturday marked the first time Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has spoken publicly on the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church. The comments come ahead of a planned visit to England and Scotland by Pope Benedict XVI later this year.

"I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now," Williams told the BBC. "And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility — that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland, I think."

The interview with Williams, recorded March 26, is to be aired Monday on the BBC's "Start the Week" program as part of a general discussion of religion to mark Easter. But its publication ahead of the interview caught Catholic leaders off guard.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he had "rarely felt personally so discouraged" as when he heard Williams' opinions. (Perhaps Williams was thinking more along the lines of Cardinal Brady and some others. Or perhaps not.)

"I have been more than forthright in addressing the failures of the Catholic Church in Ireland. I still shudder when I think of the harm that was caused to abused children. I recognize that their church failed them," a statement, posted on the archdiocese's Web site, said. "Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it." (The hierarchical pity pool seems to be getting deeper and wider.)

Martin also noted that that Anglican leaders in Ireland — including the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin John Neill and Bishop Richard Clarke — had distanced themselves from Williams' statements, with Clarke describing them as careless.

Martin later said that Williams had called him to express regret for the "difficulties which may have been created" by the interview, but it wasn't clear if that constituted an apology or whether Williams still stood by his remarks. (Williams apparently has spent some time digesting the apologetics of Roman Catholic bishops to abuse survivors.)

Calls to Williams' office seeking comment on his interview and the call to Martin were not immediately returned.

The Catholic church has been on the defensive over accusations that leaders protected child abusers for decades in many countries, and Williams' criticisms are likely to strain already testy relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion — which estimate 1.1 billion and 80 million adherents respectively.

Although both the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury have stressed the importance of healing the Reformation-era rift that split the churches in the 16th century, relations hit a low point last year when the Vatican invited conservative Anglicans to join the Catholic Church.
How many will take up the offer is still unknown, although in the interview Williams said he didn't think the issue "is going to be a big deal."

"I think there'll be a few people who will take advantage of it — and they'll take advantage of it because they believe they ought to be in communion with the bishop of Rome. And I can only say fine, God bless them."

The strained relations come at an awkward time for both churches, which are under considerable internal pressure.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by sex abuse scandals in countries such as the United States, Germany and Ireland, where Cardinal Sean Brady faces calls for his resignation following allegations that he played a role in helping to cover up activities of pedophile priests.
The pope himself has come under fire, with critics accusing Benedict — who as a Vatican cardinal directed the Holy See's policy on handling abuse cases — was part of a culture of secrecy intended to protect church hierarchy.

The Anglican Church, meanwhile, still faces bruising internal debates — or even a potential split — over what rights to extend to homosexuals and women within the church. (These are two totally different kinds of internal stress surrounding the priesthood. One is about inappropriate sexual access to children, and one is about spiritual access for more of Jesus's people. Think there might be a message here?)

The pope's planned first official visit to Britain in November already has generated controversy and promises of protests after Benedict's criticism of British rules designed to protect gays and women in the workplace, which have raised fears at the Vatican that the Catholic Church could eventually be prosecuted for refusing to hire gays or transsexuals. (If the media attention keeps up Benedict's legal beagles may be worried about other legal maneuvers and suggest that Benedict stay in the legally friendly confines of the Vatican City States.)

Both Williams and Benedict are due to meet during the visit to Britain, but the archbishop seemed curt when describing how he would greet the pope at Lambeth Palace, his official residence just south of the River Thames.

Williams said the pontiff would be welcomed as "as a valued partner, and that's about it."
In the interview, Williams said Christian institutions, faced with the choice of self-protection or revealing potentially damaging secrets, have decided to keep quiet to preserve their credibility.
"We've learned that that is damaging, it's wrong, it's dishonest and it requires that very hard recognition ... which ought to be natural for the Christian church based as it is on repentance and honesty," he said.

Associated Press Writer Jennifer Quinn contributed to this report.


This is another one of Pope Benedict's and Cardinal Bertone's personal policy goals which is coming home to roost. I thought at the time that the invitation extended to conservative Anglicans, because of the way it was handled, was going to have repercussions. This is kind of like watching a cat fight between two academic theologians (who happen to lead competing churches.)

In the final analysis, Williams is right. One would think that a Christian church would pride itself on honesty and repentance. He could have added openness and pastoral ability, but he was being civilized.

Sad to see AB Martin jump in the pity pool. If he seriously thinks he's that far removed from the rest of his brother bishops, perhaps this will be a wake up call. Jumping in the pity pool says he still doesn't understand the level of betrayal the typical lay Catholic feels. It isn't about him personally. It's about the clerical system and the clerical culture. If bishops like Martin can't get that point, and since none of them seem to be able too, there is no hope for any meaningful reform from any of them.

Too bad Williams didn't make that point a little clearer. Bishops who truly want reform need to understand it. Don't take this all personally. It isn't about you. That takes maturity though, and maturity, like integrity, seem to be in short supply amongst our Catholic bishops.


  1. OT, but from one of Williams' clerics:


    Read it and get a laugh for a change!

  2. A bit off topic, but a "must read" article from the WaPo on how the pope could be an object of arrest warrants:

    The pope may be "grounded" is my guess! Leaving the Vatican could be dangerous....

  3. Maturity is definitely lacking in the hierarchy of the RCC. Before Easter Mass by Pope Benedict, Cardinal Sodano said at a link here:

    "With this spirit today we rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church," Sodano said. "Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers."

    They are too busy protecting the Papacy to see the error of their ways!!

    The Truth and desire for Reform and Justice are now PETTY GOSSIP according to those swimming in the PITY POOL!!!

    Williams will meet Benedict as a brother, as he should.

  4. Note it says "With this spirit today" which is certainly NOT THAT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!!!

  5. Dr. Williams's comments may not have been diplomatic, but he spoke the truth, and we need to hear it.