April Anglicn newsletter
April 2013 Newsletter
Last month I was lamenting that the Spring had not quite arrived, although I was writing in February, confident that early March would bring the turn round. Well it’s mid March as I write and it is as cold as ever – with snow flurries and icy cold – serious snow problems further south in Essex and Kent, five road deaths in less than 48 hours in Norfolk Maybe we just have to get used to this – colder, wetter and longer winters – hotter, longer summers (!) – so no springs and autumns, as the year still only has 12 months! I was looking at the snow in the garden outside as I listened to someone on the TV explaining that we are getting a more Mediterranean climate and wildlife is having to adjust accordingly – it was quite bizarre!
We are still lucky – we have the best climate in the world – the proof of which is the greenness of our pleasant land (perhaps only excelled by Ireland and New Zealand).
Actually, our lives and our society are something like this. We face troubles in our personal lives, in those of our families and friends and also in our wider community and country. But we still have among the best qualities of live in the world and in all of history. That’s saying something. Not many of today’s retired Brits would want to have the retirement of their parents, when things were much tougher. Our NHS is reeling under the revelations of poor and even criminal standards of care, but 90%+ of patients still very highly regard their medical treatment.
We moan about identity theft and internet scams and poor mobile phone signals – but only twenty years ago none of these even existed! Our ability to bring together family history going back generations, our ability to Skype our children who live abroad and to have instant visual contact with our foreign grandchildren is almost unbelievable. We hurtle along motorways and even country roads, at speeds that only racing drivers achieved a couple of generations ago – in very considerable safety and comfort and we take it all for granted.
I am afraid I am as bad as everyone else – I take this all for granted, as being no less than it should be – most of the time unaware (except at an intellectual level) that I am in a cosseted tiny minority of humankind. It has been ( as it is every year) telling to watch the Comic Relief stars travel in Africa to witness real deprivation – but even more telling to hear some of them confirm that watching it on TV is not remotely as shocking as seeing it face to face – where the experience is almost shared.
We have a new Pope (Habemus Papam, as the Cardinal announced from the balcony of the Vatican). He was only elected less than 48 hours ago as I write, so we shall all know so much more by the time you read this. But the signs are good and hopes are high. Pope Francis comes untainted by the scandals of the Church in recent years (except for his failure to adequately criticism the Argentine military Junta at the time). He comes as a Vatican Curia outsider. He speaks Italian fluently (his parents were Italian) so he can deal with the Italian Vatican bureaucracy in their own language. His instincts are to be straightforward and simple, as evidenced by his life as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he lived in a small flat, used public transport, cooked his own meals and visited the poor – even washing their feet. How he will be able to square this with the palatial lifestyle which they will try to force him into will emerge – I suspect sooner rather than later.
This gentle, simple background seems to explain the choice of the papal name of Francis. It also matches his approach to the doctrine of the Church, which is also straightforward. We can expect a traditional conformity, which, at first blush, seems a little disappointing to all those who wish the Catholic Church could learn to accommodate the concept of contraception and even possibly of abortion in appropriate circumstances. I am one of those, but, nonetheless, I have a feeling that getting to grips with the hypocrisy which seems to have laid a dead hand on the leadership of the Catholic Church in recent years is a far more urgent if not in the long run as important a problem – and Pope Francis could be the Church’s saviour in this context. Individuals are all capable of failure The sexual and other crimes of individual priests, the virtual enslaving of young women in the Convent Laundries of Ireland, the other awful scandals of the Church are terrible. But, actually, far worse has been the institutional covering up – and the denials and hypocrisy – which have made the perpetuation and imitation of the crimes possible. Let’s pray that Pope Francis will be able to cut to and root out the rotten centre.
As the first non-European Pope in this and the previous millennia, let’s hope that real breaths of fresh air will flow in from Asia, Africa and the Americas and reform the Curia. The Catholic Church remains by far the biggest Christian community in the world and it may now have an opportunity to take its place as a leader, rather than as an out of date dead weight.