Church and State

Like most semi-sane people, I  Got Out last weekend.  In my case it was to London, where not even the death-rattle of the most savagely-punished Lambeg could  get to me. In its place I enjoyed the company of children and grandchildren, along with palate-ravishing food and heart-warming drink. On Sunday I went to Mass. Which turned out to be good  not just  for the soul but for the mind as well.

The priest saying Mass was a tall, inoffensive man with a whispy beard and a weakness for incense. At points where the congregation’s attention might be sagging,  he got the thurible up and swinging, producing a sweet-smelling, demse cloud between himself and the congregation.

But  what I found most interesting about this priest was that he was married. And no, the Vatican hasn’t finally thrown in the towel and told the clergy to go out and find love. This priest, I was told, was one of a select number of married men who received  a thumb’s-up when they applied to become Catholic priests. Because you see, Virginia, this man had been Church of England vicar for several decades, and when he said he wanted to become not just a Catholic but a Catholic priest, he was received with a hearty handshake.  It was  a bit like a football transfer: same job, different jersey.

The other thing that was instructive was this married priest’s sermon, or homily as I believe is the more acceptable term now. The ex-vicar’s subject was the parable of the Good Samaritan, and he clearly wanted to bring home how Jesus was really putting it up to Christians.

The man who’d been mugged and robbed and was lying by the wayside, he stressed,  was a Jew, and the  Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Except it was a Samaritan who  weighed in with help for the wounded man. The parable could, the priest said, have been about a Jew being mugged and then been given a helping hand by another Jew. But that would have been too easy. The point of the parable was that the mugged man was looked after by someone from a group he despised.

The priest added his more contemporary example:

“Imagine,  if you will,  during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  A Catholic has been beaten up and robbed, and it is a Protestant, a man from the opposing community, the hated community of Protestants – who looks after him. What a stretch that would be! So to with the Good Samaritan.”   

At  this point I groaned inwardly. How is it that this fat lie about the Troubles  continues to dominate? How have they managed to sell this Holy War in Ulster rubbish for so long?

Because that’s  what the overwhelming bulk of the English people think the Troubles were about, when they can be bothered to think about that period at all: Catholics hating Protestants and vice versa.

Yet they know – they MUST know – about Bloody Sunday. And Ballymurphy. And Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson and  Aidan McAnespie. And even some of the dozens of innocent Catholics/nationalists  targeted and killed by the Glenanne gang.

It must be that  it’s easier to accept the concept of the two crazy tribes with the ‘security’  forces  doing their best to keep them separated. Besides, the British government wouldn’t arrange to have its own citizens killed, would they?

And  would married priests with wives and families ever get the  green light from the Vatican?  No chance.

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