Monday, 20 September 2010

Conflict of interests

Yesterday's Gospel reading was from St Luke and included the statement, "A man cannot serve two masters..." As I reflected on this I was again struck by the difficulties facing the Roman Churchas it struggles to deal with the sexual scandals that have engulfed it in recent years. The truth is that wherever religion and secular power are combined, abuses of one sort or another are inevitable. Rome's problem here is its claim - matched by that made in the name of Islam - to being a sort of 'super authority' above normal secular politics and even national and international boundaries.

It is inevitable that, once all matters are submitted to the narrowest interpretation of religious truths, that abuse will arise. Power corrupts and nowhere does power corrupt more quickly than in matters of faith. The late Ayatollah Khomenei actually exhorted his fellow Shia clerics to step back from government and politics. I think that history will show that their refusal to do so, to relinquish control of Iranian political power, will be one of the turning points in the history of Islam. I believe that just as Rome is now having to confront a catalogue of sexual abuse cases, it also has to face the sorry history of abuse of position and authority in places like Ireland where many parish priests actively supported the Provisional IRA's campaign of murder, drug dealing and intimidation. Some even sheltered wanted killers, hid the arms and one, at least, actually planted bombs.

The really terrible aspect of this is that it has damaged the efforts of all Christian Churches, not just Rome, to carry the Gospel to our children and theirs. It has provided the secularists, Humanists and Atheists with propaganda, ammunition and justification to support their lies and attacks on faith.

The Papal visit to Britain seems to have been something of a success. Those who are opposed to Christianity feel that their placard waving, whistle blowing and screaming insults has somehow "made Britain a better place." Those who support the Pope and believe in the Gospel, are happy that, despite the intimidation and outright anti-church campaigning from Humanists, Secularists and Atheists, the attendance at the public events met and exceeded expectations. I am not a Roman Catholic, nor do I support the present Pope's views on many things, but I would have turned out to attend these events had I been there - if only to show support for the faith I hold and which I believe to be true.

What Christians of all shades must do now, is work with Rome to reform, to consolidate and to ensure that Rome's mistaken adherence to secular and claims of exclusive authority, do no further damage to Christ's message. We must also find ways to effectively counter the poison of the lies propagated by the Humanist Society, the Atheist factions and the Secularists. Current teaching in schools, written by Atheists and Secularists, portray the Bible as a collection of "fables" and fail utterly to mention that the events described can be confirmed by archeological means and by non-Christian texts. Scholars have for years declared that the texts of the New Testament and of the Old are among the most reliable in existence - but the Secularists constantly declare that they have been "doctored" to "mislead and create the story the church wants." Small differences in copied texts are seized upon as "evidence," when the reality is they are usually the mistakes of copyists who often could not, themselves, read the language they copied.

As I said at the outset, Rome has done itself and the Christian message no favours by trying to be both a temporal and a secular authority. If the Chritian Faith is to survive the current smear campaigns by the enemies of Faith, Rome must change the way it deals with the secular powers and with its fellow travellers in the Gopsel. It must learn to recognise the authority of other Christians and it must learn from the mistakes of its secularist claims and rediscover the ministry and leadership of the laity. Others have made that step, but it is something Rome has still to discover.

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