Well, it seems to have hit the fan in ecclesiastical circles....with papal 'bull' causing consternation among the increasingly confused and confusing clergy. Some of the language used is tremendous.....to read 'Petrine ministry' and 'discomfiture' in adjacent sentences has got to be a rarity, and then we go from 'decisive moment' to 'disastrous decision' within half a dozen words. And, wait for it, Pope Benedict wants to make Christian unity part of his legacy - what bit of unity do you think he doesn't get? Oh, and it gets better, apparantly the planning for all this was done by the group formerly known as the 'Holy Inquisition' - now there's a crowd who had unity at the forefront of their vision!! (OK, so they don't go by that name anymore, having chosen the snappily titled 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith'). However, at the press conference the 'Council for Christian Unity' went AWOL. Even as I am writing this I'm thinking 'why do I care'? The answer to which is partly historical and partly related the the title.
Even as a bemused onlooker to all things Anglican (or is that Catholic now?) there is a sense in which an institution that has actually been a tremendous force for good and for radical social change should descend to the point where, as an institution, they have no sense of real purpose, with so much energy spent on balancing atop of 1000 fences. Perhaps the tale will become known as the descent into irrelevency?
There are, however, many individuals who still believe in what they are doing and by all accounts are doing it very well with a strong sense of vision, purpose and calling. I am inclined to think that the church will be leaner, meaner and stronger ( well not really meaner), once the whole bunch of misguided ,whinging, women denying clerics have jumped ship to an even bigger but, if this is possible, even more irrelevent dinosaur. This may even elicit (quiet and subtle) sighs of relief from many.
The second point, related to the title, is that there is almost a parable here, or is it a farce (I never was strong on identifying literary genres) on the perils of weak (albeit sincere) organisational leadership with no identifiable unifying vision or purpose whose sole aim it would seem is to hold everything together at all costs without any serious analysis of what was worth holding in the first place.
As I'm neither an Anglican or a Catholic and never likely to be either, these observations are really quite agnostic in that I am not actually too bothered what the Catholics do with the particular constituency of Anglican (soon to be former Anglican) defectors. Much of the talking and activity of both the organisations seems to be perceived as increasingly irrelevent or newsworthy for all the wrong reasons but there are always lessons to be learnt by those of us who can, for the moment, occupy the relatively safe role of the 'sniper'.