Dean MacCarthy unperturbed by critics of his public stance on an ecumenical St Patrick’s
The Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Very Revd Robert MacCarthy, has rebuffed open criticisms from a member of the Cathedral Board and a member of the Chapter.
The Dean had written to all the candidates in the recent Presidential election, asking them to press for a more distinct ecumenical future for St Patrick’s.
He wrote that the idea had been suggested as long ago as 1970 by the late Fr Michael Hurley, a noted ecumenist, and also stated that “a modest start” had been made by the provision for two canons of St Patrick’s from outside the Church of Ireland.
However, he noted that there was little interest at leadership level in the Churches in a wider proposal, and wrote that “the idea of having a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated regularly in the Cathedral has not been acceptable”.
Perhaps because of the all- pervading, non-stop broadcast news channels and frequent news bulletins on other channels, it is commonly accepted that we live in the most violent of times. Not so, according to Professor Steven Pinker who, in his much-acclaimed new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: The decline of violence and its causes, maintains that the progression in history is not from peaceableness to violence, but the other way around.
While world war ii, with its 55 million death toll, was the most violent episode in history, in absolute numbers, the worst in terms proportionate to population apparently was the An Lushan rebellion in 8th century China. Human society, in the broad sweep of history and numbers, is shown by Pinker as becoming more and more peaceful. He discusses the reasons behind this trend, but a major factor which he identifies is “the escalator of reason” – in other words, human beings having an increasingly sophisticated understanding of their situation and condition. Indeed, it would appear that humanity is in fact learning from at least some of its big mistakes.
Pinker’s book certainly gives grounds for hope, in the long term at least. Yet, this progress in human development also shows that there always has been, and there still is, much violence in the human experience. Moreover, there is in the modern world an immense capacity for destruction, especially when one considers the presence of nuclear weapons. However, if we go by the analysis which Pinker has elaborated, coupled with the undeniable existence of our very survival instinct, humanity will surely increasingly try to find non- violent means of resolving disputes.
The annual Remembrance-tide observances are a moment when we recollect the sacrifice of so many individuals’ lives in the two world wars of the last century, as well as in more recent conflicts. we do well to remember, in this traditional and solemn way, those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom. Moreover, we owe it to them to ensure that we do indeed give the right priority to finding non-violent ways of addressing serious differences between nation states. we owe it to those who died in war for the benefit of future generations to recognize the terrifying ordeals that they experienced and to determine by God’s help to make this world, even in our own lifetimes, a really safer and more peaceful place.
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Letters to the Editor
Civil partnerships controversy
WHAT a joy to read Canon Ginnie Kennerley’s letter (Gazette, 30th september) – a realistic and human approach to the gay clergy issue, reminding us not only of our Christian responsibilities but also of the pressing and difficult challenges needing urgent attention in the wider world.
Indeed, I wonder if having this nice little internal nugget to toss around and become ‘holier than thou’ about gives a very useful escape from dealing with thornier problems being thrown up by society.
So, as a member of Connor Diocesan Council, it was with great sadness that I read the report in the Gazette
7th october) with the revd Alan McCann’s comments following his election as an Honorary Secretary of Connor Synod.
His claim to fame for 20 years of ministry would appear to be his conservative evangelical opposition to gay clergy! I would not wish those in the wider Church of Ireland to think that this is a representation of everyone’s view in Connor; as a member of Diocesan Council, I would seek to assure them that this is definitely not the view held by every member.
M. Anne Marcus (Mrs) Larne Co. Antrim
CANON CECIL MILLS (28th october) misses the point of my allusion (14th october) to the narratives of ‘the woman at the well’ and ‘the woman caught in adultery’.
In the former, Jesus trawls through the Samaritan woman’s sexual history to reveal that the man with whom she was currently living was not her husband; in the latter story, he admonishes the adulteress to quit her sinful behaviour (“from now on do not sin again”, NRSV translation).
This can only mean that what ‘consenting adults’ did in private was of considerable significance to Jesus, because it might reflect their spiritual plight (‘fornication’ and ‘adultery’ were metaphors for Israel’s sin in the Old testament).
However, the real problem with Canon Mills’ liberal assessment of Jesus’ views on sex is that it is historically implausible. The notion that there were ‘private spheres’ of life (sexual in particular) about which God was indifferent would have been incomprehensible to Jesus and his first-century Jewish contemporaries.
On another matter, I was sorry to read in your 4th November Letters section that Mark Bowyer had received distasteful material in the post from an individual who signed himself as ‘Brendan’.
As I have recently engaged in the debate in your Letters section, I am naturally keen to stress that I am not the same ‘Brendan’.
Brendan Devitt (Dr)
Hitchin Herts. SG4
IT DOES seem to me that there is a flaw somewhere in Cecil Mills’ argument (Letters, Gazette, 30th september and 28th october). the issue is whether Jesus taught ‘live and let live’ and, if he did, does this not seem at variance with the rest of the New Testament and the life of the Church down the ages?
It does seem to me that whenever people came to Jesus, they somehow went away different people, be they the blind who could see, the dumb who could speak or the deaf who could hear.
When a notable tax- collector came to Jesus, he went away the poorer, giving back his ill-gotten gains. when the prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and anointed him, Jesus told her to go in peace and that her faith had changed her into a different person. He said nothing about returning to her former way of living.
When the rich young man came to Jesus, he was told to sell all that he held dearest – his wealth – to give to the poor and to follow Jesus. He went away changed in so far as he was sad, paradoxically, because he would not change in the way Jesus demanded.
When the woman, having committed adultery, was brought to Jesus, he did not say to her just to carry on with her way of living, even though not condemning her. Rather, he told her to change her lifestyle.
When augustine of Hippo came to faith, he did not carry on with his profligate lifestyle, having already fathered a son outside marriage, neither did he pursue the empty philosophies and religions of his day. If he had, the Church would be so much the poorer.
I agree with Cecil that Jesus never treated anyone harshly, but gently and with love. The truth is that I am not just a Christian but also a member of the Church of Christ – not my own, but one who was redeemed at enormous cost and now part of Christ’s Body.
What I do in private or public reflects upon the whole Body of Christ – visible and invisible – otherwise, I am not a member of the Church of Christ. In the words of St Paul: “Let the one who steals, steal no more.” It is not a case of ‘live and let live’, to quote Cecil’s words, but ‘be what God wants you to be’.
Sid Mourant (The Revd) Hamiltonsbawn
IT IS hard to avoid the impression that Dean Victor Griffin (letter, 28th october) is being completely fanciful in suggesting that the response, “and with thy spirit”, to the greeting, “The Lord be with you”, is an acknowledgement of spiritual gifts bestowed at ordination to the sacred ministry.
On the contrary, it would appear to be a semitism which simply means “and with you”.
Far from supporting the Dean’s viewpoint, the Annotated Book of Common Prayer (one of the great historical commentaries, Rivingtons, 1866) says exactly the opposite – that “although a separate order of priesthood is essential for the ministration of God’s worship, yet there is a priesthood of the laity by right of which they take part in that worship, assuming their full Christian privilege, and making it a full corporate offering of the whole Christian body”.
Actually, in current use, the exchange cannot carry the meaning the Dean ascribes to it, since Morning or Evening Prayer may be conducted by a lay reader who (by definition) is not in priestly orders.
Michael Kennedy (Canon) Lisnadill Rectory Armagh
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