Yesterday, and by no means for the first time, I was accused of being anti-Roman Catholic and a bigot. Such accusations hurt so I do not take them lightly. I have been thinking about this one since it appeared on my Facebook page yesterday. I have come to the conclusion that I am not a bigot but a cynic or, if I am a bigot, I am a universal bigot, which would, at least, get me off the particular prejudice hook. The cause of my cynicism is the great pain I feel at being let down by those in the Church who I had grown up believing had a God given duty of care for me that they would want to fulfil. When Bishop Martin Wharton first sent his archdeacon round to tell me that he wanted me to resign because he believed a person who had suffered from depression should not be a parish priest, my rose tinted view of the Church hierarchy began to crumble. Over the following eight years, during which I was the subject of persistent discrimination (actually illegal under English law if I had been in secular employment), I became a complete cynic who would not trust a bishop, archdeacon or, even, fellow priest, as far as I could throw them all at the same time. My wife, as far as I can make out, had her faith in God completely destroyed. She certainly will not have anything to do with the Church anymore. She won't even go into a church building if she can help it.
I am anti-authoritarian or, as those in authority like to put it, I have problems with authority. This is not just a philosophical thing. I actually do not get authority. I don't understand why someone would want to tell other people what to do and would choose to destroy another person's life when they have the wherewithal not to do so. The whole concept of authority makes me both laugh and quake with fear. That there should be people in the Church who want to lord it over others is something I find particularly disturbing and sad. I am emphasising this aspect of my psyche because it is the best explanation I can think of for what motivates my rants against Roman Catholic figures of authority.
Of course, anybody who has read, even a few weeks, copy on OCICBW... will know that I am equally vicious in my attacks against authoritarians in other denominations and religions and, to prove this, it's not only in respect of Roman Catholicism that I have been called a bigot or, at times, a racist (by those who believe Muslims belong to a particular race). But, as I replied to my accuser yesterday, when I condemn Roman Catholics, Muslims or Jews, I am a bigot but when I condemn evangelicals, nobody says a word. I expect that is something to do with the fact that most of this blog's readers come from the liberal section of the religious spectrum.
I'm not saying I always carefully avoid generalisations (I don't), I do try to be specific in my rants against despotism, petty tyranny and bullying. I do try to identify individuals and individual doctrines. I do not hate Roman Catholics. Far from it, I'm an Anglo-Catholic who holds to much Catholic theology (if not ecclesiology). I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a true church and that its priests are real priests. I believe its sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, are always valid and universal. This is not how Roman Catholics view my church, its sacraments and my priesthood. The last pope, for all his pretty words, stated categorically that my church and my priesthood were not authentic and formed a new division of his empire in order to more easily poach Anglicans. So, forgive me if I am not as effusive about this new pope as my forever optimistic, always look on the bright side, via media friends. I have been let down and hurt too much in the past to let myself believe that anyone other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will keep their promises and selflessly care and love humankind without that power craving desire to reach for equality with God, that so many of his representatives on earth seem to possess in spades.
Finally, if I am anti-Roman Catholic and a bigot for criticising the authoritarianism of the Vatican State's hierarchy then I am in good company. Under the sub-heading, "The papal election matters only to those made miserable by the church's reactionary leadership," Simon Jenkins, over on the GUARDIAN blog, has put my fears into more carefully chosen words than I tend to employ.
The reality is that these are modern, unelected politicians. Their views purport to regulate the ordinary lives of 1.2 billion adherents round the globe and should be subjected to democratic scrutiny... This church is fully entitled to the tolerance owed to all beliefs. But when it chooses such painfully reactionary leadership, it can hardly complain if democrats criticise it and its adherents shrug, and walk away.