Monday, 31 October 2011

Turbulent Priests

Twenty-five years ago yesterday (Sunday) the body of missing Polish priest Father Popieluszko was pulled out of a canal outside Warsaw, where it had been dumped by Communist security police.

The 37-year-old priest and his demonstrable sympathy for Gdansk shipyard workers of the trades union Solidarity made him a target of the fearful Polish Communist state. Murdering him did not change the course that history was taking; if anything, it added to the current which swept away the regime within a few years of Father Popieluszko's assassination.

The part played by churches in the political events of the late 1980s among the members of the Warsaw Pact appears to have been obscured in this country by the dust kicked up over the anti-capitalism protest outside St Paul's Cathedral - admission £14.50.

The dust is likely to get thicker following today's resignation of the Dean, the Very Reverend Graeme Knowles, with the threat of bailiffs looming larger.

By and large the English prefer their priests to remain good shepherds watching over their flocks. The likes of Trevor Huddlestone, Donald Soper and the former Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend David Jenkins, were the exception rather than the rule.

We don't like to see men of the cloth (let alone women of the cloth) getting arrested outside nuclear submarine bases, commissioning reports about poverty or taking on elected governments - leave that to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was alright for the Archbishop of York, Dr David Sentamu, to rail against Robert Mugabe because hardly anybody here liked Zimbawe's dictator.

A priest who offends against the conservative expectations of the silent (agnostic) majority, especially if he seems to be acting out of faith, is likely to end up as a caricature trendy vicar in an Alan Bennett story, as in A Bed Among the Lentils.

Elsewhere, expectations are different. Just after October 9, 1989, the Lutheran church of St Nicholas in Leipzig became the centre of a Monday evening peace demonstration against the Communist East German Government. The state was still celebrating its 40th anniversary when an estimated 50,000 people gathered.

In the weeks that followed, those Monday evening church-based demos grew to 120,000 and then more than 300,000. Reportedly, they continued in Leipzig (and in other cities) until March 1990 - long after the GDR had been tossed into the dustbin of history.

I daresay there are would-be turbulent priests in this country who would love to play a part, probably a central part, in stirring up history-shaping change. You would have thought the goings on at St Paul's was their opportunity; but, as far as I know, the outspoken ones have remained silent, preferring instead to moralise about events in Libya.

1 comment:

Edward Spalton said...

The leadership OF THE poor old Church of England has been in the hands of the progressive "social gospel" (i.e. cuddly and sometimes not so cuddly semi Marxist) faction for ages. They are also mostly born-again members of the Church of Global Warmism and Man-made climate change. It's all the fault of capitalism, you see.

Generally speaking, the more folksy a bishop or clergyperson appears, the more authoritarian he/she really is. Those who like to be called by diminutives of their Christian names are usually (although not always) the worst.

The service of the Litany or General Supplication is mostly neglected now. A retired parson of the old school told me he always added the following mentally.
"From batty bishops, potty parsons and silly synods,