Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recent happenings

This morning, I saw Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. He doesn't know me from Adam, but I walked up to him, shook his hand, and told him we were praying for him, the Irish people, and the Church in Ireland. From all I've read, he's the only bishop who has any confidence from the people in his country. That's really sad. I was struck by how thin he is. In pictures I've seen of him, I expected an almost fat man (or at least one who was certainly a tad pudgy). He's not at all; he's thin, almost rail thin, although not in an unhealthy way. And I also expected him to have some dark hair. Nope. All gray. He looked slightly older than I'd seen in recent stock images, too, almost weary. Then again, I suppose that's what happens when an ancient and venerable Church in a land with a history of Catholicism such as Ireland is imploding all around you, and you're the one seen as being the only person capable of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I've also learned from a reliable source that a bishop in a Midwestern diocese is thinking about making his See's finest church into the new cathedral. The city in question is crumbling. It's terrible. Driving through it recently for the first time in almost 10 years, I was struck -- struck in the heart in the saddest of ways -- by how nothing was better, only worse. The one fast food restaurant in the city center has closed. Indeed, there are very few retail businesses left in the city center. All the business growth is on the outskirts of town. So it's understandable that the bishop does not want the current oh-so-chic-for-1950 cathedral as the place for his episcopal chair. It would be like the archbishop of San Francisco having his cathedral in the Tenderloin or the bishop of Pittsburgh having his amidst a bunch of crumbling steel factories.

The problem with this plan to take the diocese's finest church and make it the cathedral is that he would likely take immediate steps to make it the formerly-finest-church in the diocese. The church still has its beautiful altar rail (I know a couple who are married with several children precisely because of that altar rail, actually) and its beautiful marble high altar. Were His Excellency to come in and make this his cathedral, those things would automatically go out. That's the considered opinion, in any event, of the source with whom I spoke. Apparently, the bishop likes nothing that smacks of traditionalism. Brings up bad lingering tastes from his childhood, apparently. Thus, evidently, hating the traditional things -- in terms of practices, liturgies, and disciplines, NOT doctrine or orthodox teaching, mind you -- is basically an instinctive, habituated reflex on this man's part. He can't abide it.

It's too bad. In that same city in which I was recently, I had the opportunity to go into this church, and it was more beautiful than before, not less. It seemed to glow, and they'd even turned the old baptistry back into a baptistry from a storage closet. Magnificent! It looks like a cathedral should. I only hope that will still be the case after -- and if -- the bishop to make this move.

Finally, I got around to reading some old clippings at long last. One was on a proposal by the UK's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to reform the House of Lords. Judging by the article, it seems like it's high time. There are 792 peers in the House, and it's such a large number, many don't even have offices or even desks. When the House is in session, peers actually fight over seats because there isn't enough space in the chamber for them all.

But here's what struck me almost dumb: According to the article, "The Prime Minister is said to favour the idea because he is determined that the House of Lords is not turned into a secular institution and that it retains a link with faith-based organisations." Later in the article, a Tory (i.e., ruling party) insider is quoted as saying, "We must have a spiritual element to the Lords."

OK, first a little background: In the House of Lords, you have peers such as the Duke of Essex, but you also have -- and have had since time in memorial -- the "Lords Spiritual." Bishops, in other words, and they sit as full voting members in the upper house. It would be like Cardinal O'Malley having a seat in the US Senate. In the proposed reform, they're considering bringing in Lords Spiritual for other faiths: Catholics, Methodists, and black Pentecostals (and possibly even imams).

Now there are two ways of looking at the above quotes:
  1. They're going to be getting rid of a bucket load of seats in the House of Lords, and in the process, they want to ensure that, if the bishops' seats are amongst those lost (Anglican bishops currently hold 26 seats there), then they'll simply bring in those of other faiths.
  2. Or the Anglicans have become so secular, that part of the rationale for reform is driven by bringing in those who are thought to have not caved into the ways of the world so keenly as Their Excellencies (or Graces, if you prefer) in the established church. That's my suspicion.
What do you think?

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