Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The Apostate, the Heretic,
and the Englishman
The title of this post is bigoted, xenophobic and offensive.
But it's where I used to come from. The pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church was extremely bigoted. There was no salvation outside that Church (and sometimes even within it). You could not renounce your "faith". There just wasn't any box there to tick. And, of course, Irish Catholics were a shining example to all mankind.
The three characters referred to in the title, sounding like something out of a Batman comic, are all members of the Church of Ireland. In fact they are priests in that Church.
They are great people. They are tolerant (sometimes to a fault) and they are all reaching out to their congregations and beyond. Despite its heresies, impending schisms, and other undesirable characteristics, in my contact to date with the Church of Ireland I have found it to be a warm place.
My ninety year old cousin (many times removed and now finally departed) pointed him out to me. He used to be a Roman Catholic priest and is now a Protestant rector. I introduced myself and it wasn't long before I asked him the question that had been on my mind since he was first mentioned. Was he sensitive about having defected to the enemy? Would he mind me mentioning it in a piece I was doing on his church? Not a bother on him. He was open as the day is long. And when an occasion arose where I, an unbeliever, was faced with proclaiming the Gospel (well, epistle, really), from his altar, still no problem. I found this very refreshing, coming from my pre-Conciliar RCC background. As a child I would have been in a state of mortal sin the minute I crossed the threshold of such a forbidden building. And so would he.
I came across the Heretic online. His blog posts seemed like a rock of common sense and I commented on a few of them. A canon, and son of a bishop himself, his replies were as open and Christian as the Apostate's. I now interact regularly with him on Twitter and I think he owes me a pint.
I came across him online also. He was Rector of the Protestant church in my old parish, a place into whose history I have been delving for the past forty years. We swopped historical information online and I read his blog posts and his Sunday homilies. Again, while not sharing his faith, I encountered the same openess that marked the Apostate and the Heretic.
After all this, who could blame me for taking a fancy to the modern version of the Church which oppressed my ancestors for centuries?