Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ridding us of this meddlesome priest

As you might have noticed, I'm a keen atheist, albeit a Catholic atheist. So I've been watching the resignation of Canon Giles Fraser from St. Paul's Cathedral with interest and no little amusement.

He's gone because he wouldn't accept that the Cathedral should connive with the Corporation of London (i.e. the money) and the Mayor of London (the bankers' pet gnome) to get rid of the Occupy movement on the plaza in front of the Cathedral. Other clerics have been muttering about losing £20,000 per day, which is rather different from Jesus expelling the money-changers from the Temple.

Fraser's right: no church should be in the business of evicting idealists protesting against the obvious and demonstrably damaging rapaciousness of money power. But I can't thinking that it's a bit late for any cleric, especially one representing the Church of England, to suddenly object to doing deals with money and power.

Have you every been to a major church or cathedral? They're often festooned with military banners commemorating the glorious battles fought by local regiments against the unsuspecting natives of lands unfortunate enough to be attractive to the British Empire, from Ireland to Australia. The flags of Empire abound, as do memorials to the stinking rich and powerful. The Church of England, as an Established Church, did its deal with the élite centuries ago. It's too late to discover a radical streak now.

Not that the original church, the Catholics, have anything of which to be proud either. In the 20th Century they crushed the Liberation Theology movement, which posited that Catholic priests might want to help the oppressed in Latin American dictatorships: simply the latest in a series of disgusting moves which maintained power at the cost of morality. Many commentators are clear that Christianity lost all legitimacy when it was taken up as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Getting into bed with a slave economy meant suppressing any instincts against slavery and imperialism, for instance, hence the Church's early advice to slaves to be obedient rather than demand equality.

So two cheers for the canon, but he's utterly compromised. Religion's just another arm of the dominant hegemony. Don't expect radicalism from that quarter.


Music for Deckchairs said...

I'm not sure this is fair. I'm a paid up subscriber to the view that this life is all there is, but at the same time I think we have to admit that there are many individuals with both religious and radical views (some of whom have held positions of rank) have been at the front of arguments for social justice, often quite successfully. What they're doing in church isn't for me to question, faith being the human mystery that it is.

I don't think these radical voices are claiming that the whole church is radical, but when they act according to their conscience on any matter, I think something good still happens.

Ever the moderate ... MfD

The Plashing Vole said...

Kate? Hello? This is the INTERNET! Fairness doesn't come into it!

More seriously, I take your point. Of course there are lots of radicals in religious bodies - such as the Liberation Theologists - but they can only make a difference around the edges, because organised religion has become part of the structures of power, not just in an ideological/hegemonic sense, but in a real and legal sense. I do think that Giles Fraser is admirable - I remember him from his Putney days - but he shouldn't be built up as some kind of lefty saint.