The reaction locally to Pope Frank speaking about the scandal of disunity seems to have amounted to “well if you all became RC’s there’d be no problem”; well, until we got on to what sort of RC, when there probably would be, to judge by the RCC blogosphere. There’s a chap called wonderbore (or is that just my reaction to him?), or some such, who seems to think anyone more advanced in their thinking than Pio Nono is a heretic (could he be related to our very own QV?), whilst there’s another lot who like roaring at the sky, or their fellow Catholics, for whom no one (but one presumes themselves) us pure or good enough; about the one thing any Catholic convert could be sure of is that many of his fellow Catholics wouldn’t regard him as a member of their club; he’s be bound to be breaking some rule, or wearing the wrong sort of phylactery, or eating with sinners, or not performing the right genuflections or using the right liturgy. I don’t know if Catholics realise just how off-putting this is. It is what gives jokers like Bosco an existence, because what they don’t see in any of this is any trace of Jesus. Whatever his faults, Bosco reads his Bible, and those of us who are brought up on it, too often, do not see echoes of the mercy and love and the attitude of Jesus. I daresay at least dear old QV will have a fit at the mention of ‘love’, but he should take it up with St John, who tells us God is love. As I look on the Catholic blogosphere I see cats fighting in a sack, and it is about as attractive a prospect as plunging into a cactus field naked. I am with Mercutio when it comes to ‘trads’ and ‘liberals’.
That said, one has to look beneath that, and one sees so much good work and so many good people, that you realise that the books should not be judged by the covers. But then you can do that with each and every Christian Church. If any of us takes the view that it is up to the others to convert to us, then I’d have thought we had a duty to make our church look less like a sack of ferrets fighting. I’ve heard it all before – “but we’re right”! I’ve never come across anyone saying “we’re wrong, but we’re doing it all the same”; I do wonder sometimes why folk use that line – and why they get cross when other folk think that it is a way of getting at them.
Take the arguments for Petrine primacy. No one used them before the fifth century. There are, as Mike pointed out, dealt with very well by Joseph Richardson here. But the fact is they do not convince me, nor have they convinced millions of folk for more than a thousand years. This is for a simple reason, which is that they depend on accepting a particular interpretation; if you accept that you accept the rest; if not, not, and there never has been a time when everyone confessing Christ has accepted the authority of the Bishop of Rome. So, unless we find a way of living as the early Church at Nicaea did, we shall remain stuck, and it is hard, alas, not to conclude that it is the insistence of the Bishop of Rome that he is the supreme earthly authority, which causes the problem. Perhaps Pope Frank will find a way out of the mess. Meanwhile, in other news, Europe becomes more and more heathen and Islam is growing. My recommendation is immersive study in the last days of Christian Constantinople – but history may well repeat itself.