The resignation of the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has been met with the usual and expected reactions. From those who in any other case would be foremost in protesting that everyone is innocent until found guilty, we have cries of delight – as though his resignation is an admission of guilt; that was to be expected from the quarters from which it has come. Everything is to be tolerated except Catholic orthodoxy.
Did the Cardinal do anything wrong? We don’t know. He has stood down to avoid the kind of witch-hunt which will now continue; it can pursue him – and will – but no one can now call on him to step down. If, as the media insists, he was ‘sacked’ by the Pope, then it is a sign that even at the end, Benedict is trying to show how the Church should deal with such cases.
The Cardinal’s stance on the same sex marriage issue earned him a ‘bigot of the year’ award from those best fitted to receive that award themselves. The Cardinal did no more than enunciate the traditional Christian view on this issue; in return his enemies personalised their attack on him. These people deserve our contempt. If they have an argument, take it up with the Church, don’t do ad hominem attacks against an individual.
There was some half-wit on the radio last night asking what it was in our ‘skewed theology’ which produced child abuse and such like. The answer is ‘nothing’. Needless to say she invoked that sure sign of heretical intent – ‘the spirit of Vatican II – in support of her insinuation. It is not Catholic theology or Christian teaching which is at fault – it is sinful individuals who yield to the temptation to do something which they know to be wrong. You need no inquiry to discover that.
There is nothing in being a Cardinal or a Christian which exempts you from temptation. Those atheists who rejoice every time a Christian is caught doing something wrong simply reveal their own petty nature; there is nothing to rejoice in whan any human being does wrong. There is sorrow and shame, both for the individual and those associated with them; there is always a human tragedy, and often not just one. As Christians we can only feel sorrow, and sometimes anger.
Where the Church has been too slow in the past is in acting on allegations. Anyone who was an adult in the 1970s knows how differently society regarded things which now we rightly condemn in forthright tones. As a very young lecturer I was shocked that many of my colleagues regarded their female students as a ‘perk’ of the job; now such behaviour is seen as harassment and an abuse of position; I thought it so back in the mid 1970s and was seen as a Christian prude for it. Society has changed, I have not. I regarded homosexual liaisons between colleagues and students as wrong, now, oddly enough, they are the scandal that does not speak its name. We all know it goes on, but no one wishes to be accused of ‘homophobia’ by speaking out. At some point there will be a real scandal and it will be revealed, as it was with Saville, that ‘everyone knew’. We have not changed as a species – only what we are prepared to condemn has changed.
This is where the Church stands under the eye of eternity. What was against God’s law still is; it will be tomorrow too. We are not empowered to tell God he was wrong. We should resist that temptation above all. Look where it got Adam and Eve.