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‘I don’t go along with that, but . . .’

25 January 2013

Splash: theDaily Mail's print version. Its website heading referred to a "row" 

Splash: theDaily Mail's print version. Its website heading referred to a "row" 

THE convulsions over Dr Philip Giddings hardly registered in the secular press at all. Had he lost the vote, there would have been a story, but holding on to his position meant that there was nothing for reporters to get their teeth into.

Someone commented on the story on the Guardian website: "If you're going to plot to stab the right-wingers in the back, at least be reasonably sure you've got something sharper than a cake skewer to do it with. I'm all for petty vindictiveness - but is competent petty vindictiveness too much to ask for?" It seemed to sum up the reaction of the world to the Synod more generally. 

THE kind of squabble that the Daily Mail can understand, or manufacture, was better illustrated by its story on the unspeakable levity of the C of E communications department, who were asked, on Twitter: "what @c_of_e thinks about Katie Price marrying for 3rd time making a mockery of marriage yet you are against Homosexual marriage."

To which the reply was just about perfect: "We don't have an official policy on Katie Price. Having said that, Jordan gets quite a few mentions in the Old Testament."

The headline put on this on the Mail website was, of course, "Church of England's official Twitter feed sparks row after 'offensive' joke about gay marriage and Katie Price." Because, if there is not a "row", it's not a story.

TWO notable things in The Times this week: first, a marvellous headline to greet the news that the Pope has added Latin to his list of tweeting languages: "Ars Longa, Twitter brevis". Apparently the approved Vatican Latin for Twitter is "Breviloquentis", though, which rather defeats the point.

The second was the unflaggingly energetic Ruth Gledhill getting a quote out of the Archbishop of York, when he was launching a Lent programme at the House of Lords.

"Where we didn't succeed is in producing legislation where everybody in Synod would hear themselves," he told her. "So what I'm praying for is what happened at Nicea, when the Church would have actually been split on the whole nature of Jesus. When you look at the Creed, nearly everybody could hear themselves within it. They could hear: 'Yes, I don't go along with that but I can hear my bit.'"

I had always thought that the point of creeds was that you had to subscribe to every part of them. I often think that the quintessential Anglican liturgical gesture is the crossing of fingers. Perhaps the rubric should read: "Let us now say together the creeds (except for any bits you don't believe)."

On reflection, I am being naïve. The process Dr Sentamu describes is exactly how legislation is normally assembled. Only by promising people quite incompatible things has the Church of England got as far as it has on the issue of women clergy, and if you think this is a good place to be, why not go on in the same way?

TO lighter things. In any normal week, the Twitter headline above would have been quite the most memorable; but it came up against a real classic, from the San Francisco Chronicle, though clearly it originated in Connecticut: "Sources: Cross-dressing meth priest liked sex in rectory". You hardly dare hope that the story would live up to these standards, but it did: "The Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport's St Augustine Cathedral."

Now dubbed "Monsignor Meth" by some, Fr Wallin seemed to live a life that easily could have been ripped from the script of Breaking Bad, the popular TV series about a high-school chemistry teacher turned crystal methamphetamine producer. At one point, Fr Wallin was selling upwards of $9000 of meth a week, according to his indictment.

"While pastor of St Augustine's, sources said he often disappeared for days at a time; and rectory personnel became concerned and notified diocese officials when Wallin, sometimes dressed as a woman, would entertain odd-looking men, some who were also dressed in women's clothing and engaging in sex acts."

In his other life, Fr Wallin "was known as a charismatic speaker who was involved in many charitable activities, and who enjoyed Broadway musicals and show tunes. He often attended musicals with his mentor, former NY Cardinal Edward Egan, and parishioners.

"In addition, diocesan officials found bizarre sex toys in Wallin's residence, the sources said."

This leaves open an interesting question: what kinds of sex toys are not considered bizarre when found in an RC presbytery?

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