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Meanwhile, across the dividing line

28 March 2014

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THIS is a week that could do with the appearance of Jesus. I mean one of those pareidolic stories in which a barmaid detects the face of Jesus in the swirling grain of a bar counter, or Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun.

I would even settle for the name of God in Arabic inside an aubergine. Almost all the real news is horrible to moderately depressing.

Some of the journalism, though, is very good. John Bingham, writing in the Telegraph, had a clear and balanced piece on Justin Welby's first year in office. "Instead of attracting the usual headlines about an embattled primate seeking to quell divisions, he has successfully shifted attention, at home at least, to matters such as payday lenders and food banks.

"With less fanfare, his efforts to undo centuries of division with the Roman Catholic Church have taken significant steps forward. Last month, members of the Chemin Neuf community, an ecumenical Catholic-led order, moved into Lambeth Palace. Daily worship in the Archbishop's chapel is being led by Catholics for the first time since before the reign of Elizabeth I."

Extra points for avoiding the obvious cliché in those last words. Of course, the rest of the piece was all about divisions, as it had to be.

ON THOSE divisions, it's probably better to do the horse's mouth, as it were: an interview with Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, of Nigeria, which I found on the Nigerian site codewit.com: "We believe that President Jonathan, for instance, has taken the right step by outlawing same sex marriage because it is not, to us, a normal thing. Women are not scarce, men are not scarce and God has made adequate arrangement for human sexuality, so anybody who is developing any extra sexual instinct or desire, I think such person should attend to himself because there is something wrong."

He went on to compare human rights with "God's rights of ownership", which apparently trump them.

Further conversation will be hard to facilitate.

I CAN'T resist another story from the same site, this time from Kenya, where the pastor of "the Lord's Propeller Redemption Church in Nairobi reportedly advised female worshippers against wearing any undergarments to the church, calling them ungodly."

"Pastor Njohi claims that when going to church, people need to be free in 'body' and 'spirit' to receive Christ. He went ahead to warn members of dire consequences if they secretly put on their inner wears."

Men must presumably receive the Holy Spirit in a different way.

TWO noteworthy stories from the Mail. First, in the daily, a head-on assault on the narrative of increasing poverty, based on an OECD survey: "Only 8.1 per cent reported [going hungry] in 2012, down from 9.8 per cent in 2007 - before the economic crisis and when Labour was in power.

"It emerged this month that more than a third of councils are subsidising food banks at a cost of £3 million to the taxpayer."

Quite why this is meant to make people feel good about the country escapes me. But of course it is really meant to make them feel bad about the Left.

In the Mail on Sunday, a tale of excitements in the Ordinariate, where Jonathan Petre had found a "high-profile" priest who "has been suspended after a Mail on Sunday investigation discovered he was in a sham 'gay marriage' to help a Pakistani immigrant stay in Britain.

"Father Donald Minchew - a former Anglican who converted to Catholicism after attacking the Church of England's loss of traditional values - admitted entering into a civil partnership as a favour to a family friend desperate to work in Britain."

"Father Minchew made headlines in 2012 when he criticised the Church of England before defecting with about 70 members his congregation from St Michael and All Angels in Croydon to St Mary's Catholic Church, a few minutes' walk away.

"The priest branded the Church of England as 'banal', criticised progressive policies such as women priests, and said 'you can pick and choose which doctrines you follow'.

"Father Minchew admitted he had not told the Catholic Church that he was in a civil partnership, adding: 'That is an omission on my part and I will have to pay the price for it.'

Actually, once you stop laughing, it's a miserable story: "Confronted by the Mail on Sunday last week, Father Minchew said: 'You are talking to a ruined man. I am finished. End of story.'"

I suppose when he entered into the civil partnership (witnessed by his brother) in 2008, that would have been the story. Now, of course, it is the possible breach of immigration regulations, since he insists the ceremony was a sham. But at least his adventures were not banal.

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