IT IS in the nature of memorial services to highlight the exceptional qualities of the deceased. It is certainly true that the Duke of Edinburgh found himself in an exceptional position and responded exceptionally well, using that position to support and protect the Queen in her endeavours, and also to initiate and then uphold some remarkable endeavours of his own, most notably the Duke of Edinburgh awards. We would take issue with the Dean of Windsor, however — as would, we suspect, the Duke himself. The Dean referred to him on Tuesday as “one of those rare people who remained true to, and guided by, what you might call an inner spiritual compass”. Without in the least wishing to detract from the praise of the Duke, we observe with thanks that such people are not rare. Many people know that they are called to play a part in what the Dean termed “the making of a God-intended world”. One of the Duke’s gifts was to encourage this sense of calling in thousands of young people who might have otherwise not realised their talents and their purpose.
Set in stone
THE correct response to racism in the present day is simple enough: vigilant opposition. Dealing with racism that occurred in the past, however, demands a more considered response — not least because that very response will have been coloured by the past. Although we can look back and find co-operation and altruism, the greatest accumulations of wealth, either personal or national, can often be traced to the subjugation of others or the misappropriation of the earth’s resources. Those doing the accumulating have looked for a means to discount the suffering they cause, the most obvious being to deny the humanity of their victims. Racism is the chief example of this, but by no means the only one.
History is being gradually reassessed, and into these nuanced and developing understandings are dropped binary challenges. The removal of a monument from a chapel wall brooks no subtle compromise. As with all such decisions, the Church relied on a legally trained mind to weigh up the arguments surrounding the Rustat memorial in Jesus College, Cambridge. The position of a stone carving is not significant in the grand scheme of things. It is clear that more are upset with its retention than with its removal, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. But those who recall blasphemy laws and obscenity trials will be wary of judgments based on what people find upsetting. The desire to sanitise the Church’s history is understandable but futile. There are present injustices that demand its attention and energy.