Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has apologized for saying in passing something that is incontestably true: the Catholic Church in Ireland, which has knowingly sheltered child rapists for decades, has lost all credibility.
The Guardian is right in saying that Williams had no reason to apologize, but the bizarre overreaction by both the Irish Church and the Anglican Primate of Ireland shows how deeply entrenched the clerical attitude of privilege is in Ireland. (Read the quote. Williams didn’t even devote a full sentence to the “condemnation” that the media picked up on. Listen to the full interview here) Williams’ apology demonstrates what we already know about him—that he lacks the courage of his convictions if those convictions offend anyone to his theological right.
One especially interesting passage from the Guardian's editorial points out that leaders of the Catholic Church have heaped public scorn on Williams and the Anglican Communion for years without provoking the kind of whining that the stray clause which Williams uttered last week unleashed:
No one can blame Williams for pointing this out, nor indeed for getting his own back for years of patronising comments and aggressive behaviour from the Roman church. The official Vatican observer at the last Lambeth conference appeared to say that the Anglican communion was suffering from Parkinson's disease. Pope Benedict has personally encouraged the schism in the Anglican churches over homosexuality and most recently announced, to the consternation of even his own church here, a scheme to allow the Anglican opponents of women priests to convert in groups. That has been so far an almost complete fiasco, drawing in only the members of a group calling itself the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has turned out to be neither traditional nor Anglican, nor a communion.
There are, in the midst of this posturing, many Catholics willing to examine the flaws of their Church. Mark Vernon points us to a column by Clifford Longley of The Tablet, which is behind a registration wall. Vernon writes:
He contrasts Catholic Social Teaching with Catholic Sexual Teaching. The social teaching is based upon relationships - the goods, and ills, that arise from a shared life. The sexual teaching is based upon prohibitions - blunt rules that bear little or no relation to life as lived. Witness celibacy, contraception, divorce, homosexuality. The absolute rules on these matters don't make for human flourishing. They are stones that sink lives, should individuals be unfortunate enough to find themselves tied to them. That disconnect is part of the problem now: if the social teaching is vigorous because it's grounded in the experience that people have of trying to live well, the hierarchy has drained itself of wisdom in matters of personal relationships.
Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up of the coverage of Williams' remark.