Ruth Gledhill blogs that the Archbishop of Canterbury has commented on the child abuse scandal now rocking the Roman Catholic Church.
His comments, to be broadcast on Monday, about the destructiveness of Anglo-Catholic critics are an expression of frustration (see opposite page). His judgment that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost “all credibility” is disarmingly free of diplomatic nicety. Dr Williams has ample justification for these remarks. Having little talent for political obfuscation, he has spoken truths that will be welcomed by many Anglicans.
It is horrifying enough that Roman Catholic priests in several countries used their office to assault children. But what has damaged the reputation of the Church collectively still more is the indolent response of church authorities to the scandal. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales responded promptly to the emerging revelations in the early part of this decade, and put in place a system of child protection. But the Church in Ireland has been feeble. Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Irish Church, acknow- ledges that he attended meetings in the 1970s at which two children were persuaded to swear secrecy about the tortures inflicted on them by Brendan Smyth, a paedophile priest. It is beyond conventional standards of obtuseness that the Cardinal clings to office regardless. And it is pointed and patently true, as Dr Williams observes, that an institution founded in repentance and honesty needs to exemplify those qualities to survive
Later on in her blog, Gledhill laments that Archbishop Williams has been distracted by the divisions and struggles in the Anglican Communion and these issues have kept him from doing what he does best. She writes:
It is a pity that Dr Williams has necessarily been preoccupied with organisational issues in his time at Canterbury. In his interview he reveals how closely he has thought of the role of the Church in a secular age. The expansion of scientific knowledge has reduced the scope of mystery, and the advance of liberal ideals has diminished the claims of authority. These are good things, but there is too an accumulated wisdom of tradition that the Church safeguards. Dr Williams is an important thinker in reconciling faith and modernity. It would be to the benefit of the Church and civic life if he were enabled now to concentrate on that role.
I think we can all agree that it is a shame that +Rowan has spent so much time and energy on the politics of the organization of the Anglican Communion. But as soon as he decided that the solution to the tensions that grow out of being in Communion was to address them structurally rather than theologically, he got himself into a quagmire from which it is impossible to extricate himself. As soon as he decided to push for a written constitution to enforce compliance and behavior in what had been a fellowship of communions, he left behind his best skills for his weakest.
The connection between the response of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to the child abuse scandals that has dogged their church and the Anglican Wars that have dogged ours is this: in both instances Christians in leadership stopped acting as a body "founded on repentance and honesty" and began to look out for the safety of the institution.