The leadership of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, seems to be heading down the march of folly with their decision to ask the protesters to cease their protest so that the Cathedral can reopen:
From The Guardian (UK)
This rather messy and absurd situation has handed the dean and chapter of St Paul’s a truly historic opportunity to discredit Christianity in this country. They seem determined to take it. They should think, and stop.
The dean and chapter appear to have decided that health and safety considerations mean they must be rid of the makeshift camp. These grounds are frankly risible. Pretending otherwise compounds the first mistake, which was to shut the cathedral altogether, rather than expose visitors to the sight and smells of a couple of hundred
protesters. A cathedral isn’t really there for the tourists, even if it can charge visitors £14.50, as St Paul’s does. It is a place for prayer and worship. The congregations who come for these, the real purposes of the building, should remember that Jesus talked to
publicans and tax collectors. He might even have talked to merchant bankers. He would certainly have talked to the protesters camped outside.
Aspects of the protest camp are silly and rather squalid. But it still represents a profound and important moral revulsion which the Church of England needs to take seriously. These aren’t the usual Spartist suspects. The sense that there is something outrageous, unjust and absurd about the world of modern finance has spread across the whole political and religious spectrum. Even Pope Benedict XVI has reinforced his predecessor’s teaching with a demand that the markets of the world be brought under human control. The Church of England needs to be part of this discussion, for its own sake and for the sake of the country. And that is done far more effectively by theatre and by conversation than by lecturing or even preaching. It is no use having clever bishops saying clever things that no one listens to. Here at St Paul’s right now, there is a chance to catch the attention of millions of people who would never listen to a bishop or recognise a Dean without a Torvill.
The protesters aren’t right about everything. A lot of the time they aren’t even coherent enough to be wrong. But the role of the church is to talk with them and to find out how their sense of injustice at the present slump can be refined and educated and brought out into the wider conversation. The cathedral has a chance to take Marx’s taunt about religion being “the heart of a heartless world” and try to make it true, and valuable. It must not fumble this.
And, from David Allen Green at The New Statesman:
Closing the doors at St. Paul’s Cathedral
How seriously is the Cathedral taking health and safety concerns?
This response of the protesters warrants careful reading, as it indicates what appears to be a serious flaw in the Cathedral’s position. On the one hand, it is contended that the health and safety concerns are so serious, they required the closure of the Cathedral and nothing less. But, on the other hand, the Cathedral is refusing to provide any information to the protesters so as to allow those supposed health and safety concerns to be properly addressed since the time the Cathedral closed its doors.
It would almost seem as if the Dean and Chapter, with a health and safety report in their hands, looked down the steps of St Paul’s at the protesters and, rather than sharing the content of the report with those who could be affected, chose to close the Cathedral doors instead.
The position of the Cathedral seems to be a hopeless muddle. Few, if any, of the contentions advanced actually explain the two crucial decisions made — to close the Cathedral to all visitors and to then not engage with the protesters in respect of health and safety. The revealing back story to these decisions is that before Thursday last week the Cathedral was in fact dealing with the protesters directly, and on the Wednesday there was a wide-ranging meeting where variety of health and safety concerns were discussed, and constructive solutions agreed. Attending the meeting were those directly charged with maintenance and safety of the building. It was only after what appeared to be this successful and practical exercise in identifying and managing risks that the Dean and Chapter then moved to close down the Cathedral completely and to break off further engagement with the protesters. It seemed the mood of the Cathedral changed overnight on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.