The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Man Who Wasn't There

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, participated in an exchange in which he has managed to raise a few hackles:
Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should "grow up" and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling "mildly uncomfortable", according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.

"When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," he said. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. 'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say."

True persecution was "systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day". He cited the experience of a woman he met in India "who had seen her husband butchered by a mob".

Lord Williams's years as archbishop of Canterbury were marked by turbulence over the church's stance on the role of gay priests and bishops; gay marriage; and homophobia in the wider Anglican communion – with many members of the church expressing disappointment at a perceived hardening in its position on homosexuality.

Asked if he had let down gay and lesbian people, he said after a pause: "I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don't quite know the answer."
Of course, Dr. Williams retracted that portion his remarks which might have upset conservatives :
n suggesting that some people need to "grow up" before talking about the persecution of Christians in the UK or US (Report, 16 August), I had in mind those who offer what I think unduly sensationalised accounts of the situation – and, to a lesser extent, those in the public eye who have to put up with a certain amount of routine attack. I realise in retrospect how offensive the words might sound to those who suffer bullying for their convictions or whose faith presents them with real and painful dilemmas in their professional lives. I want to make it clear that I'd regard urging such people to "grow up" as insulting and insensitive to a degree, and apologise for giving any impression to that effect.
This really is a re-play of the time he publicly declared that, because of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church--well, here it is in context:
"I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now.

"And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly losing all credibility – that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."
Mark the sequel; within a week of the interview, Williams apologized.

Similarly,Dr. Williams had not once but twice allowed the name of Jeffrey John to go forward for a bishopric, only to back off in the face of criticism.

I fail to see how Dr. Williams' bold pronouncements advance debate when he fails to stick to them for any appreciable period of time. If he does not believe them, he should not say them; if he does believe them, he should not cave in the face of adverse reaction. In each instance, Dr. Williams' inconstancy to his own words raised a problem quite separate from whether his utterances or actions were appropriate on any of the given occasions. It raised the question of whether his positions were thought out and considered, and then lightly abandoned, or whether he just made rash statements of which he then repented. Either way, a large part of the frustration he caused his critics, both left and right, was that his own convictions became ever harder to discern.

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