The Church of Ireland - J'accuse
The following article appeared, in modified form, in the Irish Times of 16 May. The writer, SEOIRSE HENRY MAGEE, was born and raised in Newcastle, County Down and now lives in Dublin. He remains an Anglican.
It must be uncomfortable, to say the least, to be a Catholic Anglican within the Church of Ireland; unbearable to be an Anglican of any persuasion and be possessed of a social conscience and stay there. It was for me.
I travelled down a road called Garvaghy: it began at Drumcree, and it led me out of the Church of Ireland. My decision to leave was not taken lightly - there are many good people in the church. It has nurtured great souls. It is the church of Jeremy Taylor, of Jonathan Swift, and of Henry McAdoo. But it is also the church of Drumcree.
The Church of Ireland is incapable of distancing itself from right-wing theo-political organisations for fear of mass defections to other Reformed bodies, and because this church remains at heart a garrison church
At least two devout and sensitive people, priested by the Church of Ireland, taught me the Catholic faith, of the efficacy of the seven sacraments, of the necessity of worshipping and receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and of our common and precious heritage derived from and shared with our fellow Christians in communion with the Holy See.
The had no need to tell me of some of our fellow communicants, of those who would regard the Cross, the sacred symbol of our redemption, as somehow idolatrous; those who would spit on an image of Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, as viciously as they would spit on the face of any Catholic mother.
Since its inception at the Reformation, it has blithely allowed its rites and ceremonies to be used as badges of loyalty to British rather than Divine rule, and has posed as ``Catholic'' only as a form of Rome-baiting
Perhaps such people are only a minority in the Church of Ireland. But as long as there is Drumcree, they and the Church of Ireland are one. They unite at Drumcree.
One has heard so much of the ``anguish'' of the rector at Drumcree, of the ``anguish'' of his bishop, indeed of the ``anguish'' of their archbishop, and so little of the authentic anguish of the residents on the Garvaghy Road.
Certainly, the rector of Drumcree is breaking no canon law when he permits the Orange Order to worship in his church. But what of moral law? Of Christian ethics?
He must be aware that since July 1998, when the Parades Commission banned the Orange Order form using the Garvaghy Road on their return from his Church, more than 170 provocative demonstrations and marches as well as gratuitous obstructions to entrances in the area have taken place. He must be aware of the firebomb and pipebomb attacks, the verbal and physical aggression to which local Catholic people have been subjected. And surely he, his Bishop and their Archbishop have heard of the 19 families who have been driven from their homes and of the five people who have lost their lives as a direct consequence of loyalist violence, and indirectly as a consequence of these clerics' apparent inability to say ``No, this we will not maintain.''
I have come to the conclusion that in truth, the Church of Ireland is incapable of distancing itself from right-wing theo-political organisations for fear of mass defections to other Reformed bodies, and because this church remains at heart a garrison church primarily dedicated to the spiritual and material wellbeing of the supporters and agents of the occupying power.
It is no accident that, alone of all the churches of the Anglican Communion, this church presents itself as almost exclusively Protestant in the negativistic and anti-sacramental sense of that word.
Since its inception at the Reformation, it has blithely allowed its rites and ceremonies to be used as badges of loyalty to British rather than Divine rule, and has posed as ``Catholic'' only as a form of Rome-baiting when asserting the risible claim to be the ``same church'' as the church of Saints Patrick, Columba, and Bridget. What would they make of Drumcree?
Drumcree effectively renders the Church of Ireland unworthy of inclusion in the Anglican family. Anglicism permits and encourages its members to choose any reasonable form of Christianity to assist them on their pilgrim journey to God. We can be several centimetres higher than Rome (not so high in these days of the music hall approach to liturgical worship), as low as a plain Genevan basement, or somewhere in between.
glicans may embrace any or no political creed. Indeed the first organisation to adopt the Communist Manifesto was the Church of England's Society of Saint Luke. But you will find very few Anglican fascists (or Stalinists), for the simple reason that the essence of Anglicanism - inclusive tolerance - inculcates a sense of revulsion towards totalitarianism of any kind. With one exception.
I spent 11 years in Africa, where the branch of Anglicanism having care of my soul, the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, was in the forefront of the struggle for human rights for all. Compare that with the Church of Ireland's record: desultory comment on the obvious justice of the civil rights movement in the North; negligible comment on Bloody Sunday and internment; blaring condemnation of republican outrages and deafening silence on the subject of British Army and RUC violence.
In fairness, loyalist violence has been condemned by the church at times but the loyalist paramilitaries, after all, are working class and as such are a legitimate target for a church which is bourgeois to the core.
At last month's General Synod we heard no bishop make a retroactive apology for the Church of Ireland's complicity in the suppression and partition of our nation. No one uttered a word of contrition for the Test Acts, wherein Christian priests actually prostituted the Sacrament of the Altar for the purpose of enabling their imperial masters decide who should be granted basic civil rights.
There was much on reconciliation and ecumenism, but both words presuppose truth. And both ring hollow as Drumcree Church once more summons its loyalist guests to worship the God of love and then depart down the road for a bit of hate.
Continued communion with a church which facilitates such mendacity proved impossible for me. So I left. For good.