Sunday, 1 March 2009

Identity, ecumenism, guilt and anger

I felt guilty at the end of last week for being unthinkingly anti-Cathlolic in something I said. It's so easy in things we say to make ignorant generalisations - oh typical Catholics, just like the Evangelicals, that's the Anglicans for you ...
This morning's BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme had an interesting report on the crisis of training people for the priesthood in France. Apparently the French Catholic Church now has more married deacons than other European countries - priests will typically be ordained deacon first but be priested after a year. Meanwhile, lifelong deacons will not be priested and cannot celebrate the mass but make a big contribution to keeping local church life ticking over and tend to be married. The report also highlighted the huge role women play in keeping church life going.
This morning was our local Protestant Church's AGM. For reasons of déontologie pastorale I have not attended the AGM since I left as the minister. Dr B did however attend - he likes these sorts of things, a good committee person. Today's session sounds as if it was the usual good- in-part review of the past year, with some unfortunate Clochemerle incidents of course. One part of the minister's report deeply saddened me. Apparently our local Roman Catholic Bishop, Monseigneur Bagnard, has informed all of the Catholic clergy working in the Pays de Gex that Protestants can no longer be Godparents at baptisms in in the Roman Catholic Church. He has also refused use of Catholic churches for Protestant funerals which breaks with tradition of more than 30 years.
This may not seem like a big deal but you need to understand that there are three Protestant "temple" in the Pays de Gex and more than 30 Catholic churches. Funerals tend to be village affairs, people will be buried in the cemetries in their villages which are often close to the Roman Catholic churches. I have often taken funerals together with Catholic colleagues in the village churches in this area. It should be added that the upkeep for most of the Catholic churches is paid by the State in one form or another whereas Protestant churches are usually paid for by their members.
So at times of stress when families are grieving they can choose to have a Catholic mass in the local village church possibly against the wishes of the dead person, or to travel long distances to and from the Protestant temple and back, or possibly simply to have a graveside ceremony - not easy either in the rain and snow, nor in the beating sun we often get around here.
I imagine that the bishop's ruling on this is almost certainly only verbal, though I shall try and do a bit of research. It would seem also to only apply to the Pays de Gex which is almost certainly the most culturally diverse and most heavily Protestant part of the diocese. (This just means that Protestants are a slightly larger small minority here than elsewhere!)
It would be easy to react to this by trying to be as exclusive as possible oneself, in many ways radical openness is the only way through this. Establishing clarity about it is hard work and puts the minority in the position of having to ask for favours. What is interesting is that in the neighbouring diocese of Savoy the situation is quite different.
I wonder now what this does to local ecumenical relations ...


marcelo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marcelo said...

I liked this post very much.
and it is much more for what is not being said than what is actully writen. cheers

Jane said...

Marcelo I spoke to my successor in the parish today and it is exactly as I predicted the ruling by the bishop is oral only of course - really nasty - he has decided that he will write an open letter to the bishop and see what then happens. If he does Iwill publish it here and translte it I think