Thoughts from an English Parish
St Peter's Catholic Community Shoreham-By-Sea Dear Friends, A cat may look at a king, said Alice. A Catholic may listen to a bishop, say 1. Last week we listened to all the bishops of England and Wales as they shared with us their thoughts on the crisis in the Gulf.
As I read their message from the pulpit I was conscious of the sort of wrapt attention usually associated with the dropping of a pin. People were clearly very interested in the fact that all the prelates of the realm had agreed on a public statement.
The message was discussed at the bar in the parish hall after mass, in our high street Woolworth's the following morning, and in the public library. Certainly no sermon that I have preached has ever received half as much attention as this joint statement from the bishops.
An 80-year-old Welshman objected loudly that the church was going soft; he wanted an immediate invasion by the Americans. One other elderly ex-soldier sided with the hawks against the doves.
Apart from these two objections there seemed to be wholehearted approval for the episcopal message. Most people here are deeply concerned about the possibility of war and the concern seems to be greatest among the younger families and single persons who have not lived through the world wars of this century.
Some parishioners were disappointed that the bishops had not taken a stronger stand for peace, and a few wished that they had been as explicit as the Archbishop of Canterbury in suggesting that at least a year was needed to make the sanctions work. But even these fluttering doves were glad that the bishops had spoken with a united voice, difficult though that must have been.
A couple of 17-year-olds were sceptical . . . "these bishops all live in remote country mansions. What do they know about real life?"
"When the balloon goes up they'll be out blessing the tanks with holy water as they've always done in the past".
But even these tough teenage pigeons had to admit, over the second pint of lager, that at least the church leaders had spoken up, and that they had shown more courage and independence than most of the politicians.
Thanks to the bishops' statement the Christian doves are. now more confident of winning a verbal battle in the public and saloon bars where debate continues to rage.