What brought this post on was hearing a lecture from Catholic historian Eamonn Duffy.
In its pre-reformation days, we were told, the Church happily contained many strands of thinking under its ample skirts. Later Reformation criticism (against dubious fundraising through selling indulgences for example) were openly discussed and campaigned against by people such as Erasmus, within the Catholic fold.
After the split, however, the Church of Rome convened the Council of Trent, better known perhaps as the Almighty Catholic Sulk 1 and made a perverse point of adopting all the dodgy stuff as it had been central all along. The split hardened what once was fluid.
Nothing new here of course. The estranged halves of a split each get busy digging trenches. But it’s everywhere.
Is this what faces our Brexiteers as they try to negotiate Tessa May’s beloved Deep and Special Partnersnip with the EU? Will we, instead, find our former partners in full Council of Trent mode? Hope not.
Doesn’t it explain our own country a bit as well? In our church context, some nationalities, like the Chinese, approach the Christian faith in a rational manner: they turn up at church to learn what it is about. This keeps happening in our church.
Many of my fellow Brits, however, seem to reject even a mention of the gospel in what seems to me like an irrationally unfriendly way, like divorcees, like the bruised survivors of a split. The West, someone said, is haunted by the Christian faith.
What is the answer? It took hundreds of years for Catholics and Protestants to resume friendly relations. Let’s hope history really is moving quicker than that.