22 May 2009

The debate continues

Patrick Comerford

In this week’s edition (Friday 22 May 2009), the Church of Ireland Gazette publishes the following letter on page 8:

‘The General Synod’

Canon Patrick Comerford is to be congratulated on his blog which justly won a prize at General Synod. It contains two references to me (8th May, though I am not named) which deserve comment.

First, as seconder to Bill No.1 (that the Church’s 1999 Declaration on the 39 Articles of Religion be printed in future editions of the Prayer Book), he says that I wanted the Bill “amended and watered down”. In fact, the Bill’s proposer and
I both supported the amendment. It had been suggested that the unamended Bill might have the effect of changing the doctrine of the Church, which we had not intended. The Legal Advisory Committee had (understandably and correctly) said that determining this question was beyond its remit; but it was universally agreed that if the amendment were passed (as it subsequently was) there would be no doctrinal implications. This is clearly what Synod intended.

Secondly, Patrick claims that I “pilloried” the Benedictine mystic Dom Bede Griffiths. I said that Griffiths sought to persuade C.S. Lewis to integrate some aspects of Hinduism into his Christian thinking. I quoted Lewis as responding: “Your Hindus certainly sound delightful. But what do they deny? That has always been my trouble with Indians – to find any proposition they would pronounce false. But truth must surely involve exclusions?” I said that Lewis and Griffiths were lifelong friends; I did not intend to pillory, and I don’t think members of Synod would have taken me to be doing so.

Dermot O’Callaghan
27 Monument Road
BT26 6HT

Dermot is a good friend, I am grateful for his comments on my blog. I hope he keeps reading, and I have no intention of questioning his motives or his sincerity. But firstly, I, like many other members of the synod, was astounded that the seconder of a Bill could seek to amend it at the very beginning of the debate. It was only after the debate that followed this unprecedented move that the proposer of the bill agreed to accept the amendment. If that had happened to me I would have been shocked, to say the least.

Secondly, I found this reference to Dom Bede Griffiths in the context of the 39 Articles shocking. To me, the inference was that Roman Catholics – even those as ecumenical and broadminded as that great writer and mystic – were and are in the same category as non-Christian polytheists. This set the tone for other contributions to the debate in which speakers claimed to be polite but made totally negative comments about other Churches, whose representatives were seated in the front row as guests.

Dermot says: “… I don’t think members of Synod would have taken me to be doing so.” But this member of General Synod did, and I told him so outside the synod hall.

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