Come on in, the sharks are friendly

Mary Wakefield assures the nervous frightened Anglicans who can’t stand the thought of female bishops but aren’t quite sure about this Catholic church thingy either even though it does do an admirable job of keeping women in their place – Mary Wakefield assures them, I say, that the only thing they have to fear is fear itself. That, and the sharks, of course.

Well, come on in, I say. The water’s warm. I converted two years ago now, full of cowardly fear about what people might think, and to my surprise, I haven’t regretted it since. But though the water is warm, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few sharks around.

Ah. There are sharks around, but come on in? Er – thank you for the thought, but I’m busy that day.

As Catholicism seeps back into Britain (St Thérèse of Lisieux’s UK tour this year, the Pope’s in 2010, the probable beatification of Cardinal Newman, etc), so too our national rage against Catholicism is on the rise…Yes, the church’s history is bloody and corrupt, but so is England’s, and that doesn’t preclude patriotism. Like most other powerful institutions, the church has done some appalling things, but it has also championed women’s rights, campaigned to end slavery, opposed the Iraq war, fed and clothed the poor and sent more and more effective aid to Africa than any other charitable organisation.

Championed women’s rights? The hell it has! It has issued papal declarations that women are Special and Different and Must Not try to deny their femininity and be like men. That’s not championing women’s rights. And how much campaigning to end slavery has it done, when, where? It’s news to me that the catholic church has been prominent in this struggle – and I have a feeling Wakefield is making it up, or just assuming it must be the case. Everybody campaigned to end slavery, nobody supported it, it was all just a big fluke, so of course the catholic church must have been right out there on the front lines next to William Lloyd Garrison.

Anyway that breezy little skip past ‘Yes, the church’s history is bloody and corrupt’ won’t quite do, since a lot of the bloodiness is very very recent, not to say on-going, and the corruption isn’t altogether over either.

I inched towards the Catholic church, baulking like a nervy horse. From the outside, it looked crazy: a mix of dodgy doctrine and arcane ritual. But the closer I crept, the saner, the more light-hearted I felt, and once inside, even transubstantiation made perfect sense.

Once inside – well yes. That’s the problem with going inside.

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