24 October 2009

Frank Skinner in The Times

H/T to Ruth Gledhill for drawing my attention to this article from Frank Skinner in The Times.

In his article, My Church is not a safe haven for bigots, Frank presents the funniest lines I have read in simply ages. He is talking about atheists, and says:

I’m less keen on the glut of bandwagon atheists who’ve just unquestioningly joined in because they think the atheist label makes them sound clever and grown-up. I suspect that they see themselves in an elite senior common room with Bertrand Russell and Charles Darwin while people like me are in Julie’s Pantry with Cliff Richard.

I don't even know what Julie's Pantry is but it does sound fun! Though perhaps Cliff may not be my first choice for company. Help us if it rains and he repeats that Wimbledon affair.

In all seriousness, I thought Frank Skinner raised some interesting points in his article, but cannot agree that it's 'his' Church and nor is it helpful to use the term 'liberal Catholic' as though there is a viable alternative floating around where you can pick and choose your brand of Catholicism. We are, as most would profess every Sunday, "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church".

Frank's reminder of Küng's analogy to a road travelled with cul-de-sacs, is, I think, a helpful one. I'm not so sure the entire Church wonders off down the cul-de-sac, so much as there is the odd foray into it from a few of her members. Sometimes these members are more numerous or influential than others (think of the Bishops during the Arian years), and sometimes they are just a few bods who think themselves prophetic but are just simply misunderstanding the ancient Tradition of the Church.

In the end, we do not need bigots in the Church, but we are a Church packed with sinners, and we none of us want to throw the first stone. Perhaps we can all, from time to time, however, offer a little fraternal correction (as we used to say in seminary) and let's not be labeling ourselves!


  1. I suspect the Church is not a club or a political party which one joins because they agree with some policies and hope to change others from within.

    It is, or should be, a place where like-minded sinners seek to follow and obey the teachings of God.

    God bless.

  2. Succinctly put, Vincent. Thank you.

  3. Frank Skinner's explanation of why he's still a Catholic might not land him an invite to take part in the offertory procession at Brompton Oratory, but it will certainly resonate with many Catholics in most parishes. It was refreshing and honest - two words I don't often use in the same sentence when I'm talking about the Church.

    I know what you mean about labels, but, at a time when tribalism is on the rise in the Church, they do help to stake out where a Catholic stands (or kneels). Personally, I use the old tongue v hand test to work this out.

    I'm reminded of something the great Catholic biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown said about the Christianity. What defines a Christian, he argued, is not following the Church's teaching on ethics, or how a person loves others (people of other faiths and none can be just as or more loving), but belief in the resurrection.

    I think liberal, conservative, Tridentine, pic 'n' mix and peace and justice Catholics - and even Hans King - can all say Amen to that.

  4. Frank Skinner is enormously generous with his own money & indeed payed for 12 of us to go to Lourdes one year.

  5. Thanks for the comments, Greg. During November is, perhaps, the best of all times to believe in the Resurrection.

    Jackie, glad to hear of Frank's generosity.



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