why do i find myself with the”election”of a new bishop of Rome?
In order to answer that for myself,i need to go back many years to my childhood.
i was raised as an Anglican/Church of England,in a family whose christian practice was deep but difficult to identify,leaning neither to the Evangelical nor the High/Anglo Catholic wings.that said i learnt the protestant angle on Rome which was to regard it as a bishopric but not more.i have learned since that actually some other varieties of christianity also do not appreciate Rome,1st amongst equals seeing itself as something greater.
Nevertheless,later on i veered towards Rome,drawn by the ritual and the radical social practice,around the poor and especially by the Catonsville 8 and Catholic Worker movement,which predated a clearer movement into social activism/politics.idonot doubt i will write more about them later.I believe these movements predate Liberation Theology.later i discovered Paulo Freire and his and others work on liberating education.
One of the early forms of social activism i got involved in was to volunteer for a christian housing association,in y home town,which essentially was a half-way house/hostel facility seeking both to address wider housing issues and to expand its own provision.i liked,enjoyed and was tested by it.it was largely a positive experience associated with evangelical christianity.
However,it did sour over 2 issues.the association held a public meeting on local homelessness and housing need.i was elected,in public to its committee.but then several months later,i was i think,overheard in a private conversation with another friend,also slightly connected with association/volunteering/public meeting-as he was chair of the Young Residents organisation which i had also joined.In that conversation i likened primitive communism with the communitarianism(for want of a better term)of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.i think i was 16 or 17 years old.I was wrong,in the sense that technically biblical society falls within Marx’s framing of ancient society which is nevertheless a class society,whilst primitive communism is”pre-historical”.i still maintain that there is a connection between early christian sharing in common with the later communist imperative.that conversation was reported by someone else i knew but who was not a friend to the leadership of the association,with the result that me and my friend Peter were called to a meeting with them.I don’t regret going but i think we should have refused to be interviewed seperately. Nevertheless,the result was our exclusion.If protestant/evangelicals have the equivalent of excommunication this was it.i think they wanted me to continue to volunteer.i probably put up some level of brave,male front but i was distressed,hurt,offended.i did not return very much.i lost another illusion that adults,especially christians were true to their words and beliefs.Later,when my friendsand me who had fromed an Arts Lab whose main activities included music promotion,got permission from a very supportive Carnival Committee to organise a gig in the local park,i offerred that same association the gift of some of the money we intended to raise.without meaning to be self righteous i wanted to behave in a way that did NOT reflect the insensitive way in which i felt i had been treated.I do admit though that i was incensed by their response which was that they also wanted to control the event!i refused,not least because it was not my decision to make alone-our youth organisation was a collective and semi-democratic organisation,not all of whom shared my christian outlook.We did give them some of the proceeds we raised but i think i broke my connections with them otherwise.
in parrallel i gave a lot of thought and effort to considering training as an Anglican priest.whilst never resolved,so far,those too were rich times in my life.In the autumn of 1973 i started training as a social worker.so it was probably in 1975 that i backed away from considering the priesthood-though the idea continues to haunt me.i did so because a felt a catholic friend of a close catholic friend had me”banged to rights”when she said i wanted a religion where i could pick and choose what i believed.i did not agree but it stopped me in my tracks. i kept some of my christian associations,but i also kept my distance,as i felt t all became more difficult and awkward.i continued involvement,such as it was with Catonsville Roadrunner,the magazine of radical christans undoubtedly inspired by the Catonsville 8 .i kept in touch with the Teilhard Society and joined SCM/Student Christian Movement,with whom i was active for a number of years at least nationally,although i was too late to attend the Seeds of liberation Conference,and missed probably my only opportunity to meet (father)Daniel Berrigan,who is indeed 1 of the Catonsville 8.having discovered social action/politics and become a revolutionary socialist and joined the International Socialists at 18 years old,i nevertheless found it awkward and difficult to be both a christian believer and a revolutionary despite historical and contemporary examples,and this has largely remained the case throughout-sometimes easier,sometimes more difficult.My working provisional conclusion in 1973 which i made explicit for myself and others was that i was probably better off as an awkward christian amongst revolutionary socialists than as a lonely and meaningless revolutionary amongst christians.
to be continued—-