QE2, Hand Westminister Abbey Back to Us Catholics

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/22/2011 10:07:00 PM
[NOTE: This is the first of two royal wedding overload "specials" from your cranky correspondent. Blogging is not usually an activity for the well-adjusted.] A few days ago, I eagerly watched the BBC documentary "Does Christianity Have a Future?" which focused on the fate of various Christian churches here in the UK. To be sure, the statistics look fairly alarming as weekly attendance for the two major denominations, Anglicanism and Catholicism, has fallen steadily.

There is an important caveat, however: the Roman Catholic church has actually become the dominant religion in this here land by virtue of losing followers at a somewhat slower rate. Being Catholic, I am not quite sure of whether to be proud or wary of this fact. Immigration helps: an influx of God-fearing people--the Polish--has improved matters. Moreover, the Anglican church is busy self-destructing from my point of view with its "anything goes" approach to religion. While it has had gay and women priests for quite some time, the Anglican church ordaining female bishops was one step too far for many. Famously, the presenter of the documentary, Ann Widdecombe, converted to Catholicism in its wake. The UK Catholic Church also made a huge event out of three Anglican bishops--their wives in tow--being ordained as Catholic priests. Or so I kept being reminded while attending Westminster Cathedral where they were ordained--the mother church of Catholicism in the UK.

This roundabout discussion bring me to nearby Westminster Abbey. In a few days' time, you will unavoidably see snippets of the made-for-TV special known as the royal wedding between Prince William (Windsor) and Kate Middleton. However, as the abovementioned documentary asks, does the Anglican church still deserve to be the state religion of the United Kingdom given that it is not even the largest religion in the land--while Catholicism is?

I needn't dredge the history of the Anglican church--to facilitate the divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon and all that--but I have a more contemporary chip on my shoulder. Like many things formerly the dominion of the Catholic faith, Westminster Abbey itself was decommissioned as such in 1536 (the same year Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn met her grisly fate). So, let's just say that I have always viewed a church that got its start to facilitate a divorce as suspect. Add in its current self-destruct mode in which young people in the UK give it little notice and its failure to market itself in growth markets in the developing world and I wonder why it still receives official sanction.

Coming from an unwritten constitution tradition, I guess it's time the UK moved along with the times. While disestablishing the Anglican church may be a step too far for some nostalgic for days gone by, there is one thing I would like more than anything else to acknowledge the changing tide of religious presence in the country: Just as the Benedictine monks helped set up Westminster Abbey in the first place, so should their Catholic forebears take over the running of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's only fitting. Face it: the revenge of popery is at hand as it supplants whatever remains of Anglicanism.

Indeed, with its financial sustainability in question, Anglicanism is further in doubt. There are few to pack the pews with an ever-greying demographic of parishioners being the norm across most of the country. Rather (in)famously), there's also the matter of Anglican bishops serving in the House of Lords, making the UK the only country other than Iran to require the presence clerics in the legislature. Prospects for much-ballyhooed Anglican-Catholic reunification are remote, so it's time some notion of popular legitimacy manifested itself in the UK when it comes to religious observance.

Westminster Abbey should thus reflect the reconquista. Some churches are becoming extinct at a faster than others. Give the Catholic church its due for its ostensibly superior performance in saving British souls. Our marketing programme has proven its worth even in an increasingly secular age. Witness Pope Benedict XVII's rapturous, sold-out reception among other things. Given us back Westminster Abbey. And if the Anglicans want to stage made-for-TV events every so often featuring balding guys getting hitched, well, I have no problems with that ;-)

UPDATE: There's also an interesting discussion of the pillaging of monasteries by Henry VIII right about 1536. More fuel for righting historical grievances, I say.